Many people think that Benahavís is the most beautiful town in Andalucía. It's some boast, but Benahavís might just well be. Tucked a few kilometres inland between Estepona and San Pedro de Alcántara, this quaint and picturesque pueblo is considered the gastronomic capital of the Costa del Sol, home to some of the finest restaurants found anywhere in southern Spain.
To many Andalucíans, native and expatriate alike, Benahavis is synonymous with food. It has the highest concentration of high class restaurants in the region and draws visitors by the thousand who come simply to savour the cuisine.
It also has an extremely high percentage of resident expatriates who have found its situation and ambience irresistible. The surroundings are evidently inspirational, for Benahavís is home to a thriving community of artisans, primarily in the form of painters, potters and chefs.
In spite of this, it has remained remarkably unspoiled, with winding narrow streets ill-suited to the motor car, and a picturesqueness which almost makes it seem like a specially-created film set.
It stands 500 metres above sea level, 7 kilometres inland from Puerto Banus and the Guadalmina Golf Course, and is reached by driving through the rio Guadalmina gorge up into the hills.
Its Moorish heritage is emphasised by the existence nearby of the ruined 11th Century castle of Montemayor.
As its name implies, this Arab stronghold squats on top of the highest mountain in the locality, and anyone wishing to make the climb to visit the ruins and experience the truly sensational views of the coastline should be prepared for a strenuous but rewarding effort.
Today, Benahavis is seldom quiet during the tourist season, but the greatest problems are finding a place to park, and choosing a restaurant.
Even the old stone Arab walls around the town hall have been converted into one.
A notable feature of the village is La Aldea. Almost a village within a village, La Aldea was the brainchild of the British sculptor, David Marshall, whose gallery is one of its main features however there are other art galleries in Benahavis.
Though largely a recent creation, determined efforts have been made to make this enclave even more Andalucían than Benahavis itself, with marble fountains, antiques and old-fashioned doors and grilles.
There are 7 fabulous golf courses and clubs in Benahavis for all abilities.
Inevitably, Benahavis is growing quickly. On its outskirts new urbanisations are springing up like mould forming rapidly on an over-ripe peach. But this is not being allowed to attack the old village, and the visitor who remains steadfastly at its centre, as most do, might almost be unaware of their existence.
If possible, a parking space should be found at the entrance to the village and the tour of its streets undertaken on foot. All too often this is easier said than done, and the best alternative is to drive carefully to the Restaurante Los Faroles on calle Málaga, beside which an enterprising villager has turned a rare spot of unused land into a welcome and cheap car park.
It should not be assumed that restaurants are the only eating places in Benahavis. For those not ready for a heavy lunch there are numerous bars serving excellent tapas and even a small pizzeria.
But its restaurants are its glory, and it celebrates the fact by describing itself on the road signs that guide you there as the gastronomic corner of Andalucía. If you plan to go there, breakfast lightly.