Holidays in Grazalema

Everything you need to plan the perfect holiday in Grazalema: how to get there, the best places to stay, the best times of year to go, and an unbeatable selection of hand-picked holiday villas and cottages.

Find your Holiday home in Grazalema

Unusual, mountainous and in the heart of its own protected Natural Park, Grazalema is a major destination for exciting hikes or just leisurely rambles through beautiful, forested, limestone terrain.

Grazalema a well-preserved village of great charm, immaculately kept and decked out with geraniums and other colourful plants behind the wrought-iron bars of the windows.

Its secluded mountain setting grants beautiful views of peaks, crags and the broad valley from 812 metres of altitude.

In 1977, UNESCO designated the vast Natural Park of Grazalema – all 51,695 hectares of it – a Biosphere Reserve, singling out the very rare Spanish fir (pinsapo) which thrives here, for special mention.

Despite being just half an hour from Ronda, there was no paved road to Grazalema until the 1970s, which helps explain the unhurried character of the mountain village in the Andalucia hinterlands. Locals used to walk significant distances and today still walk their own hills. Old people here tend to be intelligently observant and there's still a still a tradition of healers (curanderos).

The focal point of the village is the central square, Plaza de España. Restaurants, café-bars, shops and banks, spa baths, village hall and the 18th century church of La Aurora, are all ranged hereabouts.

Walkers adore Grazalema. This extraordinary karstic region of Andalucia, with caves and forests, offers endless green vistas.

Originally founded by the Moors as Gran Zulema, the village rose from humble beginnings to having a population of over 9,000 (today it is only 2,200) in its 19th century heyday. At that time, it acquired the nickname Cádiz el Chico (Little Cadiz) for its busy trading of soap, wine, carob chocolate, shoes and ice and to the coast. Back then, Grazalema had no fewer than nine shoemakers and ice was hacked from the northern face of the mountain, still thrives, and transported to Cadiz by mule.

More than these, however, it was for its handwoven woollen blankets, rugs and ponchos that the village became best known. Today, Grazalema mantas are still produced by one small factory on the road to Ronda.

In the valley, 13 water mills once worked, making flour, pressing olive oil and carding wool.

Walkers adore Grazalema. This extraordinary karstic region of Andalucia, with caves and forests, offers endless green vistas.

On the towering rock face of the Garganta Verde (Green Throat Gorge), which drops vertically a dizzying 400 metres, nest griffon vultures.

Swim in the natural pool beneath the waterfall cascading from the cavern's opening at Cueva del Gato (Cat Cave): astonishing cave systems lie hidden beneath the living landscape.

Some of the Park's more delicate areas are off-limits to hikers especially during summer months when fire risk is high, but just about any walk here provides a hugely satisfactory experience of one of Spain's most unspoiled natural locations.

Grazalema has a misleading reputation for being the wettest in place in Spain. It has, in fact, the same hours of rain as other green areas of Spain, but the rainfall is much more profuse when it does come. After giving the ground a good soak, the weather tends to change and the sun breaks through again.

This village likes its fiestas. From May to September there is an endless list of celebrations. The tradition of the toro de cuerda (roped bull) is probably the oldest of its kind in Andalucia.

The late 1940s drew English anthropolist Julian Pitt-Rivers to Grazalema. His admittedly romanticized academic study "People of the Sierra" [1954] nonetheless captures the flavour of a remote Andalusian pueblo with its depiction of a community where mayor, priest, gypsies, healers, bandits and widows and aspects of honour, hospitality and marriage through abduction make for a colourful picture.

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Summary

Unusual, mountainous and in the heart of its own protected Natural Park, Grazalema is a major destination for exciting hikes or just leisurely rambles through beautiful, forested, limestone terrain.

Grazalema a well-preserved village of great charm, immaculately kept and decked out with geraniums and other colourful plants behind the wrought-iron bars of the windows.

Its secluded mountain setting grants beautiful views of peaks, crags and the broad valley from 812 metres of altitude.

In 1977, UNESCO designated the vast Natural Park of Grazalema – all 51,695 hectares of it – a Biosphere Reserve, singling out the very rare Spanish fir (pinsapo) which thrives here, for special mention.

