Distance: 9 kilometres
Time: Allow 4 hrs for the return trip.
Essential: Boots, waterproofs, warm clothing, hat, sun cream, food, water.
General Description: A there and back walk on an old track between two of Andalucia's prettiest white villages. The walk can be started from either end but Jimera de Libar is at a considerably lower altitude than Atajate so starting at Jimera means the greatest height gain is at the beginning of the walk.
Start and Finish: Street parking near the childrens playground as you enter Jimera de Libar from the Gaucin to Ronda road.
Route: Retrace your steps along the road back towards Gaucin. On your left are almond orchards, full of delicate pink blossom in January and February. Walk about 300 metres beyond the village and you will see a rough path on your left. Take this path as it climbs the hillside through a mix of almond and olive trees.
You soon rejoin the road where you turn left for another couple of hundred metres. On your left you will see a broad track again taking you high onto the hillside.
You are now on the original track that, before the new road was built, was the only communication between Jimera and Atajate. It varies from being a broad solid track to a narrow stony path suitable only for walkers and donkeys. The original route took the easiest path whilst the new road, often glimpsed far below, had to be cut into the side of the hill.
As you climb you will see down the Rio Guadiaro valley to Cortes de la Frontera, another white village just a few kilometres south west of Jimera. It is easy walking along the broad track that gives you ample opportunity to admire the views.
The track clings to the side of the hill to your left and enters a narrow valley. Pass through a gate and the track suddenly becomes a stony path. You could be hundreds of miles from civilisation as you walk between fan palms, rosemary, broom and rock roses towards a ford over a narrow stream.
In spring this small valley is a blaze of colour. At the ford look downstream. The narrow valley offers a vista across the broader valley at the bottom of which is the road, to the Cerro Bernal, a domed hill similarly covered with Mediterranean shrubs.
Once across the stream the path again climbs the hillside towards a prominent rocky outcrop and then abruptly swings left as you rejoin the main valley.
It is now fairly flat walking. Ahead of you and to your left and right is the ridge along which the Gaucin to Ronda road was built. The road itself was built on tracks that date back to before the Roman invasion and, during the Roman occupation, the same way was part of the Via Augusta, a series of paved and graded roads that went from Cadiz to Rome and one of the main thoroughfares in Spain.
The walk now enters more managed land with herds of sheep in cultivated fields. Remember to close the gates that you pass through.
You will walk past a finca and, just beyond, standing anomalously in the middle of a field is a huge pillar of stone. Weathering over the millennia has eroded the softer parts of it until a window was created allowing you to see right through it.
The path crosses a gravelled track that leads to a large house and you can clearly see where it joins the road between Atajate and Jimera. At the road turn left for a hundred metres until you reach the junction with the Gaucin to Ronda road. Cross the road into a rough car parking area. From there you not only have an excellent view of Atajate you also see a path that takes you off the main road across a shallow defile to the road into Atajate.
Atajate at 745 metres is one of the highest white villages. It is also perhaps the prettiest of them, set back off the main road that now, thoughtfully, by passes this tranquil place. Atajate has not always been so tranquil since, during Moorish times, it occupied a strategic position between the kingdoms of Seville and Granada. Then, during the long war to evict the Moors, Atajate was in a strategic position again, this time between the Moors and the Christians. Even after the reconquest Atajate suffered, this time in the early 19th century at the hands of Napoleonic troops. The local population fled to more peaceful surroundings leaving the town in the hands of bandits who held up coaches on their way from Gaucin to Ronda. Those days are not long gone as a visit to the museum in nearby Ronda will show.
After admiring Atajate, retrace your route back to Jimera de Libar. It is only on your return that you will notice the contrast between the two places. Whereas Atajate was built high on a remote ridge for defence and can trace its history back to Paleolithic times, Jimera was founded much later during the Muslim period when defence was not such a priority. It clings to the side of a small depression in the hillside. The town overlooks the broad, fertile valley of the Rio Guadiaro that was the attraction for the Moors. Only much later, in the late 19th century was the second part of Jimera built, Estacion Jimera, down in the valley itself alongside the railway line that runs from Algeciras to Ronda.
© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.