Ronda Holiday and Travel Guide

Ronda is a spectacular and ancient town in the heart of Andalucia

Ronda - Andalucia

 

The full natural drama of Ronda is  best appreciated as you enter the town




Built on an isolated ridge of the Sierra Ronda, the town is split in half by a gaping river gorge, El Tajo, which drops a sheer  130 metres on three sides.

Still more spectacular, the gorge is spanned by a stupendous eighteenth-century arched bridge, the Puente Nuevo, while tall whitewashed houses lean from its precipitous edges. Much of the attraction of Ronda lies in this extraordinary view, or in walking down by the Rio Guadalquivir, following one of the donkey tracks through the rich green valley below.

Bird-watchers should look out for the lesser kestrels nesting in and launching themselves from the cliffs beneath the Alameda park. Lower down you can spot crag martins.

View out over the famous gorge in Ronda

Exploring Ronda

And for those of you with a sweet tooth you must try “Yemas Rondenas” (sweet egg yolk flans) these are very addictive, “Queso de Almendras” (almonds and cheese) and ), “Tortitas de Miel” ( large honey biscuits ).

Ronda divides into three parts: on the near (northwest) side of the gorge, where you’ll arrive, is the largely modern Mercadillo quarter. Across the bridge is the old Moorish town, the Ciudad, and further south still, its San Francisco suburb.

The city retains intact its Moorish plan and a great many of its houses, interspersed with a number of fine Renaissance mansions. However, at some stage, make your way across the bridge and along Calle Santo Domingo, also known as Calle Marques de Parada, which winds round to the left.

At no. 17 is the somewhat arbitrarily named Casa del Rey Moro, an early eighteenth-century mansion built on Moorish foundations. The gardens ( but not the house itself ) have recently been opened to the public (daily 10am-8pm;).  From here a remarkable underground stairway, the Mina , descends to the river; these 365 steps guaranteed a water supply in times of siege.

Plaza del Socorro Ronda

 

Further down the same street is the Palacio del Marques de Salvatierra, a splendid Renaissance mansion with an oddly primitive, half-grotesque frieze of Adam and Eve on its portal. The house is still used by the family and was closed to visitors in 2000, though visits may resume in the future.

Just down the hill you reach the two old town bridges – the Puente Viejo of 1616 and the single-span Moorish Puente de San Miguel ; nearby, on the south east bank of the river, are the distinctive hump-shaped cupolas and bizarre glass roof-windows of the old Banos Arabes ( Arabic Baths ).

Dating from the thirteenth century and recently restored, the complex is based on the Roman system of cold, tepid and hot baths and is wonderfully preserved; note the barrel-vaulted ceiling and brickwork octagonal pillars supporting horseshoe arches, all underlining the sophistication of the period.

Epirito Santo Church Ronda

At the centre of the old quarter is Ronda’s most picturesque square, the Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, where stands the cathedral church of Santa Maria La Mayor originally the Arab town’s Friday mosque. Externally it’s a graceful combination of Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance styles with the belfry built on top of the old minaret.

The interior is decidedly less interesting, but you can see an arch covered with Arabic calligraphy, and just in front of the current street door, a part of the old Arab mihrab , or prayer niche, has been exposed.

Slightly west of the square on Calle Montero lies the Casa de Mondragon, probably the real palace of the Moorish kings. Inside, three of the patios preserve original stucco work and there’s a magnificent carved ceiling, as well as a museum covering local archaeology and aspects of Moorish Ronda.

To the north-east of the Plaza Duquesa de Parcent on Calle Arminan, which bisects La Ciudad, at no. 29 you’ll find the new Museo Lara, containing the collection of rondeño Juan Antonio Lara, a member of the family who own and run the local bus company of the same name.

An avid collector since childhood, Señor Lara has filled the museum with a fascinating collection of antique clocks, pistols and armaments, musical instruments and archaeological finds, as well as early cameras and cinematographic equipment.

 

Homes perched at the top of the Ronda gorge

 

Near the end of the Ciudad are the ruins of the Alcazar , destroyed by the French in 1809 (“from sheer love of destruction”, according to Richard Ford), and now partially occupied by a school. Once it was virtually impregnable – as indeed was this whole fortress capital, which ruled an independent and isolated Moorish kingdom until 1485, just seven years before the fall of Granada.

The principal gates of the town, the magnificent Moorish Puerto de Almocabar, through which passed the Christian conquerors (led personally by Fernando), and the triumphal Puerta de Carlos V , erected later during the reign of the Hapsburg emperor, stand side by side to the southeast of the Alcázar at the entrance to the suburb of San Francisco.

The Mercadillo quarter, which grew up in the wake of the Christian conquest, is of comparatively little interest, with just a couple of buildings worth a quick look.

The main focus of interest is a remarkably preserved inn where Miguel Cervantes once slept, the sixteenth-century Posada de las Animas ( also known as the Hogar del Pensionista ) in Calle Cecilia, the oldest building in the quarter.