Despite being just half an hour from Ronda, there was no paved road to Grazalema until the 1970s, which helps explain the unhurried character of the mountain village in the Andalucia hinterlands. Locals used to walk significant distances and today still walk their own hills. Old people here tend to be intelligently observant and there's still a still a tradition of healers (curanderos).

The focal point of the village is the central square, Plaza de España. Restaurants, café-bars, shops and banks, spa baths, village hall and the 18th century church of La Aurora, are all ranged hereabouts.

Walkers adore Grazalema. This extraordinary karstic region of Andalucia, with caves and forests, offers endless green vistas.

Originally founded by the Moors as Gran Zulema, the village rose from humble beginnings to having a population of over 9,000 (today it is only 2,200) in its 19th century heyday. At that time, it acquired the nickname Cádiz el Chico (Little Cadiz) for its busy trading of soap, wine, carob chocolate, shoes and ice and to the coast. Back then, Grazalema had no fewer than nine shoemakers and ice was hacked from the northern face of the mountain, still thrives, and transported to Cadiz by mule.

More than these, however, it was for its handwoven woollen blankets, rugs and ponchos that the village became best known. Today, Grazalema mantas are still produced by one small factory on the road to Ronda.

In the valley, 13 water mills once worked, making flour, pressing olive oil and carding wool.

Walkers adore Grazalema. This extraordinary karstic region of Andalucia, with caves and forests, offers endless green vistas.

On the towering rock face of the Garganta Verde (Green Throat Gorge), which drops vertically a dizzying 400 metres, nest griffon vultures.

Swim in the natural pool beneath the waterfall cascading from the cavern's opening at Cueva del Gato (Cat Cave): astonishing cave systems lie hidden beneath the living landscape.

Some of the Park's more delicate areas are off-limits to hikers especially during summer months when fire risk is high, but just about any walk here provides a hugely satisfactory experience of one of Spain's most unspoiled natural locations.

Grazalema has a misleading reputation for being the wettest in place in Spain. It has, in fact, the same hours of rain as other green areas of Spain, but the rainfall is much more profuse when it does come. After giving the ground a good soak, the weather tends to change and the sun breaks through again.

This village likes its fiestas. From May to September there is an endless list of celebrations. The tradition of the toro de cuerda (roped bull) is probably the oldest of its kind in Andalucia.

The late 1940s drew English anthropolist Julian Pitt-Rivers to Grazalema. His admittedly romanticized academic study "People of the Sierra" [1954] nonetheless captures the flavour of a remote Andalusian pueblo with its depiction of a community where mayor, priest, gypsies, healers, bandits and widows and aspects of honour, hospitality and marriage through abduction make for a colourful picture.

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Overview

WALKS

Grazalema is a mecca for walkers and birdwatchers and there are some simply wonderful hikes. Guided walks are available and can open up the country to you in a way that going on your own might not, and you should hire a guide if you want to explore the limestone caves, but otherwise self-guided walking is the norm.

One of the best walks is the circular route that starts at the camp site just above the village and goes clockwise around the base of the Peñon Grande, which is the large mountain that overlooks the town.

On the towering rock face of the Garganta Verde (Green Throat Gorge), dropping vertically a dizzying 400 metres, nest griffon vultures.

As if that wasn't enough, an astonishing cave systems lie hidden beneath the living landscape, The Cueva del Gato (Cat Cave), should be explored only with a guide, but you can enter the cave mouth safely and swim in the natural pool beneath the waterfall cascading from the cavern's opening.

Another circular route, the Cerro de Coros walk is short but stunning and with vantage points for raptor watching. The 3.5 km circular walk takes 2 hrs only but you are likely to spend a lot longer if the eagles, vultures and other raptors are flying.

We include directions for this walk along with much more information for Grazalema in the detailed Local Guide we send to Rustical Travel holidaymakers.

Permits for the protected routes are limited to 25 people per day. They are available at Grazalema Tourist Office which has been remodelled and reopened in October 2014. Routes to Garganta Verde, Pinsaper, Torreón and Llanos de Ravel are off-limits in July and August when the fire risk is at its greatest and the summer heat constitutes a deterrent in itself.

