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A lovely 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. 

The bridges and the old city

The most eye-catching part of the city is the deep gorge that separates the old town from the new town. There are two main bridges crossing between the two imaginatively named the old and new bridge, both with the most amazing views across the surrounding countryside. Stunning! 

The Puente Nuevo
The Puento Viejo
Houses perched on the cliff overlooking the Rio Guadalevín gorge in Ronda,
Looking across the fields from Ronda
Walking paths above Rio Guadalevín gorge offer wonderful views

Strolling through the streets of Ronda

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 central plaza, Plaza de España, is a great place to relax and enjoy the passing of time. There are several restaurants, cafes and bars to chill out in. This square was made famous by Ernest Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Chapter 10 tells how, early in the civil war, the ‘fascists’ of a small town were rounded up in the ayuntamiento (town hall), clubbed, and made to walk the gauntlet between two lines of townspeople before being thrown off a cliff.

A pretty house in the old part of Ronda
View across the plateau from one side of Ronda
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Socorro - Plaza de España, Ronda, Spain
The church tower of Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Socorro

The Plaza de Toros de Ronda (Bullring)

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.

The Plaza de Toros de Ronda

In summary …

  • Getting to see the Puente Nuevo is almost worth the trip to Ronda on its own merit
  • The drive from Marbella and the Mediterranean coast is spectacular but the road is narrow with a lot of sharp curves. This might make some drivers nervous. If so take the bus and close your eyes!
  • The historic centre of Ronda is very compact and easy to walk around. Once you are in the town it is very flat but if you venture into the valley below the plateau of the town the climbs are steep
  • This part of Spain gets very toasty in the summer so dress accordings, wear a hat and slather on the sun screen

Planning your visit to Ronda

Ronda is a mountaintop city in Spain’s Malaga province that’s set dramatically above a deep gorge. This gorge (El Tajo) separates the city’s circa-15th-century new town from its old town, dating to Moorish rule.

A day trip from Malaga to Ronda is the perfect excuse to get out of Spain’s 6th largest city and discover the mountainous countryside and fascinating history of Malaga province. 

There are several ways to visit Ronda from Malaga.

Hopping on a bus from Malaga to Ronda is super easy. ALSA bus company has buses running every day, 7 days a week. The cost for a round trip ticket is USD 32 and takes about 3 hours. The winding roads and rugged terrain make for a very scenic and enjoyable drive.

Train is a faster way to travel than bus, however you’ll miss out on some of the gorgeous natural scenery privy only to the bus route. The journey takes just under 2 hours and a round-trip ticket is roughly USD 29. The trains are modern with toilets, refreshments, power outlets and air conditioning.

Another option is to hire a car in either Seville or whichever part of the Costa del Sol you are staying in. You can reach Ronda from both areas in under 2 hours.

Make sure you check to see if you need an international drivers licence to drive in Spain. Always remember to check local traffic before setting off.

Best time to visit Ronda

With pleasant temperatures throughout the year, climate-wise any time is the best time to visit Ronda. However, the festivals and events correspond to the actual best time to visit Ronda with respect to things to do and see. There are only two distinct climates in Ronda.

  • Summer: April to September can be called summer months in Ronda. July is the hottest month with an average temperature of 24 degree Celsius. In September, Ronda hosts the Feria de Pedro Romero and the Corridas Goyescas, Spain’s most popular festivals, drawing large crowds. Eventually, September is the best time to visit Ronda.  
  • Winter: October onwards it starts getting cooler, with January being the coldest of months. November receives some rainfall, an average of 72.7mm of rain.

Where to stay?

1. THE CATALONIA RONDA

Located in Ronda Town Center, just across the bullring, the Catalonia Ronda features an infinity pool, hot tub, and a rooftop terrace with views of the square and Tajo de Ronda. A spa is also available.

This hotel offers a buffet breakfast, and the on-site restaurant serves Andalusian dishes. There is also a snack bar offering tapas and drinks. There are also banquet/function facilities available.

Plaza de España is 650 feet from Catalonia Ronda, while Iglesia de Santa María la Mayor (Ronda) is 2,300 feet from the property.

2. MOLINO DEL PUENTE RONDA

Just 10 minutes drive from Ronda, the Molino del Puente Ronda is a former olive oil and flour mill that has been converted into a boutique hotel with gardens and a swimming pool. It has a riverside terrace, free parking and free Wi-Fi.

The Molino del Puente Ronda’s restaurant has an open fireplace. Here you can enjoy regional dishes using local ingredients and seafood. There is also a large wine list including many wines from the area. You can dine on the terrace during the summer months, and enjoy free tea, coffee and cakes in the afternoon.

The hotel is close to the Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves natural parks. The area is popular for walking, bird watching, horse riding and cycling.

3. HOSTAL RESTAURANTE VIRGEN DEL ROCI0

Hostal Restaurante Virgen del Rocio, is located in the heart of historic Ronda, a few meters from the Plaza de Toros and the popular Tajo, salient symbols and visited this beautiful city. Hostal Virgen del Rocio is a very caring facility, which has 15 rooms with a bathroom, air conditioning, television and internet access, among other services pointers. 

Check out the listing on hostelworld.com for more information.

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