Trek Notes - Spain

Route of the White Villages - Cycling from Ronda to El Puerto de Santa Marķa

A journey designed for all, with pleasant, gentle stages. The city of Ronda and each and every White Village. Excellent wines in Arcos, Jerez and Puerto de Santa María. The beaches of Cadiz bay. Excursion to Cadiz on the steamboat.Between the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz, set in dreamy landscapes of interwoven peaks and valleys, you will find the "Pueblos Blancos" (White Villages) of the Ronda and Grazalema Mountains. These villages constitute gems of popular Andalusian architecture, lodged between the deep green of their valleys and the rocky gray of their mountains. Discover a region and a people forged over the ages in these idyllic, hidden spots.

Day 1: Arrival Ronda*:
On the day of your arrival you will find the bikes at the hotel, together with the documentation (maps and descriptions, vouchers etc). If previously arranged, someone from our Spanish partners will meet the clients to give details about bike functions and itinerary (usually around 17-18 o'clock). It is important to provide us with your mobile number. If no meeting could be arranged, then the clients are kindly asked to sign the form for all the material and also our rental contract with credit card details as a guarantee for the bikes and material, and leave this at the reception desk.
Depending on your arrival time you can visit the bullring (Spain's oldest) with its small but very interesting bullfighting museum. There are spectacular views as you cross the bridge over Ronda's famous gorge to take a stroll round Ronda's old quarter. You can head down to the river to visit the 13th Century Arab Baths, some of the best conserved in Spain and Europe.
Day 2: Ronda - cultural visit, short circular route, 18 km
To try out the bikes and enjoy Ronda's beautiful surrounding you can do a short route to the small village Benaoján. You will arrive to the Cueva de Gato, a beautiful spot to have a picnic, and continue to the train station of Benaoján where you can take a drink in the bar ‘STOP' before taking the train back to Ronda.
Day 3: Ronda-Olvera, 37 km, highest point 840 meters, lowest point 480 meters.
You leave Ronda heading northwards and make for Setenil de las Bodegas, one of Andalusia's most surprising villages, a focal point of the Cadiz mountains white villages' route. The people here made use of the gorge to build their houses. It is one of the finest examples of this type of architecture, which instead of excavating into the rock simply makes use of natural overhang, with the houses developed laterally along the rock face. Lose yourself in the village's intimate corners and tapas bars...
You then follow the Trejo River and soon see the village of Olvera in the distance, with its typical church and 12th Century castle atop a hill.
Day 4: Olvera-Villamartín, 53 km, highest point 464 m, lowest point 40m
Olvera was originally to have been a stop on the Jerez-Malaga train line, but the line was never completed and the village went back to its business of producing olive oil. Eventually, new roads removed the need for a railway; now the railway has been given a new lease of life as one of the first Vías Verdes, or greenways (old re-conditioned railway lines), in Spain. You cycle for 36 km along this greenway (no cars), passing the Peñon de Zaframagón (Nature reserve with Andalusia's - and one of Europe's - largest colonies of vultures). You pass through many tunnels (up to 30) - some up to 1 km in length - where lights come on automatically as soon as you enter! You follow the Guadalete River as far as Puerto Serrano, where the greenway finishes and from there you take quiet country roads through sunflower fields to the white village of Villamartín. There you sleep in an old railway station, now a nice 3-star hotel, just outside Villamartín.
Day 5: Villamartín-Arcos de la Frontera, 39 km, highest point 145 meters, lowest point 46 meters
You leave the hotel and follow a narrow country lane, almost a cycle lane, surrounded by gentle rolling hills covered in sunflowers to get to the village of Bornos, nestled beside the reservoir that shares its name. You might like to make a stop in this village to try some of its local wines and recover strength as you now have a bit of a climb. Then you continue along a country lane beside a canal (prohibited to cars, so no traffic) to get to Arcos de la Frontera. This town is situated on cliffs high above a meander in the River Guadalete. This is a typical defensive hill village with cobbled streets leading up to a castle, built in the 15th Century on Moorish foundations. The view from the castle and village is staggering.
Day 6: Arcos-Puerto de Santa María, 28 km
You will be collected by a taxi, which will bring you & the bikes to Jerez (the taxi continues with your luggage to the hotel in El Puerto de Santa María).
You start cycling through the town of Jerez. Jerez is a beautiful town, which is worth a visit, for example the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to see the training of the beautiful Andalusian horses for their "ballet" (daily visits on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (except for Fridays of August) from 10 to 14 (closed on bank holidays). Ask for the thematic visit, it will cost 8 €). And of course you can visit one of the many sherry bodegas.
The ride to El Puerto de Santa María is short (around 28 km) but instead of the busy asphalt roads you will go by agricultural paths (which rides a bit less comfortable) to show you where the grapes are growing from which they make the famous brandy and sherry.
Day 7: El Puerto de Santa María, circular route (Bahía de Cadiz or Jerez) 25km
You can start with a visit to a brandy maker, for example Terry, dating from 1865 and founded by Mr. Fernando A. De Terry (only in the mornings, 10 or 12 o'clock). It is a beautiful architectural ensemble of patios, gardens and buildings that, besides the wine cellars, accommodates beautiful halls and composes corners and illustrations that are very representative of the wine cellar architecture from the XIX Century.
During the guided visit you can enjoy an instructive trip in the three wine cellars (Bodega del Carmen, Bodega La Tribuna and Bodega Maruja), every one of which is situated around a big patio with a monument called the Holy Heart of Jesus, erected in 1955. Besides the wine cellars you will visit a carriage and stable museum. Situated in an a wine cellar that originates from the first part of the XIX Century, Terry's Carriage Museum houses a collection of carriages that were constructed between 1820 and 1885 and are still in perfect condition. Together with the Carriage Museum there are stables where Terry's famous horses are kept.
After the visit you can do the ride through the Bay of Cadiz (a beautiful ride of 28 km, completely on the flat, passing marshes, salt-flats and Mediterranean pine forests) or take the little steamboat to Cadiz to visit this delightful city, which is so different to other Andalusian cities.
Day 8: The end...
After breakfast, end of services. Bikes to be left at the hotel with all material.

