Arrival: Malaga / Jimena de la Frontera
The local team member will meet you in Malaga and transfer you to your first night’s accommodation in the hilltop white village of Jimena de la Frontera. After bike fitting or unpacking, should you have brought your own bike, time will be taken to talk you through the week, route notes, and maps, as well as to answer any queries that you may have?
Jimena de la Frontera to El Colmenar - distance 80km
After a relaxing breakfast, packing your bags, and leaving them at reception you'll set off on your Andalucian adventure. Your route heads straight into Los Alcornocales Natural Park, with forested rolling hills as far as the eye can see. This ‘Mediterranean Jungle’ is the largest cork oak forest in Europe and has been described by well-known British botanist David Bellamy as ‘perhaps Europe’s last real wilderness area’. You may see wild boar and deer with griffon vultures and a variety of eagles soaring on thermals overhead.
The road climbs past the peaks of Picacho and Aljibe before undulating on the high ground offering great views down to the west towards Jerez. At the Puerta de Galiz junction you will be introduced to your first ‘venta’ (traditional Andalucian roadside eatery)! They offer fantastic local dishes at terrific prices. Most will offer a ‘menu del dia’; a menu of the day which generally consists of three courses, wine or a soft drink, and sometimes coffee for between 10-15 euros. Yum!
From the pass, you’ll take a long sweeping undulating ridge road through stone pines and cork oaks, with glimpses of vast limestone peaks to your north. The route descends down through the lush Hozgarganta river valley on an almost traffic-free road that drops then climbs and then descends dramatically down to the village of El Colmenar, a cork-cutters village hidden in the park next to the Guadiaro River.
Your accommodation for the evening is a beautiful ‘casa rural’, nestled by the river. This peaceful home-from-home is made up of a series of traditional village houses and is beautifully organic with rooms and terraces on many different levels.
El Colmenar to Juzcar - distance 57km
After a lovingly prepared breakfast of freshly baked bread, home-made jams, and juices you’ll take on the first challenge of the day, with the climb out of the valley and up to Gaucin, a stunning medieval white village topped by a 13th-century castle. The village sits high on a ridge almost 1,000 meters above the Mediterranean and commands views in every direction across the sierras.
The road that leaves Gaucin is a beauty. Staying high on the ridge that divides the deep valleys of the Genal and Gaudiaro rivers, the road twists and winds its way through the Serrania de Ronda mountains, passing numerous picturesque villages of Moorish origin, each with a cluster of bars and restaurants for refreshments. Moving onwards you’ll pass huge limestone cliffs, expansive chestnut groves, and wild mountainsides before the road ahead rise and wind its way up a beautiful narrow gorge to the town of Atajate, renowned for its excellent olive oil.
Atajate is a great spot for lunch where you can either try a local restaurant or buy some supplies from a local shop for a picnic with a view. During the afternoon the route will take you through some fantastic mountain scenery, before turning into a local road linking the most beautiful white villages in the Serrania.
You’ll pass Alpandeire with its splendid outsized church known locally as the Cathedral of the Serrania de Ronda. Between the villages, olives grow on the cultivated terraced hillsides from where you’ll have fantastic views of Igualeja’s huge chestnut forest which shows off its full fire of colors in the autumn. Accommodation for the night is at Juzcar in a beautifully preserved village inn. At present Juzcar is an incredible sight since being used as a film set in 2011 as the Smurf’s hometown! If you have the energy before dinner, a walk to the mid-18th-century tin factory is well worth a visit.
Juzcar to Ronda - distance 63km
The day begins as you head into the sun past Los Riscos, an area of amazing weather-sculptured rock formations as you take on a decent climb out of the Genal valley to the edge of the Natural Park of Las Nieves (the snows!). You'll pass numerous white villages surrounded by hillsides and cloaked with chestnut trees, a feast for the eyes if riding in autumn, as the leaves take on their golden autumnal colors.
Climbing higher you ride into the mountainsides of shattered limestone and complicated cliffs as the road snakes a beautiful thread across the hillsides. The village of Pujerra is a pretty stop for a spot of lunch in the square before a fast traverse and final climb through a limestone gorge.
Continuing on your way you’ll pass wheat fields, pine forest, and craggy mountainsides until you take a thrilling descent down through vineyards and to beautiful Ronda and your accommodation for the night. It’s a delightful town to spend a night and wander the medieval cobbled lanes in search of the perfect bar or restaurant. Visit the museum of the infamous bandoleros; follow the history of bullfighting at Ronda’s elegant bullring or take your chance to relax on one of Ronda’s café terraces and watch the world go by in true Andalus style. The old town across the Puente Nuevo is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture and the views are awesome down into the Tajo gorge and the surrounding mountains.
Ronda to Grazalema - distance 63km
On this 4th day of riding you’ll head into the heart of the awesome Grazalema range, rising over 1,600m, with bright jagged limestone peaks, holm oak, and Spanish fir forests it is undoubtedly one of the most attractive parts of the itinerary and an unforgettable day on the bike.
You’ll begin the day by descending into the Gaudiaro river valley, passing the huge Cueva del Gata cave mouth, and climbing up a narrow valley past olive and almond groves. You’ll zip past Montejaque snugly tucked into the rocky sierra beneath the symbolic El Hacho mountain.
After a short climb through farmland, you glide on the smooth tarmac on a beautiful descent to the shores of the Zahara-Gastor reservoir, with waters an incredibly deep blue. The road along the waters’ edge will take you to the beautiful hillside white village of Zahara de la Sierra, dominated by its magnificent castle, a great place for a breather and maybe a spot for lunch.
The climb to come is probably the climb of the week; both in height gain and views that unfold as you turn each pedal. You will have more than enough time for the steadiest of climbs, so don’t worry. You’ll get great vistas back down to the reservoir and across to the conical Penon del Gastor mountain.
Around halfway up the road, you will pass a viewpoint that looks down into the Garganta Verde or (Green Canyon), a stunning deep gorge cut into the limestone by the Rio Verde. It’s often possible to see huge groups of griffon vultures soaring beside the canyon’s cliffs; an awesome sight. The top of the climb will bring you to Puerto de las Palomas (Pass of the Doves), and you will deserve a celebratory rest to admire your efforts.
Approaching the village of Grazalema itself; from above you’ll be in for a terrific sight of pan-tiled roofs and white-washed buildings nestled beneath the Penon Grande and San Cristobal peaks. The village is famous for its hand-woven woolen blankets and thistle heart omelet, but nothing compares to its beauty!
Grazalema to Arcos - distance 60km
The final day begins with a steady climb up to the Boyar Pass which stands at over 1,000m. Views are terrific down into the Tavizna valley and across to the deep defile of Salto del Cabrero.
The only way to go from here is down; and wow, what a descent. In all you’ll drop over a thousand meters, passing the small village of Benamahoma, through the Albarracin range covered in pines, to the small town of El Bosque.
El Bosque could be a good choice for a lunch stop as its river, of the same name, is full of succulent trout (quite a rarity at such southerly latitudes). After resting from your exhilarating descent you’ll head out over rolling farmland of olives and cereals, through bursts of cork oak to the Guadalcacin Reservoir where lies the pretty village of Algar. Another great option for lunch, especially if game out of the local forests is your thing. Delicious!
Your route now heads northwest through some beautiful rolling countryside, winding past the waters’ edge until reaching your final destination of Arcos de la Frontera. One of Andalucia’s most dramatically positioned pueblos Blancos (white villages), Arcos balances atop a rocky limestone ridge, its whitewashed houses and stone castle walls stopping abruptly as a sheer cliff face plunges down to the fertile valley of the river Guadalete below. Declared a national historic-artistic monument in 1962 in recognition of its exceptional architecture and impressive location, the old town is a tangled labyrinth of cobbled streets that lead up to a sandstone castle, the Castillo de Los Arcos. As you’d expect from such a spectacular vantage point, there are exhilarating views over the town and the rolling plain below.
As Arcos is perched on the top of a huge cliff, you’ll have one more climb before you can sit admiring the dramatic views across the Bornos lake with a celebratory cerveza! Yeah. Felicidades!
Hopefully, before setting off from the hotel you will have time to spend the morning exploring the steep narrow alleyways and enjoying a last café con Leche before your short journey back to Malaga for an onward journey home.