Our visit to Ronda, a unique town in the south of Spain
When Michael came to live in Spain, I knew there would be many places to show him. So the other day we decided to make a day trip to Ronda, which is about 1 hours drive from where we live. The weather was a lovely 29C with hardly a cloud in the sky, guaranteeing good photographs of this trip.
The road to Ronda winds up and into the mountains, giving some great views of the coast. Along the road, there was a small cafe where we had a coffee stop and then continued on our way.
Arriving at Ronda
There is a convenient underground parking garage, Martinez Astein, in the town within easy walking distance to many of the unique sites in Ronda. From there, we walked downhill through the main shopping street Carrera Espinel, which was packed with people from all over the world. A cacophony of languages. One should point out the unusual balconies, which look like birdcages.
There are a lot of souvenir shops in Ronda, hand-painted fans going from 6 Euros to more pricey ones. Obviously the more expensive the fan, the more delicate the painting is. You will also find embroidered table cloths and on a small side street to the left, just before you cross the bridge is a tiny shop for original handbags.
A very old town
Ronda is one of the jewels of Andalusia. One of the oldest towns in Spain and known worldwide for its uniqueness and beauty. The town is situated on a plateau 739 m above sea level. There have been archaeological findings which are dated into the Neolithic period but it is believed humans were here long before. There are some great cave drawings in the Cueva de la Pileta dating from the Paleolithic period.
The arrival of the Romans
During the ages, it has been the home to a variety of settlers. The Roman Empire expanded out of Italy and in the long run, with the defeat of Hannibal, came to the Iberian Peninsula and Ronda was woken up from a peaceful sleep. This was the time Ronda received its first name. Arunda actually means surrounded by mountains so instead of a real name, it was merely a description.
Acinipo and Arunda
Battles destroyed the district castle and town. In the 1st century, AD peace was restored and the city of Acinipo neighboring Arunda became the most important Roman town in the area. Acinipo actually means “Land of Wines” and also grew from a small Iberian settlement. It boasted of having an amphitheater and was even allowed to mint its own coins. It became one of the most important Roman towns in Iberia.
Vandals and Visigoths
Afterward, a lot of different tribes came, such as the Germanic Vandals and the Visigoths. During this period it was rarely ever peaceful. More battles were fought over a period of various hundred years. In the year 554, the Justinian army took control of the coastal southern part of Spain, included the Balearic Islands.
A new province, under the name of Hispania, was formed inside the Eastern Roman Empire. Malaga, Almeria, Cadiz, Cartagena, and Valencia all forming part of this new province. By that time, the town of Acinipo had been destroyed, but today you can still visit the ruins.
The Islamic period
Ronda achieved its zenith in the Middle Ages. In those times Ronda was a really small town but it would play a key role in the following historical events in this region of Spain. It became a safe haven for fleeing Muslims after their defeat in Granada. The Islamic period had a huge influence on the region, and a big cultural legacy was left and is still visible today.
You can still see the Islamic influence in urban design. The way of cooking and traditions all point to that time. Walking through the town you will come upon many reminders of Ronda’s golden age.
In times of war, the water supply was of utmost importance. You can still visit the water mine of the Casa del Rey Moro and even if it never was the house of a Moorish king, the water mine definitely is from those times. The house is from a much later date built in the 18th Century. The beautiful garden, which has some fabulous views, was designed by the French landscape gardener Jean Claude Forestier, in 1912
The Moorish king Abomelik
In the 14th Century, the town was constantly besieged. The Moorish king Abomelik is said to have used Christian captives to cut out the stone steps in the wall of the gorge so to get at the water. The slaves were then positioned on the steps in a long line, relaying full water skins up. In those times the steps were said to be 365 in total, some got lost, one does not know how but now there are less than 300. The staircase fell into disrepair and was in a bad shape but was restored in 1911.
The Casa del Rey Moro
When you cross the bridge you find, to your left, a quite steep and the cobblestone paved narrow road which will lead you to the Casa del Rey Moro. The building is being restored and the mine could also use a bit of work done. Personally, I think it really would be a good idea, as I visited the water mine on my trip to Ronda.
Down into the water mine
The lower part of the winding staircase is wet and slippery, the handrail is loose in some places and the lighting is not the best. It gives you a real feel of the place of how it must have been before modern electricity.
You pass some chambers with high ceilings and windows cut into the canyon wall, where there is an unusual echo. When you finally reach the bottom, you come out on a steel platform to a quiet protected stream.
It is very peaceful with birds nesting on the rocks and one does not hear any noise. It is a step back in time. Then comes the moment you realize you have to walk up all those steps again.
The total is a real exercise and my legs hurt for days after I climbed up the last steps to daylight. Being time to have a little lunch, we settled in at a small restaurant on the same street.
