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The town of Ronda lies in an impressive position on a steeply dropping rocky plateau, split asunder by a very narrow 100 metre deep gorge, known as El Tajo. The southern part of the town, the Ciudad, consists of the old town, which was founded by the Arabs. North of the gorge is the 16th century 'new' town, El Mercadillo. The very high Punte Nuevo which was built from 1784 to 1793, links both parts of the town and is the town's main attraction. Two older bridges span the Tajo river lower down the hillside where the terrain is flatter: the Puente Romano, which was rebuilt in the early 17th century; and the Puente Arabe, which has Moorish origins, has also been rebuilt.
While day to day life unfolds in El Mercadillo, you can't help but be drawn across the Puente Nuevo into the old town and this is where you will find most of the tourists, right into Calle Tenorio and on to Plaza del Campillo, from where there is a stunning view over the valley.
Bullfighting is a spectacle that I am not fond of and all the years of travelling to Spain and living in Portugal I have never witnessed this barbaric method of entertainment. However, I have stepped foot inside Ronda's bullring just to see what the auditorium and complex looked like without bulls rushing around and mad Spaniard's darting here there and everywhere. Ronda's bullring is a historical part of the town and Ronda is proud of its status as the birthplace of bullfighting. It was here in the eighteenth century that the Romero family first laid down the rules that remain valid to this day. The arena here, inaugurated in 1784, is the oldest in Spain. A Corrida Goyesca (so called because the toreadors and some of the audience dress in the 18th century costumes of Goya's paintings) is held in September, during the annual fair.
Part of the complex houses a museum which I have viewed and found extremely interesting mainly because of the posters which are very colourful and have a sort of kitsch look about them. Some of the black and white photographs were quite old but I found the photography enchanting for the time and still to this day prefer black and white photos. Many costumes were displayed; delicate lace, velvet and suede, intricately stitched and so interesting to see the sizes of the costumes and how small they all seemed. Well, small to me because I am taller than the average Spaniard. Most of the items were once owned by famous toreadors including some of the daggers used to kill the bulls. The museum is open daily, 10 am until 7pm.
Moving on - a narrow alley leads first to the Palacio de Mondragon. This wonderful residence was used by the Catholic Monarchs after the reconquest of the town, it still has some of the original Moorish mosaics and is now home to a modest archaeological museum which includes the reproduction of a dolmen. The narrow alley then leads you on to Plaza de la Duquesa de Parcent.
On the south side of the square lies the scant remains of the Alcazaba, while to the north stands Santa Maria la Mayor, which was built on the foundations of the mosque. If you enter the church through the bell tower, originally the minaret, the mosque's prayer niche can be seen in the vestibule. Days can be very hot in this part of Spain and you need always be on the look out for shade. Behind the church is a shady square with a handful of antique and souvenir shops.
If you turn back on the main street, Calle Arminan, to the Puente Nuevo you will see just before the bridge a road leading steeply downhill, with the Casa del Rey Moro on the left hand side. A flight of some 365 steps cut out of the rock in Moorish times leads down from the garden to a spring in the gorge. The Casa has now been converted in to a luxury hotel although you can still visit the gardens.
Other interesting sights are the Arab baths complex (Banos Arabes) in the new town which were built around 1300. To the right, on the edge of the town, stands the Espiritu Santo Church which is a very pretty 16th century church. If you walk through the panoramic viewing terraces, the Alameda de Tajo, to Plaza de Espana, there is an a amazing view of the old town, the gorge and the 18th century bridge.
Although the town of Ronda is extremely pretty and it's location is spectacular the surrounding areas are just as interesting. If you take the road out of the town past the steep mountain slopes and lush cork, and chestnut oak forests of the Sierra de Grazalema you will encounter some of the finest of the white villages (los pueblos blancos). They are named this because of the dazzling whiteness of the interlinked blocks of houses. Nestling on the hillsides, the houses cluster around a church. From a distant, the compact, gleaming villages look like snow on the dark mountainsides. Ronda and its surroundings are a world apart from the Costa del Sol and it's a part of Spain I can recommend.
Ronda is apparently Andalucía's fastest-growing town after Sevilla and Granada and is bigger than Cordoba. Ronda is still a very Spanish town with all the driving difficulties that presents and I would suggest leaving the car on the outer edges of the town and walking in as the roads are VERY narrow and rather too dramatic for easy driving. Initially we made the mistake of driving through the town. There is a one way system and going in was fine but trying to retrace our steps found us stuck on what appeared to be a footpath, we chickened out and managed to reverse back and drive right out of the town and back in to park where we should have parked in the first place, out of the main old town and walked into the old part of town along steep cobbled streets.
Ronda attracts tourists most specifically to experience its famous dramatic escarpments and views provided by the deep El Tao Gorge with the Rio Guadalevín running through its centre. The 18th century (rather misnamed now) Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, crosses the 100m chasm below and the views into the gorge and not to be enjoyed by those with, a fear for heights and the drop is very dramatic. This amazing bridge was finished in 1793 and is the tallest of the three bridges of Ronda at a towering 120 metres above the canyon floor.
Unfortunately it was raining on the day that we visited Ronda so although we enjoyed looking down through the hazy clouds to the gorge below we were not really able to enjoy the views out beyond to the Serranía de Ronda Mountains.
Ronda is also famous as the birthplace of modern bullfighting but today the bullring or Plaza de Toros, is now a museum, and visitors can pay to go in and learn about the Spanish 'sport' and walk out into the arena. This building is the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain that is still used once a year I understand for a celebration festival. It was built in 1784 in a Neoclassical style by the same architect that designed the Puente Nuevo. It is a very impressive building and quite beautiful if you can get beyond its raison d'etre and its history.
Outside the front of the Plaza de Toros are a couple of bullfighting statues but I am not sure whether were specifically of Ronda's most famous bull fighter Pedro Romero. He came from a bullfighting family and this family is responsible for the style of fighting known as the "Ronda school" to distinguish them from the "Seville school" which had been the dominant style before Romero exploded onto the scene. Surprisingly considering his profession this man lived to the amazing age of 10 and he died in Ronda in 1839.
This famous building has also featured in a music video by Madonna (Take A Bow). The song had nothing to do with bullfighting but the video did feature a bullfighter, Emilio Muñoz and some aerial views of the historic bullring of Ronda.
Apparently the author, Ernest Hemingway loved bullfighting, and he particularly loved Ronda - so much so that he used it as a setting for his novel 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. Hemmingway describes the murder of Nationalist sympathizers early in the Spanish Civil War where the sympathisers are thrown from cliffs in an Andalusian village. It is said that Hemingway based this experience on killings that took place in Ronda at the cliffs of El Tajo.
Orson Wells was equally enchanted by Ronda and spent many summers in the town. His ashes are spread in the Plaza del Toros in Ronda. To celebrate the interest paid to Ronda by these two celebrities two rather special walkways are named after them .The Paseos de Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles The Paseo Orson Welles goes behind the Parador hotel and leads from the bullring to the Puente Nuevo. The Paseo Ernest Hemingway heads behind the bullring towards the Alameda itself. It was rather strange to go to a Spanish town and find two walkways named after famous people that I had no idea had any connection to Ronda.
Ronda is an amazing town perched high in the mountains and split is two by the El Tajo gorge with the Rio Guadalevín running through the gorge. The bridges are quite special, particularly the Puente Nuevo which offers extremely dramatic views. There are a couple of places where you can view the bridge and the buildings and small gardens that creep down into the gorge. This was all the more eerie for us as the misty drizzly rain and cloud kept flowing in and and round the gorge.
This is a lovely Spanish town that appears much smaller than it is because the streets are tiny and the town is spread lengthwise. A lot of the newer buildings are out of the main older town area. The actual older historical town is not big and you can easily walk around providing that you can cope with walking up and down steep hills and cobbled streets. It is possible to go for more dramatic walks down into the gorge but as it was very wet so we didn't fancy slithering down the paths.
I would definitely recommend a visit to this very attractive historical town. It is an easy drive from the Costa del Sol and many coach trips run from the Costa to Ronda. The drive from the coast inland is also quite an experience and there is some lovely scenery to enjoy. As we drove over we saw snow on the mountains against a bright blue sky but this changed to cloudy drizzly rain but with a biting wind for our walk around Ronda which was a shame.
Thank you for reading. I trust this has been of some interest. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
Located only 40 minutes drive from the sun drenched playgrounds of Marbella and Puerto Banus, the historic town of Ronda stands proudly high in the Andalusian Mountains. Still within the province of Malaga it seems a million miles away from one of Spain's premier sun worshiping hot spots of the Costa del Sol. The drive up into the Mountains gives some spectacular views out to Africa, Gibraltar and the closer towns of the Costa del Sol. Of course the approaches from Murcia and Granada by train are far different. Winding through the Andalusian Mountains it is a beautiful and picturesque journey through the Countryside. The views throughout this Journey are fantastic but act as a mere appetiser of what is to come once you arrive in Ronda itself.
On the approach from the coast through the winding Mountain roads you would be forgiven for thinking this was a modern City. The outlying areas are full of row after row of brand new Villas, but standing above all else is the Centre of Ronda. As soon as you reach the outskirts of the town the centre is prominent standing atop of the Mountain in the centre of a rather large plain some 750 meters above Sea Level. It's fair to say that as soon as the historical centre comes into view you forget about the more modern outskirts and focus on a centre divided by a 100-meter deep Canyon.
As a focal point it's hard to imagine anything more impressive than the Canyon formed by the Guadalevin River. The locals have made use of this natural wonder by building restaurants and houses into the sides of the Gorge offering fantastic views whilst you enjoy the local delicacies. Three bridges spanning the Canyon, The Puente Romano, Puente Viejo and the Puente Neuvo join the two halves of the city. With stunning views on offer from each it's an impressive start to the sites the City has to offer but is by no means the end of the treats the City has in store.
With a multitude of sights it is perhaps one of Spain's worst kept secrets with an estimated 70,000 visitors every day during the peak Summer months. There are excursions available from all of the main resorts on the Costa del Sol and that certainly contributes significantly to the number of visitors the City sees. With its location proving to be a real draw to many and the stunning look of the City on your approach it is clear to see why it is such a tourist magnet.
In fact you don't have to go far to find a number of these sites with the former Town Hall located right next to the Puente Neuvo. In fact the building has a much different use these days as a hotel. From the grounds there are magnificent views over the rest of the valley and in particular looking back into the Gorge at the Puente Neuvo, which makes for a rather spectacular photo opportunity.
There are so many different destinations to choose from within the City and it is fair to say that it is almost impossible to give everything the attention it deserves in one visit. The history behind the City is told throughout with information boards, museums and places of general interest that are certainly worth a visit. Even with a full day and a detailed map of the City you would struggle to see everything such is the level of historical interest that can be seen around the City.
One of the best examples of this has to be the City's Bullring, built in 1784 it is the oldest Bull fighting ring in Spain that still sees active competition, albeit rather more infrequently these days. It was designed in the neoclassical style by Jose Martin de Aldehuela whose name is also attributed to a number of other buildings in the City such as the Puente Neuvo. Now rather than being a full time host to bull fights it hosts the City's museum on the subject and gives a rather interesting and insightful look at the Spanish obsession with the activity.
Although just one example of what the City has to offer it gives you a flavour of the detail and historical significance that each and every monument and sight within Ronda has to offer. There is a variety of different sites from the Bullring and Bridges already mentioned to more religious locations such as the Convent and 6 different Churches. That's not to mention the City walls and even a Cave, which is home to a further convent and lifestyle of past generations.
According to guide books and websites on the town there are approximately 24 different places of interest in the City and that isn't even taking into account the array of café's, restaurants and shops that line a number of the twisting and turning streets and plaza's in the Centre. It is a City with a good selection of places to eat ranging from local specialities such as Paella to the more typical restaurants serving Pizza and Steaks. There is something for every taste within the City and even the Fast Food outlets see plenty of trade.
The shops are quite varied as well with a number of your typical tourist shops selling thimbles, postcards and the other items we all buy as tourists. The others sell local produce such as leather jackets and bags made within the surrounding area. The variety of shops gives you a chance to pick up some of your more unusual gifts to take back home as well as offering the usual selection that could be found at any of the Seaside resorts.
For a town that attracts so many people it doesn't appear to be too obvious. The thousands of parking spaces required for such a large number of visitors are largely housed underground leaving the character of the original City intact. Apart from the more modern outskirts of the City it still retains much of its original charm with a number of buildings remaining from the original town centre. Even the newer additions to the central areas are largely designed and built in a similar style giving the centre an historical look.
The combination of the history within the City and the impressive approaches by both Road and Car make Ronda a superb place to visit. The town has both a historic and traditional feel that are in evidence wherever you look within centre of this picturesque location. Of course the outer reaches show just how popular this area is with Holidaymakers but even the modern villas springing up all around the edge of this wonderful City don't seem to be able to detract anything from its appeal and classical charm.
It may have become Spain's worst kept secret but whilst it is still here, sitting proud amongst the Andalucían mountain range it will always retain its original charm. There are plenty of sites to keep most people amused whether it is staring into the Canyon or enjoying a relaxing drink in one of the many café lined squares. If there is one thing to take from a visit to Ronda it's surely the fact that you're never going to forget the sheer beauty and character of this magnificent City.
I visited Ronda in March this year, as part of a "study visit" to Malaga with the college. (studying tourism & spanish)
Ronda is a medieval town situated in the mountains about an hour North of Malaga.
It is a beautiful town, with a lot to offer tourists, such as the bull ring and museum, churches and museums.
As well as a lot of shops!
I found one of my favorite Spanish stores there, Springfields (Topshop for Spanish girls) and needless to say i went a bit crazy with the old visa card in there, oh well you only live once!
Because it is on a cliff, the views from there are amazing, and breathtaking. Really worth the visit there!
Highlights of Ronda:
The mines and tunnels that lead down to the garrison at the bottom of the gorge.
The luxurious Parador accommodations.
Walking through the old town.
The Andalusian gardens with their tall myrtle trees.
The old (plaza del torros) bull ring.
When we were visiting the Costa del Sol at the end of May, we decided to take a day-trip to RONDA. Of course, being situated so very close to the concrete jungle of the Costa del Crime, 50km or around an hour's drive, coupled with the fact that the town is stunningly scenic, means that we weren't the only ones with this in mind.
IT GETS VERY BUSY.
Never mind. It was the first full day of our holiday, so we were up at the crack of dawn (almost) and half-way there before most tour buses had even struggled out of their cosy garages.
RONDA is literally jam-packed with history and is one of Andalucia's most visited towns. It hangs, precipitously, atop a plateau which commands wide vistas in all directions. Such a position was always going to be a natural choice for settlement, and so it proved to be. It's been settled since prehistoric times and was well development during the Roman occupation. But it was during the Moorish period when the town blossomed, and continued to do so after the eventual Catholic re-conquests.
All a bit before my time.
The drive from the coast up to Ronda (770m above sea level) is through a series of steep climbs and hairpin bends along a winding mountain road which, although in good condition and reasonably wide, is still quite time-consuming, especially if you're stuck behind a slow-moving truck. It does have its compensations, however. Some of the scenery is pretty spectacular and if it's clear enough, you can see the coastline of Africa if you look behind you (not advisable when driving).
Eventually, you arrive on the plateau and level(ish) ground again.
On approaching Ronda, it's hard not to be impressed by its situation. The town stops dramatically at the edge of
tall, sheer cliffs and you wonder exactly how you'll be able to drive up to it.
Actually, it was pretty easy - so much for first impressions.
We parked the car very close to the centre of town and strolled off to see the sights.
Ronda consists of two very distinct quarters (shouldn't that really be halves?) - the old and the new. Don't get carried away now, the 'new' quarter is mainly 18th century so 'new' is a relative term.
The two areas are divided very neatly by a gaping chasm called El Tajo through which the River Guadalevín flows. This, and the 'new' bridge that crosses the gorge is probably one of the most photographed sites in this part of the world. The views down into the gorge are breathtaking and with the buildings clinging precariously on the knife-edge of cliff, it's pretty impressive. Apparently, the views looking up from the bottom of the gorge are quite good too, but only a fool would walk all the way down just to walk all the way back up again...
