Category Archives: Tourism

Come and visit Ronda and the surrounding areas, or plan your itinerary around the most popular sites, and some of the lesser known things to do. Ronda is much more than the bullring and new bridge (Puente Nuevo). There are also the Arab Baths, the Water Mine, the Mondragon Palace, and outside the city, the Cueva de la Pileta, or the Dolmen structures at Antequera. Further afield are the beaches of the Costa del Sol, Sevilla’s cathedral and palace, or Cordoba and the Mezquita. And of course for discovering the beautiful Sierra de Grazalema have a look at Wildside Holidays – Grazalema

Cordoba the Mezquita and Old Town

The city of Cordoba, located on the Guadalquivir river, has been a significant part of the history of Spain since Roman times, but reached its zenith during the Islamic era when the city was the capital of the Cordoba Emirate of Al-Andalus. So, here is a bit of information about Cordoba the Mezquita and old town to whet your appetite…..

Ronda Today now includes a growing list of Cordoba Hotels with booking provided by  safe handling of your reservation.

No single word or phrase is adequate to describe Cordoba, her comlexity is obvious even from a first glance, with numerous architectural periods, and the stark contrast between the Casco Historico and the modern city which live side by side and never seem to meet. In the old town, streets are narrow and windy with small houses tucked into every available space, whilst in the modern city wide avenues and large apartment buildings stand at attention.

Cordoba’s Mezquita cathedral is of course the primary reason many people visit the city, and it is worth seeing, even now it is still considered by many to have been the third largest Mosque in the world. The ground on which the cathedral is located has alternated from visigothic Christian church, to grand Mosque, and then in stages to Christian Cathedral.

In the year 785, construction started under the caliph Ab’d Al-Rahman I, on the site of the former Basilica de San Vicente, though what happened to the visigothic kings and nobels buried in the basilica is not known. The Ummayad’s had been expelled from Damascus and were keen to establish their authority over the Western Caliphate, so the Mezquita was always intended to be large.

Its eventual area of 24,000sqm containing hundreds of marble columns, horseshoe arches made with red and white bricks, and the spectacular ornate gold ceilings of the Mirhab with its Koranic inscriptions are awe-inspiring. Even more so when you consider that a full sized Catholic cathedral fits inside the Mezquita with plenty of room to spare.

Near to the Mezquita one finds the Puerta del Puente at the northern end of the most complete of Cordoba’s Roman buildings, the Puente Romano, a 330 metre long bridge made entirely of stone and sitting on 16 arches embedded into the river bed. The bridge is now pedestrianised, but until recently it had been one of the main traffic bridges in Cordoba for nearly 2,000 years. The southern end is where you’ll find the Calahorra Tower and museum.

Views of the Mezquita and Cordoba’s old town, as well as the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos are spectacular from the Puente Romano, and in the early morning as the sun rises you can expect to take some truly wonderful photos. The sun kisses the rough stone walls of the older buildings giving them a tone not seen up close.

Alcazar Ponds

The Alcazar is now a museum, but was built on the site of a Roman fortress that had been placed there to defend the city which was located 1km inland. The Moors also used the Alcazar, but it’s current design and gardens come directly from the Christian monarchs who made Cordoba their southern palace. In fact whilst Ferdinand was off fighting Granada, Isabella transferred her court to Cordoba to be close to him.

Interestingly, many of the Roman frescoes discovered in Cordoba have been relocated to the walls of the chapel in the Alcazar, as have several bust of Roman Gods and important Emperors, allowing visitors to see them without risk of damaging what little remains of Cordoba’s Roman past.

Within the Alcazar, and under the main palace with the chapel, you’ll find the Royal Baths that are open to the public, though sadly in need of renovations since they are really nothing more than a series of tiny domed rooms. The highlight of your visit to the Alcazar will be climbing to the top of the keep and getting a birds eye view of Cordoba, from where you can also see the magnificent gardens.

Fresco in Jewish Temple

Strolling around Cordoba’s old town you will no doubt enter the Jewish Quarter, it is impossible to miss since it is so close to the Mezquita and quite central to the city. Many of Cordoba’s greatest scientests were Jewish people during the Islamic period, and this is hardly surprising since Cordoba did at one time have the largest Jewish population in the world.

Very little of the Jewish heritage of Cordoba exists, except for a very small temple rediscovered in the 20th century that had been built after the reconquest, and was finally closed when the Jews were expelled from Spain. Many of the Hebrew frescoes have been renovated, and the temple is now open to the public, and can be quite the emotional place for visiting Jews.

If impressive chapels, mosques and temples are your thing, then don’t forget to stop at the Capilla Mudejar, a very small chapel with gorgeous mudejar decorations on the walls and ceiling.

Ronda Today now includes a growing list of Cordoba Hotels with booking provided by  safe handling of your reservation.

Cordoba Photos

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

Marbella on the Costa del Sol

Punching way above its weight, Marbella on the Costa del Sol is an international destination for the rich and famous as well as everyone else who demands a beachside town with character, something that Marbella certainly doesn’t lack.

Marbella is just an hour or so by car from Ronda so easy to visit for a day trip. The winding road from Ronda to San Pedro is spectacular!

The city motto is “A Way of Life”, and indeed, Marbella attracts people who love the city and everything it offers, and is often favourably compared with St Tropez as a destination and lifestyle city.

Search for the best Marbella hotels here….

The centre of town is the old historic quarter, the casco historico, where you’ll find a maze of narrow streets, white washed buildings, little plazas, and windows filled with flowering plants. Plaza de los Naranjos is the central point, and it is here that you’ll find the main tourist office, as well as some of Marbella’s best restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops.

Within the plaza there is a 15th century fountain surrounded by orange trees, the town hall built in the 16th century, and the Casa del Corregidor, a palacial building constructed in the 17th century. Plaza de los Naranjos certainly is a beautiful plaza. Despite its size, Marbella is a city, it is easy to believe you are still in a small village as you wander the streets of the old town.

Towards the beachside of the Casco Historico, you’ll find the Parque Alameda, a botanical garden with many rare plants that is completely open to the public, and in the vicinity several open air statues by Salvador Dali. It is from here that the colourful horse and carriage drivers mingle waiting for their next fare, and if you have the time this is a magical way to experience the city.

The Parque Arroyo de la Represa, which starts near the old castle walls of Marbella is you will also discover the only Bonsai museum in Europe, with miniature trees as old as 500 years on display. There is also a duck pond and menagerie for kids to enjoy, whilst back down at the beach you’ll find several playgrounds.

Being a Mediterranean city, you can expect seafood to be popular, and local delicacies you should try include sardines on a spit, paella, fish a la espalda, prawns, calamari, lobster all prepared in the traditional Mediterranean ways. Of course other styles are plentiful as well, from traditional tapas, to modern contemporary Spanish food, and everything else.

Accommodation in Marbella is plentiful and varied, from beachside, to inner city, and within the Marbella golf courses as well. Our growing list of Marbella hotels with reviews should be a priority for anyone planning to visit.

Search for the best Marbella hotels here….

Facts About Marbella

Marbella Beach

As the capital of the Costa del Sol, Marbella offers much more than its size would indicate, world class accommodation, gourmet international restaurants, exclusive shopping, pro designed golf courses, and weather that inspires exploration all year round.

Since Roman times there have been settlements and fortresses at Marbella, and for most of its history the village was a minor fishing port. The historic centre was built by the Moors, although the town wasn’t founded until the 12th century, several hundred years after the Islamic invasion of Iberia.

The town area is quite small, only extending from the beach to the mountains, the Sierra Blanca, that can be seen just behind the village. The historic centre is in Marbella, but San Pedro de Alcantera and Puerto Banus a few kilometres along the coast are also major centres.

