Just 45 minute’s drive up into the hills behind our family-friendly holiday villa in San Pedro de Alcantara, you reach the historic city of Ronda and the whitewashed pueblos of the Serrania de Ronda.
There is something about Ronda that sparks a passion for visitors. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles both fell in love with Ronda. Perhaps it’s the fact that one of the oldest cities in Spain, is so full of life and vitality. And when you look out to the landscape of the Serrania de Ronda from the ‘picture perfect’ Puente Viejo, you will appreciate the beauty and authenticity of Andalucía.
If you only have a day to explore Ronda, walk across the Puente Viejo (bridge), explore the Madragón Palace, take a stroll through the pretty Alameda de Tajo (Ronda’ central park), and wander through the cobbled streets of the old town, stopping off for some tapas and a glass of Ronda wine along the way.
However, if you are looking to spend a couple of days exploring the city and surrounding countryside, then we highly recommend that you also include a wine tour at one of the region’s renowned bodegas and a trip to the Grazalema Natural Park.
You can reach Ronda by bus from San Pedro’s bus station. Check out this San Pedro to Ronda bus timetable.
The Serrania de Ronda
There are many white villages (pueblos blancos) perched high in the hills behind Villa Guadalain. Head up past the luxurious urbanisations of El Madroñal and La Zagaleta to the beautiful city of Ronda and surrounding countryside, known as the Serrania de Ronda.
The Serrania de Ronda’s villages are distinctive by their whitewashed houses and narrow, steep streets. They were originally built as lookout points and watchtowers by the Berbers to protect them from the invading Christians, but are now principally agricultural towns.
The small towns are usually built around a village square with a church and many have museums or castles to explore. There is always a bar or restaurant open to have something to eat. Many have small tourist offices where you can pick up some interesting information about the area.
As they are in the hills they are best reached by car and the roads leading up to them can be narrow and windy. Many of the streets are cobblestoned and steep so you will need comfortable shoes when walking around.
Some of our favourite villages in the Serrania de Ronda are Benaojan where you can visit the Cueva del Gato and walk the river route alongside the Rio Guaduares, Cortes de la Frontera and Montejaque.
The village of Juzcar is one that will interest the children. Far from being a whitewashed village, Juzcar, located in the scenic Valle del Genal, is the location for the filming of the Smurf movies. Once filming had finished, locals decided to keep the village blue and it has become something of a legend in the Serrania de Ronda.
There are many other white villages to visit, including Zahara de la Fontera, Casares, Gaucin, Ubrique and more. All have their own unique qualities and charm. For further information about them please ask us directly.
The Serrania de Ronda also forms part of the DO Sierra de Malaga wine production and part of Malaga´s official wine route. We highly recommend a winery and vineyard tour if you have time. There are several excellent bodegas in the area where you can visit the vineyards and enjoy a wine tasting session and lunch, such as Bodega F. Schatz, Descalzos Viejos and Bodega Garcia Hidalgo.
Check out this wonderful video about Ronda’s local wineries.
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
Driving on from Ronda about another 25km you will reach the gorgeous village of Grazalema nestled in the stunning Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park in the Cadiz region.
Smaller and less busy, this picturesque white village is often the starting point for hikers into the beautiful natural park.
The Sierra de Grazalema was Spain’s first natural park given a UNESCO biosphere status in 1977. The region is still relatively unknown outside of Spain, which makes it perfect for exploring an authentic region off the beaten tourist track.
The scenery is magnificent with peaks and lush river valleys, gorges and hilltop whitewashed villages. During the winter, it receives snow and I can’t think of a more beautiful picture-postcard than the village of Grazalema covered in snow!
One of our favourite family-friendly day trips is the river walk along the Rio Majaceite. It’s a good two-hour hike starting out at Benamahoma and ending at El Bosque. Take lots of water and enjoy a dip in the river and little ‘puddle lakes’ along the way.
At the entrance to the Grazalema National Park, you have the hilltop towns of El Gastor and Zahara de la Sierra overlooking the impressive reservoir where you can hire Kayaks and swim.