...After we had walked all the way to the 13th century Puerto de Almocábar, and then followed the ancient town walls all the way down towards the C11th 'old' bridge, we walked, or rather climbed, back up again pausing not to admire the views, but to gasp for breath.
Everywhere you look in the old town there is something to see. The buildings are steeped in history and literally reek of ancient times. Almost all the places worth seeing are in this part of town: churches, palaces, monuments, town hall, museums etc. and it's pretty compact so it's possible to see quite a lot in a short time. However, wander off the main north-south drag, and it becomes quite an ordeal - the streets are really steep and when the sun pokes through, the heat can make it fairly uncomfortable.
There are several museums in the old town, in
cluding: A Hunting Museum, an Art Museum and the Municipal Museum. We didn't visit any of those. We did, however, visit the MUSEO del BANDOLERO (Museum of Bandits).
This is the only museum in Spain concerning this subject and was really quite interesting. It's not huge and can be seen in under an hour, but it was very enjoyable.
Apparently, this area was not free from bandits until the 1930's and there are lots of photographs of the last of these 'romantic' characters after they had been hunted down and, in most cases, executed.
I was amazed at the collection of books, comics and magazines that dealt with the subject - in a way, I was reminded of the legends of the American Wild West, the romantisising of what were essentially thieves, kidnappers, cut-throats and murderers.
I was a bit dubious of visiting it, thinking it would be rather sparse and tacky, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. My one quibble was that there could have been more multi-lingual explanations of the displays - only the most basic information was in English.
Another museum, this time just across the bridge in the 'new' town, is the Bullfighting Museum.
Ronda is famous for its bullring - apparently it's the oldest, and some say the most beautiful in Spain. The arena itself is also the country's largest. It's open to visitors (when they're not slaughtering bulls) and the adjoining museum houses many mementos of Spain's most famous bullfighters, including Pedro Romero - the man credited with turning bullfighting from a ritualised slaughter into an 'art-form'...albeit an art-form encompassing blood and gore.
I don't get my jollies from watching dumb beasts being slowly killed to satisfy anyone's blood-lus
t, so I'll be jiggered if I'm contributing a solitary, shiny, sin-sangre eurocent to the 'sport'.
We didn't visit.
The 'new' town is where you'll find most of the shops, bars and restaurants. There are a few in the old town, scattered around, but these generally cater only to tourists and consequently are on the expensive side.
After our visit around the old town, we had a stroll around the shops of the new town, stopping for occasional refreshments (of a non-alcoholic variety...*frown*) and a seat in the shade. The shopping is good, with a good mix of local, everyday shopping and plenty of opportunities for day-trippers. Many of the shops have retained the feel of more leisurely, bygone age, with store-fronts dating from 100 years ago. Very nice.
We stopped for a spot of lunch at one of the many pavement cafes which line the plazas and side streets. It seemed to me that the speciality in these parts was a selection of tapas as a main course with almost every restaurant and bar offering a 'tapa tipico' dish. I couldn't resist and for around ? 7-8, I treated myself to all sorts of scrummy nibbles...¡Delicioso!
After lunch, we had a promenade around the edge of the cliff near the Parador and through some lovely tree-lined parks which led to the mirador and some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. That'll do nicely, I thought.
Incidentally, the ubiquitous McDonald's is situated in a prime location next door to the Parador, but the town council in their wisdom have prevented them from raping the townscape with their usual garish display of corporate decor (it's not just the food that's 'taste-free' at McD's) - all there is is a very small 'golden arch' thingy - not much bigger than a dinner plate. Blink and you'd miss it (alth
ough I for one wouldn't miss McD's)
RONDA is one of those gems of a town. I don't know if you could spend more than a day there without running out of things to do, but as a day-trip destination it has everything - history, culture, fantastic architecture, eating and drinking, good shopping, natural attractions and...well that's about it - it's enough, isn't it?
We arrived there just after 9am and nothing much was open. However, this gave us a chance to have a good wander around in relative solitude. By around 11am, convoys of buses were disgorging hordes of snap-happy visitors and by lunch-time, you could hardly move in the place and that makes for a far less enjoyable experience.
If you ever go, take my advice and go early, you'll thank me for it.