Secluded and peaceful, the Alto Genal is no better known now than it was when the Moors first settled here in the 8th century. It is still undiscovered and unspoiled. Even Conde Nast, great at winkling out hidden treasures, are ignorant of it!
Los Castaños is perfectly located for exploring the best of Ronda, the Serrania de Ronda, and Andalucia.
Some of the activities are guests have enjoyed include:
Concert of traditional Spanish guitar music in Ronda. Highly recommended.
Walking is one of our favourite activities. Our valley and beyond is a fantastic walking area with quiet trails linking the seven village of the Alto Genal. We can supply walking directions and a rescue service!
Workout – Cartajima is well equipped with workout opportunities. All the activities are clustered at the entrance to the village: gym (open 6pm – 9pm), tennis/basketball/football court, petanque place, outdoor exercise machines, children’s playground, and, mostly recently, a padel court. We can provide the rackets and balls.
Mountain biking – this is a great area for fit cyclists.
Ronda is a wonderful town full of fascinating historical sites. It is a very visited place but we can help you find the quietest time. We can also let you in on some local secret places to eat.
Ronda is an up and coming area for vine growing area and its obvious by-product. There are now nearly 20 vineyards, many of which offer winetasting. And one very special one that has a half-day course on the subject. Click on the link for more information.
Some of Andalucia’s romantic cities are within easy reach for a day trip: Cadiz, Jerez, Sevilla, Granada. Cordoba is a bit more difficult as the road goes cross country but there is a conveniently timed train.
And Morocco is just across the water – a short ferry ride away. We can make suggestions and clear the paths for you.
Birdwatching is another favourite. We are on the twice annual migration route and see fabulous displays just from the rooftop terrace.
Other specialities of the area include old Ronda, the town of Roman Acinipo, and its spectacular theatre. This can be combined with a trip to Cueva de la Pileta, a cave with paleolithic “art”.
– doing nothing! Los Castaños is the perfect place to learn to meditate! Lie on the rooftop terrace, read a book, with a cold beer … plunge in the pool. Join the gym in Cartajima and have a workout before dinner.
“Di has created a charming hotel, perfectly designed to be both intimate and inviting, and one can easily choose to either retreat in one’s cosy and charming room, or engage in conversation with other guests in the lovely dining room or the small, fragrant courtyard garden. The views from the roof terrace are sublime!”
Romantic Cities of Andalucia
When deciding where to build my dream project, I took a map of Andalucia and drew an area bang smack in the middle. I have always liked to be in the centre of the action and I wanted my future guests to have access to the main events in this most magnificent part of Europe. Thus, from your base in Cartajima you can explore most of the romantic cities of Andalucia on a day trip.
Your guidebooks and the internet will give you the lowdown on all these places, so I will limit my information to titbits of trivia.
Sevilla – the capital city
Distance from Cartajima: 120 km
Most famous icon is the Giralda, the Moorish minaret which now forms part of the Catholic cathedral, one of the three biggest in the world. Contains a grandiose memorial to Columbus whose bones may or may not be there. It’s a mystery! Sevilla is famous for its sombre Easter celebrations, closely followed by its exuberant Feria. Plethora of interesting historical bits – the Jewish Quarter, the Torre del Oro which at one time was a counting house for all the gold coming in from the New World, and much more. And tapas! Fabulous and fun – a tapa crawl is better than a restaurant for lunch. Sevilla is an expensive destination so, if you get an early start from Cartajima, you will have plenty of time to see the sights and get back home in time for dinner.
The oldest continuously occupied city in Spain (some say in Europe), founded by the Phoenicians, occupied by Romans, Moors, Visigoths and the place where Drake singed the King of Spain’s beard. Wonderful archaelogical museum, the best fish restaurant I have ever eaten at – El Faro (enter at the bar side rather than the restaurant – much more fun), a maze of beautiful plazas and narrow streets. Globally infamous Carnaval – don’t go without a costume! One of my favourite cities as it is not touristy – everybody heads for nearby Sevilla.
A fun city with a well-evolved cafe culture. The usual Andalucian historic monuments dating from Roman, Moorish, etc. Many bodegas to visit where you can learn about, and sample the results of, the solera method for producing the sherry wines. If you are into horses, you must see the dancing horses show.
Malaga – founded by the Phoenicians
Distance from Cartajima: 90 km
A much overlooked city. Even we who live here, dismiss it as a bureaucratic centre and an airport. But it is more than that and has much to offer the discerning traveller. Wikipedia sums it up: “The archaeological remains and monuments from the Phoenician, Roman, Arabic and Christian eras make the historic center of the city an “open museum”, displaying its rich history of more than 3,000 years.” Quite right. Smart, modern Malaga centres on Calle Larios off which spider alleys with amazing tapa bars – another excellent reason to linger a while. Picasso was born here and now there is a museum to him in a beautiful old building. I’m not into necrotourism, but, the English Cemetary with some famous old bones was built in the 19th century as protestant bodies were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground but had to buried on the beach at night during low time, upright, and looking at the sea. Apparently.
