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White hill towns

Hi, I have read the forum about the white hill towns.
I would love anyone's feedback about my plan.
We would rent a car in Seville at 8:00 a.m. on 5/4/22 (wed).
I am thinking see Arcos (2 hours), then onto Grazalema (just to buy wool), then onto Zahara (time?), then onto Stenil de las Bodagas (time?).
Then spend the night in Ronda.
Next day, see the caves - Ceva de la Pileta) early and then Ronda.
Then drive to Malga.
Is this a reasonalble schedule?
Thanks so much for any ideas/input!!

Posted by
21039 posts

I haven't driven in Europe, much less in rural Andalucia, and I haven't even been to Zahara de la Sierra or Setenil de las Bodegas, so I don't know what is a reasonable amount of time for seeing those places. estimates total driving time for what you've laid out at just under 4 hours, but that excludes any stopping, traffic delays, navigational errors, looking for parking (5 times!) and walking from your parking place to what you actually want to see and later returning to your car. I remember a significant walk from the bus stop in Arcos up to the top of the town, and I don't know that you'd be able to park any closer than the bus stop. I'd say 2 hours is pretty minimal for Arcos, which isn't tiny. Don't forget that you'll need at least one meal somewhere along the way.

I'd suggest planning on Arcos and Grazalema for sure and playing Zahara and Setenil by ear. I wouldn't rush through the first two just so you can do the parking dance in the last two.

I haven't been to the cave, but VM says you'd have as little as 2-1/2 hours of driving time with that detour on your Ronda-Malaga day. From looking at the map I could see that Setenil is not all that far off the Ronda-Malaga route. VM says you could insert Setenil into the second day's itinerary at the cost of less than 30 minutes' extra driving time--so that gives you a second shot at Setenil.

There's quite a lot to see in Ronda, so you really need to think about your priorities. I wouldn't be thrilled about driving back into Ronda and looking for parking after seeing the cave, but if you have information that the cave tends to be crowded by mid-morning, your plan makes sense.

Posted by
8 posts

Hi, thank you for the quick response.
I see what you are saying.
What if:
I stayed in Ronda on day 2 until later in the day and did the caves at 4:00 p.m.
Then take the road from the caves to Estepona and then onto Marbella and Malga?
That way I would not back track.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Posted by
3988 posts

The distance between Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra is only 12 miles but will take you a half hour because of the road across the mountain. In Zahara there is a tower one can go into, but not much else. Then from Zahara to Setenil de la Bodegas will take 40 minutes. I’ve been told that an hour in Sentenil is sufficient. Ronda is 12 miles south of Setenil. A bit about the roads in that area. Most roads will be two lane with no shoulder with a speed limit of probably no more than 70kph/42mph. Some may have painted center lines, but don’t count on them. We had no trouble parking by the tower in Zahara, and there is a parking area by Cueva de la Pileta.

The cave is 15 miles from Ronda. I haven’t been to Cueva de la Pileta since 1979, but back then it was pretty impressive. The guide was the only person with a light and it was a torch. My guess it has changed since then. Just ensure you check its hours. Right now its website says summer visiting (tour) times are,
weekdays: 10:30h, 11:30h, 13:00h, 16:30h y 18:00h.
Weekend and holidays: 10:00h, 11:00h, 12:00h, 13:00h, 16:00h, 17:00h y 18:00h.

There really isn’t any other viable alternative to backtracking to Ronda if heading to Malaga after the cave without going on a few really rural roads across mountains that would slow you way down. While not optimal, the most direct route would be to drive back to Ronda then head south on the A-397. That would take you to the AP-7 (toll) which you could take to Malaga. Without stops, you’re looking at 2 hours driving minimum from the cave to Malaga.

Posted by
21039 posts

I don't know. That seems like a lot of driving (ViaMichelin estimates 3 hours) after you finish up at the cave. It doesn't seem as if you'd have time for much of a stop anywhere if you want to be sure you've got your car parked in Malaga by sunset (9:09 PM). If you don't include Estepona, the ViaMichelin estimate drops to 2 hours of driving time.

Posted by
925 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
The cave, the cave, the cave. It is worth seeing. Very undeveloped. My visit was pre-Covid, heaven only knows what is happening now. Getting tickets was not really straight forward. The tourism office couldn't help. the telephone number offered seemed to only work for the half before a tour. The location is 'remote'. You can't walk to it. You need a car.

The sign at the cave parking area was not real helpful. Eventually, on our second day trying to see it, we just parked the car and waited, hoping it wasn't sold out and that some one would show up. A few other cars also came. It was a hassle but worth it. 32,000 year old horse plus much more.

Ronda was great. The old town is south of the ravine. Make sure you walk it one end to the other. The bridge over the ravine at sunset...great.

Make sure to arrange for a place to park your car.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
5455 posts

wayner has good advice about the cave. It was booked up when we got there, and the next tour was being omitted that day, so we came back a few hours later and got the visit. Ronda is a highly touristed town, but worth it, IMHO. The issue is getting a room at the price you want.

I have only been to the Malaga airport, but I'm not sure why a Rick Steves fan would want to go there. Have you seen "Sexy Beast", with Ben Kinglsey? I can tell you that we drove to Gibraltar from Ronda as a daytrip, and it was a long, slow drive (on excellent highways, however.)

Multiple white towns take a lot of time on slow, curvy roads. Do some Google Maps estimating and then add 15%. The reason Rick recommends Arcos is that it delivers a lot for a single park and visit.