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Rustic Blue Holiday Guide to Grazalema

A showcase ‘white village', Grazalema has a spectacular situation and some of Spain's most traditional architecture …

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The village of Grazalema Bulls with a view, La Sierra de Grazalema The main square of the village, La Plaza de España La Sierra de Grazalema is both dramatic and beautiful A view of the village Friends! La Sierra de Grazalema merges into the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales
Grazalema, Los Pueblos Blancos
Population

2,250

Altitude

812 metres

Distance from Málaga

145 kilometres

Distance from the Coast

70 kilometres

Patron Saints

La Virgen del Carmen and La Virgin de los Angeles

Fiesta Dates

Fiestas del Carmen y Lunes del Toro de Cuerda, 19th to 21st July

The most important fiestas of Grazalema begin on the third week in August and continue until the 8th September, which is the day of la Virgin de los Angeles.

Climate

The Sierra de Grazalema is the wettest area of Spain with over 88 inches of rain a year (but please note that almost all of it falls in the winter months, it's as dry and sunny as the rest of Andalucía in summer). At 3,000 feet it's too low to get much more than a dusting of snow in the winter and the climate is generally considered Mediterranean.

Description

In the heart of the Sierra

Located in a high valley in the Sierra del Endrinal and dominated by the magnificent rocky outcrop known as Peñon Grande, it's a sensational setting.

Most people would consider Grazalema to be the showcase ‘white village' of Spain. It has a spectacular mountain perch and lots of bars and restaurants.

It was once famous for its cottage weaving industry, although, these days, just one mill remains which makes beautiful blankets with designs similar to those of the Moorish period.

In common with the other Pueblos Blancos (white villages), Grazalema contains some of Spain's most distinctive traditional architecture. Narrow streets of whitewashed houses, most of them with wrought iron rejas drop steeply down the hillside.

Its mountain perch is testimony to having been built with defence in mind: this was the area of the ever-changing frontier or frontera between Moslem and Christian Spain.

A classic ‘white village'

Grazalema's narrow streets of whitewashed houses, many of them festooned with flowers, are delightful and immaculately cared for.

Although some of the Sierra de Grazalema has seen human settlement since prehistoric times - the Cueva Pileta cave was inhabited at least 25,000 years before Christ - it was during the Roman period that the Sierra first saw extensive human settlement.

But it was during the Moorish period (712-1492) that the Sierra saw a huge expansion in its resident population. Most of the Moors who settled in the Grazalema mountains were Berber hill people who had been converted to Islam when it spread west through North Africa. They took naturally to the mountains of the South. The climate and geography was similar to those they had left behind in the Mahgreb and there was good grazing to be had for their flocks of sheep and goats.

The villages that the Moors built were, of necessity, on high, easily defended terrain. Their names are testimony to their founders: Grazalema derives from Zagreb Salim - the village of the Salim clan.

The expansion of the population continued steadily from the 16th through to the 19th century. But at the beginning of the twentieth century, at a time when the vast majority of the people already lived a precarious day-to-day existence, there were a series of bad harvests. It was now that many chose what they saw as the only path left open to them, that of emigration.

The case of Grazalema graphically illustrates this point. At the beginning of the 20th century its population numbered almost 14,000. In 2003 the population of the village was just 2,250. It is only in recent years, with the 'discovery' of Andalucía's interior by both Spaniards and foreigners that new jobs have been created.

Cloudy skies

In Grazalema, in winter, it rains … a lot. But in summer it's as dry and sunny as the rest of Andalucía.

Grazalema is at the heart of the Natural Park - of the same name - and is one of the most beautiful of all the white villages. It stands nearly 3,000 feet above sea level in the lee of the Sierra del Pinar which explains why it receives much higher rainfall than other villages in the sierra: this mountainous barrier is the first thing that the clouds come up against as they roll in off the Atlantic.

It also helps explain the abundance of vegetation that surrounds the village, especially evident in the lush river valley of the Gaidovar and also the existence of the large swathe of pinsapo pines that hugs the northern slopes of the Pinar Sierra.

It was the Berber settlers who first introduced the flocks of sheep and goats, attracted by the abundance of grazing on the mountainsides which surround the village. In the period following the Reconquest this tradition continued. With the wool obtained from the flocks the villagers began to weave thick, oily ponchos which were used by the shepherds for protection during the colder, wetter months.

Good grazing

The winter rains create the lush, verdant countryside all around and abundant grazing for the flocks of sheep and goats.

The fame of these thickly woven garments spread through the province and soon the weavers diversified and began to make blankets and horse cloths.

But it was during the Moorish period (712-1492) that the Sierra saw a huge expansion in its resident population. Most of the Moors who settled in the Grazalema mountains were Berber hill people who had been converted to Islam when it spread west through North Africa. They took naturally to the mountains of the South. The climate and geography was similar to those they had left behind in the Mahgreb and there was good grazing to be had for their flocks of sheep and goats.

By the mid nineteenth century there was a thriving cottage industry in the village and the most tangible sign of the wealth that came from the industry was the building of a number of three-storey houses with imposing entrances - all of this at a time when in other villages most people were still living in single storey houses.

Deep gorges and high peaks

La Sierra de Grazalema is one of the most beautiful tracks of mountain anywhere in Europe, with an astonishingly diverse flora and fauna.

The village took on such an affluent air that it became known as Cádiz el Chico (Little Cádiz). There was work for the villagers in the fulling mills, spinning and carding the wool, knotting blankets, shearing sheep and transporting the merchandise.

However, the beginning of the twentieth century saw a sudden decline in the fortune's of the village with the industrialisation of milling in the north of Spain, most notably in the textile factories of Catalonia. The cottage industry of Grazalema was no longer able to compete and most of the mills were forced to close down.

Today just one mill remains which makes for an interesting visit - La Antigua Fábrica de Mantas (walk away from the village square towards Ronda and you will see it signposted to the left, just beyond Hotel Peñon Grande). You can see the dying bins, the machines used for carding the wool and the looms themselves. The blankets, throws, rugs and shawls that are sold in the shop are made on modern looms in the factory next door.

The blankets are sold throughout Spain and if you were to visit La Feria in Sevilla or Jerez you'd see that a Grazalema blanket is an essential accoutrement for the well-turned out rider.

Real charm

Grazalema is a very pretty village, relaxed and charming. They’re used to catering to visitors here and you’ll soon find your favourite cafés or restaurant.

Reaching the village was a hazardous journey until the early twentieth century but the village did attract a number of British visitors thanks to a mention in Richard Ford's book 'A Handbook for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home'. Ford likened the village to 'a martlet's nest' due to the way it seemed to cling to the cliff face. Its most famous visitor, however, was the British anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers who penned 'People of the Sierra' when staying here.

The inwardly-looking village described by Pitt-Rivers was to change rapidly with the coming of the roads: one to Zahara, another to Ronda and a third to Ubrique. Nowadays tourism is a very important part of the local economy, boosted by the current vogue for 'rural tourism' amongst both Spaniards and foreigners.

Grazalema is seen as the show-case 'white village' and at weekends receives growing numbers of visitors who mostly come from Sevilla and Cádiz. Fifteen years ago there was just one small hostal. Now the village has four hotels and many holiday homes for rent. The large number of visitors also helps explain the abundance of bars and restaurants in and around the main square.

The village celebrates its annual Feria to coincide with the feast of their patron Virgin, La Virgen del Carmen, whose feast day is July 16th. During the Feria, bulls are run through the streets and the tradition of the toro de cuerda is re-enacted when the village divides into two groups and each tries to pull a bull, roped around its horns, into their adversaries terrain.

