Serrania de Ronda
Head up through winding roads into the mountains behind the coast and you will come out to one of the most stunning natural landscapes, mountains ranges broken up by plains that as far as the eye can see – The SERRANIA DE RONDA. This mountainous region is 47 kms from San Pedro de Alcantara on the Costa del Sol.
There are limestone escarpments, cork forests and fields of wheat and sunflowers with numerous small rivers crossing the landscape. The climate is generally dry and hot in summer, with mild spring and autumn seasons. Winters can be very cold, particularly at night, and snow is not uncommon at the higher altitudes. Cloudless days in winter can be warm and bright and the light is considered to be good for photography and painting. Ornithologists value this area as a major migration route and some rare species can be seen. Popular with walkers, birdwatchers, climbers and potholers it contains both the SIERRA DE GRAZALEMA - reputedly one of the wettest regions in Spain - and the SIERRA DE LAS NIEVES.
Perched on a high plateau overlooking the Tajo Gorge, RONDA, one of the oldest towns in Spain, is the administrative headquarters. There are lots of interesting sights and activities crammed in; Ronda is the birthplace of bullfighting and home to one of the most important bull rings in Spain. The old town of Ronda has a distinctly Moorish influence; visit the restored Arabic Baths (Baños Arabes), and the Madragon Palace, which was originally home to the Moorish Kings, during their rule. Most visitors will initially head to the Nuevo Puente (New Bridge), which splits the town in two.
Dazzling in the bright Andalusian sunshine, the pueblos blancos (white villages) perch precariously on the mountainsides. Chosen by the Moors and Christians during the 13th to 15th centuries for their defensive advantages, these pretty hill-top towns are a delight for the discerning traveller seeking an authentic experience of the region. Tourist towns they are not, and wandering peacefully through their narrow streets (designed to deflect the strong sunshine and heat from the terraced houses) with splashes of brightly-coloured potted flowers is a salve for the soul in this age of instant gratification and constant stimulation.
The small village of ALGATOCIN is of Moorish origin and is situated in the mountains in the centre of the Serrania de Ronda. The natural surroundings, with green chestnut trees, holm oaks and cork oaks are perfect for hiking trips. Among the steep, narrow and winding street are various 18th century buildings with elegant coats-of-arms. Algatocin survives on agriculture with a timber mill besides the Rio Genal and two pork processing factories in the village. The whole municipal district now only has 475 houses, some of these being in the old Salitire district.
Ringed by the stunning scenery of the Genal Valley is ALPANDIERE, a small village with a population of just 270. Alpandeire is the birthplace of the famed Catholic preacher FRAY LEOPOLDO, a Capuchin monk famous for his miracles. The house in which he was born has been converted into a monument of historical and artistic importance and features many of his personal belongings.
In the centre of Alpandeire is the most famous of all its sights, the Church of San Antonio de Padua, known as the "Cathedral of the Serrania" thanks to its impressive size compared with the rest of the buildings in the town centre. In the vault is an old cemetery in which lie two intact, embalmed bodies - according to popular tradition, that is - of a married couple who contributed funds to pay for the church's construction. Also in the municipal area is a series of dolmens called the Encinas Borrachas. These megaliths form a prehistoric gravesite where archaeologists have uncovered the remains of five individuals.
With an area of only 9 square kilometres, ARRIATE is the smallest municipal district in the province of Málaga, surrounded on all sides by land belonging to one of the largest - Ronda. Until 1630, it was part of the Ronda municipality itself, but in that year the inhabitants got together, had a whip-round, and raised enough money to buy their freedom. The town stands out for its traditional carpentry and when you stroll through its winding streets you can admire the handcrafted wooden doors on many of the houses. The Roman ruins of Acinipo are located 30 minutes from the town.
Nestled between the valleys of Guadiaro and Genal is ATAJATE, a small town of Arab origin and white houses with only 150 residents. At 745 m above sea level its privileged location affords spectacular views and the splendid natural environment surroundings makes it the starting point of trekking trails. Strolling through the narrow cobbled streets of Atajate is a real pleasure. Some of the houses still maintain their eighteenth-century façade. The Fuente-Lavadero, a simple outdoor construction is a true example of popular architecture of the mountain villages of Malaga. Besides being where once women washed clothes it was formerly a meeting place in which it everything that happened in the village was discussed. Recently, the Open Museum of Wine has been created, a museum in the own streets of Atajate dedicated to this drink with as much relevance in the village. Through text, illustrations and traditional tools, like an old press, the traveller can see the process of making these delicious wines.
BENADALID, one of the white villages of the Genal Valley only has 260 inhabitants. It is divided into two parts. On one side is a typical Arab-style Andalucian town with narrow winding streets. On the other side – basically around the main square, is a more modern layout. Just outside the village is the Castillo de Bendalid. Since the 19th century the village cemetery has been located inside the compound. Next to the Castle is the Cruz del Humilladero, a monument made of stone in 1776 commemorating the surrender of the Moors after the fall of Ronda in Christian hands. El Alambique is an old distillery which houses a museum of popular arts and customs showing the old trades and traditions of the village to the tourists.
