Driving through the White Towns of Parque Natural Sierra Grazalema

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
8
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
8
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
8
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
77 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
Spain
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 150
Time of year visited
September
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
54th/359 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

Picture-perfect, bright white Andalucian towns dramatically wedged in to the rugged peaks and sharp valleys of the Parque Natural Sierra Grazalema make this one of the most achingly beautiful places in Europe, if not the world.  Being able to drive through it, as you stop repeatedly to gorp at the latest sensational vista, also makes this one of the best driving routes in the world, and, in my opinion, Spain’s premier tourist experience

Top tips:

  1. You’ll want to have a car.  There may be some organised tours, but so much of the experience is about stopping for the gorping moments!
  2. The route – follow the Lonely Planet’s route from Arcos de la Fontera to Ronda (shown in photos).  Whole route is 147km / 90 miles and takes around 3.5 hours time driving.  As you can see from the route, there are a couple of places where you can do shortcuts to reduce the overall distance if rushed
  3. 1 or 2 days?  We did this in one day (starting from Vejer de la Fontera so adding on an extra hour) and it was a long day.  Would have been more pleasant to stay overnight in one of the small villages in the park
  4. Hiking – there were some sensational hiking routes, but be aware that many of the best ones are closed June – September due to fire danger, and that you need a hiking permit outside of these dates, which is a annoying
  5. Best towns to stop at – they’re all achingly beautiful and you’ll naturally drive through them anyway, so there is no need to miss any.  That being said, Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema were the most photogenic; and Ronda (for its bridge and gorge) and Seteril de las Bodegas (for its cave houses) were the most unusual.  Ronda also has the benefit of the bull ring, which is worth a visit, and is the most developed town for accommodation options.  The pass at Puerto de las Palomas is also worth stopping at for its huge vistas, and also for the eagle watching you can do from there

highlights

#1 Wandering through the picture-perfect village streets of Grazalema, tucked perfectly into the valley

#2 The driving itself - enjoying the 147km / 90 miles of dramatic winding roads and stopping every 20mins or so for the latest must-do-photo

#3 Ronda's dramatic El Tajo de Ronda - the bridge that looks like something straight out of the mines of Lord of the Rings

#4 The views from the high pass at Puerto de las Palomas, including it being the best spot around for Eagle Watching

#5 Walking through the caves dug into the gorge of Seteril de las Bodegas

#6 Gorping at the setting of Zahara de la Sierra, which can be seen from miles around

#7 Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza - the atmospheric bull ring with its tour that gives you a great flavour of the deep history of this place

The route

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone