Perched high above the Costa del Sol at the north-west end of Malaga province – and just a scenic 40-mile drive from Club La Costa World – Ronda holds the lofty position as being Andalucía’s third most visited town and the most famous of the Pueblos Blancos (white towns). Famed for its awe-inspiring location atop ‘El Tajo’ gorge and dramatic historical past, it is small wonder that the influential Conde Nast Traveler recently listed Ronda as one of the most beautiful towns in Europe to visit.
Despite its relatively modest size, Ronda offers the classic day trip experience for visitors wishing to swap the beach for an unforgettable day in the Sierra mountain range. For travellers with a head for heights, the journey up to Ronda from the coast will be a thrill itself. The road is a meandering and gently escalating route where the landscape turns almost lunar-like as the Mediterranean gradually disappears from view – this is the reality of being 1,600 metres above sea level.
Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway reputedly called Ronda his favourite place in Spain – and we doubt he is the only one to have said that. Acclaimed by the travel media as a staple destination to any visit to Southern Spain means a regular influx of tourists, yet the town remains unspoilt. Steeped in history whilst being surrounded by dramatic scenery and grand architecture ensures every visit sticks in the memory bank – and camera roll – for a very long time. Here are some essential experiences every visit to Ronda must include:
Puente Nuevo (New Bridge)
The town’s focal point, Purente Nuevo, completed in 1793 after 40 years of construction, offers jaw-dropping views of the untamed Serrania de Ronda landscape with the tantalising El Tajo gorge beneath your feet. Access to Purente Nuevo is free; however, in the middle of the bridge, visitors can pay a small fee to enter the museum housed in a little stone-walled cavern, which was used as a prison throughout the 19th century and during Spain’s Civil War of 1936-39.
Ronda is quite literally a town of two halves; split down the middle by ‘El Tajo’, a giant 100 metre gorge, with the epic ‘Puente Nuevo’ (New Bridge) linking El Mercadillo (The Little Market), the newer part of town, with La Ciudad (The Town), the old Moorish quarter.
Ronda Plaza de Toros (Bullring)
Bullfighting aficionados will know about Ronda’s rich history in the sport, and today its bullring (Ronda Plaza de Toros) – still one of the finest structures of its kind in Spain – pays homage to one of the town’s most famous sons, Francisco Romeo. In the early 18th century, Romeo, a local matador, introduced the now-iconic red cape, known as the muleta, and faced the bull on foot (previously, toreros had performed on horseback) thus creating bullfighting as we know it today. Built in 1785 entirely out of stone, Ronda Plaza de Toros is now used just once a year for the annual bullfight of the town’s September Feria, but tours and the museum are open daily.
Casa del Rey Moro (Moorish Palace)
Sitting atop El Tajo gorge on the old Moorish side of town, Casa del Rey Moro – once inaccurately claimed to be the home of the Moorish King – is now better known for its steep stone staircase down to the Water Mine (a well) which sits at the bottom of El Tajo. When in the well (also known as the ‘Room of Secrets’) people stand against a wall with another person against the opposite wall and someone else in the centre of the room. If they whisper a secret message while standing against the wall, they can listen to the response from the person opposite without the person in the middle of the room hearing a word. The mind-blowing experience alone is worth the 300-step ascent back to the top.
The beauty of Ronda is that there is a Spanish history lesson around almost every corner. Yet there is more to this white town than just tales of the past, such as attractive plazas, boutique-lined streets, pretty parks and bars, restaurants and tapas.