SERRANIA DE RONDA
NORTH OF RONDA
Arriate is a surprise! Enter it from any direction, and it appears to be a sleepy rural village, then, a corner is turned and the visitor is suddenly thrown into the sophisticated high street of a chic and bustling small town, full of high-class stores selling quality goods, and crowds who obviously have money enough to buy them. With an area of only 5.5 square miles, Arriate is the smallest municipal district in the province of Málaga, surrounded on all sides by land belonging to one of the largest - Ronda. Long before even Ronda had a name, the Iberians were here, and before them cave dwellers in the hills beside the Rio Guadalcobarin. For about four hundred years, beginning around the 8th Century BC, a complex and lively Iberian settlement existed, comprising at least three related hill forts. The road from Ronda to the town of Setenil de las Bodegas (the best means of access to Arriate) is straight enough to convince many historians that it owes its existence to the Romans.
Ronda - 5 miles
SOUTH OF RONDA
Cortes de la Frontera
Sandwiched between the Alcornocales natural park and Sierra de Grazalema natural park, it is in a superb vantage point overlooking the sweeping Guadiaro valley below, with a spectacular backdrop of the Serranía de Ronda Mountains. Dominating the landscape around the town are extensive woods of cork trees (alcornocales). Cortes used to be one of the richest pueblos blancos because of cork production, and evidence of this wealth can still be seen today in the grand 18th-century mansions lining the main street. Many buildings in Cortes date from the 18th-century: the elegant sandstone building of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), with a neo-classical façade (1784), the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, the Casa de los Valdenebros (1763) and the Casa Parroquial (1700). The curious Casa de Piedra (Stone House) is a rock that was carved out in Moorish times. The bullring was built in 1894 and restored in 1921. With a 1,000 strong capacity, the bullring is one of the largest in the Serranía de Ronda.
Ronda - 21 miles
Gaucin is a lovely village crowned by a ruined Moorish castle. It is popular with artists who open their studios to the public each year over a couple of weekends in October. The town also has several excellent restaurants and a couple of sophisticated boutique hotels. Up close, Gaucin is a fairly typical Andalucian village; attractive, undoubtedly, but not spectacularly so. It makes the cut of pretty white villages in Andalucia, not so much for how the streets and houses look close up, but how they look from afar - a blinding flash of white against the hillside as you approach from the coast - and conversely the views it boasts back outwards again. Those from the top of the eerie-like Moorish castle - out over the woods and hills to the Rock of Gibraltar and the misty coast of Africa beyond - are particularly breathtaking.
Ronda - 26 miles
WEST OF RONDA
Located very near to Montejaque, the settlement can be found in two halves. The original village was built on a mountainside with the lower community in the Guadiaro river valley that grew up around the railway station. The area is popular for rural tourism, and offers excellent walks, mountain views and potholing. The village is typically Moorish with its narrow streets converging on the Plaza and church. Benaojan won a new lease on life 100 years ago, when its chorizo, sausage, became rightly famous throughout the pueblos. The pigs are reared free range in the oak forests that cover the hills. Among the fiestas, the most important is that celebrating the arrival of the railway and the boom it sparked. The Verbena del Tren is an open-air event at the railway station at the end of July. At least 175 pounds of Benaojan sausage are laid out for partygoers and the sangria flows.
Ronda - 11 miles
AntequeraA visit to this historical Andalucian town is a journey almost 5,000 years back in time, beginning with the Bronze Age and the native Iberians. The timeline is there to be followed in this fascinating city's profusion of burial mounds, dolmens, Roman baths, a Moorish Castle, Gothic churches, Renaissance fountains and baroque bell towers. The first sighting of Antequera in the distance is that of a typical medieval town, with the spires of her many churches and the walls and towers of the great Moorish fortress silhouetted against the sky. Spread out in the valley below lie rich farmlands irrigated by the Guadalhorce River. For centuries this has been one of Andalucía's most fertile areas, and is currently a leading producer of asparagus, cereals and olives. In summer, its fields turn brilliant yellow with sunflowers.