Cortes de la Frontera
Sandwiched between the Alcornocales natural park and Sierra de Grazalema natural park in the far western reaches of Malaga province is the pueblo blanco (white town) of Cortes de la Frontera. It is in a superb vantage point overlooking the sweeping Guadiaro valley below, with a spectacular backdrop of the Serranía de Ronda mountains.
Dominating the landscape around the town are extensive woods of cork trees (alcornocales) that stretch from the Guadiaro river westwards, to where the municipal boundary meets Cadiz province, and beyond. Cork has contributed greatly to the local economy since the late 17th century. Cortes used to be one of the richest pueblos blancos because of cork production and evidence of this wealth can still be seen today in the grand 18th-century mansions lining the main street.
Covering over 170km², Cortes is one of the largest municipalities in Malaga province. The town of Cortes has a population of around 4,500 and is located at 623m.
The Phoenicians were the first to arrive, in the 11th century BC, followed by the Greeks and Romans, the remains of whose settlement are a few kilometres outside town in Cortes El Viejo, in the Sierra de la Blanquilla. Scattered around the Cortes municipality are also vestiges of their aqueducts, bridges and monuments. The Romans gave the town the name of Cortex, meaning protection or defence.
Under the Moors, Cortes was controlled in different periods by the kingdoms of Seville, Granada and Ronda. It was briefly conquered by the Christian king, Fernando III, in the 13th century before reverting back to the Moorish control. The Christians led by the Marquis of Cadiz, Rodrigo Ponce de León, only regained power over Cortes at the very end of the Catholic reconquest, in 1485.
AyuntamientoMany buildings in Cortes date from the 18th-century, the most prominent of these being the elegant sandstone Town Hall building, with a neo-classical façade, which was constructed in 1784.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario
One of several other buildings are from the same period.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario
Casa de los Valdenebros (1763)
Casa Parroquial (1700)
These are other buildings in Cortes are also from this period.
Casa de Piedra
A local curiosity; a Stone House that is a rock that was carved out in Moorish times.
Plaza de Toros
The bullring was built in 1894 and restored in 1921. With a 1,000-strong capacity, the bullring is one of the largest in the Serranía de Ronda. Its size is a reflection of Cortes's strong tradition of cattle rearing (the town's annual feria features a cattle fair), as are its various and well-established bullfighting fiestas.
outside the village
A few kilometres out of town at Los Castillos is the Torre de Paso, a 13th-century defensive tower constructed by the Moors to guard the Gaucín-Ubrique road.
In La Sauceda recreation area in the Alcornocales Natural Park is a campsite with cabins to rent and is a good base for walking in the park.
There are three youth hostels in the area. The Albergue Juvenil El Parador on Avenida de la Democracia enjoys superb views of the Sierra de los Pinos and the Guadiaro valley. Located in Mediterranean woodland in the Alcornocales park 6km from town, the Albergue Juvenil de Cortes is on the Villamartín-Puerto del Espino road at Km 51.6. The third, the Albergue Juvenil Las Camaretas, is located next to the municipal swimming pool and also has a campsite and cabins to rent.
Cortes has a good selection of restaurants, bars and bodegas where you can sample local fare, such as Mesón Alameda on Plaza Carlos III with outdoor tables and Mesón Los Alcornocales, offering typical serrano dishes. Try the Cortes speciality of veal, ternera cortesana. In the autumn, look out for fresh game such as jabalí (wild boar) on menus in the town's restaurants. Also available is locally produced cheese, honey and cured ham.
As it is located between two stunning natural parks, Cortes is in the heart of excellent walking country. The longest route is the sendero (walk) of the Llanos de Líbar on the edge of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. Despite its length of 19km, it covers a shallow gradient, crossing the gently rolling flood plain (llano) of the Guadiaro river between Cortes and Montejaque. It takes around seven hours.
You can also walk along the Guadiaro river to the Cañón de las Buitreras Natural Monument, an impressive gorge with a colony of griffon vultures (buitres). However, the gorge's steep sides, train tunnels and a lack of a clear track or footpath to follow through the woods mean that it is easy to get lost, whichever of the three access routes to the gorge you take. It is close to the village of El Colmenar, near the Buitreras hydroelectric power station.
From the picnic area of La Sauceda in the Alcornocales Natural Park west of Cortes is a more difficult walk to the Pico del Aljibe (1,091m). On the last stretch of the walk to the Aljibe peak it's easy to get lost because there is no track or path through the dense forest.
Other activities in the cork forests and in the mountains of the Serranía de Ronda around Cortes include birdwatching, horseriding, potholing and mountain biking.
Cueva de la Pileta
Between Cortes and Benaoján on the MA501 is a cave, the Cueva de la Pileta, famous for its prehistoric rock paintings.
If you visit in June, don't miss the town's two colourful romerías (pilgrimages); at the beginning of the month is the Romería de la Virgen del Rosario, where the Virgin of the Rosary statue from the church is paraded through the streets, and the Romería del Caballo held in mid-June, which is dedicated to horses.
Feria de San Roque & San Sebastián
The town's annual summer fiesta, the Feria de San Roque and San Sebastián, is a riotous occasion celebrating the town's patron saints on 23-27 August. The most exciting event is the release of a bull (known as the toro del aguardiente) into the streets, as well as a cattle fair, dances and contests. For flamenco aficionados, there is a fandango named after the town: the fandango de Cortes.
Contact the town hall on 952 154 000. There is a visitors' centre for the Sierra de Grazalema on Avenida de la Democracia, 952 154 599, with information on both Grazalema and the Alcornocales natural parks. It also has exhibitions on cork and hunting. It's open from Thursday to Sunday and on public holidays.
"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. There is the option to buy a printed book, an eBook, or both as one deal.
Buy a copy online of Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema