Take the rocky road to Ronda & see stunning Spanish sierra

 NERVOUS laughter cuts through the breeze as we slowly navigate a treacherous mountain road high up in Sierra de Grazalema national park.

We’ve taken a wrong turn after leaving the historic city of Ronda and what should have been an easy one-hour drive back to the hotel is now passing the three-hour mark.

Enjoy the high life in historic Ronda that sits 750m up above a spectacular gorge
Enjoy the high life in historic Ronda that sits 750m up above a spectacular gorgeCredit: Getty

So we’ve put the Beach Boys song Help Me Rhonda on the car stereo to lighten the mood.

Our 14-year-old son is asleep in the back, missing out on some classic rock ’n’ roll and glorious views — as well as the terrifying, precipitous drops gaping beneath each hairpin bend.

We’re 700m up, and each turn seems to send us even higher.

I make a mental note: Tomorrow, let’s stay by the pool.

We’re on a rare day out from our base for a week in Spain, Ikos Andalusia, an all-inclusive gem so welcoming it’s hard to summon the will to leave the hotel and explore the area (but leave you must, as there’s lots to see).

Since launching in 2015, Greek brand Ikos has reimagined the all-inclusive holiday.

There are now four super-stylish hotels in Greece, with more on the way.

Ikos Andalusia is the firm’s first venture ­further afield.It’s ideally placed on 21 acres about an hour from Malaga airport, between pretty Estepona and the glitzier Marbella on the Costa Del Sol.

The sprawling, beautifully designed complex includes 411 rooms and suites, seven top-quality restaurants, gym, tennis courts, seven pools and a long beach.

Ikos doesn’t come cheap, but they mean it when they say all-inclusive and we spent very little extra money the whole week we were there, other than a splurge on a massage and fuel to refill the car.

All meals and drinks are covered in your room rate, and the food is exceptional.

Michelin-starred chefs created the menus and there’s a huge choice, with eateries specialising in Spanish, Greek, Italian, French and South-East Asian cuisines — as well as Beach Club, serving international fare and DJ sets, and ­Flavours, a vast buffet with a ­different theme every day.

And as well as three bars offering premium-brand spirits and 300 wines, there is a free mini-bar in each room, refilled daily.

The list of activities is endless, and most are included in the price, other than spa treatments and motorised watersports.

We took bikes out to cycle the coast path to Estepona, seven miles away.

Our son’s needs were met with table tennis, a football pitch and basketball court.

Three free kids’ clubs, split by age group, cater for youngsters aged four months to 17, so there’s always something going on to keep them off their screens for a few hours.

There are also week-long football camps on selected dates in school holidays, where kids are trained by star professionals (extra charges apply).

The long sand-and-shingle beach offers stunning sunsets beyond Gibraltar in the distance.

The many stones do make walking into the sea tricky though, so beach shoes are available.

For the ultimate splurge you can upgrade your room to Deluxe, a dedicated wing near the beach with its own pool and bar.

GO: Andalusia

COVID: Fully-vaccinated adults and children under 12 can enter without tests. A negative PCR test necessary for unvaccinated 12 to 18 year olds.

GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ ultra all-inclusive at the 5H Ikos Andalusia in Estepona is from £1,319pp based on two sharing a superior double pool-view room with flights from Gatwick on October 25, 2022.

Departures from other UK airports available.

See olympicholidays.com or call 0208 492 6868.

Some of these even have their own private pool.

Deluxe guests get added perks like a car upgrade, private check-in desk, free spa treatments and a bottle of champagne in the room on arrival.

We had visited Ikos once before, the Olivia resort in Halkidiki, Greece.

The design, food and ambience at the two are almost identical, but Andalusia is better situated for visitors who want to get out and explore.

Estepona is an attractive, authentic Spanish resort with a long promenade and leafy Old Town which is lovely to walk around after a hard afternoon’s eating.

It’s a far cry from the more built-up Torremolinos or Fuengirola further up the Costa Del Sol.

Marbella, Estepona’s hard-partying big sister, offers a very different day out with its glamorous bars, beach clubs and boutiques.

And then there is romantic Ronda, perched 750m high on a cliff and famous for the 100m-deep chasm where the Guadalevin river splits the city dramatically in two.

Included with a week’s stay at Ikos is the use of a hire car for a day, mainly Ikos-branded Minis, but it’s possible to upgrade to something bigger or a convertible.

Driving to Ronda makes good use of this perk.

The city is steeped in history, having been settled first by the Celts in the 6th Century, and then the Romans.

It has Spain’s oldest bullring, Plaza de Toros de Ronda, which rarely sees much bullfighting these days but has a fascinating museum well worth exploring for a couple of hours (grab an audio guide in English).

Legendary Hollywood filmmaker Orson Welles loved Spain and especially bullfighting — even having a go himself while young and slim — and was a regular visitor to Ronda.

Two years after his death aged 70, in 1987, his ashes were taken there to be laid forever in a well at Recreo de San Cayetano, the country estate of matador Antonio Ordonez, who was a close friend.

There are reminders of Welles around the city, including Paseo de Orson Welles, a street near the bullring.

This sun-kissed corner of Spain has everything for a ­holiday — great weather, superb food and as much history and culture as you can squeeze in.

And it’s a chance to retrace the steps of the man who made Citizen Kane, without having to cross the Atlantic.

But to avoid a perilous car journey worthy of a Hollywood movie . . . remember to leave Ronda from the south.

Ronda is steeped in history having been settled first by the Celts in the 6th Century and then the Romans
Ronda is steeped in history having been settled first by the Celts in the 6th Century and then the RomansCredit: 4Corners Images
Ixos Andalusia is a luxury resort
Ixos Andalusia is a luxury resortCredit: PR supplied
The relaxing dining area has a view of the beach
The relaxing dining area has a view of the beachCredit: PR supplied
Iconic filmmaker Orson Welles loved Spain
Iconic filmmaker Orson Welles loved Spain

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