White Villages and Ronda Day Trip From Seville

Updated on January 7, 2019
bdegiulio profile image

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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 photographers 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.

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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 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 | Source
Olvera
Olvera | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source
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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 | Source
Grazalema
Grazalema | Source

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 | Source
Zahara de la Sierra
Zahara de la Sierra | Source

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.

A
Seville:
Seville, Spain

get directions

B
Olvera:
11690 Olvera, Cádiz, Spain

get directions

C
Setenil de las Bodgas:
11692 Setenil de las Bodegas, Cádiz, Spain

get directions

D
Ronda:
29400 Ronda, Málaga, Spain

get directions

E
Grazalema:
11610 Grazalema, Cádiz, Spain

get directions

F
Zahara de la Sierra:
11688 Zahara de la Sierra, Cádiz, Spain

get directions

Questions & Answers

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      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 days ago from Massachusetts

        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 profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 days ago from USA

        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.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        10 days ago from Massachusetts

        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.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        10 days ago from Chicago Area

        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!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        13 days ago from Massachusetts

        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.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        13 days ago from UK

        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.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        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.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        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,

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        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 profile image

        Natalie Frank 

        2 weeks ago from Chicago, IL

        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!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        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..

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        2 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        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.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

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

      • Emmy ali profile image

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        2 weeks ago from Egypt

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

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

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

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        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. :)

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        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.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        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 W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        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.

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        2 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        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.

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