Owing to the mountains rising so close to the shore, Marbella has a curious micro-climate different from other parts of the coast and inland, in fact the city has an annual average temperature of 18 degrees celcius, and usually 320 days of sun.

For most people probably the best reasons to visit Marbella are its 26km of golden sand beaches, many of them privately managed to keep them clean and guarantee you a sun-lounger. The famous chiringuitos, beachside bars, are easy to find, in fact you might struggle to find a beach without one nearby. Water sports such as kite surfing are very popular, and yachting fans will find the marinas and peaceful waters of the western Mediterranean quite agreeable.

Marbella Photos

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The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

Gaucin in the Genal Valley

Gaucin in the Genal Valley 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.

Hotels in Gaucin here…

With a population of 2,000 and a few more scattered outside the village, Gaucin is large enough to have a small town centre, with markets, butchers, fruit shops, clothing, banks, and other miscellaneous traders. In fact many of the residents are able to buy everything they need on a daily basis in the village without having to travel to Ronda or the Costa del Sol.

At 626 metres, Gaucin is also high enough above sea level that the weather is noticeably cooler in summer and winter than the coast, which makes the village almost ideal for many foreign residents who choose to setup home, and then proceed to rip out the modern features of their homes and replace them with traditional wooden beams, tiled floors, and rough painted walls; to the endless amusement of Spanish residents.

For visitors, Gaucin is considered one of the prettiest of the pueblos blancos, malaga’s white villages, with narrow warren-like streets strewn together as if a large ball of twine had been dropped and houses built in the gaps between the string.

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This may in fact have been intentional for two reasons. First, the castle above the village, perched on the crest of El Hacho mountain was of strategic importance from Roman and most especially in Moorish times, and narrow winding streets make an attack more difficult as soldiers have to first battle from street to street before reaching the formidable castle defences.

The second reason is more practical and perhaps more believable; narrow streets at odd angles from each other prevent the hot Sahara winds from overly heating the village houses in the summer, and in winter offer some protection against the cold northerly winds. Certainly other Moorish towns without a castle have a similar pattern so it isn’t impossible to assume weather played a bigger role in the town layout.

The castle of Gaucin, named Castillo del Aguila, the Eagle’s Castle, is an impressive structure visible above the village from many miles away, and is open to the public in the mornings and early evening. Great birds of prey such as eagles, vultures, and kestrels have always inhabited the mountains of inland Andalucia, so it is hardly surprising the castle would take its name from the eagles which can still be seen to this day circling the parapets.

Within Gaucin visitors will also see the church of san Sebastian built in 1487, on the ruins of the mosque destroyed when the town was taken by Christian conquerers. As well, Gaucin is home to a large convent built in the mid 1700s though abandoned in 1835 and now used by the town hal for concerts and other local events. Recent renovations have sadly destroyed the historic interior.

However, by far the best reason for visiting Gaucin is not for the monuments of the village, it is instead the streets and people of the village that will appeal. A simple walk around the town centre will impress how friendly the villagers are, whilst those with a penchant for the quaint will absolutely love the cute windows filled with flowers, or the tiled frescos adorning doorways and walls, or the cobbled streets that could tell a thousand stories.

Gaucin isn’t on the way to anywhere, the village is a destination of itself. Some choose to stay, others only pass through, but no visit to Andalucia will truly be complete until the soul of villages like Gaucin has touched your heart.

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Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Zahara de la Sierra Pueblo Blanco in the Grazalema Natural Park

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. (Zahara de la Sierra, Pueblo Blanco in the Grazalema Natural Park)

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.

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During the wars between what was left of Al-Andalus ruled by the Nasrids in Granada, Zahara was one of the frontier villages that protected Ronda and the city of Malaga from Christian raids, and even though the Nasrid’s were officially a client state of the Spanish nobility, there certainly wasn’t any love lost between them. The fortress was the Moorish watchtower of the area, but in those days a series of other defensive structures also existed, some of the foundations of which are still visible now. The current tower was built in the 1400s, replacing a previous Moorish tower.

