RONDA is surrounded by two natural parks, the Sierra de las Nieves and the Sierra de Grazalema, not to mention its very own breathtaking Serrania.
These surrounding hills are creaking with wonderful walks and pretty towns and villages to visit, all easy to reach in the car and most with their own excellent places to stay and eat.
Here are the Olive Press top ten picks for a trip out of Ronda.
Preaching the blues
While it’s about as stunning as any of the pretty villages around Ronda, there is one big difference with Juzcar… it’s blue. This is thanks to the Smurf movie that in 2011 decided to use the tiny town as the mythical base of the tiny creatures. It has been used a handful of times since and voted to stay blue some years back. But apart from the many attractions for kids, based around the movie, it is also the perfect place for a walk and to see Griffon vultures and crag martins.
The Serrania was once a major stronghold for bandoleros (bandits) and the tiny towns of Benaojan and Montejaque were famously where many holed up. But there is much more, such as the Cueva de la Pileta, near Montejaque, which has the oldest cave paintings in Spain, while Benaojan is the centre of the ham and sausage industry. There is a fabulous walk from Benaojan Estacion down the river to Jimera de Libar, from where you can get the train back. At each end is a great lunch spot, with hotel Molino del Santo (www.molinodelsanto.com) the obvious pick.
A 15-minute drive from Ronda takes you to the ancient city of Acinipo, where the Roman’s built their ancient town. The highest hill for miles around, it still has much evidence of their skills with a large part of its amphitheatre intact and a lot more to look at, not to mention the views. The visitor centre is only open for the morning, but one can always climb up to the amphitheatre out of hours.
The historic Roman town of Setenil de las Bodegas is a real eye opener and amazing for photography. Nestled in the rolling landscape, 20 minutes out of Ronda, it was built on a series of caves, which served to keep the wines of the Romans cool in summer, hence its name. It is best to leave your car outside the town, wander up to the old fortress before heading down to the famous overhanging cave for a fine tapas lunch.
Castle hop to Jimena
It is now believed that Jimena may have once housed one of Europe’s most important Roman fortresses. While excavations currently go on, the existing castle itself is a real eye opener with amazing views and features. The town itself is a gem and, best of all, has a great place to stay in Hostal El Anon (www.hostalanon.com)
Prehistory kept alive
For anyone wanting an idea of what life was like in the Ronda area 5,000 years ago, head to Algaba, a short drive out of Ronda. This wonderful estate has recreated a prehistoric village showing clearly how the area’s forefathers lived, how they ground their bread, decorated their homes and what they did with their dead. There are also lots of rare breeds of cows and goats and you can even stay in the nearby finca if you fancy it. Visit www.algabaronda.com
It’s not hard to see why Gaucin is called the Balcony of the Serrania. Perched on a hilly outcrop, surrounding by stunning mountain scenery, the views across Gaucin stretch for ever, on a clear morning well into north Africa. A town popular with expats, due to its easy access to the Costa del Sol, this is where the likes of Fatboy Slim, the Sainsbury family and even Lady Diana are said to have holidayed. Artistic and creative, you can easily spend a day poking around its charming corners
Fanning its fortune
An hour walk out of Ronda will take you to one of the most stunning natural sites, the Cueva de Abanico (or the Fan Cave). Near here celebrated flamenco star Estrella Morente, and husband bullfighter Javier Conde are about to build a hotel and it is no surprise why. This is one of the most beautiful walks imaginable, with bits of Roman road to discover, ruined towers and then the amazing cave and river at the end.
The secret valley
Most people spend their time in the famous Ronda Tajo, but few take a stroll up the fabulous historic valley walk above the charming village of Arriate, just ten minutes out of Ronda. Well signposted, the Arroyo de la Ventilla hike heads up into an almost tropical leafy gorge, perfect for hot sunny days being mostly in the shade. Kids will love it in summer with the river forged creating a natural splash pool, with swings and an organic picnic spot.
Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema are two of the most evocative towns around Ronda. While just across the border in Cadiz, both are easily reached and set in spectacular scenery. Zahara has a towering castle above it and a great restaurant Al Lago (www.al-lago.es), while Grazalema (a beautifully conserved gem) was once the centre of the wool industry and you can still buy delightful rugs and bedspreads.