Occupying a beautiful valley 800 metres above sea level in the heart of the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema, the gorgeous, whitewashed 2,200-person village of Grazalema has been officially listed as one of the “Most Beautiful Towns in Spain” along with Zahara de la Sierra, Setenil de las Bodegas and Vejer de la Frontera.
The classically white houses, rust-coloured roofs and splendid hillside location of Spain’s Grazalema draw comparisons to many of the other fantastic pueblos blancos (white towns) of Andalusia. However, what separates Grazalema from most of them is the large variety of outstanding hiking trails in the area. The amazing natural scenery makes it the perfect base for hikers and nature lovers.
Whether you are into hiking or not, though, Grazalema is a great place to visit. With the Guadalete river running beside it, the massive, awe-inspiring rock of “Peñon Grande” looming above, an ancient Roman road leading into it and plenty of charming white buildings with wrought-iron windows decorated with colourful flowers, it is still possible to have a wonderful – and relaxing – time just around town.
Meanwhile, on a somewhat weird note, Grazalema is also divided into upper and lower barrios, with the lower residents in Barrio Bajo traditionally known as “jopiches” (little bull penis) and those in Barrio Alto known as “jopones” (big bull penis).
Not entirely sure which was preferable from a tourist standpoint, we chose to stay as close as possible to the middle and, thankfully, walked away with nothing but stories, speculation and some photos of the prominent bull statue which may or may not have anything to do with the legends.
But don’t get me started on bull genitalia yet again, we’ll be here all day. Instead, let’s move on to the main attraction, Grazalema hiking.
Hiking in Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema
Also referred to as Grazalema Natural Park, this huge, pristine protected area covers 52,000 hectares and is known for its spectacular limestone mountains, dramatic gorges and being the rainiest place in all of Spain with 2,200 millimetres of the wet stuff each year. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
The park has many wild rivers and over 1,300 plant species, many of which are endemic to the area, including a wonderful forest of Spanish fir trees. There are also numerous impressive cave systems, including the Hundider-Gato, the largest in Andalusia. The largest of the caves is 4 km long with a 60-metre-tall opening.
You also may come across a wide range of fascinating wildlife. On land, you may spot (or at least see evidence of) deer, ibex and mongoose, just to name a few. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled to the sky for the chance to see griffon vultures, buzzards, golden eagles, peregrine falcons and various kites.
The entire Sierra de Grazalema Nature Reserve has been classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1977 and was named the first natural park in Andalusia in 1984. The main Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema Visitor Centre is located in El Bosque (30 minutes from Grazalema by car) and there is a smaller information point in Zahara de la Sierra, as well.
The park has an excellent network of well-marked and maintained trails offering a the whole range of options from short and easy walks to strenuous all-day undertakings.
El Torreon, El Pinsapar, La Garganta Verde and Llanos de Rabel require “permisos” from the El Bosque office, although it is sometimes possible to acquire them by email up to a month in advance.
Just send them your name, the hike you want to do, your passport number, the number of people and the date you want to hike. You might also want to include alternative dates (since, in our experience, they don’t always get back to you right away).
For more immediate answers, try calling instead: +34 956 709733
Now, on to the specifics for Grazalema hiking option (all distances are for the entire return trip):
La Garganta Verde
Trailhead: 4 km south of Zahara de la Sierra
5 km / 2 hrs / 300m elevation gain
AllTrails GPS Map: La Garganta Verde
Arguably the main highlight of park, the name of this outstanding hike near Zahara de la Sierra means Green Throat, which happens to be a rather apt description. This lush, dramatic gorge formed by the Arroyo del Pinar features steep walls covered in green vegetation that reach as high as 400 metres at certain points, making it popular for climbing and canyoning.
As you descend, the canyon gets steadily narrower until eventually you reach sections where you have to cross and/or walk in the river. About a third of the way down you’ll reach a griffon vulture viewing platform, in some spots you need to use ropes to clamber down and eventually you reach the impressive stalactites and stalagmites of the Ermita del Garganta cave system.
5.5 km / 4 hrs / 700m
AllTrails GPS Map: El Torreon
El Torreón is the highest peak in Cadiz (1,648m) and from the top you can see Morocco on a clear day. This is a hefty climb but the scenery is worth it (both at the top and on the way up). The weather changes particularly quickly at the summit so be prepared and dress in layers.
