Distinctly Andalusian in style, the El Almendral is designed to reflect the beauty of the region around it. The hotel is located just a few minutes north of Ronda in the Cádiz province at Setenil de las bodegas. The area is unique and well worth visiting for its nature and history.
The Hotel El Almendral is designed to offer guests the modern amenities that they have come to expect from hotels in the Andalusian region. All rooms are air-conditioned and a heating system is also available. The hotel’s rooms also have terraces overlooking the village or countryside, and all 28 rooms are double.
The Ronda area is a cyclists delight and challenge, with spectacular views, and treacherous hill climbs as well. In fact the Serrania is a popular training destination for cyclists preparing for long distance road races and triathlons.
For many thousands of years Setenil de las Bodegas has been occupied, possibly for as long as people have been using the Cueva de Pileta, though it wasn´t until the age of the Phoenicians and then Romans that the village was first mentioned in texts.
Always eclipsed by nearby Acinipo, Setenil was nothing more than a warehouse for storing goods that were traded with other parts of Iberia or the rest of the Empire. It was during this time that archeologists believe the caves were first closed off with brick walls to prevent thieves from stealing goods produced in the area.
La Perla Blanca is located just a 10 minute drive from Ronda on the road to Seville in the fertile valley known as Los Prados. This Boutique Bed & Breakfast is gently nestled within its own working Vineyards, and proudly welcomes you in casual elegance, to rural Spain.
Opened in 2014, La Perla Blanca offers 5 spacious rooms with King size beds and a modern style en-suite bathrooms. Each has been individually and charmingly decorated following a subtle name and colour scheme, and most have balconies with views over the vineyards or central courtyard. A private and independent King-size suite with canopy bed, and private garden with hot-tub is also available, situated near the pool.
Every morning a daily gourmet breakfast basket is placed outside your room, filled with freshly baked bread and croissants, locally sourced Iberico ham and cheeses, freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade preserves and much more.
At La Perla Blanca guests can cool off in the crystal clear swimming pool any time of day or night, and the pool is open all year. The Andalusian courtyard, or “Patio Andaluz”, is dotted with potted lemon trees and flowers; with a relaxing water feature on one wall and acacia trees dotted throughout, its definitely the perfect place to take time out and enjoy this exquisite yet traditionally Spanish way of life, perhaps with a glass of Perla Blanca wine from the 24 hour honesty bar.
Free parking is available to all guests and there are 2 excellent
restaurants within a 5 minute walk from the property.
The Cortijo is open all year round for bookings apart from December and January
Olvera is known as “the King of the Pueblo Blancos” (white towns) and it was declared a Protected Area of Artistic and Historical Importance in 1983. It is a friendly town with a population of around 10,000 and has all the amenities you will need to enjoy your holiday including numerous shops, banks, internet cafe, bars and restaurants. There is also a municipal swimming pool and bar which is open during the summer months.
The Via Verde de la Sierra is one of 20 so-called ‘green routes’ which chart a trail of disused railway lines across Andalucia. Forming part of a proposed rail route across the Cadiz Sierra between Almargen and Jerez de la Frontera, it would have connected the cities of Malaga and Granada. Although much of the groundwork, including tunnels, viaducts and railway stations were completed in the early 1930s, the project was never finished and lay in neglect until 1993 when the line was renovated for use as a walking and cycling route.
We started our day in the town of Olvera where we were staying in the charming Casa Andalus on Calle Maestro Amado. Like many of the other white towns in the vicinity, Olvera’s roots are Roman and the town went on to flourish during the Muslim occupation of Spain. It has a Moorish Castle constructed on a rocky crag high above the town which, like parts of our own Moorish castle, was built during the 13th Century Nasrid Dynasty. Some of the original Moorish walls and their supporting buttresses remain intact, but most of the Castle was built after the reconquista. Another noteworthy building in the town is the twin-towered neoclassical church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación whose impressive façade dominates its surroundings and was built on the site of a former mosque.
We followed the short though steep path from the town centre down to the Antigua Estación Ferrocarril which marks the starting point of the Via Verde. This hotel offers bicycle rentals and is the last opportunity to pick up refreshments before you reach the Estación de Zaframagón, 15 km along the route. The reasonably flat terrain makes the route perfect for cyclists and we opted to hire bikes, although plenty also chose to follow the route on foot. We were immediately impressed with the scenery, a distinct patchwork of brown and green fields with endless olive tree groves looking like blobs of green paint on a watercolour just asking to be painted. The Via’s thirty tunnels are a feature of the journey and we overcame nine of these before reaching the first official rest-stop at Estación de Navalagrulla. Although we had enjoyed a slight downward gradient thus far and barely broken into a sweat, we would be following the route in reverse on our return later and enjoyed a welcome respite, noting the need to conserve as much energy as possible.