Holiday villas

Holiday villas within easy reach of Grazalema

  • ZC 73 - Sleeps 6

    Built around a Japanese garden patio, this villa has style! Minimalist elegance and panache in a magnificent mountain setting. Secluded and peaceful, deep in the hillsides of a 500 acre estate, this relaxing holiday villa has one of the most beautiful locations in all Spain.

    from 1,620€ to 2,360€

  • ZC 40(4) - Sleeps 2

    Built in a little cluster below an really impressive rock formation, these four cottages offer comfortable studio accommodation exclusively for couples. On a vast mountain estate, it's one of the most beautiful and tranquil locations in Andalucía.

    from 510€ to 700€

  • ZC 75 - Sleeps 4

    Soaking up the sunshine, taking a dip in the pool, reading under the dappled shade of an old olive tree, this is what a holiday is all about. In a beautiful valley just outside Ronda, this spacious villa has lovely gardens and a pool to match.

    from 1,100€ to 1,600€

  • ZC 69 - Sleeps 4 to 18

    Surrounded by some of the most dramatic mountain scenery to be found in Andalusian Spain, this fabulous property, a beautifully restored Casa Señorial (manor house), sits proudly on the edge of the town, overlooking its own lush gardens and pool below.

    from 1,990€ to 2,865€

  • ZC 40(1) - Sleeps 10

    Hugging the hillside like a beacon, this is a house of great character- some would say eccentric - set on a vast, 54 acre mountain estate. Anyone looking for authenticity and tranquillity will treasure this unspoilt paradise, without doubt, one of the most beautiful locations in Spain.

    from 1,730€ to 2,090€

  • ZC 33 - Sleeps 10 plus staff

    This magnificent, majestic mansion in the hills has real charisma and exquisite, grandiose style. One of the most stunning and spectacular houses in all Spain - in an equally glorious setting, it is impossible not to be captivated by its sumptuous elegance and comfort.

    from 6,740€ to 7,490€

  • ZC 76 - Sleeps 8 & 2 children

    In a beautiful valley just outside Ronda, this wonderful country house has joyous views, landscaped gardens and an irresistible 15 metre pool. Spacious, stylish and immaculately appointed, this is a family home which functions superbly.

    from 3,000€ to 4,400€

  • ZC 29 - Sleeps 6, 10 or 12

    One of the prime rural properties in Andalucía, this is a genuine Spanish ´hacienda´ set in the beautiful surroundings of its own 350 acre country estate. Quietly splendid and splendidly quiet, it has the unmistakable elegance of good, old-fashioned Spanish grandeur.

    from 1,050€ to 2,990€

  • ZC 68 - Sleeps 6 to 10

    Secluded and peaceful, deep in the gloriously forested hillsides of a superb, 500 acre estate, this quality holiday villa offers charm and eclectic (some might say eccentric) character in one of the most beautiful locations in rural Spain.

    from 1,840€ to 3,020€

  • ZC 40(5) - Sleeps 2 & 2 children

    Anyone looking for rural authenticity will treasure the unspoilt paradise of this vast mountain estate, without doubt, one of the most beautiful locations in Andalucía. This terrace of six villas is for couples, with or without, their small children.

    from 510€ to 650€

  • ZC 112 - Sleeps 10

    The entrance is through a conifer-lined drive to an Impressive low, wide, white villa with a lounging terrace at the front. Set in beautiful open country side, on the outskirts of the famous city of Ronda, you'll see cultivated fields with tractors and patchworks of ploughed land of all colours.

    from 1,540€ to 3,000€

  • ZC 86 - Sleeps 6 + 2 children

    The location of this ultra-modern villa for visiting Ronda just can't be beaten. The villa is only a ten minute drive from this famous city but is surrounded by 2.5 hectares of private olive groves. Combine the peace of a country holiday with the excitement of Ronda's Andalucian culture.