Check out our Day Hike Packing List
Permiso and guide required
21 km / 6-7 hrs / 1,330m
AllTrails GPS Map: El Pinsapar
El Pinsapar is considered the biggest challenge of all the day hikes in the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema. It is a long, difficult hike with great scenery, including rare pinsapo fir trees only found in Andalusia and Northern Morocco.
The trail runs from about 2 km northwest of Grazalema all the way to Benamohoma. You must hike with a guide and it is only accessible from June 1st to October 15th.
Llanos del Rabel
10 km / 3 hrs / 370m
AllTrails GPS Map: Llanos del Rabel
This relatively easy, scenic trail starts out along a gravel trail and eventually loops around through some pretty sections of forest. It also traverses some very cool natural stairs.
Sendero Rio Majaceite
9 km / 3 hrs / 230m
AllTrails GPS Map: Sendero Rio Majaceite
This trail follows a relatively gentle slope along a beautiful stream from Benamahoma to El Bosque (or vice versa). It is a popular choice for families as you can stop to swim or play in the water at many points along the way.
Salto del Cabrero
7.5 km / 2-3 hrs / 480m
AllTrails GPS Map: Salto del Cabrero
A good mid-range choice, this hike runs through the beautiful Sierra del Endrinal from Puerto del Boyar to Benaocaz that features another stunning gorge – the name means “Goatherd’s Leap”.
Starting from Grazalema adds another 2 kilometres along the Camino de los Charcones to reach Puerto del Boyar. If you can’t organize transportation from one end or the other it is also possible to do most of this hike as a loop out of Benaocaz instead.
Llanos del Endrinal
3 km / 1 hr / 240m
A short, pretty loop trail known for its impressive collection of wildflowers.
Arroyo de Bocaleones
6.5 km / 2 hrs / 170m
AllTrails GPS Map: Arroyo de Bocaleones
A scenic river hike with very little elevation change.
3.5 km / 1 hr / 180m
AllTrails GPS Map: Cerro Coros
A short climb to a nice viewpoint.
If you are planning to do a lot of hiking in the area you may want to invest in a guidebook. We would recommend The Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema by Guy Hunter-Watts. It has excellent descriptions and maps and can be purchased either in print or as an ebook to minimize the weight in your pack.
Other Things to Do in Grazalema, Spain
Whether you’re visiting on a day trip or spending a night or three, you’ll be spoiled for options when it comes to things to do in Grazalema Spain. And not all of them involve sweaty, exhausting hikes up very steep hills.
Visit the Plaza de España
This lovely plaza has been officially classified as a “Site of Historical Importance”. Surrounded by friendly, affordable bars and restaurants, it is kept notably clean and tidy and stands out as one of the most pleasant plazas in the white villages.
Wander the Old Town Streets
Grazalema has a beautiful (if small) set of old streets extending out in a bit of a maze from the main square. Expertly restored and featuring the wrought-iron windows and colourful flowers that stand out impressively against the white backdrop, these narrow streets are a pleasure to wander, even if a couple of them are a bit on the steep side.
One of the benefits of spending the night in Grazalema was the opportunity to explore the town first thing in the morning, with beautiful early sunshine before the streets got busier.
Unlike some of the pueblos blancos that retain a more, shall we say, weathered look, you can tell that Grazalema makes a specific effort to keep their streets and buildings neat and clean.
Check out the Churches
Plaza de España is home to a pair of terrific churches. Iglesia de la Aurora took 40 years to complete in the late 18th century and is notable for its understated stone façade and three eye-catching pinnacles.
Iglesia de la Encarnacion is much newer but equally photogenic. Meanwhile, just off the square you’ll find a third in the Iglesia de San Juan. This 18th century church is no longer in use but is still worth a look for its interesting location on the site of an old mosque.
Finally, Iglesia de San Jose is the former home of a Carmelite convent. It can be found up in the upper town area and boasts a set of beautiful gardens.
Find the Fountains
Rumour has it there are 11 different fountains scattered throughout town (although we came up well short of that number in our wandering). The interesting focus on fountains seems a bit like an attempt to create a silver lining out of all that rain (besides the lush scenery, of course).
Of the ones we found, our favourites were the 4-pointed Fuente Plaza de España which, not surprisingly, is located just off the main square.
Another one worth checking out is the crumbling Visigoth fountain near the river. Or is it? You be the judge.
See the Views from the Grazalema Miradores
There are 6 unique viewpoints looking down on the valley (along with the standard nice views pretty much everywhere):
Puerto del Boyar is about 3 km west of town on the highway to El Bosque on a high mountain pass (1,100m) with incredible views of Grazalema and the valley. There are picnic tables and water fountains.
Puerto de las Palomas is 5 km north on the road to Zahara de la Sierra and features amazing views of Alcornocales Natural Park. Vultures are often spotted here.
El Tajo is a large terrace with expansive views, plus a restaurant and swimming pool.
The Mirador de Grazalema is a good picnic area close to the Plaza Asomadero.
El Calvario and Corazon de Jesus – both start from same place (east end of town 500m uphill from the parking lot) and climb for 500m (distance, not elevation) to the ruins of an 18th century church and/or a statue of Jesus.
There isn’t much left of the church (from town it actually just looks like an arch, and there isn’t a whole lot more in person) but the views are nice from both spots.
Tour the Fabrica de Mantas (Blanket Factory)
The gorgeous, colourful “Mantas de Grazalema” rugs and blankets are highly regarded throughout Spain. Local sheep’s wool is used to create these traditional masterpieces.
If you want to find out more, there is both a free museum (El Museo de Artesanía Textil) and the building where the products are produced. They offer free tours on weekdays and they don’t apply any sales pressure the way some “museums” do. So if you are looking for some of the well known Grazalema blankets, this is the place to go.
8 am to 2 pm / 3 pm to 6:30 pm Monday to Thursday
8 am to 2 pm Fridays
Closed Sat / Sun
Walk the Calzada Medieval (Roman Road)
There was a time (long, long ago) when the Calzada Medieval was Grazalema’s only connection to the outer world. Not so much anymore, but although there have been some minor repairs done over the years it still looks surprisingly similar to the way it did when the Romans first built it. You can get a good look at it heading off into the distance from a spot in behind the tourist office.
Try out the Cycling Routes
If hiking is simply too slow for you (or you have a deep love of lycra), not to worry, there is a lot of great biking in the area as well. The most famous bike route in Andalusia is the award-winning Via Verde de la Sierra. 36 kilometres long with over 1,200 metres of elevation gain, it is a bit of a workout. However, since it is built on an old railway line there are no particularly steep sections.
The Via Verde de la Sierra, which essentially means “green route of the mountains”, refers to the small section of the original rail line between Olvera and Puerto Serrano. While the trail can be done in either direction, it is more downhill than up if you start in Olvera. Going both there and back is certainly possible but plan for a long day.
Meanwhile, the extremely exhausting route up to Puerto de las Palomas is only recommended for very fit, experienced bikers. Those with the time and energy, however, will be rewarded with stupendous views from several of the highest spots in the Sierra de Grazalema.
If you don’t have your own wheels, you can rent bikes or book a tour with Grazalema Cycling Adventures. They have road bikes, mountain bikes and even hybrid e-bikes (suddenly that high pass sounds a lot more possible, doesn’t it?). Of course, they also provide helmets, accessories, maps and even pre-programmed GPS computers.
Explore the Caves
Cueva del Gato just outside nearby Benaoján is one of the best caves in Spain, filled with huge lakes and a maze of smaller caverns. When we visited it was only possible to reach the edge of the main opening unless you were on a guided tour. You probably want to check the latest situation before heading there.
Meanwhile, Cueva la Pileta, 4 km south of Benaojan, has been classified as a Spanish National Monument for almost a century, earning the honour in 1923 because of its famous array of Stone Age cave paintings.
There are bulls (of course), horses (makes sense), goats (sure), bison (interesting) and even a seal (a little more confusing). The most famous paintings are “the pregnant mare” and, despite its simple name, “the fish”.
Of course, it also has all the usual cave-like highlights – stalagmites, stalactites, bat guano, etc. There are 5-6 tours per day (€8 adults / €5 kids) offered by the Bullón family that discovered the paintings way back in 1905 (one can assume these are their descendants, not the original spelunkers).
Take a Dip in the Pool
The Grazalema pool is one of the first things you see arriving from the east, located just off the road with amazing views out over the town and foothills. In summer, you can even buy drinks and snacks from the on-site bar.
Buy Local Products
Like many pueblos blancos, Grazalema is known for excellent cured meats (jamon serrano) as well as local Payoyo cheese, honey and dried fruit. One of the best places to shop for a delicious Grazalema souvenir is Sabores de Grazalema, next to the bull statue just off the Plaza de España.
Visit other White Villages
One of the best parts of Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema is the extraordinary variety of the landscape, with imposing mountains, lush gorges and beautiful blue lakes around every corner. We spent nearly a week exploring the area by car and, as great as the pueblos blancos were, we probably loved the scenery along the road even more.
For an overview of our road trip, check out 12 Spectacular Pueblos Blancos in Andalucia
Map of the Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia
Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)
As for the other villages, well, consider yourself spoiled for choice:
Ronda is both the largest town in the region and the crown jewel of the pueblos blancos with its stunning El Tajo gorge and fabulous Puente Nuevo (New Bridge).
Check out Ronda: A Guide to Spain’s Best Pueblo Blanco
Zahara de la Sierra features an impressive Moorish castle on top of a huge, rocky hill located next to a beautiful blue lake.
Setenil de las Bodegas is famously built under a massive rock, making it extremely unique among all these hilltop fortress and soaring views.
Olvera has some of the best viewpoints in the area from its impressive castle.
Check out Olvera: A Guide to the Pueblo Blanco with the Best Viewpoints
Arcos de la Frontera is all about the arches, many obvious and others hidden in the least likely spots.
Jerez de la Frontera is the sherry and flamenco capital of Andalusia. So if those are things you are into, Jerez is a must-see. If not, well, it’s still a very beautiful place (and much larger than most other towns on this list).
Villamartín is another relatively large white town that is spread out across both sides of a tall hill. It has the obligatory whitewashed buildings and some architectural highlights including Topete Mansion and Matrera Castle.
Algodonales boasts an impressive location next to the Sierra de Lijar mountains and is famous for a) having the largest hang-gliding school in Andalucia and b) making great guitars. I kid you not.
Pretty Casares is close to the Costa del Sol and is considered the gateway to the white villages. It also features a photogenic castle atop a rocky outcropping, a griffon vulture colony and a fun via ferrata.
Of all the amazing white villages we visited, Vejer de la Frontera was our favourite. Great vibe, beautiful place and the nicest main square in Andalusia.
Other small pueblos blancos to consider visiting are Medina-Sidonia (understated elegance) and Villaluenga del Rosario (an awesome little bull ring and fantastic cheese).
History of Grazalema
Grazalema started out as a Berber settlement founded by 8th century Moors who were thrilled at its similarities to the mountainous homes they had left behind. Originally named Rais Lami Suli, then Hijo de Zulema, then Grand Zulema, eventually mutating to Grazalema well after the Christian conquest in 1485.
For centuries of Moorish occupation, Grazalema was known for producing wool ponchos and blankets, an industry that became big business from the 17th to 19th centuries and still continues (on a much smaller scale) today. It was this textile heyday that funded the construction of most of the churches in town.
Festivals and Events in Grazalema
The last Sunday of May the Romeria de San Isidro includes a procession from Grazalema to the Ribera de Gaidovar valley.
The Velada del Carmen takes place during the third week of July and features a procession, flamenco music, fireworks and the infamous Lunes de Toro de Cuerda, their version of the Running of the Bulls. We haven’t seen it live but the video I watched was baffling.
The bull is released into town with a rope already on it, then the “brave” men are tasked with leading it all the way through town. Of course, this gets tricky because the bull generally doesn’t like to be led anywhere, let alone by a bunch of half-drunk wannabe conquistadores, so repeatedly turns on his captors, sending them fleeing in panic.
Until they sneak up and get their hands on the rope again and… repeat. For some reason.
The Fiestas Mayores at the end of August is the main annual festival of Grazalema with live music and a carnival.
In September, the Festival of the Virgen de los Angeles features an atmospheric nighttime procession of the town’s patron saint to the Hermitage.
Finally, one of the most famous festivals in the entire province of Cadiz is Sangre y Amor en la Sierra (Blood and Love in the Mountains)in honour of the famous 19th century bandit, Jose Maria “El Tempranillo”, known as the “Andalusian Robin Hood”. The first weekend of October, hundreds of locals dress in period costumes to participate in a recreation of his life and heroic resistance against the rich.
Where to Eat in Grazalema
The Payoyo cheese made from local sheep and goat milk is legendary, and Grazalema also has excellent honey, cured meats and meat stews. It is also worth trying tagarnina (golden thistle), a scrambled egg concoction featuring asparagus (of all things).
We particularly enjoyed eating at the “Little Square” as it was described to us. Just off the Plaza de España, it is a small square filled with restaurants and bars. It’s a great location to just relax and enjoy open air dining.
