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Grazalema

Dusk above Grazalema - Ermita del CalvarioPopulation: 2200
Altitude: 812 metres
Distances: 32 km from Ronda, 128 km from Seville

IN spite of its size Grazalema actually feels like a small town. Maybe that is because of its relative isolation from other towns and villages. It is, of course, a village. But what a village!

There are no less than three squares in the village centre. The first of these, the Plaza de los Asomaderos, is in fact a car park, but it has a fabulous look-out point and it contains the excellent Tourist Information Centre (www.grazalemaguide.com) with its locally produced crafts, wine and honey, hand-made candles, exhibitions, workshops, a working flour mill, and books for sale. Spanish, English and French is spoken. The excellent restaurant, best for a sit-down meal rather than tapas, Meson El Simancón, faces the Tourist Information Centre across the square. On Tuesday mornings the square becomes a local market.

The second square, the Plaza de España, is probably the one that greets you as you arrive. It contains Grazalema´s biggest church and is strewn with tables and chairs placed by the adjacent bars and cafés. The town hall (Ayuntamiento) is also located on the square.

The third is a lot more intimate and lies just off the Plaza de España. It seems to have two names, Plaza de Andalucía and Calle Agua. No matter because this small square is surrounded by tapas bars that fill the square with tables and chairs. The square is a regular sun trap in the cooler months. Our favourite Grazalema tapas bar, La Posadilla, is on this square, as is one of our other favourite Grazalema restaurants, the rustic El Torreón.

There other smaller squares, corners, fountains and it is worth walking the breadth and length of the village instead of just the more obvious main streets. Grazalema is surrounded by mountains, especially the Peñon Grande that overlooks the village. The mountains are the village´s main draw throughout the year for many visitors, including us. The walking is magnificent, the views breathtaking. Even a 20-minute walk uphill to the Santo, the white statue of a saint visible above the village will lead you to fabulous views.

For over a hundred years Grazalema had a thriving textile industry using wool sheared from local sheep. There is still one weaving shed with a factory shop attached to it. The Fábrica de Mantas (the Blanket Factory) is just outside the centre of the village, a 5-minute walk from any of the squares described above, and makes a fascinating visit. The woollen goods on sale in the shop are of the highest quality. The wool industry has also made Grazalema into one of the wealthier mountain villages and you will notice that walking around the old town; the streets are wide, houses have handsome fronts and the old mansions look very solid, even the entrance halls called zaguan (from Arabic) look quite affluent with their colourful tiles, ornaments and potted plants.

Grazalema can be reached by bus form Ronda, whoever there I no train line. All the roads are good quality. Weekends can get busy in Grazalema with visitors from Sevilla and Malaga. Choosing weekdays for your walking holiday is recommended, however the atmosphere during the weekends can be thrilling when the local bars are filled with Spanish tourists and locals alike.

Favourite hotels: La Mejorana,  a cosy small family-run hotel with the atmosphere of a private home and Peñon Grande, for excellent friendly service and location.

Favourite unusual attractions: Grazalema boasts its own spa, which is unusual for a place lost in Andalucían sierras The prices are reasonable. Also unusually for an Andalucían village there are two places where you can get a wide variety of teas: Cafeteria Rumores, which is also the best place for your morning toast, located on the main square just opposite the Ayuntamiento (town hall) and Tetería Azul, on the same square to the left of the church. In Teteria ask for the daily choice of home-made cakes.

Fiestas: Easter Week involves processions and is more intimate than the famous Seville Easter. On July 16th there is the fiesta of Nuestra Señora del Carmen and the local feria normally falls on the 23rd to 26th of August. In September every year there is the hugely popular bandoleros (bandits) re-enactment called Blood and Love (Sangre y Amor). It involves locals in bandit costumes roaming the streets, there is a market and a theatre show telling the story of the famous bandit El Tempranillo (which means Early, as he took to life of crime at a very tender age) and his beloved Maria from Grazalema. The story as you can probably predict, does not end well. This is a great fiesta for photographers.

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