If you’re looking for something different to do on a sunny Sunday that’s not too far from Marbella Town and enjoy a good rummage around a market as I do, I suggest you take the short drive to the picturesque mountain village of Benahavis, and spend the morning strolling around its weekly morning outdoor flea market…
What makes this market so unique and special to me and a favourite of visiting friends, is its spectacular natural setting amid the dramatic rugged landscape of the Guadalmina river gorge, surrounded by wooded mountain slopes and the lushness of Las Angosturas Nature Reserve.
Unlike its better known concreted counterpart markets along the coast, with their narrow corridors of cramped together stalls, those of the Benahavis Sunday morning flea market are spaciously interspersed around a partially cleared eucalyptus grove, allowing for a more enjoyable and relaxed perusal of what’s on offer.
As with all flea markets, there’s literally something for everyone and it’s difficult to walk away empty handed.
There are plenty of bargains to be had – second-hand goods of all types; antiques, arts and crafts, discount designer clothes, electrical goods, handmade furniture; among other assorted bric-a-brac. The last time I was there a month or so ago, I picked up a barely worn fleece jacket for just .50 cents and a pair of brand new Ugg boots for only 4 euros. As I tend to loose sunglasses and cannot do without them, l invariably pick up a couple of pairs with proper UV lenses for only 5 euros each.
There’s also a very good permanent fruit & vegetable stall selling local produce at incredibly reasonable prices and a stall that sells cheese, olives and dried herbs, just to the right by the main entrance gate. (Look out for the parsley and garlic mix which always comes in handy as a standby for the fresh stuff).
The food truck that sets up its chairs and tables just near the main entrance gate is a great meeting and refuelling spot for a coffee, drink or snack – they also make huge paella which they sell by the portion.
Whenever I go to the Benahavis flea market with visiting friends, we tend to go for lunch afterwards at a reasonably priced family-run Spanish restaurant that’s been there for years called Rufino and which is a firm favourite with the locals. It’s the first restaurant on the left as you enter the village and has a lovely spacious terrace overlooking the street where I prefer to sit. I’ve never had a bad meal there (fish in dill sauce, shoulder of lamb…). But be warned! The main courses are huge and accompanied by equally large individual portions of fresh vegetables, so unless you have the appetite of a rugby player, it’s quite alright if you ask to share a main course, which I find is still a very filling portion and leaves me no room for desert.
Before heading back to Marbella after a Rufino lunch, we tend to park up at the side of the road opposite the red wooden suspension bridge you can see from the market grounds. This is the starting point of a walk known as “La Ruta de la Acequia del Guadalmina” that takes you across the Guadalmina River and into Las Angosturas Natural Park, tracing the route of an early 20th Century irrigation canal (acequia) for the first kilometre or so.
Apart from a slightly steep incline at the beginning (there are wooden handrails for support if needed), the walk is otherwise on level terrain with well-tended pathways which are dotted with information panels under the native plants and trees you pass along the way. You can go as far as you like and back-track to the bridge or, apparently, you can cover the whole 5 km circular route in just over an hour. However, when I went with some friends in early October last year, it took us around 3 hours with all the stops we did to take photos or to simply sit and contemplate the beautiful surrounding scenery. Here are some pictures taken along the route to give you an idea of the incredible views…
Whether you feel like staying on to have lunch and a walk is up to you, but I definitely recommend that you make a point of visiting the Benahavis Sunday morning flea market if you get a chance, for its incomparable relaxed ambience and enchanting natural setting – let alone the fantastic bargains that can be found in its eclectic mix of stalls.
(Photos and text: Liz Glazer)