The Beach Boys were singing about a girl, but if they saw this other Ronda, they’d fall in love all over again. There’s no antidote for wanting to revisit this Spanish town, except (for now) the prospect of Covid-19.
She’s not easy to get to, this Spanish Ronda, and we wondered if it would be worth the effort to get up to her on Spain’s public buses. She sits high in the hills in Spain’s Andalusia with her white houses clinging precariously to majestic cliffs. There are spectacular views in all directions and plenty of places to sit and admire them.
Our one mistake was to try to organise accommodation to stay there on a long weekend – that was never going to happen at short notice. Like any beautiful girl, she has many dates on the weekend, so your best chance to enjoy her charms is during the week. We went down to Cadiz on the coast, for a few great days (another story) and hopped on a bus on a weekday to get up to Ronda.
It was worth the effort – she captivates at first glance, and you fall more in love as you get to know her better. She has beauty and style, grace and charm, a long pedigree, and is exciting to boot. This town has been controlled by the Romans, the Moors and the Christians and they’ve all left their mark for you to discover. Romantic Travellers in the 19th century, looking for inspiration for their art or literature, loved Ronda, and Orson Welles and Ernest Hemmingway often stayed here.
Her charms unfold as you get to know her, but first you notice the bridge, The Puente Nuevo built over the Guadalevin River. Completed in 1793, it joins the old Moorish town with the relatively newer part of town, El Mercadillo. It spans El Tajo Gorge and from it you can look deep down into the ravine and also see the white buildings that cling to the spectacular cliffs.
Your main task here is to choose your place for a meal, a coffee or a drink. When you’ve found your café, bar or restaurant, literally on the edge of the cliff, you can sit and admire not only the bridge but the valleys and mountains in the distance. Come back again for another meal in the evening when the bridge is spectacularly lit.
You might choose to stay at the deluxe state-owned hotel, the Parador de Ronda. These Parador hotels are found in some of the most spectacular parts of Spain, and this is one of the most famous. But if your budget doesn’t stretch to this, you can do what many travellers do at luxurious hotels – enjoy a drink on the terrace and admire the views and then stay at one of the more budget-friendly options in the town.
Ronda has some of the best preserved Arabic baths in Spain. You can walk down to these ancient baths and wander around and probably spend some time wishing they were still operational today. They were built around the 13th century utilising columns and arches which still stand. There were rooms in the baths for soaking in cold water, warm water and hot water and they were fed by local streams and a waterwheel and hydraulic system.
The Cuenca Gardens are another spectacular feature of Ronda. They’re situated on the edges of the cliffs and are terraced so that people can walk through them and down into the gorge for a wonderful view back up to Ronda and the bridge.
There’s a more modern part of Ronda, too, should you need a break from the wonderful views, history, traditions and beauty of the old town, but that’s unlikely.
Once you’ve been, nothing will help you get Ronda out of your heart except, perhaps one day, a vaccine and another visit.