Dar Hajra

Near Ronda, Ronda & the White Villages, Spain Book from

Reviewed by Virginia Cornish-Bowden
An unforgettable hideaway-for-2, sculpted around a rocky outcrop, with plunge pool and soaring mountain views (weekly rentals only)
Dar Hajra is secreted away in a forest above the little-known white village of Montecorto, close to Ronda. Arriving by way of a narrow path flanked by rosemary, lavender and honeysuckle it all looks quintessentially Andaluz from the outside. Yet inside a big architectural surprise awaits.

The house has been sculpted around a limestone outcrop and its rock, planted out with cactii and succulents, adds a stunning decorative element: Dar Hajra means ‘House of the Rocks’. A pyramidal atrium and high, drop-arch windows draw your eye out to the distant peaks whilst the waters of an infinity-edge plunge pool appear to merge with the mountains and the sky above.

This is a delectable place to hide away with a loved one, recharge your batteries and leave sight-seeing to the rest of the world. There's a big kitchen-diner, secluded terraces and an eclectic collection of paintings, music, films and books. Drink in the views, then pour yourself a glass of cava: you're bound to slip into celebratory mood here.

Highs

  • Clean-cut, contemporary open-plan architecture with masses of glass, which brings what's outside in
  • You're 15 minutes' drive from Ronda and at the heart of some of Spain's most spectacular mountain scenery; book through i-escape for a free copy of the excellent Walking in Andalucia guide & map
  • iPod docks, paintings and photographs, DVDs, books, maps, an iMac: this is no bog-standard rental villa
  • The house is set amongst stands of bamboo and olive and almond trees so privacy is guaranteed
  • Perfect for a couple with a young baby (pre-toddling age), and you have the option of a daily maid service

Lows

  • Montecorto, the village just below Dar Hajra, doesn't see much passing trade: if you're looking for action you'll need to slip into Ronda or head for Seville
  • Access is by way of a steep track up through the forest, but it's negotiable in any type of car
  • Don't expect the locals to speak much English but do expect big smiles and a warm welcome in the shops and restaurants

Best time to go

If you can hack the high temperatures of the Andalucian summer, July and August are great months to visit with so many festivities happening in the surrounding villages.

Spring and autumn are the best times of year for walking, with a high percentage of sunny days guaranteed: the wildflowers are at their amazing best in April and May.

Winter is also a good time to visit, with temperatures often high enough to allow for alfresco lunches and picnics. The house's heating and air-conditioning means you'll feel comfortable throughout the year.

Our top tips

The house is rented on a weekly basis and is often booked for periods of a fortnight during the summer months. If you plan to come in July or August you'll need to book well in advance.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Villa
  • 2 bedrooms
  • Self-catering
  • Babies welcome; no toddlers/older kids
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

Screed steps wind down through the rocks to the master bedroom and bathroom. Decorated in a warm yellow wash, your sleeping space at Dar Hajra comes with a big twist of romance. A velvet wall-hanging from Morocco, in rich tones of green and red, provides an eye-catching backdrop to a queensize double bed, whilst framed prints from Fes and bright hexagonal bedside tables from Tangier evoke the same mood-of-the-Mahgreb. There's a huge, walk-in wardrobe with space aplenty to spread your gear around and still have shelves and hanging space to spare.

Waking to the sound of a passing flock of sheep we flung our shutters open to the oak forest and distant peaks of the Grazalema mountains then gazed out from beneath our Indian quilts. We didn't feel an ounce of remorse about spending the whole morning lazing in bed.

The bathroom is just as festive. Topped by a high rain shower, the hand-crafted ovular screed bathtub, easily big enough for 2, wraps organically around the rocks. A huge window leads your eye out to that big view through the silvered venetian blinds. You get a chunky bar of soap as well shampoo, shower gel and conditioner, and there's a big sweep of surface to either side of the freestanding sink. Halogen spots highlight the crevasses of the rocks, hanging plants and antique photographs of Indian maharajahs.

If you fancy sharing your mountain idyll with friends or family there's a smaller double bedroom at the top of the house, reached via a second staircase which climbs up through the rocks from the sitting room. This room is also decorated in chalky, Moroccan blue and green washes and has a small antique dresser and hand-painted bedside tables. You'd all have to share the bathroom though; we'd rather stick to the 'just for 2' formula and make use of the top bedroom for siestas.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbeque
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Dvd player
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Ipod dock
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Radio
  • Tv
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi

Eating

The big, slate-floored kitchen will encourage you to stay at home and cook rather than venturing out to the local ventas for every meal. It has all you need to self-cater as comfortably as you would in your own home: there's an electric oven, a gas hob, a microwave, a toaster, a juicer, a kettle, a dishwasher, masses of glasses, crockery and cutlery as well as all kinds of pots, pans, woks, tagines and kitchen instrumentalia. The swish, silver Italian fridge would be a godsend in the summer months: it's plenty large enough to store all that you'll need to eat and drink for the duration of your stay. There's masses of cupboard space and a long marble work surface. The hob is backed by a peacock mosaic which was crafted in Tangier.

The black, angular dining table can be pulled out to sit 8 - and there's another large table on the terrace for alfresco meals - so should you invite friends to supper, you won't be short on seating.

Arriving guests will find a big range of spices, balsamic vinegar and olive oil waiting for them as well as tea, coffee and sugar. If you let the owners know in advance, a hamper of food can also be put together according to your own needs (additional charge). Alternatively you can pick up your goodies en route to Dar Hajra: shops in Ronda are open until 10pm on weekdays and Saturdays. Those in Montecorto sell all the basics, too, and a fair portion of the fruit and veg is grown in the village, much of it organically. A detailed booklet listing who-sells-what will be waiting at the house.

If you choose to eat out, don't expect a gourmet experience in the village - rather simple restaurants offering traditional Andalucian cuisine. There are 2, La Piscina and La Parada, within walking distance of the house, both very reasonably priced.

Ronda offers far more scope for foodies. As well as a huge number of cheap-and-cheerful tapas bars it has several excellent eateries. Best of the bunch at the time of writing (2012) is Almocobar, hidden away in a quiet square in the San Francisco quarter, just a short stroll from the gorge. Think trad' Andalusian cuisine with a twist, a cosy dining room and a great wine list which includes a superb selection from the bodegas close to Ronda.

There's a good information booklet in the house. Along with sight-seeing suggestions and information on walks, it lists the best restaurants and tapas bars in the area with a price guide, location and contact numbers.

Features include:

  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Welcome hamper
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Taste wines in one of the new Ronda bodegas: there are a couple of excellent ones a short drive from Montecorto

  • Follow a winding road that leads out from the village to visit the theatre and baths of the Roman town of Acinipo

  • Chill out on the higher or lower terrace

  • Go underground at the Pileta cave to see some of Europe's best preserved Paleolithic cave paintings

  • Get going early to visit Ronda before the crowds arrive, breaking for coffee at one of the bars which overlook its plummeting gorge

  • Hike out from Dar Hajra into the Grazalema Park, a Unesco biosphere reserve. A copy of the owner's guide listing the best walks in the Park will be awaiting you at the house

  • Spend a day wandering the narrow backstreets of Seville's enchanting Santa Cruz quarter: it's just over an hour from Montecorto

  • The owner can arrange a wealth of activities from tennis and golf, to kayaking and horse riding

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Babies under 2 years are welcome. This house is not really suitable for children or toddlers. With so many stairs it's a nightmare for toddlers, and for older children the daybeds in the siesta room are not really big enough for comfort.

However if you're a couple with baby (pre-toddling age), it would do very nicely: there is a small cot available, which could be placed in the main bedroom or upstairs, and some baby gear too.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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