BENALAURIA dates back to the time of Moorish domination and owes its name to the Berber tribes. This picturesque white town is located between the valleys of Genal and Guadiaro amid lush pine and chestnut forests, guarded by the mountain systems of the Loma de la Sierra and Peñón de Benadalid. The Lagar de Benalauría was the place where the grapes were stepped on for preparation for different wines. Today it is where different groups of handicrafts union gather to perform their delicate job. Housed in an XVIII century building, that once was an old mill is the Benalauría Ethnographic Museum. Here you will find, among other things, utensils and traditional objects of the area.
BENAOJAN as the name suggests is another typical Moorish village with narrow streets converging on the Plaza and church. The original village was built on a mountainside with the lower par running into the Grazalema Natural Park, with the valley dominated by the striking limestone peaks of Ventana and Palo. The area is popular for rural tourism, and offers excellent walks, mountain views and potholing.
The hidden village of BENARRABA can only be approached by car, along its own short but mountainous 3-kilometre road. Although off the beaten track, Benarraba is an interesting village and has a number of bars and restaurants. To find the turn off, look for Gaucín on the map and the junction to the right is 5 kilometres to the north.
At 850 metres above sea level CARTAJIMA is one of the most beautiful corners of the province of Malaga. Sunsets where the colours of the sky mix with the vegetation of the Genal Valley are a natural spectacle you will not forget. In this village you will also see the way the traces of the Arab past, with its winding streets and whitewashed houses, are interspersed with the style of the eighteenth-century buildings. The remains of the Roman baths of Cañada del Harife and the necropolis of Cortijo del Ratón are well preserved. From the medieval period are the castle and the ancient towns of Casapalma y Cartabón. From the Al-Andalus period the Fuente de los Peces, of Moorish origin, located on the Arroyo Blanco path.
CORTES DE LA FRONTERA, sandwiched between the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and the Alcornocales Natural Park, has the largest cork oak forest in Spain. Of Phoenician origin and a still very present Nazrid past, Cortes de la Frontera is the ideal place to mix nature, history and culture. It is in a superb vantage point overlooking the sweeping Guadiaro valley below, with a spectacular backdrop of the Serranía de Ronda Mountains. The bullring, built in 1894 and restored in 1921, is one of the largest in the Serranía de Ronda. Its size is a reflection of Cortes's strong tradition of cattle rearing (the town's annual feria features a cattle fair), as are its various and well-established bullfighting fiestas. A few kilometres out of town at Los Castillos is the Torre de Paso, a 13th-century defensive tower constructed by the Moors to guard the Gaucín-Ubrique road.
FARAJANs’ peace and charm extend amidst chestnut trees, streams and streets of Arab heritage. The steep slopes, whitewashed houses and exceptional natural enclave on which this town rests make Faraján a unique destination for history. Its original name in Arabic means ‘joy and delightful’ and Farajan is just this. Lovers of history will find the remains and monuments from over the centuries, the oldest dating from prehistoric times, such as the Dolmen del Romeral. Farajan is part of the Ruta de Fray Leopoldo, the Capuchin monk, beatified in 2010.
GAUCIN is a charming whitewashed mountain village, just half an hour's drive from the Costa del Sol. This spectacularly beautiful mountain village has commanding, sweeping views to Gibraltar and North Africa. The village is a gateway to the Serranía de Ronda where, depending on the time of year, you can enjoy an impressionist palette of colour: brilliant brush strokes of red poppies, yellow mimosa, purple wild orchids, tempered by the cool green of olive groves and occasional splash of pale pink almond blossom. The narrow medieval streets and tall, narrow houses are sprawled picturesquely over two hills and the adjoining land between them. Perched high above the deep River Genal valley, Gaucin is overlooked by the imposing the Sierra del Hacho mountain.
Isolated GENALGUACIL is perched above the Genal River Valley on the northern slopes of the Sierra Bermeja, surrounded by greenery next to the Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja Natural Area and one of the only pinsapo pine forests in Spain. As a result of the bi-annual art festival called “Los Encuentros de Arte del Valle del Gebnal”, contemporary works of art are on permanent public display throughout the village. Visitors come from all over to wander the narrow streets and charming plazas in search of artistic treasures. Due to its rather isolated location, few travellers pass through - but those that do make the effort are well rewarded.
Cascading down the cliffs of the Genal Valley is the slightly larger white village of IGUALEJA. Exploring Igualeja is a work-out in itself, due to the steep winding streets - perhaps this is one of the reasons the town's inhabitants have a reputation for being tough (as well as ruthless). A more likely explanation stems from the violent reputations of two of the town's most infamous bandits: ZAMARRILLA and FRANCISCO FLORES AROCHA. Zamarrilla won his notoriety plundering the French during the early years of the 19th century, but carried on with his ways after their withdrawal. The more dastardly Francisco Flores Arocha terrorised the surrounding mountains and the main Ronda-Marbella road and was hunted down and killed by the Guardia Civil in 1932.
JIMERA DE LIBAR is an excellent destination for anyone wishing to enjoy the wonders of rural tourism in Andalucia. Nestled in the Guadiaro Valley right across from the Libar mountain range and –best of all – it is inside the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
JUZCAR, the only white village that is blue! The blue village of JUZCAR, is one of the small villages located in the beautiful, scenic Valle del Genal in the Serrania de Ronda, is the first ever ´SMURF TOWN´ in the world, since June 2011. Until this date, Júzcar was a weekend destination for lovers of rural tourism, hiking and other activities such as climbing and ravining. The transformation of this town is owed to the fact that every single building here was painted BLUE Houses, the Church, the cemetery and the Town Hall, to embrace the premiere of the Sony pictures world-renowned film - The Smurfs 3D. Once the filming and promotion had passed, the inhabitants of Juzcar decided to keep the buildings painted blue, carrying on as the village of the SMURFS and taking advantage of this uniqueness to attract tourists and generate a greater income among its inhabitants. However the owners of the Smurf trademark (estate of the Smurf creator, Belgian comics artist Pierre Clifford) required villagers to pay 12% in royalties on all Smurf-related income. By 2017 this agreement was disputed. The village is now, officially at least, the 'Blue village' rather than the 'Smurf village' although vestiges of Smurf filming can still be seen.
MONTECORTO is a small town located on the slope of the mountainous hill Malaver next to the Natural ark of Sierra de Grazalema. The town has traces of all the cultures that have populated Andalusia over the millennia. From the Neolithic there is the Dolmen del Chopo, from the Arab period dates the Castillo del Moral and Torre de Audita and from the Roman times are the ruins of Acinipo, located 15 kms from the town.
MONTEJAQUE as in all the pueblos blancos, dates from the time of the Berber settlers, after the Moslem conquest. Located in a semi-hidden bowl hidden by circular rocky outcrops, it overlooks a small fertile valley of olive groves. The village centre can only be approached by its own short side road, having left the Cortes-Montecorto route at the edge of the pueblo. Below the village, the old medieval road to Ronda zig-zags from the new cemetery and over the limestone outcrop. This track is still used today and passes the Hermita de las Escariguelas, visited every August by a procession in honour of the pueblo's patron saint, the Virgin de la Concepcion.
PARAUTA is an undiscovered white village where 19th century doors abound and a Moorish arch that connects two buildings. With its white-washed streets, richly fertile valley and privileged location within the Parque Natural de la Sierra de las Nieves, Parauta is a unique destination to relax and tune in to nature. In this municipality you’ll discover the millenary holm oak tree, considered one of the oldest in the world. This part of the Parque Natural de la Sierra de las Nieves is home to some of the oldest living fir trees. It is estimated that the Pinsapo de la Escalereta is between 350 and 550 years old.
The mountain village of PUJERRA is one of the most isolated in the region. It lies a long and windy 11km from the A376 San Pedro-Ronda road, beyond the pueblo of IGUALEJA. With a 4x4 or taking it slowly, a basic track leads over the mountains from the Estepona - Jubrique road. It can also be reached via another track from JUZCAR and across the Rio Genal. This is also the site of the deserted medieval village of CENAY, which was large enough to have its own church and was the seat of a very large rural parish. The municipal district is a very mountainous area, with the only fertile land leading down to the river Genal. The small Ermita de San Antonio can be seen on the approach to the village (from Igualeja). This is at an interesting spot as it overlooks a deserted medieval community. Located in the grounds of Cortijo Bentomi by La Fuente de Bentomi, this is the only visible evidence that this was the site of the lost village of Benatamin (Banu Tamin).
SERRATO is a little, hidden-away ‘malagueño’ village in the Ronda highlands, located in the region of Guadalteba and the Sierra de las Nieves. Serrato is an ideal destination to learn about rural life in the Costa del Sol and discover the natural beauty of its surroundings. The hospitality and character of its people will win you over. The spring water at Fuente del Caño at the entrance to the village has flowed here since ancient times. The public fountains, until the arrival of running water to the houses, were considered basic infrastructures in the towns of the Sierra. In 2008 the fountain underwent restoration.
The SERRANIA DE RONDA was once a major stronghold for bandoleros(bandits),and the tiny towns of BENAOJAN and MONTEJAQUE were famously where many holed up. The legend of the bandoleros,(bandits), always linked to Ronda and its culture, was born after the stoic defence of the town against Napoleon's troops. It is said that after the War of Independence there were highwaymen who attacked travellers on the roads and lived wandering through the mountains, taking advantage of the most innocent and unwary. They became so famous in the popular imagination that their image, with their characteristic attire and their blunderbusses, became forever associated with Ronda.