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White Villages and Ronda Day Trip From Seville

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas

While Cordoba will always be the top day-trip option from Seville, there is another wonderful excursion you can make that will open up an entirely new perspective to you on southern Spain. Known as the White Villages, these small to mid-sized hill towns offer a unique experience filled with authentic Andalusian culture.

We were privileged to spend a glorious day exploring a number of these gems, and I must say it is a much different experience than spending a day in the region's trusted foundations of Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, and Granada.

Ronda

Ronda

How to Get There

Known as the White Villages due to their whitewashed walls with colorful brown and red roofs these communities are somewhat off the beaten track, and that is definitely part of their attraction. Located primarily to the southeast of Seville, you will have a few options available to you for how to visit this area. We decided to hire a driver for the day and I must say it worked out well.

Personal Tip: Consider Hiring a Driver

While I usually look forward to driving in foreign countries and would have relished the thought of spending a day cruising through southern Spain, I relegated the task to our trusted driver, guide, and friend, Paul McGrath. Paul is an Australian who has been living in Seville for close to 20 years and he has embraced this region to the fullest. He is an explorer at heart and with his native English is the perfect mate to take along on a road trip. Paul knows every stop, every nook, and every corner of this beautiful region and he did not disappoint.

One of the great advantages of using a driver is that for those of us who have a tendency to drive and sightsee at the same time—yes that’s me—it eliminates the driving burden so you can actually enjoy the beautiful countryside.

white-villages-and-ronda-day-trip-from-seville

So, should you have a free day while in Seville and desire to see the White Villages you have three options: You can rent a car and do-it-yourself, you can seek out a group tour, of which I’m sure there are many (we did see tour buses during the day), or you can hire a private driver for the day.

Renting a vehicle certainly gives you the flexibility to set your own schedule and do as you please, but you do all of the driving and planning. A group tour will have a very defined day set out for you where you will have no flexibility, but someone else does all the work for you. And, hiring a driver really gives you the flexibility to plan your day while having someone else do the driving. All three options have their advantages and I’ll let you decide what is best for you.

Driving Times

Seville to Olvera: Approximately 90 minutes

Olvera to Setenil de las Bodegas: 25 minutes

Setenial to Ronda: 25 minutes

Ronda to Grazalema: 45 minutes

Grazalema to Zahara de la Sierra: 30 minutes

Zahara to Seville: 80 minutes

This adds up to about 5 hours of driving time. If you spend an hour to 90 minutes in each of the villages it’s a 10 to 12 hour day. Of course, this can be tweaked and adjusted to meet your particular needs. Perhaps you’ll want to make fewer stops and spend more time in the villages you visit?

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra

What to Expect

We started our day at 9 am, and given that it’s a roughly 90-minute journey to the area around the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park it is best to get an early start. You can expect this to be a full day so plan on getting back to Seville no sooner than 7 pm to 8 pm at the earliest.

The Sierra de Grazalema is the region of mountains that is home to a number of the White Villages, and the mountains combined with the picturesque villages make this a photographer's dream. While you can visit as many or as few of the villages as you want, and in any order you desire, we followed the advice of our guide, Paul, and began the day in the small village of Olvera.

View from Olvera on a foggy morning

View from Olvera on a foggy morning

Olvera

This tiny village with a population of under 9,000 was the first of the White Villages that we visited. The morning fog was stubbornly hanging on and obstructed what would have been a stunning view looking over a vast expanse of olive groves that dot the countryside. The pinnacle of Olvera is the Our Lady of the Incarnation Church that is perched next to the Arabic Castle above the town. The church was damaged in a fire in 2004 and sadly has not been renovated yet due to a lack of funds. But, the vantage point here is superb and you are within walking distance to the castle should you wish to explore this 13th-century fortress, designed to give strategic advantage to its occupants. Famous for its olive oils, Olvera is the perfect entryway to the regions other White Villages that lie further to the south.

Olvera

Olvera

Olvera

Olvera

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas is probably the most unique village that you will visit on this tour. Setenil is built into, under, and on top of the rugged, rocky hills of the area. Many of the houses, cafes, and shops here were simply carved out of the stone and existing caves and they make for a fascinating experience. The Trejo River runs through the town with many houses and shops occupying the walls of the river gorge. Setenil de las Bodegas is very small with just over 3,000 residents and as you walk along its rock covered streets you can’t help but wonder if that mountain of stone above you might someday come crashing down. While it is famous for its meat products, especially its sausage, we found a wonderful ceramics shop and picked up a beautiful handmade bowl.

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas

I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!

— George Orwell

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas

Ronda

Ronda is probably the most visited of the communities in southern Andalusia with its famous Puente Nuevo spanning the El Tajo Gorge. Carved by the Guadalevin River, the gorge divides Ronda into two parts, the El Mercadillo or newer part of the town, and La Ciudad, the old Moorish section. The Puente Nuevo, or New Bridge, was completed in 1793 and is the tallest of Ronda’s three bridges over the Guadalevin River, at 390 feet. Equally scenic views are available along the tree-lined promenade known as the Alameda del Tajo. As one of Ronda’s most popular gathering spots, its balcony over the gorge provides stunning views of the surrounding countryside and a great place to relax in the shade of its botanical garden. Also of interest, despite my disdain for the sport, is Spain’s oldest bullfighting ring that dates to 1784, and is located in the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. It was designed by architect Jose Martin Aldehuela, who happens to be the architect who also designed the amazing New Bridge over the gorge.

