A perfect day in Setenil de la Bodegas
Updated: May 19
What could be better than a holiday escape that combines lazy days in a gorgeous beach resort, with wonderful day trips through amazing countryside, towns and cities. Welcome to Andalucia, and discover our Marbella travel blog, packed with ideas for spicing up your beach holiday. Today we take you on a perfect day trip from Marbella, to visit the cave houses of Setenil de la Bodegas, and drive through the gorgeous Ronda countryside to see lakes, white villages and beautiful fincas with olive orchards.
You can be out and back in a half day, or take a full day to enjoy driving around the white villages of the Ronda countryside. For the shortest option, drive out to Setenil for lunch and a walk around the beautiful village. Add about 90 minutes to your self-guided day trip, if you want to spend more time in the country, we propose visiting the La Organic olive oil experience (book ahead, 45 minute tour at noon most days). If you like driving you can add a much longer drive through the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema, starting with a drive around the Zahara lake (Embalse Zahara-el Gastor) . From the viewpoint "mirador" in the beautiful and remote village of Zahara de la Sierra you can admire the lake and the countryside. Other remote and authentic white villages in this region include Ubrique and Benaocaz.. Lots of hiking trails, authentic auberges for a drink or a snack, you will not meet many other tourists in these preserved villages that are just a short drive from the bling of the Costa del Sol. 1) Olive oil experience 2) Setenil de las Bodegas, discover the village and have lunch 3) Extend your drive around the lake and natural park
Self driving tour from Marbella to Setenil de las Bodegas
Hire a car for this amazing day-trip in the hills. The countryside is breathtaking and a complete change of scenery, atmosphere and climate from the coast. You can go out and back in one day, plan about 5 hours if you want to have lunch in Setenil, more if you want to visit the Olive Oil Experience on the outskirts of Ronda.
Leave Marbella around 10:30 am if you want to visit the olive oil experience, or before 11 if you just want to have lunch in Setenil.
Have a look at the weather in Ronda before setting out - it's frequently 10 degrees (hotter or cooler) different than Marbella! Hotter in summer and cooler in winter, it can also be rainier in this area so check aemet.es before setting out. Take the route from San Pedro towards Ronda and you will quickly be lost in the hills with breathtaking open views of virgin countryside which give way to olive and other orchards. This is olive oil country, sumptuous rolling hills dotted with authentic white fincas. It feels like you are driving through a post card. This area is so underrated compared to Tuscany or Provence, but we think it's much better! Authentic village still propose typical cooking for unbelievably low prices. Many residents don't speak English. Menus, if they exist, will be in Spanish only and in many cases just hand-written on a scrap of paper for the day!
First Stop: Olive Oil Experience
La Organica is a new olive oil experience where you can learn about Spanish olive oil production and do an olive oil tasting. Have a look at their website to book your visit in advance. Visits take place at 12 noon, last 45 minutes and cost 20 euros at the time of writing this. It takes one hour to get here from La Canada shopping center in Marbella; The ride goes up through the mountains with many twists and turns so motion-sick travellers beware.
Head to Setenil for a Spanish lunch in the cave bodegas
After the olive oil experience, a 15 minute drive through wonderful scenery takes you to the amazing town of Setenil. There are parking spaces around the town community center, and sometimes a "yellow jacket" man pretends to be the official parking guide. He is helpful in point out available spaces, but he is not a municipal employee, up to you if you think he deserves an euro or two for his services!
Setenil de las Bodegas is a typical white village with some very exceptional architecture. A river gorge runs through the center of the village and it is located in a canyon with overhanging cliffs. Some of the villagers had a great idea to build their houses underneath the cliffs, cooler and saving in building materials on 2 or 3 sides! Some of the homes, shops and restaurants are dug into the cliffs and if you enter you can see the cliff walls serving as back walls and ceilings. There is a "sunny cliff" street and a "shady cliff" street, and some of the houses seem to be crushing under the weight of the overhanging rock formations. In hot weather several restaurants have pleasantly cool flowery terraces hanging alongside the cliff near the water of the river.
This is olive oil and farm country, you will be able to taste gorgeous meaty tomatoes that are nothing like we get in our supermarkets up north. Huge, ripe and red, they remove the skins and dress the tomato hearts in excellent olive oil and maldon salt, maybe a splash of jerez vinegar. If you want to get fancy, add some anchovies and avocados. Delicious. This area also specialises in artisanal meat, go for the lamb cutlets (cordero) or the iberico pork, it will most likely be served with home-made french fries.. Wonderful meal for just a few euros.
Amazingly underrated, you'll have drinks and a few plates to eat for cheaper than you imagined possible, even while sitting in the most "touristy" area of this incredible village.
Other specialties are "Queso Payoyo", a kind of fresh goat cheese, with a mild flavor. And all kinds of "surtido ibericos", spanish cold cuts, sausage, lomo, chorizo, and of course bellota ham. Also famous in the area is the hearty chicken ragu with prunes (pollo con ciruelos) - similar to french rabbit with prunes dish. Sweet and rich and tangy, delicious.
We had lunch at Bar la Escueva, it was fantastic and everything they brought out of the kitchen looked delicious. Simple Spanish country cooking, home-made with the best ingredients.
A stroll around the main streets will offer glimpses into shops and restaurants that are built into the cliff. It really is an amazing sight to see. Wander up and around the different neighborhoods to see the costume museum, the hotel-restaurant "Mirador", the churches...
Not all of the village is troglodite, this is a large white village with many beautiful typical flowery streets, steep stairways, uphill and downhill alleys.. Surprising viewpoints and a small assortment of museums and churches to visit. Have a scroll through this slideshow to get a feeling for what it's like to walk around Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil is an amazing, underrated and beautiful destination that makes for a perfect change of scenery from the coast for the day. Off the beaten path, do something differrent! And be back on the beach in time for cocktails and dinner.
Extending your drive through the Sierra de Grazalema natural park
The Sierra de Grazalema national park is home to many beautiful hikes, rivers, canyons, woods and waterfalls. On this day out, we propose to just drive through and soak up the scenery. A trip out and back to see Zahara de la Sierra will add about 90 minutes to your day, depending on how long you stop in the village. Adding a loop back through Grazalema park will add 3 hours to your drive and make for a long day out. This is a 5 hour loop so a long day trip!
The roads are narrow and wind around the hills and mountains, so make sure you have a leisurely attitude and drive safely! While the distances are not long, you won't be able to drive fast. So slow down and enjoy! The Zahara Embalse (lake) (Embalse Zahara-el Gastor) . is beautiful when seen from the mirador at the top off Zahara de la Sierra .
Other remote and authentic white villages in this region include Ubrique and Benaocaz.. Lots of hiking trails, authentic auberges for a drink or a snack, you will not meet many other tourists in these preserved villages that are just a short drive from the bling of the Costa del Sol.
Stay with us, we'll make it happen!
We'll help you prepare the best Andalucia holiday ever, combining adventurous self-driving tours, day trips, and lazy days at the beach; The Costa del Sol has lots of hidden surprises! Stay here, do this!