Vista Lago is different things to different people, but for those who love an adventure on two wheels and a big engine, the area surrounding it is a true paradise on earth.
Article by Andrew Lee
Over the mountains and down the hairpin bends with the wind in your face, epic views of the Mediterranean below and Africa beyond, tucked neatly on the horizon behind the majestic Rock of Gibraltar. There’s nothing quite like a bike ride in Andalucía to lift the spirit and soothe the weary soul. For some, paradise on earth means taking the best invention of the 19th century out for a spin in the open air. As long as the weather holds fine, that is.
Vista Lago, in Real de La Quinta, at the foot of the Sierra de las Nieves mountains and the beginning of the Carretera de Ronda, is the ideal starting point for any route, and here we suggest three of the most memorable, to enjoy the very best of the area with attractive stops along the way. Needless to say, the weather in Andalucía invariably holds fine. Any weekend of the year you will find groups of bikers leaning into the curves and filling the bars along many of these routes.
Route 1: Over the Hills to Ronda
The first route for anyone starting in the Benahavís area has to be the Carretera de Ronda (A-397), which, as well as being home to some of the most outstanding luxury developments on the coast, is also the mountain road connecting the town of Ronda with the coast. The route starts at the A7 coast road and rises through the Sierra de las Nieves Mountains to over 1000m before levelling out and dropping down to Ronda town, with a handy stop at Bar El Navasillo for a coffee after all those curves.
Carrying on past Ronda, an endless selection of picturesque villages awaits, but we continue to Zahara de la Sierra (A-374), dismounting to take in the scenic views of the lake before following the narrow mountain pass (CA-9104) to the south towards Grazalema, centre of the Sierra de Grazalema and home to Payoyo Cheese, where we might call into the factory for a cheesy tapa.
Follow the A-374 down to Ubrique to visit the local leather factories – what’s a biker without leather? – and then on to the A-373 and MA-512 to reach the beautiful town of Gaucín, where the coast appears again, providing some of the most impressive views in Southern Spain. Lunchtime now, perhaps, and Platero & Co will no doubt be delighted to help out here. From now on it’s a smooth ride down the A-377 back to the A-7 coast road and return to our starting point.
Route 2: Chasing the Whiter Villages
Our next route takes us north from Marbella town on a broader, more open mountain route (A-355) past the villages of Ojén and Monda, the first two on the Route of the White Villages, before an obligatory coffee break at Venta Platero in Coín. This stop could be considered the gateway to the Guadalhorce Valley, Málaga’s fertile agricultural heartland.
Joining the A-357, we pass through fields of oranges, olives and mangoes before detouring to Álora and El Chorro. A brief stop to look up at the nervous souls passing over the suspended walkway at the end of the (in)famous Caminito del Rey and thank the Lord our wheels are on the ground, before following the cliffs and unique rock formations to the banks of the Conde del Guadalhorce reservoir. Now we’re in a different world, far from the hustle and bustle of the coast, where the most complicated life choice is what to order for lunch at El Kiosko and, if the temperature invites, where exactly to strip off and cool down in the fresh waters of the reservoir.
The route from here takes us along the MA-5403, MA-5402 and MA-5401, past Ardales and back into the Sierra de las Nieves National Park at El Burgo. If, by this time, we have tired a little of the asphalt, this is the moment to head down the tracks to the Area Recreativa de la Fuensanta picnic grounds and a chance to see the real natural surroundings in their unspoilt beauty. After this stop we can shake off the dust (or mud) and follow the A-366 through the Sierra, where the views will take one’s breath away, and back to Ronda. From here, our familiar Carretera de Ronda will take us back home to the coast.
Route 3: Journey into the Heartland
The last route here takes us to the lesser-known interior of Málaga Province, with some outstanding scenery rivalling the likes of Tuscany and Provence. We ride again past Coín to the Guadalhorce Valley, but from here we follow the A-343 further north in the direction of Antequera. This is an ideal place for a breakfast stop to order the famous Antequera Mollete, toasted bread with locally-produced olive oil.
It wouldn’t be right to pass by without stopping at El Torcal, a nature reserve offering some unique landscapes and a chance to stretch the legs. From here we carry on through rural Málaga further east to Comares, at 703 metres above sea level and known as The Balcony of the Costa del Sol, and a look out from any of the village’s viewpoints leave us with few doubts as to why.
From Comares the route heads back to the west through the Montes de Málaga natural park, with quiet roads winding through the mountains and a number of excellent ventas (roadside bar/restaurants) to serve the weary traveller. A recommended break here, if we make it for lunchtime, is Restaurante Puerto del Leon. But perhaps more important than where one eats is what one eats. And here it is the Plato de los Montes, a hearty dish guaranteed to keep us going for the rest of the day, and possibly week. After this stop for refuelling, the route takes us back down the mountains with some fantastic views over Málaga city, and home once more on the A-7 coast road to Marbella.
The entire region is suited to all levels of biking, from casual flat and easy-curve on good roads to the more challenging country tracks with steeper inclines and sharper bends, all with essential pit stops along the way numerous and almost always open for a cup of coffee and a chat with fellow bikers who share the passion. Our biking community is a world of its own, friendly and open to all, from the newest of newcomers to the hardiest of the hard, and we welcome you to hop on your bike and join us.