 

MOUNTAIN BIKING

A fascinating choice is the Ruta de la Via Verde, which goes from Olvera to Puerto Serrano following an old railway track (built in the 1930s and never used) through countryside and a series of 30 tunnels. Olvera is 45 mins from Grazalema. The route of 39 km takes 3 hrs 30 mins and is mostly downhill, graded "easy". Bookable with bicycle hire from a local agency.

 

SPA BATHS

We rate this as one of the star attractions in the village. Located centrally and created with imagination, the home-made spa facilities include a 35⁰C hot pool with massage jets for tired legs, a rain corridor, cold bucket plunger, mist shower, hot-and-cold alternating shower, sauna and massage room. Excellent for walkers and bike riders after a long trek.

 

NEILSON GALLERY

Art works by Spanish and international artists, with changing exhibitions. Also has free WiFi.

 

ARCHITECTURE

On the main Plaza de España are the 18th century La Aurora church, the parish church of La Encarnación and the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento). Visit also the 17th century church of San José, formerly a Carmelite convent with paintings by one of Murillo's students. Close by is a viewpoint with a lovely view over the village.

 

CHEESE FACTORY

Just outside town on the road up is Queso Payoyo, which is open to the public. Try the goat or sheep cheese, or the combination of the two. Also, natural yoghurts. Local produce par excellence!

 

TEXTILE FACTORY

Grazalema's once famed mantas are still produced by one small factory on the road to Ronda, Artesanía-Textil de Grazalema. They remain sought after, in particular by Andalucian equestrian centres and horseriders.

 

ARROYOMOLINOS SWIMMING LAGOON AND BEACH

25 minutes from Grazalema, by Zahara Lake and at the foot of Mount Prieto, is a delightful and well-kept recreational area with a large lagoon for swimming and lawns with shade under trees. Playita Arroyomolinos is good for toddlers, too, with easily accessible shallows for paddling along the water's edge. Inflatables are allowed.

It's a fabulous destination for a picnic and a swim between olive groves and mountains. There are lifeguards, bar-restaurant, barbecues, play areas, toilets and secure car parking.

 

RONDA MOUNTAINS AND VILLAGES

Drive round the old whitewashed villages of the Ronda mountains, inhabited since Neanderthal times and visit caves that prove it. There are many routes, but one that people always enjoy is the easy drive round through Montejaque and Benaoján villages, continuing south to La Pileta cave, where prehistoric paintings and fossilized Stone Age skeletons were discovered in 1905. A lovely walk long the picturesque valley combines with the little train running between Benoaján and Jimar villages.
Read more about Ronda Mountains and villages

 

RONDA TOWN

A major attraction. The small historic city of museums, bandits, Hemingway and Orson Welles, shopping and the oldest bullring in Spain, famously divided by a bridge over a yawning chasm, is 30 minutes from Grazalema.

 

BEST OF THE REST

Zahara de la Sierra (25 mins)

On the lake (it's a reservoir, really, but you wouldn't know it), Zahara village is reached along the high mountain road that links the two villages via the Puerto de Las Palomas pass. Zahara is one of the better known white villages thanks to its spectacular rocky perch and the beautiful backdrop of the Sierra del Pinar. Atop the village, the old Moorish tower is just the place to watch the sunset over the water. There's also an excellent restaurant for overlooking the lake for a special dinner.

 

Paragliding (30 mins)

Algodonales is a major site for hang-gliding and powered paragliding. A paragliding school offers flights in tandem, no experience needed.

 

Gaucin (1 hr 15 mins)

Gaucin is one of Andalusia's most popular "white villages." Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, the village sits hitched up in its mountain setting 630 metres above sea level. The Mediterranean and sandy beaches are just half an hour away. Gaucin is presided over by "Eagle Castle." Holidaymakers who today enjoy superb views of the Strait of Gibraltar, the Rock itself, and all the way across to the Rif Mountains in Morocco, can imagine how important the strategic view once was to the castle defenders.
Read more about Gaucin

 

Jerez (1 hr 15 mins)

There are two very good reasons for visiting Jerez. One is to see the Royal Equestrian School, the other to visit its sherry bodegas. The González Byass bodega visit is particularly well organised and there is plenty of fino to be tasted at the end of your visit.

