Manilva’s strategic position, close to the entrance to the Mediterranean, has resulted in a long history of settlement in the area going back to the Stone Age. In recent years traces of these early settlers has been found in caves in the Sierra Utrera, a ridge of limestone which runs behind the town. There is also a historically important Bronze Age hill fort which is currently the subject of a programme of excavations by experts from across Europe.
It is during the Roman period, though that the area first enjoyed prominence, as it was the site of a thriving fish processing industry, which exported products, including the highly prized garum paste (a kind of “Gentleman’s Relish”) which was in much demand back in Rome. Remains of the factory, a villa and bathhouse can be found today in Castillo de la Duquesa, one of Manilva’s coastal villages.
It was in the 16th century that the town of Manilva itself was founded, although a part of the neighbouring municipality of Casares, it gained its independence in 1795 and has grown ever since. For many years the chief industries were fishing, agriculture and viticulture. Manilva’s vineyards are famous for their moscatel grapes, used for the production of raisins and fine wines.
Since the 70s, when the Marina and golf course were built, tourism has been added to this list, and in recent years Manilva has enjoyed the status of one of the Costa del Sol’s fastest developing municipalities, with almost a trebling of the resident population in the last 10 years.
Another area of development has been the business sector, with the etablishment of an industrial estate just a few hundred metres from the Manilva exit to the A7 motorway, there are also literally hundreds of shops and office units available thanks to the construction boom of recent years.
Like all Spanish towns and cities, Manilva has an annual feria or fair, which in Manilva’s case is held in the second week of August, to coincide with Spain’s national holiday, Ascension Day on the 15th August.
In fact Manilva has a very busy calendar of ferias and fiestas either religious, traditional or modern. Starting off with the Three Kings cavalcade on the 5th January, then the raucous fun of Carnaval around the beginning of Lent; the solemn devotion of the Semana Santa processions during Easter; the Manilva International Festival, around the end of May, during which the municipality’s international community takes the opportunity to show off its varying culture, cuisine and traditions; the Eve of San Juan during the summer solstice with its pagan tradition of bonfires, fireworks and partying till dawn; the fishermen’s celebration of their patron, the Virgen del Carmen in mid-July, and then rounding off the summer with the Vendimia, in the first weekend of September, a festival celebrating Manilva’s grape harvest. Throw into that a good smattering of Saints’ days and pilgrimages and you’ve got a busy schedule of partying and celebrations.
Manilva is blessed with 8 km of coastline ranging from rocky coves to broad sweeping beaches, including the Blue Flag beach of Sabinillas-La Colonia. These beaches are kept clean throughout the year, and during the summer months are patrolled by a team of lifeguards and medics.
One of Manilva’s jewels is the charming Puerto de la Duquesa. This sports marina is also the home of the majority of Manilva’s fishing fleet. The Port’s harbour side bars and restaurants provide a perfect haven to enjoy the sun, quality food and drink, and to watch the world stroll by.
Of course we mustn’t forget the golf, after all it is a huge industry in the area. Manilva has the La Duquesa Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones and opened in the late ‘70s the course wraps itself around the El Hacho hill, and has stunning views of the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and the North African coast.
Along with Duquesa there are a large number of quality courses within a 30 minute drive including the world famous Valderrama, home of the Andalucia Masters, and Finca Cortesin home of the Volvo World Match Play Championships.
Golf is by no means the only sport practiced in Manilva, in fact there are numerous sporting facilities and the local authorities are very keen to promote sports in the community, particularly amongst the youngsters.
Manilva occupies a privileged position on Andalucia’s Costa de Sol at the South-western edge of the Province of Malaga where it borders the Province of Cadiz.
Manilva has a registered resident population of around 13,000 inhabitants, but this number is swelled by both short and long term visitors as well as tourists.
There are three main centres of population, these being the main town of Manilva which is approx. 2 km inland; the coastal village of San Luis de Sabinillas (referred to as Sabinillas); and the small fishing village of Castillo de la Duquesa (referred to as Castillo) about 1.75 km to the west.
Apart from these are numerous developments and urbanisations including the sporting marina of Puerto de la Duquesa all of which are turning Manilva into a bustling coastal town.
Manilva enjoys excellent transport links with the rest of the region, Spain and overseas. Recent developments in the region’s network of roads and motorways has seen journey times reduced significantly, the A7 toll motorway which runs just past the town boundary gives excellent access to this network and has relieved the congestion on the coastal road which has held back the municipality’s development in the past. As a result Manilva is less than an hour from Malaga’s international airport which serves over 60 different destinations. The airport is currently undergoing a major programme of expansion and improvement, including a second runway, which will allow it to handle an increase in traffic from the current 12 million passengers a year.
Manilva is also only 30 minutes from Gibraltar’s International Airport which is also embarking on an expansion and improvement plan, which is a direct result of the Cordoba Treaty of cooperation recently signed between Spain, the UK and Gibraltar. This plan has already seen the introduction of direct flights between Gibraltar and Madrid, with a number of airlines looking to add Gibraltar to their list of destinations.
And let’s not forget the airport at Jerez de la Frontera, which can be reached easily in 90 minutes, also embarking on plans to double capacity by the year 2012.
Another exciting development in the area’s transport infrastructure is the advance of the coastal railway. With the project already in place to extend the existing railway between Malaga and Fuengirola to Marbella and Estepona, Manilva’s neighbouring town by the beginning of the next decade, and plans to continue through Manilva and on to San Roque and finally the ocean sea port of Algeciras, this will complete a transport network second to none.
The traditional gastronomy of Manilva reflects the Mediterranean and its people, its landscape and the sea.
Daily the soil and the sea offer up the best ingredients for appetizing dishes typical of the cuisine of Malaga, whose beautifully prepared traditional recipes, made with local produce, are there for you to sample.
What really typifies Manilva’s gastronomy is its fish and seafood. The freshness and natural flavour (regardless of whether it is grilled, baked or cooked in a stew) of these tasty products must be sampled. There is no dish more emblematic of the coast of Malaga than fresh sardines roasted on bamboo spits over a wood fire on the beach.
Alongside Manilva’s traditional bars and restaurants are a whole host of international hostelries offering the opportunity to sample the cuisines of India, China, Germany, Holland, Italy, Britain, Mexico, Argentina, amongst many others. It is this that makes Manilva such a delightful place to dine out, whether it be on the harbourside in Puerto Duquesa, on the promenade in Sabinillas, or in one of Manilva town’s street cafés.