Ronda — The Most Romantic Town in Spain

rondarainWe had heard of the beauty and charm of the white towns of Andalucia but we didn’t want to rent a car on this spring trip to Spain.  We were spending a week in Seville and Madrid and had a few days in between to work with.  I wanted to find a white town easily accessed by public transport and one that would allow us to then easily move on to Granada where we planned to see the Alhambra.   I eventually settled on Ronda because Hemingway had described it as the ‘most romantic town in Spain’ and I read that it was noted for its beautiful gorge.  So we found the Seville bus station, bought tickets to Ronda and were off.  Along the way we drove through several other white towns dropping passengers including a group of American hikers meeting a group doing a long backpack in the rain.rondabustrip

I booked a hotel room at the Don Miquel which sits by the New Bridge which connects the modern town of Ronda to its old historic center. (The picture that heads this piece is the entrance to that bridge by the hotel on the rainy day we arrived.) Many but not all of the rooms at this hotel overlook the gorge and it is first come first serve.   The beds were tiny doubles and so we asked for a twin room;  this room had a view but it was a miniscule window and you had to stand by it to see out, so it was back to the desk to see if we could get a balcony room.  Luckily there was one left; it meant a tiny bed — but for me (not for Ed) this is a tradeoff worth it for the view.  In this shot I am sitting on my tiny tiny double bed looking out across the balcony to our view of the New Bridge.

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Here is a shot taken from our balcony.  This is just a spectacular place and especially in wet weather, having this view made the trip.

rongorgeOur first night we ventured forth to find dinner.  Ronda is a big day tripper town for people visiting the Costa del Sol but in May, it was quite deserted in the evening.  We found a place with fairly good reviews on line and walked a few blocks from our hotel into the main square Plaza del Socorro which is ringed by restaurants — mostly catering to tourists — including La Taberna which we had selected.  It was crowded and so we had to wait at the bar for a table to open up which gave us a chance to survey what other people were eating.

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We started with a traditional Andalusian  chicken soup which was perfect for a cool rainy night.   Ed had a plate of mixed fried fish; this is something they do very well in Spain and there was plenty for me to sample as well.  I choose several tapas; the picture below is of a stuffed mushroom that was incredibly tasty.
rondasouprondatabernafishrondatabernamushroom

The next morning we walked down along the gorge  to visit the Old Bridge which you can see below in this picture and then further down to the base of the gorge.  There are two routes into the gorge; one begins to the left of the New Bridge once you pass into the old town; this picture is taken standing on the New Bridge.  The other route begins on the other side of the gorge and to the right of the bridge and takes you under the New Bridge.  We saved this for the afternoon.rondaoldbridge

After crossing the New Bridge just outside our hotel, we turned immediately left to walk towards the Old Bridge (also known as the Arab Bridge).  These are the typical streets of Ronda’s old town.
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Many buildings had religious shrines with various Christian saints or Christ himself.
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rondashrine2It was more unusual to find this shrine like portrait of a Moor;  Ronda like all of this part of Spain was  a Moorish town for about 700 years.

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We continued downhill and passed an old medieval watering trough.  The cobblestone streets make for rough walking even with well cushioned shoes.rondaoldwatertrough

The path took us to the entrance of the town at the Old Bridge ( Puente Viejo) and which is also known as the Arab Bridge (Puente Arabe).  Ronda was taken from the Visigoths in the 8th century and ruled by the Moors until the late 15th century.  During the Spanish inquisition, Ronda was a refuge for Muslims who successfully defended the city initially, but were eventually massacred by Philip II who sold the few survivors into slavery.rondagatetooldbridge

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There are stairs down into the gorge to the left of the bridge but these were closed off by locked gates.rondafromoldbridge From the Arab Bridge we could look down to the base of the gorge to the oldest bridge which is known as the ‘Roman Bridge’ (Puente Romano.)  Ronda began as a Roman outpost settled at the time of the Punic Wars and designated later as a Roman city by Julius Caesar.

rondaromanbridgeabove

Near the Roman Bridge are the remains of the old Arab bath house which can be visited for 3 Euro.  There is a film inside which explains its workings and history.rondabathsrondainsidebaths

Here are the old town walls and the path we walked down taken from the garden of the Arab baths.  The Roman Bridge can be seen just over the garden wall to the right.