The brightest star in the Andalucian firmament. The magnificent mosque (some insist that it is a cathedral now) created by the Moors is a must-visit. Cordoba is a poignant reminder that there, for a short while, the three main religions of the book lived in harmony. The Casa de Sefarad, the Jewish museum, tells the other side of the story. The famous flower-filled patios. The Roman bridge and Moorish waterwheels that the Queen said gave her a headache and had them stopped. She had just conquered Spain for the Christians so perhaps it was understandable. Wonderful city. But very hot in summer as my friend, Penny, can attest.
Granada – the Alhambra
Distance from Cartajima: 170 km. Good train service from Ronda giving you time to see the sights and get back home for dinner.
Granada is synonymous with the Alhambra. Not just a palace but magnificent gardens, incredible plasterwork, an amazing statement, and the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain. Don’t miss the beautiful stroll down the Paseo de los Chinos to the Moorish quarter, the Albaicin. And don’t forget that reservations are necessary – can be made online via Ticketmaster.es
Hiking in Andalucia – Caminito hike
Relax at our hotel after taking one of the scariest hikes in the world!
El Caminito del Rey is located within easy reach of us. Are you up for the challenge!!
We will help you plan your trip to Caminito and tickets are necessary and can be reserved on the official website.
It would make a great day out from Cartajima. Depending upon the time slot you are given for the hike you can either drive to the trail head or get the train from Ronda.
All the information is on the Caminito website, some in Spanish only. Ask for help if you need it when planning your trip.
Until very recently people were dying trying to negotiate the decaying remains of a walkway built in the 1920s when the railway was being built through the mountains and gorges between Ronda and Malaga.
Some deaths later, the authorities closed the path and, cleverly realising what a gem it was, have completely restored it and it reopened in 2015.
Safe now, controlled, number of hikers limited, passes required but all this has not detracted from the fear factor! Take a look at the official website.
PS I find it amusing that this is called “caminito”. The word “Camino” refers in Spain to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from several starting points in France and Spain. The suffix “ito” makes something smaller and cuter. Whilst the Caminito del Rey is certainly shorter I would defy anybody to call it cute!!
Bird watching in Andalucia
Birdwatching is one of the things we do best at Hotel Los Castaños. From our rooftop terrace we watch our friend “Bootie” (a white-faced booted eagle) go up the valley in the morning and back home in the evening.
And three other eagles and swifts and swallows and …
If you enjoy birdwatching, spectacular scenery, fascinating insights into local fauna and flora, then *Peter Jones’ personally guided tour of the Serranía de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema is for you!
With mountains and hills predominately of limestone, the bio-diversity of the Serranía and Sierras is stunning. From rocky outcrops, mountaintop and valleys, the birding tour will take you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Spain.
Birds of interest are virtually guaranteed although the time of year and the weather will dictate the number and type of bird species you will see. Peter has intimate knowledge of those elusive ‘best bird areas’ and he will be able to assist beginners and discuss the area with visiting experienced birders.
Whatever your level of expertise, you will find this birding trip rewarding.
*Peter has been involved in studying birds for over 40 years. Involved in scientific research (currently in the Serrania de Ronda), he is a qualified bird ringer categorised in Spain as a Senior Expert. Apart from being an esoteric expert, he is great fun. Link for more details – Peter Jones and Spanish Nature
Hides – there are now two fully equipped hides to rent, one in the Sierra de las Nieves, the other near Ronda. For details ring Inma on 699189188 or Juan 679439671. Their website is here
Mountain Biking in Spain, Andalucia area
Choose mountain biking in Serrania de Ronda!
The Alto Genal, part of the Serrania de Ronda, is a fabulous training area for mountain biking.
What makes this undiscovered corner of Andalucia special:
++ immense climbs lasting forty-five to sixty minutes
++ trails, country roads, and some single track
++ warm climate, magnificent scenery, altitude typically 700 – 1200 m
What we offer the discerning mountain biker looking for a challenging experience:
++ routes 3 – 6 hours covering up to 60 km. Detailed instructions and maps provided.
++ introduction to bike renters and good mechanics
++ exceedingly comfortable accommodation (check out the rooms)
++ safe indoor onsite storage of bikes
++ collection/rescue/drop-off service
++ introduction to local biking group who would be delighted to have you join them
++ fantastic flexible food geared to your needs
++ trail maps
++ laundry service
++ we can arrange equally entertaining activities for your partner! Shopping, wine tasting, hiking.
Walking Ronda Mountains – holiday in Spain
Walking the trails of the Ronda mountains (aka Serrania de Ronda), in the south of Spain, can be wild and undiscovered.
