Ronda, Puente Nuevo seen from a zig-zag walk down to the Arco del Cristo.
Why visit Ronda?
Spain’s tiny, old and often dazzling whitewashed towns – pueblos blancos – in Andalusia, mostly situated inland, are in stark contrast to the modern high-rise, white trash apartment blocks clogging up the Spanish Costas, though it’s only fair to say that getting to many of the pueblos blancos involves driving though some quite eye-stinging suburbs.
Never mind. Once ensconced in whatever old town it is, the traveller can wander in reasonable tranquility and pleasure, tempered mainly by the number of other tourists participating in the same activity. This will depend on the season and the fame of that particular town. Try to avoid summertime, or do your sightseeing early and late.
And on the subject of fame, Ronda is not only the most appealing and interesting pueblo blanco in Spain but also one of the most dramatic towns in Andalusia due to its cliff-hanging tendency and startling Puente Nuevo.
One of Ronda’s cool and quiet streets in the La Ciudad, the old town.
Ronda’s history goes back to the 9th century BC. The ‘new’ town section – started in 1485 AD – on the north side of the Tajo Gorge ( left in the picture) is called El Mercadillo, while the older Islamified part is called La Ciudad (the city). The zig-zag walk down to this viewpoint takes just ten minutes.
Ronda, El Mercadillo, New Town
On top of rock-solid Puente Nuevo (new bridge but finished in 1793! ) there’s no hint of how much air there is between the bridge traffic and the earth below (120m/390ft).
A view from Puente Nuevo
El Tajo Gorge and Puente Viejo/Arabe (old/arab bridge), with El Mercadillo on the left and La Ciudad on the right. There is another Roman bridge beyond the Arab one and the unimpressive ruins of Baños Arabes after that.
Plaza del Socorro and church of the same name.
Bull Ring, Plaza des Toros
Plaza de Toros, Spain’s oldest bull ring and the start of all that bloodshed.
Ronda’s main claim to fame is that bullfighting originated in the city. In the 16th century the Spanish aristocracy learnt to ride in Ronda’s famous equestrian school, the Real Maestranza de Ronda and part of the training involved being chased around a ring by half a ton of angry beef.
On one occasion something went wrong (surprised? ) and a Spanish nobleman found himself on the dirt looking at a pair of rapidly approaching high-speed horns. A local lad, Francisco Romero, jumped into the ring and distracted the bull by waving his hat.
And so Spain’s bloodiest tradition was born, though the gay costumes (incredibly hot and heavy), red cape and balletic manoeuvres were an invention of Francisco’s grandson Pedro.
Plaza de Toros interior.
The Plaza de Toros’ famously large (66m diameter) and consequently dangerous plaza, seats only a modest 5, 000 spectators, but in great, over-arching style.
The most spectacular events are in early September at Ronda’s Corridas Goyescas, honouring Pedro Romero with many participants and locals wearing elaborate 19thC outfits.
Just about every half-assed tourist destination in Andalusia has a bull-ring and attendant museum but most authorities consider Ronda’s Museo Taurino to be the best. Rent an audio guide and take a fascinating self-guided tour of not only the extravagant and detailed museum but wander the ring, bull-pens, horse-pens etc and learn stuff to amaze your friends. The bugcrew are not museum fanatics but this one is special and well worth a few euros.
Ronda La Ciudad, Old Town
Palacio de los Marqueses de Salvatierra in Ronda La Ciudad (Old Town), with palm frond left over from Easter celebrations and native American carvings..
A tiny call-to-prayer station, the Minaret de San Sebastian.
Puerta de Felipe V, leading onto Puente Viejo and across into the ‘new’ town.
Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor ahead, with the Town Hall on the right.
Once a mosque this is now a lavish church with some Arabic writings still to be seen on walls. Across the road is an amusing museum of Andalucia banditry and a minute away is Palacio de Mondragon, built in 1314 for Ronda’s Muslim ruler and now an impressive museum.
Ronda to Seville: 127 kms. By car/bus about 2 hours. Ronda to Malaga: 102 kms. By train (change trains) at least 2 hours or by car/bus about 1. 4 hours.