Beautiful valleys flanked by dramatic cliff faces, caves etched into the rocks, bubbling brooks lined with colourful flowers … the Ronda Mountains has it all.
Jagged formations of deeply weathered limestone rise sharply above ancient groves of olives and almonds, flocks of sheep and goats graze the hillsides, eagles and vultures ride the winds high above. The scenery seems to change with every turn in the road and it is easy to see why the last of the ‘bandaleros’ were able to escape capture in this dramatic terrain.
Although not particularly high (the highest peak is 1,919 metres above sea level), the mountain landscape is impressive, a rich tapestry of profound valleys flanked by dramatic cliff faces, caves etched into the rocks and bubbling brooks lined with colourful flowers. The abyss known as the “Gesm” is the third deepest in the world. For anyone interested in botany and birdlife there are riches indeed.
The Romantic movement found the area a source of much inspiration and a visit to the town of Ronda became an essential part of any ‘grand tour’ through Spain. It appealed, too, to the officers of Gibraltar garrison who would ride up to Ronda to escape from the coastal heat.
The contrast with the busy beaches and bustling lifestyles on the Mediterranean coast, less than an hour's drive to the south, could hardly be greater.
The town’s lofty position (almost 3,000 feet above sea level) means that even in mid-summer a cooling breeze often blows across the town. And although large numbers of visitors flock in from the resorts of the Costa del Sol, by mid-afternoon the buses are lumbering back down the hill and the town once again becomes a sleepy market town – and one of the most beautiful in Europe.
The contrast with the busy beaches of the Mediterranean, less than an hour’s drive to the south from Ronda, could hardly be greater. Just yards from the town’s famous bridge and bullring (the oldest in the world) are restaurants and bars where not a word of English is spoken, where the prices are right and where local folk will be interested by your presence and will certainly try to engage you in conversation.
To the east and west of the town are the natural parks of the Sierra de las Nieves (the mountains of the snows) and Grazalema where the possibilities for walking are endless. Many of these (often ancient) walking routes have recently been waymarked.
The Ronda Mountains is an area of outstanding natural beauty which offers a delightful slice of Spanish life at every twist and turn.
Each of the whitewashed villages in the mountains surrounding Ronda seems to have a character of its own. The organic, inward-looking houses of these places are strongly reminiscent of those of the Berber hill farmers who settled this area during the Moorish period.
Another spectacularly beautiful mountain village is Gaucín which enjoys sweeping views across the mountains to Gibraltar and the coast to the Rif Mountains of North Africa.
Once a major Roman settlement with a magnificent castle which dates back to these pre-Arabic times, the centre of the village is a pretty tangle of narrow, twisting streets, once a haven for brandy and tobacco smugglers. Today it’s a little more civilized, a pleasing combination of traditional Andaluz and international amenities.
The Ronda Mountains is an area which really does offer you a taste of the much-touted ‘Real Spain’ an area which has made remarkably few concessions to mainstream tourism.
There is stacks to see and do in addition to the old mansion houses and churches of Ronda. You could visit the Pileta cave with its paleolithic cave art, you can take a balloon flight, ride, walk and visit any number of interesting villages.
To the north lies Sevilla, the magical, mesmerising capital of Andalucía. Should fancy a day on the beach, from most of our properties you’ll be an hour or less away from the Mediterranean Sea.
And there’s always Morocco …
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