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After visiting the baths we decided to climb back up to the top of the gorge along the cliff to the right.  This is a shot of the Arab Bridge from the Roman Bridge.
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This path on the new town side of the gorge takes us through a park developed in a series of terraces with benches and great views of the gorge.  This shot shows this terrace park and was taken from the New Bridge.rondaleftcanyonpark2

As we looked across the gorge from the terraced park we could see that some of the wall across the way had been constructed to provide basement caverns under the buildings along the cliff.  Here are a number of small windows that ventilate this basement system.rondacliffbasements

The park and cliffs are filled with succulents and cacti.rondacactus

And of course we always have to include a bird shot when possible.   We bless digital cameras; we ran through a lot of expensive film on vain attempts to capture birds back in the day.rondabluebird
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Back on top, we decided to go get lunch near the hotel; this little spot around the corner from the hotel  called Traga Tapas had some of the tastiest food we had on the trip.  This first array includes a deep fried cheese with marmalade, a croquet, a herring,  some breads with topping and salmon.  The second picture is of a tapa made with cod that was really great.rondatapas

rondacodTraga Tapas is an open air bar with small tables surrounded by high stools in in its covered patio.  It was asparagus season and most of the bars were offering various grilled or steamed asparagus dishes.  Here the asparagus sits on the bar waiting to be ordered.rondaasparagasbar

After lunch it was time to check out the new town.  This is a shot from the New Bridge out into the plains beyond the gorge.  The Parador is perched on this point of the cliffs over  the gorge.  Paradores are state run tourist hotels usually in historic buildings like castles or monasteries and are found all over Spain.  The Ronda Parador is in an old town hall building.
rondaparador

Ronda is the site of the oldest bull ring in Spain.  The ring was built in 1784 and the  local Romero family  is responsible for development of many of the traditional elements of bullfighting including the use of the cape and the rituals involved in using a special sword for the kill.  There is an annual bull fight still held in Ronda: the Corrida Goyesca.

Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles both spent a lot of time in Ronda and Welles is buried there.  Hemingway’ scene in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ where Republicans murder Nationalists by throwing them from a cliff is thought to have been based on an incident in Ronda.  The town certainly has the cliffs for it.File:Bull, Ronda.JPG

There is a nice park along the cliffs of the town right behind the bull ring.rondafountain

I don’t know what this tree is but thought these blossoms were quite beautiful.

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These are views from the cliffs behind the bull ring out over the valley below the town.
Rondasouthvalley

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Looking back towards the old town from the cliffs of the new town you can see the point where the gorge separates the town into halves.rondagorgedistance

After our stroll to the bull ring and park, we headed back across the New Bridge into the old town.  Just across the bridge is a ceramic portrait of the town.  Note the location of the bull ring near the cliffs on the left.
rondatownmosaicWe headed down the main street of the old town towards the far end of the medieval town walls.

rondaoldtownstThis is a peek into a typical building entrance.  Most homes and businesses have a sort of entryway, usually with ceramic tile walls that separates the street from the door to the interior.  This provides a security door and weather shelter for the building.

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Santa Maria Mayor was built in the late 15th century after the reconquest on the bones of the old main mosque of Ronda.  You can see the minaret in the bottom of the bell tower.  It is notable for the double galleried front.

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Just past the church square we looked over the cliffs to newer developments of housing in the valley below.rondanewconstrucrondanewconstruc2

There were a handful of sheep grazing along the bottom of the cliff.
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At the far end of the old town just inside the walls is the oldest church in Ronda, Espirito Santo which was built on the remains of a Moorish fortress.  Here I am climbing the stairs of the bell tower to get a view of the countryside.
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A look from the bell tower to the sides of the church.
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Here we can see the valley beyond and parts of the old fortress, now church.
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From the bell tower I could look down onto the medieval walls and the old houses nestled against them.  I love the way they tuck little terraces into these piles of houses.  We enjoyed a terrace like this at the apartment in our next stop in Granada. (https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/granada-they-said-wed-be-mugged-in-the-albaicin/)rondachurchtownview

rondapatiofromtopHere is the interior of Espirito Santo.

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After reaching the end of the walled old city we doubled back to find the head of the trail below that takes on under the New Bridge and down to the waterworks at the bottom of the gorge.  Our trail is that narrow line down the center of the cliff.rondagorgetoright

It is a rather steep daunting trail that took us first to a precarious perch with tremendous views of the valley beyond.rondahikedownvalley

I particularly loved this view of umbrella pines marching along the distant hilltop.
rondacipressi2There was no evidence OSHA had been anywhere near this trail.  It began with crumbling pathway and crumbling walls of loose aggregate rock and then led to rickety ladders and narrow cement walls to thread along.  The other women walking with us were having a difficult time with flip flops and flats.

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Here is a watercourse carved in the rocks just before the route down to the bottom.
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Just before ducking under the bridge we looked up to view the cliffs and Parador above us.

