Malaga is a historic area of southern Spain, packed full of ancient sites and fascinating attractions that offer a precious link to the past. This area of the country once experienced a big Roman presence many moons ago and, as such, the former empire has left a hefty mark on the landscape. Many traces of the Roman Empire can still be found dotted across Malaga today and in this article, we are going to highlight some of the wonderful Roman archaeological sites that you can uncover yourself. Whether exploring on foot or hopping in a car rental from Malaga airport, the province of Malaga brings Ancient Rome to the present.
At the time of publishing this article, enjoying some of Malaga’s Roman wonders might not be possible due to global circumstances but, in the future, visitors with a taste for history can be assured of some excellent discoveries.
Malaga Roman Theatre
In so many locations around the world, ancient Roman theatres can be found as marvellous visible links to the far-reaching empire that fell so long ago. Malaga is certainly part of that list, with a wonderful example found right in the heart of the city itself. Sitting at the feet of the famous Alcazaba, Malaga’s Roman Theatre dates all the way back to the 1st Century AD. and the time of first emperor Augustus. This is the best-preserved Roman archaeological site in the city and excavations here have even uncovered traces of some earlier baths from the time of the Roman Republic. The theatre was actually hidden for centuries and only discovered by modern eyes in the 20th century during the since cancelled construction of another building.
Molly, from the Spanish travel blog, Piccavey, has visited Malaga Roman Theatre herself and is full of praise for the location: “The most impressive Roman site in Malaga is the Teatro Romano. Unbelievably it wasn’t actually discovered until 1951. Even still, this site is now such an iconic monument in Malaga. This is certainly one of the must-see sights when you are in Malaga.
“The Roman Theatre in Malaga is particularly impressive due to its state of conservation. The cavea (seating area), is extraordinarily intact for its age. As it is located in the historic centre it really is an attraction for those visiting the city.”
Roman Ruins of Acinipo
Located about 13 miles from Ronda, 1000 metres above sea level, the fascinating Roman Ruins of Acinipo are the last remains of an ancient city thought to be founded for retired Roman soldiers of Julius Caesar in 45 BC. Surrounded by the most majestic scenery of lush fertile lands, the extraordinary views stretch as far as the eye can see. The ruins themselves consist of a remarkably well-preserved theatre and the remains of Roman baths. To think what this site would have once looked like takes the breath away and you can certainly see why grizzled Roman soldiers fancied retiring in such a place.
Speaking to us about her visit, Janis, the founder of the travel blog Our World for You, describes what to expect at Acinipo: “The ancient ruin of Acinipo Roman Theatre is a remarkable site to visit. Perched high on a hill with incredible views stretching across the remote southern Spanish countryside. It appears that very few people make the detour from Ronda, which makes the historic amphitheatre even more exceptional when you stroll around with only a few other folks.
“Visiting Acinipo Roman Theatre you have an incredible aura of its ancient past. You could just imagine locals of 2,000 years ago sitting around the stone theatre being entertained, with the latest theatrical performance.”
Joanna, from the Andalucía blog Andalucia in My Pocket, has visited Acinipo herself and told us why she feels it’s a special location: “I think the Acinipo Roman Ruins are a special place for several reasons. Firstly, Acinipo used to be one of the most important cities in the Southern Iberian Peninsula, back in the 1st century, and an important trading route before Ronda was built.
“Acinipo is not a very popular place with tourists, which makes a visit here quite unique. In a world struggling with over-tourism, a visit to Acinipo is like a breath of fresh air. You can pretty much have the entire site to yourself. The security man at the gate is very friendly and passionate about Acinipo, talking with each visitor, guiding them on how to best experience the site.
“The highlight of Acinipo is the very well-maintained Roman amphitheatre, which used to have a capacity of 2000, which was half of the population of the city, in ancient times. The site is also free to visit.”
Describing what she personally enjoyed most about this great location, Joanna said: “Besides discovering the story of Acinipo, I really loved the peacefulness of the site. Walking uphill, stepping on the same stones that were part of Roman buildings 2000 years ago, felt surreal. Only part of the archaeological site is discovered, and most of the stones on the ground were part of the city, one way or another, be it a street, a house, or a monument.
