Ronda with its world famous bridge and to-die-for views should be on everyone’s bucket list. This Andalucian mountain pueblo simply lives and breathes history, having been ruled by Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Catholic Kings. In the 18th Century, the infamous bandoleros and other law-breakers practically ran the town. It was also the birthplace of modern bullfighting, and later in the 1950s and 60s a favourite hangout of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. Not surprising Ronda is so romantic!
It is a perfect place to wander about picturesque streets and sit on a park bench in the shade of a pink Oleander, taking in the views while listening to a trickling fountain or some classic Spanish guitar. However, to fully enjoy la cuidad soñada (the city of dreams), you must spend at least a night.
Here are a dozen + one reasons why:
- Wake up on the edge
There is nothing quite like it – waking up and looking out your window and seeing this view. The Tajo gorge literally cuts Ronda in two, with the Casco Histórico on one side, and the newer town on the other. Created by the eroding water of the river Guadalevín, with a drop of 100 – 160 meters straight down, those with vertigo might ask for an interior room.
While the hotels on the Tajo edge are not the town’s most reasonable accommodation, they are certainly worth the extra splurge. For a room with a killer view, try a night at the classic Parador de Ronda hotel.
Cost: 150-250 € per night
- Take a morning stroll across the bottom of the sea
The valley beneath Ronda was once the bottom of the ocean, hence the many seashell encrustations in the surrounding vertical cliffs. The fertile ground has been used for olive and wine farming since the Romans were here 2000 years ago. Ask the tourist office for directions and start your morning walk in the San Francisco or La Dehesa neighbourhoods.
Either way, stop for breakfast at the Albergue los Molinos, which in addition to a stunning view of the town from below makes their own bread in a traditional outdoor wood oven.
Walk duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
Free (breakfast not included)
- Step deep down into history in Ronda’s secret Mina de Agua
Most visitors forgo this pleasure, but to literally submerge yourself in Ronda’s dramatic past, there is nothing like stepping down some 60 vertical meters into la Mina de Agua. The 700-hundred-year-old ingenious construction was dug into a natural fissure in the Tajo wall. The mine supplied water to the independent Moorish Kingdom Izn-Rand Onda (City of the Caste) during several Christian sieges. You can still descend the steps where slaves carried water up to the city above. Hidden gaps in the shaft provide magical natural illumination, making the mine interior appear like a subterranean cathedral. Enter the hall where a waterwheel once proved the superiority of Medieval Islamic hydraulic engineering and peak through the door where a Moorish traitor let in the first Catholic troops, making the mine the doorway for Ronda’s Reconquista in 1485.
Calories consumed: 300+
- Light a candle by the Virgin of Tears
These days we can all need to light a candle, and no place is better for this than la Iglesia Santa María la Mayor across from Ronda’s town hall. In its lofty interior you can be assured to find peace and quiet and a cool environment on a hot summer day or a candle-lit intimacy in the winter. Once Ronda’s main mosque, the church is allegedly standing on the ruins of a Roman temple to the goddess Diana. Do not miss a trip up to the rooftop with its magnificent views.
In contrast to many other churches, one can still light a real candle and place it in one of the church’ many beautiful candelabras. However, to ensure that your prayers are heard, leave it in front of the Virgin of Tears, the main statue brought out for the annual Easter processions.
Entrance: 4.50 €
Candle donation: 1 €
- Immerse yourself in an Arab bath – then and now
Even for those who do not enjoy museums, Ronda’s Arab baths – Baños Árabes de Ronda – is worth a visit. On the winding walk down from the centre, you will pass some of the town’s other landmarks, the Carlos V gate and El Puente Viejo (the old bridge). The baths, dating back to the 13th Century, are the best preserved in the entire Iberian Peninsula. When you see the magical light therein, you can almost imagine how it was way back in the day.
After seeing the historical remains, stop by Ronda’s present day bathhouse Hammam Aguas de Ronda next door, for some very reasonable pampering. Constructed in an old mill (which can be seen on maps of Ronda from the 1500s) the modern and clean facilities takes full advantage of the beauty of the old edifice.
Museum 3.50 €
Hammam with massage 33€
- Eat lunch with El Loco (the crazy one…)
There are tapas and then there are great tapas. In Andalucía unfortunately, the former are more common. However, De Locos Tapas just inside the Almocabar gate at the edge of Ronda’s historic quarter, is a rare exception.
Their spectacular and unique tapas are due to el loco himself, the Basque owner Guillermo (William), and his wife Begoña. With excellent reviews, personal service, vintage tunes and only a handful tables, you need to book ahead. Try their Quails Nest, Thai Prawns or Ceviche, and make sure to keep room for dessert!