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There were wild snapdragons taking over the control mechanisms of the watercourses.
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And finaly the end of the trail.
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The view up to our hotel from the platform at the bottom of the gorge.
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The next morning as we prepared to head for the train and our next stop in Granada we saw these kids enjoying a walk across the bridge.  It was a field day for the schools and older kids were on hiking trips in the countryside.  These smaller ones were touring their home town and encouraged to wear traditional dress for the day.

rondachildren

We loved Ronda.  It is a stunning town.  And we loved having a room with a balcony overlooking this lovely bridge, rain or shine.  While I am sure Hemingway saw it as a romantic town for the bullfights and the drinking with his friends; even without this ritual violence, it is a place of charm and wonder.rondanuns

 

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23 Responses to Ronda — The Most Romantic Town in Spain

  1. vicky Greer says:

    This is a great trip report!! Thank you! It will help us prepare for our visit to Ronda!

  2. Janet says:

    We did love Ronda. Hope you have a great time.

  3. Soo says:

    We just got back from Spain. I’d like to thank you in person for the useful information you shared through the Tripadvisor forum and this blog. We stayed one night in Ronda, which was our favorite part of our Andalusia trip. Though we didn’t walk or see as much as you did… which we regret. You guys are much better travelers than we are. I will bookmark your blog and come back.

  4. Johanna Appel says:

    Love this blog post. My family spent four days in Ronda in June 2012 as part of 2 week trip in Andalusia. Ronda was our favorite stop; we ate at Tragas Tapas twice!!. This post, and your fantastic photos, brings the trip back. We stayed at Las Alaveras del Los Banos near the Arab Baths and climbed up the stairs at least twice a day.

  5. Thomas J. Hawkins says:

    Your photos are wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed your descriptions of this beautiful town. I will humby say though that I don’t quite understand the meaning of the ritual of bullfights to the Spanish people and the deep metaphor that they represent, which Hemingway understood – I don’t believe they are merely “ritual violence.” Part of why we travel is to experience other cultures.

  6. Laima says:

    Your blog post is so interesting and photos are wonderful. Thank you for good mood. My friends and I spent two days in Ronda in May as a part of 2 week trip in Andalusia. We traveled by bus and it was an interesting experience. In Ronda we stayed at Virgen de los Reyes not far from Plaza del Socorro. We ate at Bar los Cazadores at Calle Rosal 1 – would highly recommend.
    I wish you a spectacular trips, Janet

    • Janet says:

      thanks. Glad you enjoyed your trip. We hope to get back to Spain again and visit some of the towns we missed like Escorial and Toledo.

  7. Fernanda says:

    Thank you guys for sharing this beautiful experience of yours.
    I am in love with Ronda already.

    Cheers

  8. Geoff Perel says:

    Your blog about Ronda has convinced us to spend time there this fall. Just what bus services Ronda to Seville. Thanks.

  9. Eshkie Zachai says:

    Gracias, Janet! What beautiful photos and descriptions. Would you choose Ronda over Tavira, Portugal, in the Algarve?

  10. Dr. Allen WIlson says:

    Your blog is marvelously well done! Thank you for sharing your experience. My wife and I are traveling to Spain in September, and now, Ronda is definitely on our itinerary.

  11. Pinki says:

    I’m planning a trip to Spain and Ronda is definitely top on my list, more so after reading your blog. Did you cover the entire trail in a single day? We love hiking and would love to explore more of the region around Ronda. Are there any self guided hikes or do we need a guide for that? Also, I’m unable to decide how many days are ideal for the town. Could you please suggest?

    • Janet says:

      I am not expert. We spent two nights there and so had an afternoon and then spent the full day hiking down into the gorge from both sides. This was easily done in one day and the paths were obvious. There may be more elaborate hiking in the area but this is what we did. It is a beautiful town. We particularly enjoyed having a room with a little balcony overhanging the gorge.
      j

  12. Paula says:

    What a great post ~ full of helpful bits and lovely views. I’m heading to Ronda in a month, and looking forward to it even more after reading this! Now to explore the rest of your Spain posts 😉

  13. Jerry and Stelly Hofelt says:

    Just read your blog on Ronda. Looks like you stayed in the same room as we did. What a maze to get there, but the view was to die for. We send pictures home to our kids(grown adults) when we travel and my daughter immediately responded, “I want to go to Ronda!” and we would go back, for sure.

    • Janet says:

      The bed was so tiny that we had asked for a twin room with a view — but we had to have the balcony so ended up in that room — I loved it especially since the weather was a bit iffy. We were so happy to have chosen a couple of nights in Ronda for our white town experience.

      Happy travels.

      • Jan O'Neil says:

        I just lost all my pictures of Ronda from last week. I jumped for joy when I saw these pictures!! ..even Tragatapas. Thank you!

      • Janet says:

        Glad you enjoyed them. Wasn’t that a great town? And we loved Tragatapas — first Rick Steves recommendation of a restaurant that really lived up to its billing.

        j

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