Ronda

Ronda

white-villages-and-ronda-day-trip-from-seville

Grazalema

One of the smallest of the White Villages we visited was the quaint and charming Grazalema. With just over 2,200 residents this sleepy mountain village is perhaps the prettiest that we visited with its cobblestone streets and colorful flower boxes adorning the whitewashed buildings. Find your way to the town’s main square, the Plaza de Espana, and visit the 18th century Church of La Aurora. From here you have a great view of the peaks that surround the village and provide a playground for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Be sure to spot the monument of the bull, a reminder of the local traditions here in southern Spain.

Grazalema

Grazalema

Grazalema

Grazalema

Zahara de la Sierra

The drive from Grazalema to Zahara is a spectacular ride as you traverse the mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. Zahara is perched above the man-made Zahara-el Gastor reservoir and the turquoise blue waters of the reservoir provide a dramatic background to an already stunning view. With the 13th-century Nasrid Castle perched at the pinnacle of Zahara, it begs to be explored as does the village with its white-washed buildings interspersed with colorful churches and vibrant flags. The Church of Santa Maria de la Mesa is worth a visit and is set in the Plaza Mayor, the main focal point of the village. The plaza has a wonderful terrace that provides stunning views of the reservoir and the beautiful countryside dotted with olive groves. It’s a wonderful place to just sit and relax with a coffee or drink and watch the world go by.

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra

From Zahara, it’s about an 80-minute drive back to Seville. Certainly, in planning a day trip to the White Villages you can pick and choose what you want to see and how long to spend in each village. And of course, depending on how you decide to travel will make a big difference in how much flexibility you have. The villages that we visited are clustered in and around the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and this is a beautiful region of Spain and certainly worth visiting if you want to see a quieter, more authentic side of Andalusia. I hope you enjoyed this tour of Spain’s fabled White Villages and it helps in planning your own adventure to southern Spain.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the cost of the trip to White Villages and Ronda from Seville?

Answer: It is 320 euro for a group of 4. We left at 9 a.m. and returned at about 7 p.m.

Question: How do you book this White Villages Tour and contact the driver/guide when traveling to Ronda?

Answer: You can contact Paul McGrath through his website.

http://theotherspain.galeon.com

His website will have his email address and that is how we communicated with him.

Question: We're going to Spain soon. We have a car and are a family of four (two adults and two teens) leaving from Jerez. Do we spend one-day White Villages or two days Seville? If villages, thinking Ronda, Setenil and maybe just one white village, like Arcos, Zahara, Grazalema or Olvera. We are sleeping in Seville.

Answer: I guess it all depends on what you want to see? The White Villages are wonderful, but involves a long day and a fair amount of driving. I would definitely want to see Ronda, followed by Setenil, and then maybe either Zahara or Grazalema. If the option is either spending a day seeing the White Villages or spending this day in Seville, that presents quite the dilemma. I say this because we loved Seville and you really need at least two days to see everything in Seville.

If the decision came down to spending a day driving the White Villages plus spending one day in Seville, or, spending two days in Seville, I would opt for the two days in Seville. It involves less running around, and you’ll have more time to really enjoy Seville, which is wonderful.

In a perfect scenario, I would figure out a way to do both, spend two full days in Seville, and then spend the third day touring the White Villages.

Question: We are traveling for only 3 days: 1. Tangier Morocco (kids voted for), 2. villages of Spain or Seville, 3. Seville. Is it difficult driving from Tangier to Seville?

Answer: It’s a lot of up and down driving. Some of the villages are in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, which is beautiful but has some pretty good Mountains. Beautiful area. The drive from Tangier to Seville looks to be about 5 hours so even if you just went straight to Seville you’ll only have a day and a half there? But, the White Villages are somewhat on the way there, so the temptation to stop is certainly there.

Tough call. The one thing I would caution against is trying to do everything, although that is exactly what I always do, lol. Maybe stop in just one or two villages on the way to Seville to get a feel.

© 2019 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 03, 2019:

Hi Numaveeya. Thank you, so glad it worked out for you. It's a beautiful region of Spain and Paul knows it as well as anyone.

Numaveeya on May 03, 2019:

My wife and I recently (first week of April) did a day tour of the white villages from Seville with Paul. The tour was great and we had a wonderful time visiting the white villages. Paul then dropped us at our hotel in Granada around 7.00 pm. Your blog was valuable in deciding in favor of the day trip and the day trip was worth it!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 11, 2019:

Hi Numaveeya. With unlimited time you could probably spend many hours in each of these villages. But, as the day is only so long obviously that is not possible. We spent about an hour in each village (little longer in a few of them), which was sufficient to walk around and see a few of the highlights and get a feel for the place. If you think perhaps you would like a little more time maybe cut one village so as to spend more time in the others. The problem becomes which one? Ronda is beautiful so that's a keeper. Setenil de las Bodegas, Grazalema, and Zahara are all also beautiful and so unique. Olvera was our first stop and it was foggy that morning so we didn't get to appreciate the beauty of the place.