3-5 € per tapa
- Enter the bullring that Hemingway made famous
Though bullfighting isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, Ronda would not be the same without this historical edifice with its glamorous past. Inaugurated in 1785, Ronda’s Plaza de Toros is one of the oldest and certainly most beautiful in Spain, in addition to being the world’s oldest arena specifically made for equestrian displays and bullfights. The site houses one of Europe’s most prestigious riding schools – the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, dating back to 1571 (two years after the founding of the Vienna Spanish Riding School). Ronda’s Plaza de Toros is where the legendary Romero family started modern bullfighting in the 18th Century. Frequented by Spanish royalty and movie stars, it was also favoured by Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway.
Museum entrance including stables, Tauromachy Museum and Royal Harness Collection: 8 €
- Taste wine in a former convent garden
Ronda has an inordinate amount of small boutique style wineries, many of which are organic. Almost all can be visited, just be sure to make an appointment in advance (sometimes requiring a minimum of 6 visitors). It is hard to pick a favourite as so many are excellent. The one thing that makes Descalzos Viejos winery stand out is its location. Situated in an abandoned monastery with an open vista towards Ronda, I cannot imagine a lovelier place as a backdrop for a wine tasting than the barefoot brothers’ ancient Andalu’ cloister garden.
Standard visit and tastings: 30 € + tax p.p.
Duration: 2.5 hour tour
Private tasting tour (1- 5 people) with owner: 150 € + tax
- Pit-stop at Los Arcos
If you need something to hold you until dinner – a tentenpie as the Spanish call it – join the rondeños at Tabanco Los Arcos. This wine bar just off the Puente Nuevo Bridge is said to be Ronda’s best. Pisqui and his friendly and speedy team serve regional Spanish wine and tasty titbits in Ronda’s narrowest wedge of a building.
Try to get a table near the window, or at least peak out at the abyss below. Ask for their Chicharrón de Cádiz and the wild mushroom paté. Once you are seated in the lively atmosphere, you might not want to leave…
Tapas 1.5 – 2.5 €
- Enjoy a sundowner on the roof of Hotel Catalonia
This is a MUST when you are in Ronda. Hotel Catalonia, located across from the bullring, has Ronda’s most amazing rooftop bar. The hotel offers modern 4-star accommodation, a great restaurant and a skyline pool – all very lovely. However, the best part is their rooftop bar. Nowhere else in town will you get this birds eye view of the Plaza de Toros and the backdrop of the Serranía de Ronda mountains. The optimal time to visit it is just before the sun is setting when the last rays bathes the town in golden light.
Drinks 3 – 5 €
- Dine with a Michelin star chef
Ronda is perhaps not best known for fine dining, but the Barcelona born and trained chef Benito Gómez changed this with the establishment of his two-Michelin-star restaurant Bardal. Voted the best restaurant in the province of Málaga in 2017, it was described by Conde Nast Traveller as “Without doubt the best excuse travelling south to the evermore romantic Ronda.”
While the celebrated restaurant is closed until 2021 due to CoVid, travellers can still enjoy Benito’s Haute Cuisine in his more informal dining establishment – Tragatá. Located a minute’s walk from Ronda’s Puente Nuevo and his other restaurant, this Michelin Traveller’s Choice restaurant offers a gastronomic journey with the best products to be found in the Serranía de Ronda.
Tapas 3 -12 € / Main dishes 20-30 €
- Sleep a la Philippe Starck
Ronda’s LA Organic Oleoturism Experience offers far more than designer olive oils. In addition to touring the beautifully landscaped farm with design features by the world famous French designer Philippe Starck and tasting the premium organic oils in the restaurant, you can also book a night in their rural boutique hotel, merely minutes outside Ronda. This classic Andalucian Cortijo has a bespoke modernistic interior, designed by the Starck Studio. Reserve one of the 4 delux rooms or suites, or why not rent the entire cortijo for a selected party.
Delux room – 120-180 € for 2 per night
Suite – 140 – 210 €
Entire cortijo (4 bedrooms) 620 – 930 € per night
+ 1. Start out the day high – Balloon flight over Ronda
Nothing can top a flight in an air balloon when it comes to taking in the city of dreams. Owner of Granada based company Glovento Sur, Miguel Juliá Garrido and his other capable pilots offer a safe and unforgettable experience. Depending on the balloon size, the flights can take from 6-12 people. Starting at daybreak in the outskirts of Ronda, the trip includes safety preparations, an hour flight and breakfast, with a total duration of 3 – 4 hours. The company has Civil Responsibility insurance and follows the CoVid protocol of the Spanish Ministry of Health. Glovento is associated with the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aerea and is part of the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Group flight: 200€ per person (in groups of 6, 8 or 12)
Private flight: 900€
If you need more reasons, check out Tourism Ronda. Otherwise, what are you waiting for?