La Concha – Marbella’s towering icon
Published on: 15-03-2013

Cape Town has Table Mountain and Rio de Janeiro the Sugarloaf Mountain, but Marbella has its very own towering icon: La Concha (the “shell”)

Part of the majestic Sierra Blanca mountain range that overlooks the town and the coastal plain that spreads outwards from it, La Concha reaches a height of 1,215 metres above sea level. From the beaches of Marbella, the land slopes gently up along the famous Golden Mile before gaining gradient in an upward meander towards the foothills of the mountain.

In the area between the sea and the higher ground you will find pleasant, tree-lined residential areas whose expansive villas and low-density apartment complexes lie ensconced within semitropical greenery. The exclusive area of Sierra Blanca, one of the best addresses in Marbella, rises up to the lower reaches of La Concha itself, beyond which point the land forms part of a protected nature reserve that extends all the way to the far side of the complex of peaks that make up the Sierra Blanca range.

Here eagles can still be seen hovering on the thermals as they hunt for small prey, while mountain goats negotiate the rocky outcrops. A paradise for hikers and nature lovers, the area features marked walking routes of varying lengths and levels of intensity. A route favoured by locals and visitors alike takes you all the way to the higher ridge of La Concha – a hike that takes a little under an hour but rewards you with magnificent views as from here you will not only recognise Marbella and the yachts lying in the marina of Puerto Banús, but also the entire coastline running towards Málaga in the east and to Gibraltar in the west.

On a cloudless day you can look straight across the Mediterranean Sea and see the Moroccan coast and the Spanish exclave of Ceuta in clear detail, with ferries, fishing boats and cruise ships plying the waters between them. The western side of La Concha slopes down to the reservoir of La Concepción. Though a manmade dam, this is an area of great natural beauty that makes you feel like you’ve travelled deep into the Andalusian countryside. Bordering the mountain on its north-western side is the pretty little white village of Istán, a popular resting point and lunch stop for nature lovers exploring this somewhat unexpected side to Marbella.

Most, however, approach the mountain from the east, where a country restaurant offering hearty Spanish fare beckons hungry hikers and the park provides picnic areas amid the fresh pine forests on the lower reaches. Not far from here, just beyond the large mountain village of Ojén, you will find Shanti Som, a Thai-inspired wellness centre that draws upon the peace, beauty and fresh air of its country surroundings. From here you are little more than ten minutes removed from Marbella’s shops, beaches, cafés, restaurants and luxurious residential areas, yet set amid the valleys and peaks of the Sierra Bermeja you might as well be a world removed.

At 1,270 metres the nearby peak of Lastonar is even higher than La Concha, but with its unmistakable shell-like form the mountain that has become an icon of Marbella is the one that is an ever-constant visual companion to those who visit and live in this pretty resort town. Whether on the beach by the Artola Dunes just east of the town, admiring the yachts at Cabopino or playing golf at the Santa María Golf & Country Club, the beautiful outline of La Concha is always on the horizon.