Located in a high valley over 800m in the Sierra del Endrinal and dominated by the magnificent rocky outcrop known as Peñon Grande, the pretty mountain village of Grazalema is most popular base for visitors to the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. The park is a vast protected area of rugged limestone mountains, which are famous for being the rainiest place in Spain. These high levels of precipitation account for the verdant vegetation in the surrounding countryside.
The limestone peaks of 1,500m around Grazalema are the first barriers that clouds from the Atlantic meet, causing plentiful rainfall. A unique microclimate has developed where a wide range of flora flourishes, such as the rare Spanish fir (pinsapo) that grows in the Sierra de Pinar close to Grazalema.
Grazalema is a lively village whose population of 2,250 swells hugely with the influx of visitors to the park. Its steep, cobbled streets are immaculately kept and are lined by whitewashed houses with windows covered by wrought-iron rejas and plant pots spilling over with colourful flowers. It was famously described in the 1950s by the British anthroplogist Julian Pitt-Rivers in his study, People of the Sierra.
Plaza de España
In the heart of the village is an attractive main square, the Plaza de España, lined with bars and restaurants. On this square is Grazalema´s central sight, the 18th-century church of La Aurora. Also here is the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) and the parish church, the Iglesia de la Encarnación. Up Calle Mateos Gago from the square is the 17th-century Iglesia de San José, a former Carmelite convent with paintings by a disciple of Murillo. Close to the church is a viewpoint that looks out over the village.
If you're here in summer, go for a dip in the town's pool, on the eastern edge of the village by the road to El Bosque, where there are some superb panoramic views over Grazalema and the Sierra.
The tourist office is on Plaza de España, 956 132 225, and has information on walks (including permits needed for certain routes), the park and local accommodation. It also sells maps and locally produced handicrafts, such as leatherwork, ceramics and blankets, as well as honey, wine and cheese. You can also find out about companies based in Grazalema that offer activities in the park, like rock climbing, mountain biking, pot-holing, horse riding and guided visits.
The village was established in Moorish times by Berber settlers who discovered a striking similarity with the mountains of their homeland and those of the Sierra de Grazalema. They introduced sheep to graze the lush mountain pastures and produced wool for ponchos and blankets to guard against the wet climate. In 1485 the Duke of Arcos conquered the Moors in Grazalema but the cottage industry of producing woollen blankets - the renowned mantas de Grazalema - continued, reaching its peak in the 17th and 19th centuries, when wealth from textile manufacturing helped to fund the construction of the village´s churches.
Grazalema still has vestiges of this industry today, with one workshop still in operation making woollen blankets, rugs, ponchos and scarves, which are exported all over the world. Visit the Artesanía-Textil de Grazalema, 956 132 008, a workshop on the Ronda road where you can see looms and carding machines and buy blankets and other textiles in the shop. Other locally produced handicrafts include baskets and leatherwork.
In mid-July, around the Virgen del Carmen fiesta day of 16 July, the village holds its annual fiesta, with flamenco music, fireworks and a procession, culminating in an exciting mini-Pamplona, where a bull is released to charge through the streets.
If you want to taste some of the village's best local produce, pay a visit to Sabores de Grazalema, just off the main square, next to the bull statue. The small store is a treasure trove of Spanish hams and other cured meats, along with fruit conserves and chutneys and even honey from the Sierra de Grazalema.
There are several hotels in the village itself. On Plaza Pequeña is the four-star Puerta de la Villa, with a swimming pool, jacuzzi and gym; ask for a room with a mountain view. Opposite on the same square is the two-star Peñon Grande. La Mejorana relaxed guest House is in a quieter location.
Just north of the village is the Villa Turística with wonderful views and a hotel, self-catering cottages, restaurant and a swimming pool. Overlooking the village set in cork oak woodland is the larger four-star Hotel Fuerte Grazalema located on the A-372 to Ronda at Km 53. The town´s campsite, Camping Tajo Rodillo, is just above the village on the A-372 at Km 49.
Hotels in and near Grazalema
Book hotels in and near Grazalema
Walking guide books by Guy Hunter Watts
Buy walking guide books by Guy Hunter Watts
"Walking in Andalucia" by Guy Hunter Watts
Walking in Andalucía is a 260 page full colour guide to some of the very best walks in southern Spain, taking the walker on 34 routes - all starting and most finishing in beautiful villages - in the Natural Parks of Grazalema, La Alpujarra, Cazorla, Los Alcornocales, Aracena, and La Axarquia. Many of the full and half day walks are virtually unknown even though they are a short drive from the Costa del Sol. Even though more and more people are beginning to walk Spain's southern sierras, most of the routes remain blissfully undiscovered. Guy says, 'If you decide to head for the hills with my guide you can be sure of two things: you will be walking through areas of great natural beauty and you will meet with other walkers.'
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers Walking in Andalucia.
"Coastal walks in Andalucia" by Guy Hunter Watts
45 great coastal walks close to Andalucia's Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. Discover the best hiking trails close to Vejer, Caños de Meca, Conil, Tarifa, Bolonia, Gibraltar, Casares, Estepona, Marbella, Istán, Mijas, Benalmádena, Alhaurín, Cómpeta, Fuengirola, Nerja, Maro and Almuñecar. Talk to most people about the coast of Andalucía and they’ll picture the small swathe of seaboard that runs from Torremolinos to Estepona, the heartland of what is commonly sold as the Costa del Sol. First associations are of crowded beaches, busy coastal roads and blocks of holiday apartments. Few amongst them will conjure up visions of the mighty chain of mountains, the tail end of the Sierra Subbética, which rises up a few kilometres back from the sea. Nor do they tend to evoke the wilder beaches of the Costa de la Luz or the footpaths that run just a few metres from the Atlantic surf.
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers Coastal Walks in Andalucia.
"The Andalucian coast to coast walk " by Guy Hunter Watts
A stunning 21 day, 435 kilometre trail that links the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. The walk passes through six of Andalucia's Natural Parks and protected areas via its most beautiful mountain villages. Far more than a long walk, this on-foot odyssey can lead you to the heart of southern Spain's magnificent sierras and on a life-changing journey of discovery. One of the best things about the simple act of walking is the sense of reconnecting with Nature and the Big Wide World. We've been moving around on two feet for a very long time yet still, in the simple act of putting one foot in front of the next and moving across landscape, it seems that we reassert our identity. Day to day worries fall into insignificance, or rather true significance, when we get out into the mountains and walking is about a lot more than taking exercise.
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers The Andalucian Coast-to-coast Walk.
"Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema" by Guy Hunter Watts
The dramatically situated town of Ronda can make a great base for a walking holiday in the mountains of Andalucía, as can any one of the picturesque 'pueblos blancos' (white villages) that nestle among the surrounding hills. This guidebook presents 32 mainly circular walks in the Ronda region, covering the town and its environs, the Natural Parks of La Sierra de Grazalema and La Sierra de las Nieves (both UNESCO biosphere reserves), and the Genal and Guadiaro Valleys. Clear route description is illustrated with mapping, and the route summary table and 'at a glance' information boxes make it easy to choose the right walk.
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema.