Spain: Andalusia – the spectacular Ronda
A spectacular ancient city perched on the edge of a plateau in the heart of beautiful Málaga province
We made an early departure from our hotel and it was pleasantly calm in Marbella, with virtually no one on the streets; presumably, people were still in bed and sleeping off the excesses of the night before. We quietly slipped out of Marbella and left the Mediterranean behind us for the last time on this trip, climbing high into the coastal mountains. The road from Marbella to Ronda involved traversing a lot of steep gradients and tight curves, with occasional glimpses of the sea in the far distance. Truly a stunning drive!
Perched on an inland plateau riven by the 100m fissure of El Tajo gorge, Ronda is Málaga province’s most spectacular town. It has a superbly dramatic location, and owes its name (surrounded by mountains), to the encircling Serranía de Ronda.
Established in the 9th century BC, Ronda is also one of Spain’s oldest towns. Its existing old town, La Ciudad (the City), largely dates to Islamic times, when it was an important cultural centre filled with mosques and palaces. Its wealth as a trading depot made it an attractive prospect for bandits and profiteers, and the town has a colourful and romantic past in Spanish folklore.
We had left Marbella before breakfast and by this time we were hungry, so the first order of the day was to find a café and eat. Fully refuelled it was now time to explore, but for Emily who was wiped out from the previous day for some unfathomable reason, it was time to retire back to the underground car park for a snooze.
The most eye-catching part of the city is the deep gorge that separates the old town from the new town. There are two bridges crossing between the two, both with the most amazing views across the surrounding countryside. Stunning! We spent the next couple of hours wandering through the pretty narrow streets, past old churches and parks filled with trees, their canopies providing an escape from the hot summer sun. It was one of those towns you could imagine yourself happily spending your last days in. The streets and plazas were bustling with tourists and locals, but there were plenty of tranquil spots with spectacular views to retreat to and quietly contemplate life.
The centre-piece of the town is the old bullring, entirely made of stone and dating back to the 18th Century. The arena has a diameter of 66 metres (217 ft), surrounded by a passage formed by two rings of stone. There are two layers of seating, each with five raised rows and 136 pillars that make up 68 arches. The seating capacity is around 5000 people. Both Karen and I dislike the cruelty of bullfighting so for once we were not tempted into visiting a museum, but nonetheless it was an impressive structure and an integral part of the history and culture of Ronda.
After a couple of pleasant hours walking the streets, it was time to continue onto Córdoba, the final stop of this tour. Our resting place for the next couple of nights was to be the Córdoba Bed And Be, a quaint hostel in the centre of the city. First on our agenda was a stop at a supermarket to pick up some provisions, followed by a quick picnic to fill our bellies. Arriving at the hostel we were feeling the effects of the heat, so it was time for a siesta (now a regular feature of our days in Spain!)