Optional services (minimum 2 persons):
Private transfer airport Malaga-Ronda (total price for 2-3 pax): 120 € (145 € by night, weekend or holiday).

Private transfer El Puerto de Santa María-Málaga (total price for 2-3 pax): 265 € (305 € by night, weekend or holiday)

Extra nights with breakfast (or half board if mentioned) can be booked at all stops of the route. Extra nights in the beginning or at the end of the route cost:
Double room: from Euro 89,- per room/per night
Single room: from Euro 60,- per room/per night
El Puerto de Santa María*
Double room: Euro 102,15 per room/per night
Single room: Euro 71,82 per room/per night
* from 27 April-20 May and 13 July-16 September:
Double room: Euro 134,90 per room/per night
Single room: Euro 111,10 per room/per night

This journey follows the designated Major European Cultural Itinerary "Route of the Almoravides and Almohades". The prestigious Foundation Legado Andalusí in co-operation with Otros Caminos has re-discovered this itinerary and developed it as a historical and cultural experience leading you to the heart of the region of the white villages, dropping down form the lofty heights of the Ronda Mountains towards the plains of Cadiz to come to rest on the coast, at Puerto de Santa María.

You set out from the ancient city of Ronda (one-time home to writers like Cervantes or the Austrian poet Rainer María Rilke) with its gorge, mountains, and famous bullring (Spain's oldest). From here you will discover many of the "Pueblos Blancos": Arriate, Setenil de las Bodegas, Torre Alhaquime, Olvera. From there you take the old "Vía Verde" (disused mountain railway - now reconditioned for cycling) to Puerto Serrano. Then to Villamartín, Bornos and finally Arcos de la Frontera, a whitewashed farmstead set into an impenetrable peak above the Guadalete River, a splendid viewpoint over the Jerez countryside. Jerez de la Frontera and Puerto de Santa María provide the perfect epilogue to a journey packed with pleasures including famous wines and bright sunshine on the beaches of Cadiz bay.

Getting there (to Ronda):
Málaga bus station - Ronda (2hrs./€9 )
Monday to Friday:  8'00, 9'00, 10'30, 13'00, 16'00, 17'00, 18'00, 19'00, 20'30
Saturdays: 8'00, 10'30, 15'00, 17'00
Sundays: 8'00, 10'30, 13'00, 15'00, 17'00, 19'00, 20'30
From the bus station in Ronda to the hotel it will be about €5 by taxi.

Getting away (from El Puerto de Santa María)
From Puerto de Santa Maria you can take the train to Seville
Or via Málaga:
A transfer by taxi costs 265 € (at night and during weekends you will have to add an 40 € surcharge - the transfer can be booked beforehand and the driver will expect you with a sign and your name at the airport)
Or by bus to Malaga: first you need to take the bus, train or a cab to Cadiz. From there you take a bus to Malaga:
Cadiz - Málaga bus station (4 - 5 1⁄2 Std./ 21€)
Daily: 6:45 *, 9:00, 11:15, 15:00, 16:00*, 20:00
*these buses are not direct and takes about 5:30 hrs. the direct service takes about 4:00 hrs. 
Despite being Andalucía's fastest-growing town - it overtook Córdoba in the big three Andaluz tourist attractions, behind Sevilla and Granada, in the early 21st century - Ronda retains much of its historic charm, particularly its old town. It is famous worldwide for its dramatic escarpments and views, and for the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the rio Guadalevín through its centre. Visitors make a beeline for the 18th century Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, which straddles the 100m chasm below, for its unparalleled views out over the Serranía de Ronda mountains.
Ronda is also famous as the birthplace of modern bullfighting, today glimpsed once a year at the spectacular Feria Goyesca. Held at the beginning of September, here fighters and some of the audience dress in the manner of Goya's sketches of life in the region. Legendary Rondeño bullfighter Pedro Romero broke away from the prevailing Jerez 'school' of horseback bullfighting in the 18th century to found a style of bullfighting in which matadores stood their ground against the bull on foot. In 2006 royalty and movie stars were helicoptered in for the Goyesca's 50th anniversary celebrations in its small bullring, while thousands jammed the streets and parks outside. Otherwise the bullring, Plaza de Toros, is now a museum, and visitors can stroll out into the arena.
Across the bridge, where an elegant cloistered 16th century convent is now an art museum, old Ronda, La Ciudad, sidewinds off into cobbled streets hemmed by handsome town mansions, some still occupied by Ronda's titled families. The Casa de Don Bosco is one such, its interior patio long ago roofed in glass against Ronda's harsh winters. Its small, almost folly-like gardens lose out, however, to the true star, a few minutes' walk to the furthest end of the Ciudad, the Palacio Mondragón. Clumsily modernised in parts during the 1960s, this still has working vestiges of the exquisite miniature water gardens dating from its time as a Moorish palace during Ronda's brief reign as a minor Caliphate under Córdoba in the 12th century.
The cobbled alley to the Mondragón leads naturally on to Ronda's loveliest public space, the leafy Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, which boasts a convent, two churches, including the toytown belltower of the iglesia Santa Maria de Mayor, and the handsome arched ayuntamiento (council) building. Nearby calle Armiñan leads down to the spacious plaza of the traditional workers' barrio, San Francisco, with excellent bars and restaurants. Back from the Mondragón, the Plaza del Campillo overlooks steps that zigzag down to a dramatic eye-level through the Puente Nuevo. The town's pedestrianised 'high street', calle Espinel, opposite the bullring, is nicknamed 'La Bola' and is where Rondeños go for virtually everything