Hotel Los Castaños is located in the small mountain village of Cartajima in the middle of the little-known Alto Genal valley. It is one of the few remaining pristine hiking areas in the south of Spain. You won’t find it on most maps but it does get a mention on Wikipedia.
The area around Hotel Los Castaños is called the Alto Genal valley, a paradise for walkers. Quiet trails connect seven tiny pueblos blancos and we provide detailed walking routes. Our guests seldom encounter another person on the lanes.
Cartajima is 17 km from Ronda, Andalucia and we have devised a great walk around and in the fascinating old town.
We also have routes in the Sierra de la Nieves, one of Spain’s least known but most spectacular natural parks. It has amazingly diverse flora and fauna, dramatic changes of landscape, stunning views down to the Mediterranean, and intriguing Civil War ruins. Also, should it interest you, some of the deepest caves in the world.
Details of our hikes
Most of our hikes are circular, involve descents and ascents totalling between 200 and 700 metres. Some start from the hotel door, others involve a short drive. They vary from two to six hours, easy to moderate in difficulty. They are self-guided and we offer a collection service should it be needed. We also offer guided walking holidays. For the most part the walks are on tracks and defined footpaths.
When is the best time to walk in the Serrania de Ronda?
The best seasons are Spring and Autumn when the temperatures are more suitable. Every season offers different wonders: Spring brings wild flowers and migrating birds; early summer, the chestnuts flower and a musky scent fills the air; in Autumn the sweet chestnut trees (los castaños) go through a spectacular palette of red and gold. And winter walking in the Ronda area can be marvellous, not too cold and often with brilliant skies when you can see as far as Africa and the Rif mountains of Morocco. Hiking in July and August is not recommended as it is too hot.
Thank you to Mrs Dr Thompson for permission to use her photographs.
“…holiday packed with interest, suitably challenging walks and superb scenery, and underpinned with a sustaining support system of excellent quality and friendly delivery.”John Pickering, UK
Ronda Wine Tasting
This is no Napa Valley scene. No queuing, no hordes, no rush. This is Andalucia and life moves at a civilised pace! Until recently there were just two vineyards offering tasting tours but most of the others have realised the value of enotourism and have opened to the public. But appointments usually have to be made and we can help guests of Los Castaños with arrangements. Tasting is relaxed and always includes a <em "="">tapita.
One of the first to open its gates to the public was Chinchilla. John and I attended a half-day mini-course which was such fun (especially when John fell backwards off his chair – before the tasting!) and so informative. It includes a classroom component, then a tour of the bodega, ending with a wine and tapas free-for-all. They offer just vineyard tours as well.
The Museo de Vino in central Ronda is accessible and tells an interesting story. They have wines on tap, a costume exhibition and much more.
When you reserve your hotel room, please ask about vineyard tours so we can make reservations for you at the vineyards in Ronda. Please note that Los Castaños is not a vineyard and we do not do wine tastings here.
History of wine-making in Ronda
One Roman centre of viticulture was Acinipo, just north of modern Ronda. Coins dating to 1st century AD have been found as illustrated below – one side shows a bunch of grapes (looks more like an aubergine to me!) and a star, the other has two ears of grain on either side of the name Acinipo.
The late nineteenth century brought phylloxera and the demise of the vine throughout most of Europe. Cuttings had to be brought in from the Americas to reestablish the crop.
But the vine now flourishes in Spain and, in the last ten years, here in the Ronda area. The majority of the vineyards are in the countryside around the old Roman town of Acinipo, exactly where they were 2000 years ago.
Hammam in Ronda
Visit a hammam in Ronda and treat yourself to a massage!
The Arabs who inhabited Andalucia for 700 years were keen on washing. Not so their Christian conquerors! When they swept through the land and conquered it in 1492, the magnificent baths fell into disuse, abandoned and forgotten.
In recent years the Arab Baths in Ronda have been lovingly and professional restored and are a fantastic example but also with great tourist information including a video of how the baths were used in ancient times.
Just around the corner, in the same barrio, the Jewish quarter, a hammam has opened offering a similar experience with heated beds, hot pool with jets, ice shower and plunge pool, steam room and, just to top it all off, a 20 minute massage is included. They have a good menu of massages and scrubs should one want more.
Worth a visit. It would interesting to combine the new with the old baths. Click here to visit the hammam site.
As always we are available to help you make reservations and choose from their menu of massages.
Concert of Spanish Guitar
My guests frequently ask where is the best place to experience classical flamenco music. Till very recently I have not been able to recommend anywhere but it is our great good fortune that Celia Morales lives and performs and teaches in nearby Ronda. She gives hour-long concerts of traditional Spanish Flamenco guitar music every evening at 7:30 pm.
Entry just 15 euros. We can make reservations for you if you prefer.