As we got closer to the Estación de Zaframagón, the landscape began to transform from arable land into forests of Spanish Firs. We were transported through mountains and river valleys with the help of immense viaducts and increasingly lengthy tunnels. The viaduct at Zaframagón offered inspiring views of the Peñón de Zaframagón, an impressive 584m-high limestone outcrop with sheer cliffs, and the verdant valley below strewn with delightful stone ruins. Overhead we saw our first venue of about a dozen Griffon Vultures. Two hundred breeding pairs live in these mountains and there is a nature centre dedicated to them at the nearby Estación Zaframagón which includes a video feed showing live footage of the vultures on the opposing rock face. The centre closes daily at 16:00 and a vending machine, which is available until that time, provides another opportunity to get much-needed refreshments before reaching the town of Coripe. Although we had originally intended to end our cycle at the Zaframagón we were feeling relatively spritely and decided to soldier on to the next Estación.
The Guadalete and Guadalporcún rivers join at around the 26 km mark of the route but the Guadalporcún meanders alongside the cycling track all the way from Zaframagón to the Estación de Coripe which has also been transformed into a hotel and restaurant. There is not much happening in the town of Coripe itself which is about 2 km from the track however a small diversion from the Coripe Viaduct takes you to the Chaparro de la Vega. This supposedly 700-year old Holm Oak of enormous dimensions is an Andalucian National Monument and plays its part in local traditions by providing a meeting point for the villagers of Coripe on their annual pilgrimage during the Fiesta del Virgen de Fatima, their patron saint.
Following Estación de Coripe, the route continues to the third and final hotel at the Estación de Puerto Serrano which adjoins the town of the same name. However having already cycled 22 km we were acutely aware of the 200 metre height climb on the return route and set off on the arduous journey back to the start. About 2 hours later and with tired legs and saddle sore beginning to rear its painful head, we arrived at the hotel at Olvera, dropped off our bikes and were happy to place our feet firmly back on terra firma. Our walk back to town was slow but pleasant, not only for the sense of achievement we felt for having completed our long cycle, but also due to the beautiful purple and pink Sierra sunset that accompanied us on our way. We were aware that our legs would soon be stiffening up, so grabbing a quick shower at Casa Andalus, we headed out for an early dinner at the lively Restaurante Lirios before retiring to what was always going to be an excellent night’s sleep.
Though predictably sore and stiff from the previous day’s cycle, we opted for an early rise and a trip to the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios which overlooks Olvera from a nearby hill. This sanctuary, built on the site of an 18th Century hermitage is apparently visited by 300,000 devotees each year who bring offerings to the Señora in fulfilment of their vows. The interior of its colourful chapel is a pastiche of numerous gaudy styles dominated by a shocking amount of gold plating, and stands adjacent to stunning courtyard overrun with potted plants. A room upstairs was undoubtedly the most interesting, housing the devotions deposited by visitors: hundreds of photos, items of clothing, locks of hair and numerous other knickknacks set down often in memory of long passed loved ones.
Next on the agenda was the village of Zahara de las Sierra where the remains of a castle recall its day as a Moorish outpost. Despite its small size (population of about 950) thousands of visitors are attracted to Zahara each year by its picturesque setting perched atop a mountain, overlooking a valley and a man-made crystal blue lagoon. After a quick photo stop, we moved on to Setenil de las Bodegas, possibly the most unique town in the area. After driving through twice, we finally managed to find a parking space to explore this fascinating town where many of the houses are built into the walls of a huge mountain gorge. Setenil shows evidence of human occupation for at least 2,000 years but was possibly occupied by troglodytes long before then.
Olvera can be reached either via Ronda (taking the E-15/AP-7 in the direction of San Pedro de Alcántara and then the A-397 to Ronda, followed by the A-374 and following signs for Olvera) or via Jerez (taking the A-381 to Jerez/Los Barrios/ Seville and then the E-5/AP-4 to Seville, before taking exit 80 towards Arcos de la Frontera). Casa Andalus is a ‘self-catering’ house which can be booked by calling Karen/Andrew on +34 951276249, mob. +34 689665342). Bicycles can be rented at the Antigua Estación Ferrocarril hotel at the start of the Via Verde at the price of €15.00 per day.
During last nights Easter Procession in Setenil de las Bodegas, one of the Costalero’s suffered a heart attack and was immediately taken to the local health center but passed away whilst being cared for. He was Francisco Ruiz, a 44 year old resident of Setenil.
Witnesses described seeing Ruiz stumble out from under the Virgen de los Dolores paso at 23:30, and then collapsing in the street. The procession halted to allow friends to rush Ruiz to the local medical centre where doctors had been informed to expect him, by which time he required urgent cardio resuscitation.
Today the village of Setenil is in shock, with Brotherhood foreman Jesus María Robles paying respect to Ruiz who had been a consistent bearer for 20 years. Ruiz’s funeral will take place at 7pm in Setenil’s cemetery this afternoon and the entire village is expected to attend to pay their last respects.
Carrying the pasos is a very demanding task, some can weigh several tonnes, but it is considered a great honour to be selected. Francisco Ruiz was well known in the village, and an active member of the Brotherhood of Santa Vera Cruz. Ronda Today offers our condolences to his family during this difficult time.
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