Taking a bike ride to one of the pretty white villages of the Serrania de Ronda is the best way to enjoy the area’s unspoilt mountain countryside and traditional Andalucian culture. A bike can take you on small tracks or on quiet, twisting mountain roads, with the bonus of knowing that you have “earned” some delicious local tapas or a chilled beer at the end.
Our 8 favourite white villages can all be visited from Ronda on guided or self guided biking day trips. For mountain bikers, we have cross-county routes which use the network of small tracks and trails through the mountains and valleys of the area – a guided ride is best for this, as the tracks can be well hidden and tricky to find. For bikers who prefer riding on roads, we have routes along twisting mountain roads, beside lakes and ancient forests, with stunning views at every turn; these are good as both guided or self-guided bike rides.
Unique white villages are dotted throughout the mountains near our base in Ronda and range from sleepy hamlets in the heart of rural farmland to small communities precariously perched on rocky limestone crags. Some are topped by the remains of old Arab fortresses or impressive Renaissance churches. Others appear to be almost tumblling down the steep slopes of rocky mountain niches, or there is one where the cafes, bars and houses are ”cavehouses” carved into the limestone cliffs which rise above the village. And then there is the contradictory “blue” white village! The thing which links them all is true Andalucian rural charm and a pace of life which has changed little in centuries.
So take a day or two away from the crowds and bike with us to one of our favourite white villages near Ronda.
Or if you have more time to spare, take a look at our self-guided Andalucian White Village Cycling Tours.
Grazalema is one of the most striking white villages, enjoying a stunnng mountain location within the protected nature and wildlife reserve of the Grazalema Natural Park. It contains some of the grandest, porticoed houses you will find in any village, due to the wealth created by its historical textile and weaving industry and has a large village square with impressive Renaissance church. There are lots of good cafes in and around the square - try the locally produced organic Payoyo goats’ cheese. Annual bull runs still take place through the village – no fighting involved, just villagers tugging on the bull’s rope and then running off very quickly ;-0
Cycling Tips: The road to Grazalema twists through beautiful cork oak forests, rising gradually until the final climb into the village. See White Villages Cycling Day Trip.
There’s also great mountain biking through the Grazalema Natural Park itself see Grazalema Natual Park MTB Day Trip
Zahara is a very pretty small village perched on the slopes of a limestone crag with the remains of an Arab fortress on the top. It overlooks a stunning blue lake which somehow reflects the blue of the sky – the brighter the day, the bluer the lake.
Cycling Tips: To get to Zahara you can cycle directly from Ronda on the main roads or the more interesting and enjoyable route is to ride firstly to Grazalema and then continue up into the mountains. You will go over the peak of Las Palomas Pass at 1,357m, with fantastic views back to the Grazalema valley and down to Zahara Lake. See Las Palomas Pass - White Villages Cycling Day Trip
Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil de las Bodeegas is one of the most unusual white villages, famous for its “cavehouses” set into the eroded limestone walls of the River Trejo. Over thousands of years the river has carved out large overhanging rocks which have provided human shelter for centuries. If you go inside many of the bars and shops you can see how the limestone forms the roof and walls. And in one street, buildings have beeen squeezed in both sides beneath a solid rock “roof” which weighs ominously above your head as you ride through.
Cycling Tips: An easy-intermediate off-road mountain bike ride; our guides have lots of alternative route options to choose from to ensure the ride suits you - a great family day out. See Ronda to Setenil de las Bodegas MTB Day Trip
Continuing northwards from Setenil takes you to Olvera – a larger white hilltop village with an impressive Renaissance church and the well preserved remains of an Arab fortress right at the top. There is a good museum at the fortress and climbing up around the huge castle walls certainly gives a sense of how impregnable the town must once have been.
Cycling Tips: A great ride on the road or off-road through rolling farmland brings you to the small village of Torre Alhaquime and then onto a twisting valley road which climbs up to Olvera – stunning views all the way. See Ronda to Olvera MTB Day Trip or Ronda to Olvera Cycling Day Trip
El Burgo sits on the very edge of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park – a protected area full of huge limestone mountains, including Torrecilla at 1919m, the highest peak in western Andalucia. The park is a nature-lovers’ paradise, with vast untouched areas of pine forest filled with wildlife and remote rocky vistas. The village is quiet and sleepy with the remains of the castle which gives the village its name at the top. A nicely restored riverside pathway leads to the remains of a water mill on the edge of the village.
Cycling Tips: The road ride to the village is a twisting route through the mountains along the edge of the park, with fabulous views over to the main forested areas. See El lBurgo & Lakes of El Chorro. Experienced mountain bikers can head right into the pine forests and surrounding hills on a fantastic cross country mtb route. See El Burgo XC Challenge MTB Day Trip
The old village of Montejaque was built into a niche in the mountains – well-hidden and high up, so easy to defend from unwelcome invaders. Nowadays the village has spread further down the mountain and there is a more welcoming attitde to visitors ;-). The village square, with its modern fountain is a lovely place to sit at one of the cafes opposite the church and watch the world go by. There was once an arab fortress right at the top of the village – nothing remains now but you can walk up the tiny streets above the village square to a “mirador” where it once stood, with views over the village and across to the deep valley of the Guadiaro river.
Cycling Tips: The road climb up to the village is a steady ascent but it’s worth it when you arrive. Several good mountain bike routes start, finish or pass through the village, which is a great place for a quick refreshment stop. For a further challenge, try riding up the “zigzag path” on the outskirts of the village for a great view to the village below. See Montejaque Circular Cycling Day Trip
Jimera de Libar
Jimera de Libar (and its satellite village of Jimera station) sits in a quiet valley above the Guadiaro river. It is nestled between two mountain ridges so is off the beaten track and remains quiet and fairly tourist-free. Above the main village, olive groves perch precariously on what seem like impossibly steep mountain slopes. The village is overlooked by the imposing peak of mount Palo.
Cycling Tips: The road down to Jimera from the top of the southern mountain ridge is one of the most fun descents in the area. 7km of very well maintained twisting, turning road which heads past the edge of the main village and right down to the railway station where there is a great swimming area in the river. See Genal Valley Views Cycling Day Trip.
Or for competent intermediate mountain bikers, ride there along a 7km narrow pathway known as Mr Henderson’s Way which runs above the course of the river through the mountains. See Banks of the Rio Guadiaro MTB Day Trip
And finally to the imposter amongst all the white villages, the blue village of Juzcar. Back in 2011 the village was picked to promote the launch of the first Smurf movie as it apparently resembled the imaginary one in the film. But of course it needed to be blue. The villagers agreed to the temporary repainting and then discovered a huge leap in tourist visitors, which brought much needed income to this very isolated village, so they decided to keep their unique blue colour.
Cycling Tips: A tough but rewarding and beautiful road ride to this village through the craggy mountains of the Genal Valley and past the extensive chestnut woods which fill much of the area.
Visiting any of these white villages and exploring their narrow winding streets makes a great day out. The views throughout the area are fabulous and you will experience a taste of real rural Andalucia.
You can find out more about our mountain bike day trips and leisure road cycling day trips or contact us at email@example.com to talk about the cycling you would like to do in and around Ronda.
Heather Cooper, Hike + Bike the Sierras 9/4/2019