    from 3,260€ to 4,280€

  • ZC 74 - Sleeps 6

    In a beautiful valley just outside Ronda, this spacious villa has lovely gardens and a pool to match. A great choice for all the family. Simply relaxing here, soaking up the sunshine, taking a refreshing dip or two in the pool, it's a perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life.

    from 1,300€ to 1,850€

  • ZC 13 - Sleeps 6

    This lovely rustic cottage is located in stunning mountain scenery. Renovated with great care, the cottage retains all its inherent rustic charm, enhanced by carefully chosen, traditional furnishings.

    from 850€ to 1,430€

  • ZC 32 - Sleeps 2 to 6 & a child

    This recently rebuilt and reformed, 200 year old farmhouse has one of the most sensational settings imaginable. Perched on high in the Grazalema Natural Park, views are breathtaking, over the craggy hillsides and beautiful dales all around.

    from 980€ to 1,650€

  • ZC 12 - Sleeps 6 or 8

    Looking out from the forest above the little village to a heavenly panorama of mountain, hill and wooded slopes, this is an intimate, enjoyable and friendly holiday home. A great place to stay.

    from 1,300€ to 1,760€

  • ZC 42 - Sleeps 2 and a baby

    Described by one client as "the most beautiful house I've ever seen" this is a delectable place to hide away with a loved one. The perfect place for a first (or second) honeymoon …

    from 1,300€ to 1,560€

  • ZC 96 - Sleeps 14 + 1 child

    Although built in 2006, the feel of this villa is one of a traditional Spanish country house, with its terracotta pan-tiled roof, white walls, wrought ironwork and antique doors, the welcome is classic Andaluz. There are no other houses around, but you are still only a short drive from Ronda and all that it has to offer.

    from 6,650€ to 10,500€

  • ZC 106 - Sleeps 10

    Originally belonging to a much larger estate, this country estate house is set in its own vineyards, only ten minutes' drive from the famous city of Ronda. The grounds comprise 3.5 hectares, 2 of those are given to grapes which the owner uses in his own bodega.

    from 940€ to 2,880€

  • ZC 57 - Sleeps 6

    Local style prevails at this holiday home in a stunning setting above the lake at Zahara, a lovely spot on the edge of the Grazalema National Park. There is plenty of room for children to play and some of the best views in Spain.

    from 650€ to 910€

  • ZC 10 - Sleeps 10

    Built at the foot of the famous Ronda Gorge, the villa is surrounded by acres of landscaped olive groves. The style of architecture is Andalucian with a distinctly Moorish inspired flavour - warm, welcoming and inviting … this is a villa you will never want to leave.

    from 3,130€ to 4,500€

  • ZC 26 - Sleeps 8

    Surrounded by the exciting landscapes of the National Park, and just a couple of minutes away from lovely Grazalema itself, this farmhouse has been restored without in any way disturbing its ageless country charm. Homely and traditional, it's genuinely rustic, both inside and out.

    from 980€ to 1,110€

  • ZC 23 - Sleeps 6, 8 or 10

    This immaculately restored water mill is one of the most delightful holiday properties in Andalucía. Lawned gardens, an irresistible pool, trees, birdsong … there's even a huge duck pond, too. Inside, it's all about real Andaluz tradition, taste and style.

    from 980€ to 2,210€

  • ZC 19 - Sleeps 6

    Perched on the hillside with breathtaking views of Zahara de la Sierra on the opposite shore of its stunning lake, this is one of the most spectacularly situated properties in this wonderful part of Spain. Just rolling hills and the tranquility of nature to keep you company; a rural idyll.

    from 850€ to 1,300€

  • ZC 89 - Sleeps 6 or 8

    With a full size tennis court, sparkling pool and three hole practice golf course literally in your garden, this villa is ideal for the full family seeking a sporting holiday. But add to this the beautiful house and the proximity to Ronda and you have everything you need for a great break away.

    from 2,130€ to 2,490€

More photos

More photos of Grazalema

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