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How to enjoy a sustainable holiday in Malaga

With climate change and global warming headlining every day, it’s difficult to get away from the fact that travel isn’t good for the planet. But the pandemic has left us with real wanderlust and, as a result, we’re travelling more.

Malaga is one of the popular destinations, and 2024 looks set to be a record year for visitor figures. But more is only a good thing if these thousands of travellers (or at least some of them) are having a sustainable holiday in Malaga.

Since air travel is one of the most contaminating means of transport and most tourists fly to Malaga, sustainability is a challenge from the moment you open the airline app to book a flight. However, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the negative impacts of tourism and maximise the benefits for the city and its locals.

This article sums them up.

Establish your mindset

Most experts agree that sustainable travel is a way of thinking, a mindset you need to move into at the start. Being aware of your carbon footprint as a tourist is the first step. Once you recognise it, ways to take a sustainable holiday in Malaga should be easier to implement.

Pick your season for a more sustainable holiday in Malaga

If you can, come to Malaga during low season. Not only will you find the city less crowded, but you’ll contribute to the local economy in leaner times. And, of course, you’ll save on flights and hotel accommodation.

When is low season in Malaga?

  • Mid-January to Easter (except Carnival Week).
  • April and May (except for Easter).
  • Mid-September to late November.

Choose sustainable transport

Despite Spain’s high-speed train network that’s second to none, flying is the most practical option to come to Malaga. As a result, your quest to be sustainable is already flagging. It’ll be the case for a while too, since carbon-neutral aviation is a long way off.

However, you can make your travel as sustainable as possible by:

Choosing a ‘greener’ flight

For example, Skyscanner gives you the option to choose airlines with lower emissions. Once you tick the ‘Flight Emissions’ box (at the bottom left), you can see which flights have lower CO₂ emissions.

Admittedly, the reduction isn’t much. We found it ranged from 8 to 18% less, but much better than 0%.

Using public transport

Malaga has an excellent network of public transport, much of which is electric (trains and metro) or hybrid (many buses and taxis). It’s also super cheap to travel around the city, with one-way tickets costing around €1.40 (considerably less if you buy a 10-trip ticket for the bus or metro).

Find out how to get around Malaga by bus and/or by metro

Walking wherever possible

You can also have a sustainable holiday in Malaga by getting around on foot. The city makes this easy because the centre is compact and flat. Plus, many streets are pedestrianised, making strolling around a pleasant experience.  

calle Alcazabilla Malaga

Not visiting Malaga by cruise ship

Despite extensive research, we couldn’t find anything matching cruise and sustainability. Cruise ship travel is one of the most polluting ways of travel, meaning zero sustainability.

Did you know? Malaga province is currently in the midst of a drought, with water restrictions at 200 litres per person a day. Help us save water during your stay.

Sustainable accommodation in Malaga

Over the last few years, many hotels in Malaga have made a conscious effort to improve their footprint. As a result, some have an AENOR sustainability certificate. They include Ilunion, H10 and Vincci hotels.

When booking your hotel, look for the certificate (most hotel websites display it on their homepage if they have one) or tick the “sustainability certificate” box when using Booking.com.

How to make your hotel stay more sustainable

  • Take a shower rather than a bath.
  • Don’t request daily changes of sheets and towels.
  • Use recycling bins if possible.
  • Save energy by turning off lights and air-conditioning when you’re not in the room. Set the air-con at 26° in summer and heating at 19° in winter.
  • Go for hotels that provide refillable toiletries and glass cups rather than plastic.

Did you know? Malaga is dotted with water fountains, so bring a refillable bottle with you rather than buying bottled. Malaga tap water is the second-best in Spain.

Get off the beaten track

We think exploring lesser-known parts of the city is one of the keys to a sustainable holiday in Malaga. Obviously, you’ll want to visit the best-known sights and museums, but don’t forget the hidden treasures away from the city centre.

Vertical garden on the north of Malaga city centre walking tour

The Guide to Malaga website lists lots of ideas. For inspiration, check out the following:

Go local

Try to make your holiday as authentically Malagueño as possible. By this, we mean choosing local restaurants, eating seasonal food and buying souvenirs crafted by local or regional artisans.

If you’re looking for great places to eat that champion local ingredients, check out our list of recommended restaurants in Malaga.

If you’d like to know what’s in season during your stay, head for Malaga fresh food markets and ask the stallholders. Our cookbook, Fine Wining and Dining in Malaga has a comprehensive calendar of what’s in season and when. (Use the discount code WEB to get 25% at checkout.)

And if you’re looking for a gift for yourself or the folks at home, read our list of the best places to buy local souvenirs in Malaga.

Slow down for a sustainable holiday in Malaga

A slower-paced holiday will allow you to enjoy Malaga to the full, take away the stress of trying to do everything in a couple of days and give your holiday sustainability kudos. For example:

Treat this lovely city as if it were your home

Our final tip for a sustainable holiday in Malaga goes back to mindset. Respect the city and its locals during your stay. ¡Gracias!

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