Puerto de Santa Maria
Like so many towns in Andalucía the approach to Puerto de Santa María is off putting, the main road is lined with garages, industrial plants and run down building. Keep going though and you will discover one of Cadíz's best kept secrets with a good beach Playa Puntillo and a town centre which is refreshingly traffic free, with cobbled streets lined with orange trees and typical Andaluz architecture with lots of wrought iron and intricate tile work.
Like nearby Jerez, Puerto de Santa Maria is well known for its sherry, be sure to ask for the locally produced "fino" which is very light and dry. Until the train was extended to Cádiz, all sherry from Jerez came through Santa María and its port is still used to some extent. Most of the bodegas offer free tours and tasting to visitors, including Osborne (956 861699), Luís Caballero (956 861399) and Fernando A Terry (956 862700).
One of the most unusual hotels is the Hotel Monasterio de San Miguel, a gracious baroque building and converted convent which dates back to 1727 when it was built by order of the Duke of Medinaceli to house the Clarisas Capuchinas nuns. The restaurant here was once the washing room for the nuns and has a magnificent vaulted ceiling. The original convent chapel is today a magnificent conference room which is also a popular venue for classical concerts which are open to the public.
On the main Ribiera del Marisco facing the park and the River Guadalete is the "Harry Ramsdon's" of Mariscorias or seafood eateries. This is a bar with a terrace with aluminium tables and throws the plastic waste buckets on each table. This boisterous restaurant is not to be missed. Come early on Sunday lunchtime or you will be queuing around the block for a table.
You can also buy from a selection of about 25 varieties of seafood by the Kg.
There is a small ferry which sails across the bay to Cadiz from Muelle del Vapor. This makes for an interesting excursion.

Cadiz stands on a peninsula jutting out into a bay, and is almost entirely surrounded by water. Named Gadir by the Phoencians, who founded their trading post in 1100 BC, it was later controlled by the Carthaginians, until it became a thriving Roman port. It sank into oblivion under the Visigoths and Moors, but attained great splendour in the early 16th century as a launching point for the journey to the newly discovered lands of America. Cadiz was later raided by Sir Francis Drake, in the struggle to gain control of trade with the New World, and managed to withstand a siege by Napoleon's army. In the early 19th century Cadiz became the bastion of Spain's anti-monarchist, liberal movement, as a result of which the country's first Constitution was declared here in 1812.
Some of the city's 18th century walls still stand, such as the Landward Gate. The old, central quarter of Cadiz is famous for its picturesque charm, and many of the buildings reflect the city's overseas links. Worth a visit are the city's Cathedral and churches of Santa Cruz and San Felipe Neri, which is famous throughout Spain as the place where, in defiance of Napoleon's siege, the provisional government was set up with its own liberal Constitution. Other points of interest are La Santa Cueva, home to several paintings by Goya, and stately mansions such as the Casa del Almirante and Casa de las Cadenas.
The old city looks quite Moorish in appearance and is intriguing with narrow cobbled streets opening onto small squares. The golden cupola of the cathedral looms high above long white houses and the whole place has a slightly dilapidated air. It just takes an hour to walk around the headlands where you can visit the entire old town and pass through some lovely parks with sweeping views of the bay.
Unlike most other ports of its size it seems immediately relaxed and easy going, not at all threatening, even at night. Perhaps this is due to its reassuring shape and size, the presence of the sea making it impossible to get lost for more than a few blocks. It also owes much to the town's tradition of liberalism and tolerance which was maintained all through the years of Franco's dictatorship, despite this being one of the first cities to fall to his forces and was the port through which the Republican armies launched their invasion.

Most towns and villages in Andalucia have their Carnival, but none are like the Cadiz Carnival


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