The Catholic Kings
When the town was conquered in 1485 by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, a period of economic and cultural upheaval was started. A lot of new things were added to an already beautiful town, new squares and the widening of the streets plus a large number of churches, convents, and monasteries.
Ronda became a beautiful blend of Baroque and Renaissance, together with its lingering Arabic features. A very unusual and impressive mixture which makes Ronda really unforgettable.
The famous bridge
In the 18th century, 2 landmarks of Ronda were built. The famous bullring, oldest in Spain in the sense that there the first corrida took place and the world-famous and impressive bridge which links the 2 city parts together.
By 1542, the people in Ronda had wanted a bridge to be built to connect La Cuidad (the city) to a higher point lying across the gorge. That area was long and flat and would be ideal for the expansion of the town. It was badly needed for building as Ronda was getting crowded.
It took a while to get permission for this bridge but in the 1700’s century construction finally started. Ultimately, the El Mercadillo and La Cuidad were connected saving the people a lot of time.
A catastrophe hits Ronda
The original bridge was not built very well and because of the intensive traffic, the bridge collapsed in 1741, taking 50 people to their death in the gorge below. As the work had stalled on rebuilding the bridge, Jose Martin de Aldehuela was called. He was considered a top architect in Andalusia at that time, and he was the one who designed the New Bridge.
His bridge turned out to be beautiful, a real piece of art and is the most photographed bridge of the whole of Spain.
El Puente Nuevo
The bridge, which today is known as Puente Nuevo, gives you a delightful and impressive view far over the beautiful landscape with mountains in the distance. Famous people have dwelt in Ronda. The writings of Rainer Marie Rilke who stayed in the famous hotel Reina Victoria.
Sadly this hotel which still had the looks of bygone times was taken over and refurbished some 6 years ago. The location is still lovely but the hotel itself has lost its charm.
Standing on the bridge you might feel a bit dizzy looking down into the gorge. Ronda is also known as “the Eagles Nest” as it is so high up in the mountains. People in old times always looked for such spots to build their towns as one had to count on invaders.
The bullring of Ronda is considered the birthplace of the modern bullfighting style. The construction for the bullring started in 1779 and was finished in 1785. In old times the fighting of the bull would be from horseback. It would take many years to train a horse to elegantly dance in the arena just a few centimeters away from the bull’s horns.
I once saw a bullfight like that in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol. The famous Peralta brothers on horseback, a real event. The bull was not killed, it was a beautiful dance between 2 animals.
Pedro Jimenez, Ronda’s famous bullfighter broke away from that time bullfighting style on horseback. This happened in the 18th century and up till today this new type of confronting the bull on foot is used in traditional corridas.
The bullfighter’s outfit is called “Traje de Luces” meaning suit of Lights. This is due to the silver and gold threads that are used in making the beautiful embroidery. Once a year the famous Corrida Goyesca bullfight is held in the arena. Ernest Hemingway used to come every year during his life and his ashes are in Ronda. Ordonez, one of Spain’s most famous bullfighters had the ashes put in a well on his estate.
This world-famous Corrida is a highlight during the Feria de Pedro Romero, held in the first week of September. People and bullfighters alike dress up in clothes from Goyas time. It is a long-standing tradition and a social event where you will be able to see many known faces.
The well-known writers Collins and Lapierre tell you the story of one of Spain’s most famous bullfighters. This is the story of matador El Cordobes. He was born poor and became a multi-millionaire.
There are so many interesting things to visit that I will list a few more.
The museum at the bullring will give you insight in its history
The Banos Arabes, the Arabic Baths in Ronda, is one of the best-preserved in Spain, together with the ones in Granada. They were in continual use for some 600 years. These baths were situated outside the old walls of the town close to one of the few original remaining bridges of Ronda, El Puente Arabe.
From there you can start a long walk deep in the Tajo going in front of the bridge from below. It will give you some spectacular angles for taking good photographs. Put on good walking shoes.
The Mondragon Palace. It was built in 1314 and Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand used it as their residence when visiting Ronda. Nowadays it is the Ronda Municipal Museum where you will find a permanent collection of the history of the village. You should visit the palace gardens as they will give you a beautiful view of the old town.
Do explore this lovely place. It will give you memories that will last a lifetime. On returning home that evening, after having taken a different route home through the mountains, we felt tired but content and Michael absolutely loved his first visit to Ronda.
I have made a special page for my visitors. Have a look at Recommendations, you might find something of your interest.
Source: My Life
Photo Source: Private
I have lived in the south of Span since 1976 and really love my guest country. When I look out of the windows of my workroom, looking North, I can see this rock formation in the background. Andalusia offers so many beautiful places, perhaps you care to read this post.