Hotel Los Castanos

Cartajima, Ronda & the White Villages, Spain Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
A cosy small hotel in an undiscovered white village, with fabulous walking trails amongst mountains and forest, and Ronda just 18km away
You’re in the mountains. Chestnut forest surrounds you. The postman takes October off to join the harvest, and when it’s over the village celebrates: roasted chestnuts, a suckling pig, a band in the square and all-night dancing.

Cartajima, population 100, is that rarest of Andalucian finds: an untouched white village, with traditional ways of living. Everyone has a bit of land, and olives, avocados, peppers and tomatoes, lemons, plums, peaches and figs all come straight from the mountain in season. The hotel is small and intimate, welcoming and indulging. You get whitewashed walls, an open fire in the big airy sitting room and 6 super-comfy rooms; all have small balconies, 3 of which look over the valley to the mountains. At the top of the house, a roof terrace; at the bottom, a dining room for delicious home-cooked suppers. Walk out the front door and find tracks that lead into the forest, or jump in the car and head to glittering Ronda; it’s a 15-minute drive. If you want peace on the side of a glorious mountain, you've just found it. A great little hotel run by a delightful couple.

Highs

  • The location - not only an idyllic village in a pristine setting, but also a great base to explore Andalucia's romantic cities (Jerez, Cadiz, Seville, even Cordoba)
  • Fabulous hiking and bird watching - Di can supply maps and picnics
  • Delicious food - think magret of duck with pomegranate molasses then honey mousse with local strawberries. Breakfast is a treat, too
  • The hands-on owners Di and John, who make this such a relaxing, homely place to stay
  • When we revisited in 2013, we loved sitting in rocking armchairs, soaking up the long views and incredible peace

Lows

  • You're up in the mountains, with a slightly hairy drive up; you'll need to hire a car to explore the local area fully
  • No-choice set menu each night, but Di will talk you through supper in the morning and make sure you're happy
  • No pool at the house, but a village pool up the road compensates

Best time to go

All year. This is a place of the seasons. If you want to see the wild flowers, come in April or May.

Cartajima’s feria (fiesta) takes place at the end of August. It lasts for 4 days and 4 nights. Locals come, as do villagers who still own property here but live down in Malaga to work. Dancing in the street starts at midnight. If you’re looking for total peace, this isn’t the time to come

Our top tips

A little bit of laziness is required to get the best out of Los Castanos. In summer, head to the roof terrace and top up your tan. Great views of the forest and hills wrap around you and the odd tractor potters around in a distant field. In winter, hole up in the sitting room. There are loads of games and books, you can chuck a log on the fire, make a cup of tea, put on a CD and feel very at home. There’s also a TV with English channels.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 6
  • Breakfast (+ dinners on request)
  • 12+ year olds only
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Honesty bar
  • Maps for walking
Room:

Rooms

Extremely comfortable rooms come with the best beds (kingsize or twin), the crispest linen and simple white-washed walls. There are comfy rocking armchairs, terracotta-tiled floors and excellent lighting. Decor is fairly simple, but attractively so, with cast-iron mirror frames from Morocco and beautiful art throughout. Sylvia, who lives in the village and helps in the house, brings roses from her garden to add a touch of colour.

All rooms have balconies. One at the back of the house looks over the courtyard and up at the next-door church. The 3 Mountain View rooms at the front have views that pour over village rooftops and out onto the valley; crack open a bottle of wine and sit out on your little balcony, mesmerised by it. There are no TVs - you won't want them here - but all the essentials and treats are on hand: bathrobes, fluffy towels, apples by the bed and minibars. Books are left in bookshelves and there’s tea and coffee making facilities. A couple of rooms have bathtubs, as well as the showers that are present in every ensuite, and the soaps, gels and shampoos are made from olive oil.

Responding to guests' demands, there are also sketching materials in every room so you can try your hand at capturing the inspirational views from your balcony.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Radio
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

The dining area opens onto a small whitewashed courtyard, where you can eat in summer, with pots of colour all over the place and the church bell tower gazing down on you. Breakfast is a real feast. You get homemade bread, freshly-squeezed orange juice, exciting jams, good strong coffee and local cheeses, plus eggs on request.

Dinner is the main event though. Di does slow food, whatever’s in season, much from the fields around you. There’s a daily set menu, but she'll talk you through her plans and make sure you get something you like. When we first stayed, we had grilled chicory with a Roquefort sauce and Serrano ham, duck in a Seville orange sauce with garlic mash, followed by frozen lemon cake. When we revisited in 2013, we had an amazing Chorizo Inferno (individual flambeed skewers of chorizo, served with a delicious Mexican salad), followed by melt-in-the-mouth magret of duck with pomegranate molasses and roasted root vegetables. Local strawberries with a divine honey mousse finished things off perfectly. House wines are extremely good - red, white and rosé; if you want something a little fancier, you can have it. We heartily recommend you eat here a couple of nights - see Rates.

Cartajima is tiny - church, shop, and a couple of bars. Bar Amalia is run by Baltazar, a local, who throws open his garden and turns it into a bar and restaurant. Here you can get simple yet excellent Andalucian food. They pluck produce from their garden, maybe aubergine and long green peppers, fresh tomato salads, then fish, meat and seafood. Visit the surrounding villages, such as Parauta for great Spanish country fare - wild boar, rabbit, and local lamb or Alpandeire for restaurant La Casa Grande which serves simple but sophisticated dishes. Or if you want something more refined, drive into Ronda (about a 15-minute drive) for a night on the town. It has loads of choice - Mexican, Italian, Chinese and of course some fabulous tapas bars. Di and John can recommend.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Drive to restaurants
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The countryside here is fabulous. There’s lots of it, not many people in it, and it's beautiful. Walking tracks connect 7 white villages, so pack a picnic and head on out. Bring your binoculars. Migrating birds pass through twice a year, loads of eagles, vultures, too. You can also head over the ridge and find the source of Rio Genal, the local river

  • You can do a tour of the village in under 10 minutes. The church is next door to the house. It was destroyed during the civil war and rebuilt after. The other white villages in the region are also worth a visit, including Juzcar, which was famously painted blue to act as a Disney smurf village

  • Ronda is a 15-minute drive up the road. You get the famous gorge, great bars, big churches and the oldest bull ring in Spain. Don't miss its Arab Baths, either

  • Day trip to Andalucia's romantic cities - Seville, Jerez, Cadiz, even Cordoba and Granada. Visit the Giralda, archaelogical museums, tapas and fish restaurants and the magnificent Alhambra. And don't miss the chance to go sherry tasting

  • Several civilisations have made this land their home. The Roman’s were in the area, the Moors settled here in AD711. Caves up on Riscos (the mountain) are visible from the road

  • The village swimming pool opens at 4pm every day in summer. You can go up and take a dip. There are tennis courts and a basketball court, too

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Caves
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Sherry tasting
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being

Kids

Children aged 12+ are welcome and extra beds can be put in parents' room for a supplement.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kids Activities nearby:

Teens will enjoy the village swimming pool and basketball/football pitch

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for Hotel Los Castanos