 

FIESTAS

Grazalema likes its fiestas. Naturally, these are supplementary to Spain's national fiestas which decree even more days off through the calendar.

A mini-pilgrimage, the Romería de San Isidro Labrador, is made on the last Sunday in May and shortly afterwards, on June 13th, the village fêtes Saint Antony.

Come July, and it's time for the Fiestas de la Carmen, which take place in the third week of the month and culminate on a Monday with the tradition of the toro de cuerda. The village divides into two groups and each tries to pull a bull, roped around its horns, into their adversaries' terrain.

A couple of weeks later, on the first Sunday in August, nearby Benamahoma celebrates the festival of Moors and Christians with a mock battle.
Grazalema then gears up again for its main summer festival Las Fiestas Mayores de Grazalema. In the third week in August, Grazalema is decorated with woodland garlands and the town celebrates with music, dance and numerous outdoor activities for all, from the youngest to the oldest.

A modest respite is now granted before the day of the Virgen de los Angeles, its patron saint, is celebrated on September 8th.

 

FOOD AND DRINK

Grazalema's historical isolation explains the traditional predominance of game on the dinner table, hunted on the hills served fresh, along with mushrooms in season. Typical local dishes include lamb, trout, bean soups, a unique asparagus gazpacho, wild mushrooms, dairy sponge and almond cake.

Vegetarians may like to try the asparagus soup, boletus mushroom croquettes, grilled vegetables and tagarninas, which we think are unique to Grazalema: freshly peeled pines with a texture of thick asparagus, served in season up until July.

For self-catering, there are three supermarkets close to the main square (Plaza de España) and one of them always opens on Sunday. For eating out, little Grazalema offers has a good number of restaurants, normally fairly cheap:

•  Casa de las Piedras - It has a young and dynamic management and is inventive without going astray with it or being precious. Attentive staff, a pleasant atmosphere, good prices, and, most importantly, well-prepared, interesting and delicious dishes making the most if local ingredients.

•  Zulema - It has a terrace on a traffic-free square and a well-priced, simple set lunch menu.

•  Cadiz el Chico - It boasts a Michelin star, yet is not especially expensive. Speciality is lamb roasted in a wood oven, also venison, wild boar and rabbit and home-made desserts. It has some very good wines from a bodega in Zahara and a group visit can be arranged there on request.

•  Torreón - It has an extensive menu from fish to game to stuffed sirloin steak. Some vegetarian dishes, also.

•  El Simancón - Situated on a quiet square, it serves a 3-course set meal in the evening as well. Specialises in meat dishes, occasionally has fresh fish such as trout or swordfish.

•  El Pinsapar - It uses fresh seasonal ingredients in traditional cooking at reasonable prices.

•  Mirador el Tajo - It has fantastic views from its cliffside location next to the municipal swimming pool.

•  Rumores - It is a popular breakfast spot with a great variety of newly baked bread rolls for toasting and freshly squeezed orange juice. It has its own pastry shop (pastelería).

Bars and restaurants usually offer tapas (small portions), or raciones, which are often available as half rations or full rations, so trying lots of different dishes is a great option for dining out.

Unlike other regions of Andalucia like Granada, tapas are not free here, but you can choose what you like to eat with your drink for a small price.

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Photos

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Climate

Grazalema enjoys a Mediterranean mountain climate with a marked Atlantic influence.

In spite of the mountain location, temperatures are generally speaking mild and rarely extreme. Summers are hot by day, but the local regime of mountain breezes brings fresh air to the morning and evening hours. Summer nights are then very comfortable, and a jersey or light jacket may even be needed.

Only in peak summer during the central hours of the day should you avoid prolonged exposure to the hot sun in the mountains.

While the total annual rainfall can be twice that of a wet spot in the UK or Ireland, the number of hours of sun is more than double.

Late spring and early autumn offer better temperatures for walking in the mountains and the weather normally remains dry and sunny.