El Torreon is a charming place just off this square with a friendly atmosphere and reasonably priced entrees.
For a fun bar and some tapas check out Kiboca.
If you want a meal right on the Plaza de España you can’t go wrong with Casa Martin 1920, a pretty Mediterranean restaurant.
Finally, one of the best places to try out the local tagarnina is at Meson el Simancon on the main road into town. It is a is a simple, traditional restaurant with a friendly atmosphere.
Where to Stay: Grazalema Hotels
Puerta de la Villa is a 4-star option located right off the Plaza de España. There is a pool, gym and outstanding mountain views.
Hotel Fuerte Grazalema is about 5 km out of town but is the largest hotel in the area. It has amazing views, a swimming pool and even a petting zoo for kids (or adults who also like to pet small, fuzzy animals).
We stayed at Casa Rural – Villa Grazalema with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and comfortable living room spread over two levels. It was right in the middle of town, about a 5-minute walk to the square. It was a great deal for 3 people but keep in mind that it doesn’t have wifi.
La Mejorana features a lovely garden with a pool and terraces with excellent views at true budget prices.
Villa Turistica is a nice option just out of town. It has all the usual stuff, a good restaurant, nice pool and terrific mountain views roughly a 15-minute walk from the Plaza de España.
How to Get to Grazalema Spain
Grazalema is easily accessible from Seville, Cádiz, Malaga, Gibraltar, Córdoba and Granada, each of which have international airports. With so many great towns and villages in the area we highly recommend renting a car for at least a few days to cover more ground and set your own schedule. We find Discover Cars usually have the best deals in the area.
If you are relying on public transportation there are occasional buses between Ronda, Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra.
And Ronda is on the main RENFE rail line between Bobadilla and Algeciras, so that is an option to reach the area.
Nearby Main Centres by Car:
Grazalema is a 40-minute drive from Ronda, the main centre of the region and the closest airport. It is also easily accessible from Seville, Cadiz, Malaga, Gibraltar and Granada, all of which have international airports.
Cádiz to Grazalema: 120 km / 1.5 hrs
Seville to Grazalema: 120 km / 1.75 hrs
Check out our guide to the Best Things to Do in Seville
Malaga to Grazalema: 130 km / 2 hrs
Gibraltar to Grazalema: 145 km / 2.5 hrs
Granada to Grazalema: 205 km / 2.75 hrs
Nearby pueblos blancos:
Zahara de la Sierra to Grazalema: 15 km / 30 min
Algodonales to Grazalema: 25 km / 30 min
Ronda to Grazalema: 35 km / 40 min
Setenil de las Bodegas to Grazalema: 30 km / 45 min
Villamartín to Grazalema: 40 km / 45 min
Olvera to Grazalema: 40 km / 45 min
Arcos de la Frontera to Grazalema: 50 km / 50 min
Jerez de la Frontera to Grazalema: 80 km / 75 min
Medina-Sidonia to Grazalema: 110 km / 1.5 hrs
Vejer de la Frontera to Grazalama: 150 km / 2 hrs
The best parking area is the large lot overlooking the valley just before the Plaza de España (marked with a large blue “P”). Or if you continue past the plaza and then head to the right up the hill toward the El Tajo mirador you will find a second, smaller lot.
Grazalema gets the most rain of anywhere in the region (2,200mm per year) with the tall peaks catching the rain clouds as they drift in off the ocean. Luckily, however, most of it falls between November and April so from late spring until late fall you have a great chance of dry weather.
Andalusia, as a whole, gets very hot in summer, which is good for beaches and water sports but may be a bit warm for hiking or sightseeing. At least it almost never rains. July and August are the hottest (35C+) but June and September also regularly see 30C+ temperatures.
Winters are relatively mild with daily high and low averages ranging from about 4C to 15C but there is a lot more rain at this time.
The best times to visit Grazalema are in spring and fall, with May and October both boasting perfect 20-25C daytime highs and much less rain than the winter months.
One of the most unique of the Andalusian pueblos blancos, Grazalema sits tucked prettily into a lush green valley surrounded by fabulous mountains. And, although this white town has plenty of attractions among its whitewashed buildings and narrow streets, it really stands apart for all the amazing hiking trails in the area. For a deep dive into the hikes of the Parque Natural Sierra de la Grazalema, this is the best place to base yourself.
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