 

Plaza de Toros Ronda

The other is the eighteenth-century Plaza de Toros , close by the Plaza de España and the beautiful cliff-top paseo from which you get good views of the old and new bridges. Ronda played a leading part in the development of bullfighting and was the birthplace of the modern corrida (bullfight).

The ring, built in 1781, is one of the earliest in Spain and the fight season here is one of the country’s most important. At its September feria the corrida goyesca, honouring Spain’s great artist Goya, who made a number of paintings of the fights at Ronda, takes place in eighteenth-century costume. You can visit the bullring to wander around the arena, and there’s a museum inside.

The Puente Nuevo bridge’s bar (now closed) was originally the town prison and last saw use during the Civil War, when Ronda was the site of some of the south’s most vicious massacres. Hemingway, in For Whom the Bell Tolls , recorded how prisoners were thrown alive into the gorge.

These days, Ronda remains a major military garrison post and houses much of the Spanish Africa Legion, Franco’s old crack regiment, who can be seen wandering around town in their tropical green coats and tasselled fezzes.

If you like exploring every nook and cranny of historic towns on foot, then Ronda is for you. Apart from the Puente Nuevo there is a long list of must visit places around Ronda including the bullring, the Cathedral, the Minaret of San Sebastian, Mondragon Palace, the prehistoric paintings of the Pileta cave, Arabic Baths, Museo Lara and the mercadillo quarter of the town.

And for something different why not walk down ( and up again !) the 365 steps of the Mina stairway which was cut by the Christian slaves in the fourteenth century.

Eating out in Ronda

Bodega Bar Restaurante San Francisco

For some excellent tapas and other traditional Spanish dishes then the Bodega Bar San Francisco is for you. Located in one the oldest neighbourhoods of Ronda it is surrounded by no less than 3 national parks. The restaurant is located in Ruedo Alameda, n° 32.

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Gastrobar Camelot

This is a small busy restaurant bar frequented by the locals, so you know its good. Serving a large selection of typical Spanish dishes including tapas, cured hams, local game and stews. Try the delicious prawn omelette for under 3 Euros. The bar is located on Calle Comandante Salvador Carrasco 3.

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La Lechuguita

For a true authentic Andalucian dining experience in the heart of an historic mountain town, it doesn’t get much better than this. This is low cost, loud and proud and they do it so well.  Lots of delicious dishes to choose from including tapas, black foot cured ham, snails and tripe sauce. The bar is located on Calle Virgen de los Remedios 35

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The Parador Hotel Ronda

Hotel Parador Ronda

 The first luxury Parador hotel was built in 1926 and created by King Alfonso X111 in a bid to use quality tourism as a guardian of the national and artistic heritage of Spain and to assist regions that had fewer economic resources.

The unique Parador Ronda hotel is  superbly located in the centre of Ronda overlooking the gorge and just 30 minutes drive from the busy Costa del Sol. The hotel was formerly the cities town hall and is located right next to the Puente Nuevo, one of Southern Spain’s most visited national monuments, and easy to see why it is such a popular destination for visitors to the area. The views out from the hotels are stunning, specially if your room looks directly down to the bottom of the gorge some 130 meters below.

Local cuisine is always on offer at every Parador around Spain and the famous Hotel Parador de Ronda one is no exception, here you will find quality elaborated dishes such as “ajo blanco” a cold garlic soup, “Conejo a la Rodeña” a rabbit and almond soup, one of my favourites is “ Salmorejo” a thicker type of Gaspacho soup topped off with local olive oil and cured jam.

Recommended hotels in Ronda

muave-arrow-icon  Hotel Polo Ronda

Hotel Polo Ronda is ideally located close to all the  area’s popular attractions. The hotel offers 36 modern rooms which have  been recently refurbished.

All rooms are air conditioned and equipped with a hair dryer, cable/satellite channels and a telephone.

There are a wide and varied range of eateries close to the hotel including its very own Polo Restaurant which is also open for your daily breakfast.

Ronda’s attractions, including Plaza de Toros de Ronda, are easily accessible on foot from Polo. Setenil de las Bodegas and Juzcar are also a short car car drive  away.

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muave-arrow-icon  Hotel Suites Ronda

The Suites Ronda is a popular guest house in an ideal location near the centre of Ronda. For budget accommodation the Suites Guest House comes well recommended. It offers  4 comfortable with all the facilities to ensure a pleasant sgtay in Ronda.

The guest house is just a few minutes walk from the Puente Nuevo, Tajo de Ronda and Plaza de Toros de Ronda.

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muave-arrow-icon  Hotel La Colegiata de Ronda

La Colegiata de Ronda is a quaint 2 star hotel situated close to the area’s popular attractions in Ronda.

The modern apartment type rooms include a refrigerator, a kitchenette and free wifi. There are also a number of apartments available for families.

La Colegiata de Ronda is close to the Puente Nuevo and Tajo de Ronda and plenty of bars and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.

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