Luxury, rural holiday rental villa only 8km from Ronda, inland Andalucia, southern Spain
Sun drenched land of glittering sea and rugged mountains, open skies and untouched forest, where tradition endures and the pace is unhurried – this is archetypal Spain. Head inland from the popular beaches to the whitewashed towns and sleepy pueblos perched on hilltops where horses graze in flower filled pastures. Birthplace of flamenco, this is a world of passion, story and song, where festival, folklore, and ancient cultures meet.
In an elevated position, amongst open olive groves and set in its own two acres, against a backdrop of rolling hills, Finca El Olivar faces south with uninterrupted views towards the beautiful hilltop city of Ronda. To the east lies the verdant valley of Llano de la Cruz and beyond this, the untouched Sierra de las Nieves. To the west stands the mountainous majesty of the Serranía de Ronda and Grazalema National Park.
Rural enough to offer complete tranquility but less than ten minutes from the enchanting and romantic hilltop city of Ronda, the most spectacular of the pueblos blancos, this is an area of outstanding beauty and stunning geographic diversity. Dotted with whitewashed villages clinging perilously to rocky outcrops, the pace of life is infectiously slow and the locals extremely welcoming.
The lively village of Arriate is only three miles away and offers a surprising wealth of amenities; fish and seafood, fresh from the coast, a bounty of Mediterranean vegetables, local specialities and a flavour of undiscovered Andalucía. Every town and village has a yearly calendar packed full of fiestas and Arriate is no exception.
Los Frontones is an extremely favoured area with an exceptional hotel restaurant less than a mile away (a relaxed stroll back under the stars) creating exciting dishes from the very best local produce. Down to earth fare at a local bar, exceptionally creative tapas in Ronda’s barrio, or world class fine dining, there is something here for everyone.
The area has an enormous amount to offer whether your preference is for history and architecture, gastronomy, hiking, cycling, horseriding, birdwatching, golf, tennis, wild swimming, ballooning, or more extreme sports like mountain climbing, paragliding and potholing. Lazy days by the pool and short excursions exploring the pueblos blancos or the many local vineyards can be combined with trips further afield to the beautiful Andalucian capital of Seville, the Moorish cities of Granada and lesser known Cordóba, the sherry capital Jerez, the coastal resorts of glamorous Marbella and eclectic Malaga, birthplace of Picasso, or even the north coast of Morocco.
El Olivar is just over an hour from Malaga, 1½ hours from Seville or Jerez and just over two hours from Granada. The Mediterranean coast is under an hour away and the unspoilt Atlantic an hour and a half.
Steeped in history and romance and immortalised in literature, the ancient city of Ronda sits strategically positioned atop a limestone plateau, split in two by a spectacular gorge, with breathtaking views of the mountains of the Serranía de Ronda. Despite its popularity (it is the third most visited city in Andalucia and the most impressive of all the hilltop towns) Ronda retains much of its historic charm. It is a beautiful Arabic city, the last stronghold of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, even today the Arabic influence can be seen throughout the city.
750 metres above sea level, Ronda is the coolest of Andalucian cities, even in the unforgiving heat of summer, spring comes early and brings carpets of wild flowers and migrating birds, autumn is the ideal season for walking and cycling holidays before the brief, cold snap of winter reaches this far south.
“He buscado por todas partes la ciudad soñada, y al fin la he encontrado en Ronda (I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda)”
Rainer Maria Rilke
The Real Feria de Mayo or Ronda Romantica is one of oldest fairs in Andalucia, dating from 1509, this festival recreates the atmosphere of a bygone romantic era; locals dress in traditional costume, food is cooked on stoves and open flames and the only light is from candles and oil lamps. Romantics, rebels and renegades might also enjoy the city’s Museo del Bandolero which celebrates the history of the bandit, once a key part of Andalucian culture.
