On leaving the coast behind in El Puerto de Santa Maria and heading back into the mountains, we were going to head to a site in Olvera, but at the last minute I spotted a free motorhome service area shortly before Olvera in a little town called Algodonales, about 20 miles north of Ronda. Not only free but with electricity included – seemed too good to be true? It wasn’t! We ended up staying 4 nights 🙂
Once parked up we became aware of lots of music that seemed to emanate from the town itself, which was about a 10 minute walk away. We also spotted a number of walkers heading that way; so we decided that we should head into town ourselves. It’s quite a steep climb past chickens, building yards, lemon & orange groves and numerous streams.
The noise escalated as we neared the main square, where we found a finishing tunnel and an announcer with a microphone welcoming runners (and walkers) back on finishing the Viboras Trail (a run/hike up into the mountains and back – see below).
- The route of the Algodonales Víboras Trail (which translates literally as “Cotton Snakes Trail) is a homage by us to one of the most testing routes in Andalusia. At 16 km in length and 916 meters of accumulated ascent, this route is a level three, and is a speciality trip that can only be accessed by club members. https://xcmag.com/travel-guide/guide-to-algodonales-spain/
We sat at a bar (very busy but we still managed to sit after a few minutes) and enjoyed a drink while watching these amazing people returning from their latest challenge 🙂
On the way back to the van we could see a white town in the distance. We thought we might cycle there in the morning, but then we looked on Google maps and saw how far it actually was! Back at the motorhome area the paragliders, that we’d spotted jumping off the mountain when we first arrived, started arriving back at site – there were a fair few of them. And they knew how to party! Before going back out the next day of course 🙂
In the morning we wandered back up to the town square, which was totally transformed back into a normal square, had another quick drink before we headed off for the white village that we could see in the distance (with it’s castle). This turned out to be Zahara de la Sierra, which was quite possibly the most charming place we visited during our trip. Located on a beautiful reservoir with a castle perched high on the hill overlooking a haphazard collection of churches and white buildings ranged along it’s, extremely, narrow streets and quaint squares, I really can’t recommend a visit highly enough.
We drove through these narrow streets and squares to find somewhere to park at the base of the castle, and then followed a steep path some way up the hill (all the way to the top in fact) to visit the castle, before heading down into the town itself, visiting a couple of churches and then having a spot of lunch in El Rincon de la Ermita – actually the best meal we were served in Spain (very simple – a salad for Calv; which we shared, and bull meat croquettes for me; which we shared), and, if you did happen to sit inside, an amazing view from the restaurant windows.
We drove some way around the reservoir looking to see if you could stop overnight (nowhere was really close enough to the water to warrant it), before finding a place where you could get close to the water (by a restaurant), but couldn’t stay.
Having seen all the paragliders flying around and having them around the service area we were determined to find the launch point. We spent most of the next day driving around mountain roads (some of which were barely roads at all) trying to find our way around the mountain looking for the Mirador Levante. To no avail unfortunately, so we visited Olvera instead, which had the added bonus of a Mercadona (Algodonales has only a poorly stocked Dia store).
We made our usual mistake though of visiting during siesta, so nothing was open for us to explore properly! We were limited to taking photos.
That evening we again spoke to a couple of the paragliders and nailed down our route to the mirador, where we headed the next day. Success! Finally 🙂 We found Mirador Levante , from where we could see many of the paragliders but there were none actually taking off (just a couple coming back to retrieve one of their vehicles). So we moved back to Mirador Poniente where there was much more activity. We positioned ourselves out of the way and watched all the take-offs, the near take-offs, the students being shown the ropes and the experienced fliers circling around. Lovely to watch. Not so sure I’d want to have a go myself though!
All in all we really enjoyed our time in Algodonales and would quite happily have stayed longer, but thought we’d better move on. Our next stop was towards Antequera. We stayed in Humilladero, just north of the city. When I write about this I will tell you about El Torcal, a must visit natural feature near Antequera 🙂