Anything But Paella

Zahara and Grazalema – NOT twin white villages

I began my trip to Andalucia expecting one white white village to look pretty much the same as any other. It was quite a surprise to find how far from the truth my expectations were. With Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema being so close together, they could perhaps have been twins. Instead I found them to be siblings at most, perhaps even cousins. Similar perhaps, but a long, long way from being identical.


Seen from the Embalse de Zahara it looked an intriguing place with white houses spread out below a castle-topped peak. The water in the reservoir really was THAT blue! We parked up on the edge of town with a spectacular view of the water and slowly climbed up the maze of whitewashed cobbled streets. It was quite steep in places but the views were well worth the effort. Eventually we reached a plaza with the usual quota of churches, and there was a display of birds of prey a little farther on. From there we climbed up to the ruined castle which was really nice to explore, even if it was starting to feel like a lung-busting climb by then. If spectacular vistas are your thing, you’ve got to go all the way up!!


From Zahar it’s only 20km to Grazalema but my, what a journey – 40 minutes of twists and turns on serpentine roads. What a drive! It’s ok for me because I love that sort of thing, but I know many people who wouldn’t enjoy it at all.


On arrival in Grazalema the biggest problem was finding somewhere to park. Despite the cloudy skies, every car park was bursting at the seams and we ended up parking a little way out of town near the tennis courts. After checking into the Hotel Penon Grande, which was lovely despite being opposite one of the many churches with persistently ringing bells, I managed to move the car and got to the nearby car park just as a day tripper was leaving!


Grazalema had a very different feel to it compared to Zahara. Once the mass of tourists had left it was lovely! We wandered around and found a few bars, disappointed by the lack of log fires despite the distinct chill in the air. Then we dined in style at the Meson El Simancón where mountain game was the order of the day. The venison and wild boar were fabulous and accompanied by some fine wine. You would expect no less, I’m sure!!


The next morning the sun was out and it was a beautiful place to be. Close to our hotel was a statue with a bull on a rope. It seems that in July Grazalema has its own bull run but here the bull is tethered. Does that make it any safer than Pamplona? Probably but judging by this article it would still be a pretty terrifying thing to do!

Bull Running in Grazalema

Grazalema turned out to be a wonderful place to stop over. Wandering through the streets, a lot of the local history is shared on tiled plaques if your Spanish is up to it. There’s even a great mirador on the edge of town where, if you are lucky, you will see the vultures soaring into the sky. It’s small enough for anyone to wander around and pretty enough for everyone to admire.




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