The Feria de Pedro Romero takes place during the last week of August and the first week of September and celebrates Ronda’s renowned matador Pedro Romero. The city comes alive with music and singing, bars pull their kegs out onto the streets to keep up with demand for this massive party and locals dress in the traditional costume of Goya’s era. The festival finishes with the more gruesome Corrida Goyesca, a bullfight in traditional dress in the style of Pedro Romero the ‘father’ of modern bullfighting.
Semana Santa - Holy Week - is more celebrated than Christmas and a spectacle to behold, fabulous processions and floats parade through the town and everyone joins the crowd, passion reigns, for this is Spain.
Local cuisine - With a bounty of fresh produce available, the culinary talent found in Ronda delights the gourmand, from creative tapas to traditional specialities often in some surprising places, it is no wonder that when looking for the best location to film ‘Jamie Does Spain’ Jamie Oliver chose Ronda. Be sure to try some of the local favourites such as the artisan, award winning payoyo cheese, from the Sierra de Grazalema, the locally produced, aged jamon iberico de bellota (cutting ham is a competitive art here and is never rushed) salmorejo - better than gazpacho – or pasteles made by the nuns at the beautiful Carmelite convent of the Iglesia de Neustra Señora de la Merced. Other regional favourites include asparagus with scrambled eggs, fried aubergines in cane syrup, slow cooked ox cheek, tender stews of goat, rabbit or wild boar, ajoblanco – a chilled almond and garlic soup, gambas al pil pil – prawns with chili and garlic, a vast array of beautifully prepared grilled vegetables and of course, the ubiquitous olive.
Olive oil production is a staple in this area: The Andalucia region produces both the most table olives and the largest quantity of olive oil. Globally acclaimed organic olive oil producers La Organic are just down the road. Olive oil is indeed so integral to the cooking and lifestyle of Andalucians that the Real Feria de Mayo has olive oil tasting as one of its highlights. The area immediately surrounding the house is mostly old olive groves with wild flowers growing beneath the trees and the occasional flock of sheep to crop the grass.
Vinotourism - Recent years have witnessed a tremendous growth in wine production and enotourism in the Serranía de Ronda with some really excellent (and hard to come by) wines being produced. Whether your preference is for organic wine from F Schatz, Samsara or Cortijo Los Aguilares or wine from traditional vine varieties lovingly reintroduced at La Melonera, this area has become well known for its excellent wines and no wonder when viticulture has been practiced here for over 3,000 years. The villa is within walking distance of Bodega Joaquin Fernandez which has a beautiful cobbled courtyard and terrace with stunning views. Other vineyards well worth a visit include Descalzos Viejos, set in a beautiful C16th monastery, Samsara, with incredible views of the Puente Nuevo, La Melonera and Kieninger, both just behind the house. Wine tastings and tours can easily be arranged and are very highly recommended.
The bounty of fresh local ingredients and emerging fine food scene on the coast has led to a food renaissance in the Ronda area where traditional, local specialties and globally inspired tapas vie for attention. With restaurants on sun drenched squares, on leafy plazas, or perched on the edge of the gorge making the most of the views, there is something for everyone from simple, Spanish fare to glorious fine dining. Here is a tiny selection of what is on offer.
De Locos Tapas – Right next to the Barrio San Francisco, just under the Puerta Almocábar and near the Iglesa del Espiritu Santo is this unassuming little restaurant whose modest appearance belies the incredible food coming from its tiny kitchen. Take a walk up on the old Almocabar wall before you have had too many glasses of the excellent wine owner Guillermo will undoubtedly supply. Lots of choice of globally inspired tapas, excellent value, one of our all time favourites. de-locos-tapas.com
Almocabar - Named after the Almocabar (Al-maqabir) or former cemetery on which this fabulous restaurant sits, in a leafy square right next to the city wall with a great playground, Almocabar serves an array of beautifully presented, excellent dishes with some wonderfully balanced flavours. Summer brings the tables out under the stars in a corner of the lovely Plaza Ruedo Alameda, with its many bars and charming locals. Service is friendly and the clientele is mainly locals in the know. A good wine list and an excellent cellar, very highly recommended. facebook.com/Restaurante-Almocábar
La Taberna – A great bar, packed with locals, serving traditional Andalucian tapas and raciones. The food is very good value, staff are friendly and the service is excellent. One of the best on Plaza del Socorro.
Casa Ortega – On the corner of the square at Plaza del Socorro, this cafe restaurant serves great freshly pressed orange juice, good coffee, authentic jamon de bellota cut by a cortador and has a great wine list including local wines from, amongst others, F Schatz and Descalzos Viejos and a very pricey Pingus. Good for watching the world go by. From 8 pm. the rooftop terrace opens for drinks overlooking the square.
Tragatá - Whilst the once Michelin starred Tragabuches may have fallen from grace, its sister establishment is a rising star with a changing menu and inventive tapas. Take your time to people watch on this sunny side street in the Mercadillo, slowly working you way through the extensive menu. Excellent service. facebook.com/tragata.ronda
El Muelle de Arriate - Situated in the old railway station at Arriate, just five minutes’ drive away, this restaurant serves up a delicious selection of salads, tapas, main courses and desserts. The Surtido de Postres Casero (selection of home made puddings) is truly memorable. A pretty terrace overlooking the valley towards the Sierra de Grazalema provides a great spot to watch the sunset with the occasional tiny train to add to the fun. Frank, the Dutch owner is a great host, calm, welcoming and with a very dry sense of humour. Booking is highly recommended. elmuelle-arriate.com
Molino del Santo – Hotel restaurant at Benoajan with a deservedly excellent reputation, chosen by Jamie Oliver when he was filming in Ronda. Lovely terrace and garden with weeping willows and views of the hills, the English owners certainly know how to make the best of the fabulous local ingredients. Guests of El Olivar get a 10% discount. www.molinodelsanto.com
Restaurante Panoramico – Incredible views of the bullring and the mountains of the Serranía from the terrace of this hotel restaurant makes the €10 for a `G&T well worth it. Food is more reasonably priced. Good service and views to die for.
Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera – The restaurant belonging to this fabulous hotel serves excellent, imaginative cuisine with superb service and a wine menu packed with local gems. In summer dine on the beautiful terrace under the stars, in the colder months dine in the lovely conservatory and cosy dining room. Elegant but relaxed fine dining with a daily changing menu only 1km away and a romantic stroll back to the house. hotellafuente.com
Bar Venta Pelistre – A mile or so down the road, this traditional bar-restaurant offers local cuisine in the campo style – home reared pork, rabbit cooked in garlic, excellent fish and beautiful grilled vegetables. Packed with locals, the bar is well stocked with a wide selection of local wines a good range of spirits and a fantastic gin selection - measures here are very generous.
Maruja Limon - This tapas and cocktail bar has the best views ever. An outdoor terrace overlooking the Serranía de Ronda in the shade of two enormous palms. Replete with enormous four poster day bed, a romantic Moorish oasis of in the heart of the old town. Only open from May 1st. Take time to enjoy this place.
Abades Ronda – With a stunning terrace overlooking the Serannía and glass walls to the interior, Abades Ronda is in the most enviable position. With a decent menu del dia or lighter lunches on the terrace. Excellent, friendly service and pretty good value for money. If you want to enjoy the views without breaking the bank Abades Ronda is a good choice. www.abadesronda.com
Tropicana Taberna – Good food and first class service. This is a family run establishment and the pride with which the host gushes about his father’s dishes is really touching. Huge cuts of meat, excellent fish or good vegetarian dishes. `very child friendly. www.tabernatropicana.com
Take a pony and cart ride around the old town. For around thirty Euros you can take a half hour ride around la Ciudad, starting outside the Plaza de Toros, the ponies’ reins are adorned with jingling bells which help warn pedestrians in the narrow, cobbled streets of the old town.
The playground in Barrio San Fransisco, just outside the city walls, is set in a beautiful leafy square which happens to be by two of the best restaurants in town (de Locos Tapas and Almocabar). As dusk falls this is a favourite spot for children while their parents and older folk sit on benches or enjoy a drink at one of the local bars.
