Within the Serrania we are lucky enough to have three natural parks, Grazalema, Sierra de las Nieves, and Alcornacales, and at El Bosque, a small botanical garden “El Castillejo” devoted exclusively to the local and endemic plant species of these mountains.
Due to the Serrania being both Mediterranean and European, many of the tree species are common throughout Europe, whilst most of the shrubs are generally Mediterranean. Most of the flowers and grasses are either Mediterranean or endemic to the area. Your stroll will take you through several mini ecosystems, each with their own viewing area to sit and appreciate the surroundings.
Gaucin at the Southern end of the Serranía de Ronda is more than just a village in the middle of nowhere. This attractive white village founded by the Romans, and then expanded and heavily fortified by the Moors who named their village Gauzan, an Aran word meaning strong rock. These days Gaucin is better known as a haven for international artists who flock to the area for the peace and tranquility afforded them.
Almost every visitor to the Serrania de Ronda will hear about the beauty of Grazalema in the Cadiz province, technically the village is located within the western reaches of the Sierra de Cadiz that also includes the villages of El Bosque, Zahara de la Frontera, Algodonales, and Olvera, and is the north-eastern tip of Cadiz province.
Nestled under the mountain that gives the village its name, Zahara de la Sierra is one of the pueblos blancos of Cadiz province, and is only 30 minutes drive from Ronda, or an hour from Jerez de la Frontera. Completely within the Grazalema Natural Park, and with the district’s largest lake at its base, as well as the beginnings of the Garganta Verde walk just outside the village, Zahara is rightly quite central to experiencing the Sierra de Cadiz.
Arriving in the village you are immediately struck by the sight of the fortress tower sitting on a narrow plateau at the top of the mountain rocks, and the white buildings wrapped around the mountain base which makes Zahara a popular village to photograph from afar with some of the best views being at the southern end of the lake on a clear blue sky day.
In the surrounding area to the west of Ronda, from the Sierra de Grazalema south through the Los Alcorncales Natural Park, you’ll find an unusual tree that locals use for making cork. It is the cork tree Quercus suber, native to the Mediterranean, but harvested extensively in Western Andalucía.
In truth, the casual nature lover might at first glance assume the cork tree is an ordinary oak tree, with a similar dark coloured knobbly bark, at least this is what many travelers tell me when I encounter them. However, if you’re in the area shortly after the bark has been harvested you’ll quickly spot the difference. Continue reading The Cork Tree, Quercus suber→
Today I had the pleasure of journeying to the Genal Valley, specifically along the Ronda-Algeciras road until the turn off for Jubrique, and then towards the Genal river to wet my feet, followed by a stroll around Genalguacil admiring the art and relaxing in a local bar with a cold one, before returning to Ronda.
Jimera de Libar, easily reached by train from Ronda, by walking from Benaojan, or by car from both Cortes de la Frontera and Benaojan, is a delightful white village in the Guardiaro Valley of the Serranía de Ronda. Limestone mountains for the Sierra de Libar tower over the village and birds of prey frequently look down on the ant-like people going about their business.
In recent years the village has become exceedingly popular for holiday makers choosing to rent self-catered homes away from the hotels of the area, and then use the village as a base from which to explore the hiking trails of the Grazalema Natural Park. Mr Henderson’s railway walk from Benaojan to Jimera de Libar is a popular local excursion or day trip from Ronda.
Sony Entertainment, the producers of a new film “The Smurfs 3D” recently chose Juzcar in the Genal Valley as the global launch party location, hosted by Spanish model Eva Gonzalez.
The village was chosen because of its connection to the smurfs in the form of being home to over 150 varieties of mushroom, and since the Smurfs live in mushrooms, Sony’s Spain director Ivan Losada explained the village was absolutely perfect.
Almost every building in the village was painted Smurf blue, with many in the village now calling for this to be the official colour over the village permanently, instead of reverting to the white typical of Andalucia’s pueblo blancos.
Villagers and fans crowded into the town square to be seen with Ms Gonzalez and the lead Smurf characters, Smurfette, Papa Smurf, Gargamel, and the cat Azrael. Children from the village were encouraged to wear Smurf hats and paint their faces blue.
Around 4,000 litres of the special Smurf blue paint were used, with all residents unanimously voting to approve the change in a local referendum which expires in September, though mayor David Fernandez indicated under questioning that if changing the colour to blue substantially increases village tourism that keeping the colour could be extended.