Zahara de la Sierra, contrary to popular lore is not named after the orange blossom that seems to fill the air in the streets. Azahar (orange blossom) and orange trees are plentiful in the area, in fact many of the village streets are lined with short trees that in season are filled with oranges. Part of the confusion lies in one of the official names of the village after the Christian reconquest when it was known as Zahara de los Membrillos, which refers to the quince trees in the area, but the name Zahara has a different meaning in Arabic, referring to a big rock, which is precisely what the village sits on, a huge big rock.

Historically the location of the village has been used by many different people, starting with neolithic who probably used the caves that dot the area, and evidence of their presence is felt in the polished axe heads and pottery dug up in local farms over the years. By Roman times the thriving city of Acinipo was the centre of a large district, and evidence of Roman villas and a Roman bridge still exist.

Iberian people during the Visigothic era continued their Roman culture long after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and archeologists have found several burial crypts and part of a church altar dating from this period, but the first mention of Zahara as a definite location can be dated to 1282 when Sultan Yusef Aben of Morocco and the Castilian king Alfonso X met to discuss an alliance to defeat Sancho IV who had rebelled from his father’s rule. We are not certain how big the village was at the time, but it is unlikely to have been very big since it had been founded as a frontier fortress.

Local Dining

Today walking through Zahara one could be forgiven for imagining that nothing of these times exists, the village gives the apearance of being a thoroughly Andalusian and Christian mountain village, with only the ruins of the Moorish fortress left to tell the story of over two hundred years of almost constant unrest between the Christians of the north and Muslims of the south.

There are two churches in the village, both of them very close together, and between them a short strip of shops, hotels, restaurants, and the town hall. In the morning the village square and restaurants are filled with local people enjoying breakfast in the sun, but by lunch time the tourists have taken over, and then in the evening a pleasant mix of locals and visitors share these spaces together.

Your walk around the village is sure to be relaxing, Zahara de la Sierra isn’t large, and two to three hours is sufficient to see the pretty manicured streets with their citrus trees, to appreciate Zahara’s few monuments such as the church of Santa Maria, the clock tower, the chapel of San Juan de Letran, and a small marble statue representing Nuestre Señora de Zahara.

The highlight of your walk will undoubtedly be the ruins of the medieval village and the torre del homenaje, at the base of which is a museum that offers a fascinating commentary on the history of Zahara and the fortress. If you can, take the steps to the top of the tower and marvel at the views of the village, the lake, and the countryside. It truly is spectacular.

After your walk around the village, enjoy a local tapas lunch in the village square, or of views of the lake are more your thing, the hotel and restaurant Al Lago has a wonderful outdoor terrace and contemporary Spanish menu and a selection of Ronda wines to enjoy.

Sue from Nature Plus – Grazalema will be very happy to pick you up from your hotel in Ronda and take you on a journey of discovery with guided excursions and white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema.

Zahara de la Sierra Photos

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

Daytrips in Andalucía from Ronda

Daytrips in Andalucía from Ronda are fairly easy to most of the major tourist highlights, being just 45 minutes to the Costa del Sol or Antequera, an hour to Sevilla, Malaga or Jerez de la Frontrera, an hour and a half to Córdoba or Cadiz, and about 2.5 hours to Granada or Gibraltar. All in all, Ronda is the great place to stay if your holiday plans include seeing the Alhambra, the Mezquita, Malaga’s Picasso Museum, the Caminito del Rey (El Chorro), or the annual Jerez Horse Fair.

Holiday makers in Ronda are spoiled whilst in our little city, there are just too many museums and monuments to see, so much culture and history to enjoy, and within just a few kilometres of Ronda we have the Natural Parks, the Pueblos Blancos, and numerous walking, biking, or horse-riding trails. Bird watching is extremely popular in the Serrania, from the species that inhabit our Gorge, to the high cliffs of the Grazalema where Griffon Vultures make their nests.

Closest to home are the Pueblos Blancos of the Serranía, with perhaps the most famous of them being Grazalema, Setenil de las Bodegas, Zahara de la Sierra, Benalauria, Arcos de la Frontera, Gaucin, and of course there are many more I haven’t mentioned. Each village has its own charm, its own reason to visit, some have castles on the hills above them, others are known for their produce, still others for the festivals unique to their village, certainly you’ll want to invest in a guidebook or at least visit the village tourism office to find out more.

Costa del Sol
The Costa del Sol is only 45 minutes away, in fact the main road to Marbella and the Costa del Sol, the Ronda to San Pedro de Alcantara road, was recently named in the Alamo Rent A Car list of top 20 roads in Europe to drive on. Their description is certainly appropriate, “View the savage highlands of southern Spain on a serpentine route” although it must be said that the road itself is quite safe with excellent asphalt covering.

San Pedro de Alcantara is the first town you encounter on the Costa del Sol, and from here it is only a short drive to Puerto Banus where you’ll find a fantastic beach and one of the most exclusive marinas in Spain, as well as La Cañada shopping centre. Marbella, the second largest city in Malaga Province, is only a little further along the road and is well loved for the amazing Old Quarter (Casco Antiguo).

Further east from Marbella you’ll go through Fuengirola which is better known for the Zoo, before getting to Benalmadena and the Sea Life Aquarium, and then Malaga and the Picasso Museum, the Alcazaba, the Castillo de Gibralfaro, the Botanical Gardens, and the Contemporary Art Gallery.

Alternatively, from San Pedro head west and Estepona is the next major town home of Selwo Adventure Park and the Museum of Paleontology.

Further afield in Cadiz province, don’t miss the Sherry region at Jerez de la Frontera, or Cadiz, Spain’s oldest city which is over 3,000 years old and is one of the longest continuously occupied cities in the world. The beach at Cadiz is known the world over, and is a definite family destination. Cadiz offers a wealth of museums, but the highlight for most visitors is the Torre Tavira and its camera obscura.

Dolphin and whale watching outside the straits of Gibraltar can be booked with departures from La Linea, Gibraltar or Tarifa.

Seville (Sevilla in Spanish), Andalucia’s capital city is well worth seeing, in fact no visit to Southern Spain would be complete without at least a day in Sevilla. Start in the Old town close to the rio Guadalquivir where one of Sevilla’s most iconic monuments can be seen, the Torre del Oro which is now a maritime museum. Walking east along Calle Almirante Lobo for about 200m brings you to the fountain at Avenida de Roma and Avenida de la Constitución.

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Altai Turismo Seville

At this point you can see Jardines Reales Alcazares, and Sevilla’s magnificent Cathedral which includes the Giralda Tower. The square behind the cathedral is home to the Royal Palace (Reales Alcazar de Sevilla). A tourist information office is also located here and will be able to give directions to the Plaza del Toros or Plaza d’España.

The Mezquita in Córdoba is the main reason for any visit to this graceful city, formerly capital of Al Andaluz, the Moorish caliphate in Iberia. The Mezquita is these days a cathedral, but during the Arab conquest was the main Mosque in Córdoba, and considered one of the finest Mosques in the world. Córdoba was originally occupied by the Romans who built the Puente Romano, the Mausoleums, and the ruined Roman temple.

In modern times Córdoba has been a centre of horsemanship and the Royal Stables adjacent to the Royal Castle breed the distinctive Andalusian horse. The Royal Castle and it’s gardens are a popular tourist destination.

Only two hours by train or car, Granada is home to the Alhambra, one of the most visited monuments in Andalucia, and originally the palace of the Kings of Granada. The sprawling complex will need a full day to appreciate and admire its many courtyards and gardens. Also not to be missed in Granada is the cathedral which took 181 years to build.

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.