Food – Even the fussiest eaters will find something to enjoy, paella, pizza (try Nonno Peppe for genuine Italian fare) pasta and chips. You will find many of the local eateries very accommodating with babies and children.
La Chocolaterie is on the main shopping street and has exquisite handmade chocolates and patisserie, granitas, milkshakes, tortes, cakes and macaroons, a whole menu of hot chocolates, hand made ice creams, iced teas, good coffee and excellent sandwiches made with their own organic rolls.
The park – Alameda del Tajo is a C19th park paid for by fines collected from the locals (for swearing and obscene behaviour!) This is the hub of the paseo and a lovely cool spot in the heat of the day with broad promenades and towering pines, roses and fountains laid out in a beautiful, formal style. There is also a small duck pond with a dovecot and a little playground. The best thing about the park, (although kids may not agree), has to be the jaw dropping views over el Tajo.
Casa del Rey Moro In the old town, has peacocks and enough steps cut into the stone of the Moorish mines to keep young ones counting. Legend has it that the old Moorish king secreted away his treasure in the depths of the fortress and the silence at the bottom of the gorge is very atmospheric. Don't forget to try out the sala de secrets, a room which possesses the same phenomenon as St Paul's whispering gallery.
The old Arab city wall can be climbed from near the Peurte Arabe down in the barrio and this is a favourite activity for kids, you can stand sentry on the look out posts of the ramparts but watch out for the lack of railings along the wall.
The Arab baths are a cool respite from the summer heat with star shaped holes in the domed ceiling. A rather unconvincing CGI film shows how they were once used but even for those who are not keen on history the Baños Arabes are an atmospheric treasure. You can explore a bit more of the medieval city walls just outside the baths.
Shopping for kids – There is a traditional toy shop with beautifully tiled frontage, El Pensamiento, on the main shopping street, and several, rather soulless but more modern, ‘Toy Planet’s. There are dresses and fans aplenty for would be flamenco dancers. If high street fashion is their thing then kids clothes can be found at Mayoral and Zara on C/Espinel and the popular Ale-hop sells everything from hats and purses to kid styled stationery. A wooden sword (espada) if you can find one, prior to a trip to the old Roman city of Acinipo is a top tip for would be gladiators. Ice cream can be found all over town but you can get Italian gelato at Heladeria E’Gelato in over thirty flavours.
La Playita (the little beach) at Arroyomolinos Recreational Area is a sand edged, spring fed lake bordered by lush gardens with treetop adventure park, zipwires and climbing walls.
Zahara Catur is an activity company based at the Arroymolinos Recreation Area that offers year round archery, kayaking, hiking and other activities that are particularly suitable for older children and teenagers.
The torchlight tour of La Cueva de la Pileta is very atmospheric and nothing like any cave experience the kids may have has so far. Halfway up the side of a rugged hill with vertiginous views out over the valley. No lights or fancy sign-posts, its almost as it was when it was discovered in 1905. The cave paintings inside are pretty impressive but it is the lack of commercialism that makes this so worthwhile. Raw nature as man first experienced it.
Further afield, the beautiful Maria Luisa Park in Seville has hundreds of white doves you can feed in Plaza América, Star Wars fans might recognise the incredible Plaza de España from Episode 1, the park is one of the loveliest in Europe with a truly fairytale atmosphere with its themed pavillions, rows of oranges, palms, pines, elms and fountains half hidden amongst climbing roses. You can take a horse and cart from outside the cathedral after exploring the stunning gardens of the Real Alcazar and ride in style through the park.
The Alhambra and Generalife at Granada are simply incredible and the excellent gift shop at the entrance sells guidebooks for children that make the visit even more enjoyable (who doesn’t love stickers?) The serenity of the gardens and magnificent architecture of the palaces is unforgettable but the hot sun can be relentless, you could opt for a night visit to the Nasrid palaces and soak up the atmosphere by moonlight instead.