Cycling on the Via Verde close to Ronda

Cycling on the Via Verde

What a fantastic trip report about an adventure cycling on the Via Verde de la Sierra not far from Ronda.

Book your cycling tour on the Via Verde over at Get Your Guide here.

What is the Via Verde de la Sierra?

The Via Verde de la Sierra is one of 135 ‘green routes’ that chart a trail of disused railway lines across Spain. Here in Ronda, “our Via Verde” is part of a proposed rail route across the province of Cadiz between Almargen and Jerez de la Frontera.

Cycling the Via Verde with White Village Tours Cycling
Cycling the Via Verde not far from Ronda

Its final plan was to connect the cities of Cádiz, Malaga and Granada but, although much of the groundwork, including tunnels, viaducts, and railway stations, was completed in the early 1930s, the project was never finished and lay neglected until 1993 when the line was renovated for use as a walking and cycling route.

Exploring Olvera

“We started our day in the town of Olvera. Like many of the other white towns in the vicinity, Olvera’s roots are Roman, and the town flourished during the Muslim occupation of Spain.

It has a Moorish Castle constructed on a rocky crag high above the town, 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.

Cycling the Via Verde

We followed the short, though steep, path from the town centre down to the Antigua Estación de Olvera. This marks the starting point of the Via Verde. The hotel here acts as our meeting point with Lee from White Village Tours and offers the last opportunity to pick up refreshments before you reach the Estación de Zaframagón, 15 km along the route.

Cycling on the Via Verde
The “Antigua Estación de Olvera”

The White Village Tours package included transport from Ronda, but considering we were staying in Olvera, it made more sense to meet at the start point, which they could accommodate without any issue.

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 Journey Continues

The Via’s thirty tunnels and four viaducts are a feature of the journey, and we overcame nine of these before reaching the first official rest-stop at Estación de Navalagrulla.

Cycling on the Via Verde
Lots of tunnels on the Via Verde

We had enjoyed a slight downward gradient thus far and barely broken into a sweat. We have been following the route in reverse if you go by the map, but why cycle uphill when you can cycle down and get picked up at the other end, a favourable feature of the package with White Village Tours.

The Landscape Transforms

As we got closer to the Estación de Zaframagón, the landscape began to transform from arable land into woodlands and forests. 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.

Exploring Coripe

Overhead, we saw our first 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, available until that time, provides another opportunity to get much-needed refreshments before reaching the town of Coripe.

Cycling on the Via Verde

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.

Final Stretch

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. Immediately after our short break at Estación de Coripe we encountered the longest of the 30 tunnels, 990m to be exact, disappointingly just shy of the 1km mark, but exciting in contrast to the rich green landscape that preceded.

The last 10 kms provide as much joy as the first, cruising alongside the Río Guadalete and stopping for photos too many times. The final 3 kms are signaled by the one hill we have to climb along the whole route, a detour required to avoid the remains of an old tunnel that couldn’t be saved.

Lee had warned us and recommended we walk if it seemed too much so we did. As we arrived at the end we spotted Lee waving us home encouraging us to make it to the finish line, something we didn’t want to see as we were having the best time. He loaded the bikes whilst we grabbed a drink, and headed back to Olvera for our next adventure.

Offerings at the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios
Cycling on the Via Verde
Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

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 a stunning courtyard overrun with potted plants.

Exploring Zahara de las Sierra and Setenil de las Bodegas

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.

Zahara de la Sierra Pueblo Blanco in the Grazalema Natural Park
Zahara de la Sierra

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 de las Bodegas

Setenil shows evidence of human occupation for at least 2,000 years but was possibly occupied by troglodytes long before then.

“Our journey with White Village Tours Cycling was nothing short of exceptional. From the moment we met Lee at the Antigua Estación de Olvera, we were impressed by the seamless organization and expert guidance. Pedaling through olive groves, tunnels, and viaducts, we were captivated by the beauty of Andalucia. Each stop along the way, from Estación de Zaframagón to Estación de Puerto Serrano, offered unique insights into the region’s history and natural wonders. The tour concluded with a visit to the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, providing a perfect blend of adventure and cultural exploration. Overall, the White Village Tours Cycling experience surpassed our expectations, leaving us with cherished memories of this enchanting corner of Spain.”

Book your Cycling tour on the Via Verde with White Village Tours Cycling over at Viator
Who organised our tour?
White Village Tours Cycling

Experience a leisurely self-guided cycling excursion, pedalling through the picturesque countryside north of Ronda. Journey through tunnels and across bridges, passing by olive groves and farmland, while traversing the mountains along one of Spain’s most exquisite Via Verdes.

Transfers to and from Ronda are included, and public transportation is conveniently located near the pickup point.

Discover more about the Cycling Day Tour on the Via Verde de la Sierra here
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