I think between an hour and 90 minutes in each village, depending on the weather, would be a good day.

Numaveeya on February 11, 2019:

Your wonderful article is very helpful to me! I am planning a similar day trip of the white villages except that I will be going to Granada instead of coming back to Seville - Seville, Zahara de la Sierra, Grazalema, Setenil de las Bodegas, Ronda, Olvera, Granada. I would appreciate, given your experience of a similar day trip, if you could let me know how much time one needs to spend in each of these villages.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 07, 2019:

320 euro for a group of 4. It was all day, from about 9 am until approximately 7 pm.

Numaveeya on February 07, 2019:

What was the cost of the trip?

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 18, 2019:

I think the attitude toward bullfighting is changing in Spain. It's still done in some cities, but for the most part I think people want to see it end. My wife always tells me to not sight see and drive, but for me it's very difficult, so sometimes it's good to have a driver. Thanks for the comments, have a great weekend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 18, 2019:

You make me want to do even more travel to see the wonderful world with all its culture, people, natural beauty, history, and architecture. I've always been reluctant to travel to Spain because of the bullfighting (as you reference here), but it has so much to offer. Your travel articles are brilliant. My husband and dad have driven in other countries and were sightseers, photographers and drivers at the same time. Not a great ride from the back seat.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 12, 2019:

Hi Heidi. Thank you. Your snow is going to miss us here in New England this time. Thanks for stopping by, wish we were still in sunny Spain. Have a great weekend.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 12, 2019:

On a day when our village is white with snow, it's nice to see pics of these white villages in more sunny Spain. Thanks for the sharing the beauty, as always!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 09, 2019:

Thank you Liz. Ronda and the other White Villages were wonderful. We had a very enjoyable day and our driver was very good. Have a great day.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 09, 2019:

We have been to Ronda, which was spectacular. Our trip was via taxi from the coast at Estepona. As there were 4 of us it was reasonably cost-effective although our driver on the return took the downhill bends at speed. Thanks for adding these other villages to our list of places to go in a very interesting and informative article.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 08, 2019:

Thank you Linda. Setenil de las Bodegas, the village built into and under the mountain was really fascinating. We had a wonderful day exploring these small villages. Have a great day.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 07, 2019:

This is a very interesting article with great photos. The photo of the buildings under the mountain is especially interesting! I love learning about Europe by reading your articles,

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 07, 2019:

Thank you Natalie. It was a beautiful region of Spain, one that we were not overly familiar with. There really are so many hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered and explored. Thanks for stopping by, have a great week.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on January 07, 2019:

I've never heard of the White Villages but they look beautiful. If I'm ever lucky enough to be in that neck of the woods I'll definitely visit. The views are stunning and your photos really add to the article. Thanks for introducing me to them. Wonderful article!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 07, 2019:

Hi Mary. I tend to sight see while I drive, which scares the heck out of passengers, so this worked out well as I actually got to enjoy the scenery. I did wind up driving from Granada back to Madrid with a stop in Toledo and very much enjoyed that. Southern Spain really has so much to offer..

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 07, 2019:

That's a great idea to get a car with a driver as when we did it, my husband enjoyed the drive so much, he did not realize he was driving so fast, he got a speeding ticket. Still, we enjoyed the place so much.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 05, 2019:

Thank you Eman, glad you enjoyed the Hub. Southern Spain certainly is a beautiful place. Have a wonderful weekend.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on January 05, 2019:

A very interesting and informative article. I liked the photos so much

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 05, 2019:

Thanks Bill. Stay safe. Miserable day here also, pouring rain all day, thankfully it’s not snow. Have a great weekend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2019:

I always know I'm going to learn some really cool facts from your articles, and this one was no exception to the rule. Loved the photos, Bill.

Have a great weekend! We have a big wind storm for tonight; hopefully no trees drop on our heads. :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 04, 2019:

Thank you Peggy. We did see some amazing sites. And, yes, the decision to hire a driver was the right one as I got to enjoy the scenery as we drove through the country. Thanks for the pin, have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 04, 2019:

Hi Louise. Thank you. We loved southern Spain, just a beautiful place and a wonderful area to visit. Thanks for stopping by, have a nice weekend.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2019:

Oh my! Those are some spectacular sites you got to see, visit, and photograph. I think it was smart of you to hire a driver who could also function as your personal tour guide. Pinning this to my Spain board. Thanks for writing this wonderful article.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on January 04, 2019:

I have been to Ronda, it is such a beautiful place. My mother lives near Malaga, so have visited some beautiful places in Spain. It is such a lovely country to visit. I enjoyed reading about your travels.