It is from mid-to-late October until mid-to-late April that this changes and you are likely to experience heavy rainfall, the characteristic downpours which make Grazalema such a statistical oddity.

Annual precipitation in Grazalema is an average 2,100 litres per m². Compare that to desert-like Almeria, also in Andalucia, which receives an average 150 litres per m²!

But that's only half the story. What's more curious is that while the total annual rainfall can be twice that of a wet spot in the UK or Ireland, the number of hours of sun is more than double. From November to April, it can rain three times as much as it does in London in an entire year. But then the summer is hot, sunny and dry.

 

Why is this?

After the long summer season, the Atlantic influence starts to make itself felt, and it is then that the climate begins to reflect Grazalema's mountainous aspect. Even so, a certain Andalucian warmth lingers until late in the year and temperate winds mean that icy temperatures and snow are most unusual, even in deepest winter. If the sea lies too distant to moderate temperatures and create the conditions for a semi-tropical Andalucian climate, it is nonetheless close enough for the south-west winds which arrive from the Atlantic Ocean full of heavily humid clouds to deposit their cargo of rain on Grazalema.

The area lies in the lee of the Sierra del Pinar, the first natural barrier for the banks of clouds which blow into the Iberian Peninsula from the ocean to be "crushed" against the sierra and release impressively sudden quantities of rain.

These atypical conditions, with a high amount of rain collected quickly in brief periods, are quite a paradox, since Andalucia is regarded (even within Spain) as such a dry region. The particular climate goes in fact to explain the special attractiveness of the Grazalema area. Not only is it green and healthy when elsewhere in Spain is dry-yellow and heat-baked, but rains have also sculpted a fascinating landscape of peaks, ravines and deep caves from the limestone terrain. As limestone is porous, the ground dries rapidly and walking routes are free from becoming wet or boggy.

Grazalema is exciting for nature-lovers. The exceptional weather conditions permit the survival of the famous Pinsapar (Spanish Fir forest), which occupies an area the northern slopes of the Grazalema mountains. The pinsapo is an ancient tree, and this is the kind of forest you would expect in Siberia or the Alps: here in hot, sunny Andalucia it is positively exotic; it's as if a piece of the Alps had been airlifted and set down in southern Spain!

The rains die away in the spring and then the long, dry season may stem some of the rivers but not all, and summer swimming in Grazalema rivers is not unusual.

 

GRAZALEMA CLIMATE SUMMARY

Grazalema has its own unique Mediterranean mountain climate, generally warm and mild, with long dry summers, but very wet winters.

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Maps

Getting there

AIRPORTS FOR GRAZALEMA

The closest airports for holiday villas in Grazalema are Jerez Airport (XRY) at just 1 hr 15 mins and Seville Airport (SVQ) at 1 hr 30 mins from the village. Alternatives are:

Malaga Airport (AGP) 1 hr 45 mins and Gibraltar Airport (GIB) 2 hrs. Malaga may be a little farther to drive but it has the most flights and often the better prices.

 

CAR HIRE

We recommend a car for getting to your rural holiday villa in Grazalema. It's practical, convenient and needn't be expensive. A car is likely to be the only way of reaching your property, and is then invaluable for shopping, visiting places of interest, and making an easy return trip at the end of your stay.

The road in network in southern Spain is good and well-maintained, roads are quieter than in many other European countries, and parking in Grazalema's large car park by the village square is free.

Driving times from the airports above are shown on the villa's individual property page. You will receive a map with detailed directions for your holiday villa as one of your holiday documents from Rustical Travel.

Rustical Travel doesn't have a professional arrangement with any particular car hire company and we suggest you shop around for car hire using a broker such as rentalcars.com or similar.

It's easy to compare prices of rentals with companies that operate at the airport you fly into, and all the reputable agencies have online payment for advance booking these days.

You don't have to use the broker. If you prefer, you can check the car hire companies own websites, compare prices, and book direct.

 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

There are just two buses a day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, between Grazalema and Malaga, and between Grazalema and Ronda.

Hiring a car makes life much easier for both getting there and exploring the area.

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