Today you leave Benaoján and the Sierra de Grazalema National Park, but as the mountains shrink behind you the mighty cliffs of Ronda rise in front of you; a perfect finale to your walking adventure!
Benaoján appears to be in the heart of the National Park, enclosed on all sides by breathtaking limestone peaks, but this is somewhat misleading. After a steep, winding climb out of the valley, you descend into a strange and forgotten world. You now walk on the edge of the National Park. Where before there was native oak woodland there are now golden fields of wheat and occasional trains that chug past on the railway line.
As you amble across the undulating foothills the mountains recede behind you, until the eye-watering splendour of the previous days appears a secret reserved entirely for you. The changes as you leave the National Park bring a fitting sense of closure to your walking adventure, and yet, perhaps the best is saved for last… Ronda!
Your first glimpse to Ronda is one you’ll remember for a long time! The town appears to defy human rationality; why on Earth would you build a village perched so precipitously atop cliffs?! The answer lies in the unsettled history, as the cliffs offered superb natural defences. Resultingly, Ronda was one of the final Islamic outposts, and there is a wealth of Moorish architecture, cuisine and influence for you to discover. Of course, there are wonderful viewpoints throughout the city, capitalising on the clifftop location!
For those looking to extend there walking day slightly, check out the ‘Cueva del Gato’ (adds the best part of an hour). I was very impressed by the caves and would encourage you to go! See 'Points of Interest' section.
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
On today’s walk, you must cross a railway track. There are no barriers or flashing lights so be sure to check both directions, before crossing swiftly and cautiously.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of the steep ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Points of Interest
Cueva del Gato
The Cueva del Gato (or cat cave) is a yawning hole in the mountains. Like magic, out of the cave gushes a subterranean river, and at its mouth lies a sapphire-blue lagoon. In addition to this natural interest, the caves are also recognised culturally, due to the presence of ancient cave paintings and their connection with the 19th-century era of banditry – the caves are thought to have been a refuge for bandits hiding from the law!
Part of today’s walk (the cobbled descent after leaving Benaoján) is along a section of Mediaeval Road. The first car entered Benaoján in 1941 (at which point the population was 3,000) so until recently this footpath would have been once of the main way in and out of the village. As you walk, just imagine passing heavily-laden donkeys making the journey to/from Ronda!
Food and Drink
There are limited options to buy food or drink, or to refill water bottles throughout this walk, so be sure to bring sufficient provisions with you.
As you reach a junction with the main road at 7km, there is an option to take a 300-metre detour to visit a restaurant. Turn right to cross the river, and shortly after you will arrive at a restaurant on the left side. More information available here: https://venta-del-puente.negocio.site/