Sierra de Grazalema
The Natural Park of Sierra de Grazalema is a series of Mountains, towns and villages within the adjacent provinces of Malaga and Cadiz. The Malagan town of Ronda is readily accessible from the Costa del Sol and is a gateway to the region.
Ronda lies in the Andalusian region within Malaga province. It's located in a mountainous region, about 750 metres above sea level.
Ronda is situated in a very mountainous area about 750 m above mean sea level. The Guadalevín River runs through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep, 100 plus meters deep El Tajo canyon upon which the city perches.
Three bridges span the gorge but the most impressive is the New Bridge - Puente Nuevo which was built between 1750 and 1793. This is the tallest of the bridges, rising over 120 metres, above the gorge. From the south side you can take a trail down the canyon to a viewing point looking back towards Puente Nuevo and the rivers waterfall.
Ronda can with relatively easily accessed from the Costa del Sol by road though the road winds up the side of the mountains, also by less demanding road from Cadiz or by rail from Algeciras and Córdoba The British military built the single track railway between Ronda and Algeciras, in order to allow their officers on Gibraltar escape the summer heat. Construction took place between in the early 1890s.
A number of writers have been captives of the towns beauty and written about the town in their works. Hemmingway is said to have used El Tajo and its steep cliffs as inspiration for a murderous scene in For Whom Bells Toll where during the Spanish Civil War, Republicans murder the Nationalist inhabitants of an Andalusian town by throwing them over the cliffs. This was based on actual killings which took place in the town. George Eliot wrote his book Daniel Deronda ("Daniel of Ronda"), based on a Jew who was brought up as an Englishman. In the early 20th century Rainer Maria Rilke, the German Poet, spent long periods in Ronda and kept a long stay room the Hotel Reina Victoria, this room remains unchanged since Rilkes last visit.
The former town hall, which sits next to the Puente Nuevo, is the site of a parador, and has a view of the Tajo canyon. The oldest bull ring in Spain, built in 1784 is on the this side of the town, its construction is neo classical and was designed by José Martin de Aldehuela, the designer of Puente Nuevo.
Road to Ronda
The A 397 connects to the A7 just north of Alcantara. This A 397 winds its way to the valley and mountain side to Ronda. The journey time is about 40 to 50 minutes depending on traffic.
Just a short distance west fro Ronda lie the Sierra Grazalema, with it's high peaks, karst landscape, caves and white villages.
While Grazalema is in Cádiz province it is a relatively short distance from Ronda. Today the village and surrounding area is popular with tourists and hill walkers, though in the 17th century the town developed a woollen business which continues today where one can buy the famous Grazalema Shawls. Otherwise throughout the centuries the economy was based on small farm holding and mountain reared sheep. The village is one of the Pueblos Blancos or White Towns of Andalusia, which are a number of towns and villages with white washed walls and red / brown rood tiles. The white buildings stand out in an otherwise dry landscape making them popular with tourists. Though the white washing of the buildings only seems to date back to the 1920s when the under the rule of dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera he decreed that villages and towns should have a uniform look.
Close to the town of Grazalema there are a number of signed mountain walks. The walk in this video is from Grazalema to Benamahoma and back.
The town of Zahara close to Grazalema in the Andalusian hills is perched on a hill top overlooking a fertile valley and man-made reservoir. The town is a white town with mainly white washed buildings. At the highest point in the town is a castle which dominates the landscape. The castle was built in Moorish times, when the whole region was controlled by the Moors which lasted till 1425.
Grazalema to Benaoján
The region is mountainous karst landscape along the drive one passes a number of unusual mountain formations, where the limestone has been eroded away by wind and weather erosion. Within the mountains there are a number of discovered caves and many more waiting to be discovered.
The Rio Guadiaro flows below the town of Benaoján and continues to flow through a valley till it reaches the sea at Algeciras, the train line from Ronda follows the course of this river as does a good walking path. In the mountains close to the town there are a number of caves open to the public. The Cave of the Bathing Pool is the most well-known due to the large number prehistoric paintings dating from the Upper Palaeolithic, the cave has been declared National Monument of Rock Art. The paintings should be seen, rather than just rambling paintings or drawings over a long period of time, but as having a spiritual significance, where the drawings of animals may have been sacred and drawn to protect the animals over long period of time.