“Behind the amphitheatre, there is the most stunning view over the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. I could have spent hours there, just gazing at that panorama.”
Roman Sulphur Baths of Hedionda
Roman Baths are another iconic remnant of this ancient civilisation and in the town of Casares, visitors can see an example for themselves. The Roman Sulphur Baths of Hedionda is apparently the location that Julius Caesar was cured of a skin infection, thanks to the healing powers of the baths’ sulphuric waters. The local spring still pours out water into these remarkable baths today with locals and visitors alike stopping by for a bathe in his historic location. One must be aware, however, that a certain stench emanates from under these domed ceiling baths thanks to the combination of sulphur and hydrogen. If you can get past that, this is certainly a location that must be visited for as it’s not every day that you can bathe in the same spot as Julius Caesar!
Describing what she enjoyed about visiting, Alison, from the blog Alison in Andalucía, told us: “The Roman Baths are one of the Costa del Sol’s hidden gems. Although popular with the locals (especially on weekends), they’re still relatively undiscovered by holidaymakers despite being only a short drive from the coast. Located near the Sierra de la Utrera, the baths are surrounded by stunning scenery which makes them the ideal place to visit when you want to get away from it all.
“I love a visit to the baths after a hike in the surrounding hills – there’s something very therapeutic about floating in the water to ease your tired and aching muscles (despite the strong smell of sulphur!). Whether or not it really does have healing powers I don’t know, but if it was good enough for Julius Caesar and his army, it’s good enough for me!”
Roman Villa in Torrox
In Malaga’s charming municipality of Torrox can be found yet another Roman treasure and archaeological site. This is the location of a Roman Villa, situated next to the town’s lighthouse. One of the most marvellous archaeological sites in Malaga, the complex has an array of features that uncover life as it must have been during Roman times. This incredibly valuable site dates back to between the first and fourth centuries AD and is made up of a villa, a salting factory, two ceramic kilns, a necropolis and thermal baths. Archaeological investigations have revealed that this was once an important area for fishing and farming, likely once known as Caviclum to the Romans. Part of the site is open to the public, where visitors can see several rooms that surround a small atrium. It’s certainly worth a visit if you happen to be nearby.
Roman Baths of Las Bovedas
Located between Marbella and Estepona and just feet away from one of the region’s best beaches (Guadalmina beach), is the Roman Baths of Las Bovedas. That’s right, after enjoying the popular local beach for some fun in the sun, you can stroll over to this ancient archaeological site for some culture. Most historians believe that the baths are the remains of a Roman settlement known as Cilniana, which was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 365. The baths, sadly, have lost some of their beauty over the centuries, as they would have once featured many mosaics with only a few left today. The construction was built around an octagonal pool and patio with an upper-level circular gallery featuring smaller rooms branching off. Near the baths are also some Roman pools that would have once been used for the salting of fish.
Roman archaeological sites to visit in Malaga
- Malaga Roman Theatre
- Roman Ruins of Acinipo
- Roman Sulphur Baths of Hedionda
- Roman Villa in Torrox
- Roman Baths of Las Bovedas
Molly, from Piccavey, also shared with us few more little Roman treasures that you can enjoy in the city of Malaga itself, just in case you haven’t got your fill from the list above: “There are other Roman relics located in the University of Malaga. There are the old roman basins where they would make garum (fermented fish sauce). Part of the Roman city wall can be seen inside the Hotel Vincci Posada del Patio. You can visit the ruins on free 15-minute guide tours inside the hotel.”
When it comes to fascinating Roman archaeological sites, you are spoiled for choice in Malaga. If you fancy a slice of history during your time in the area, do consider visiting some of the above. Just make sure to check the latest visitor information ahead of your visit so you can be sure of seeing these treasures in person.
For instance, the Roman Sulphur Baths of Hedionda has free entrance but you need to reserve in advance from Casares tourist office (+34 952895521) and the Roman Baths of Las Bovedas requires reservation through Marbella Cultural Department email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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