Ronda (Spain) is one of those small cities you may or may not have heard of before your trip to Spain. If you are a literature fan, you may have heard of Hemingway’s and Orson Welles’ many summers in this beautiful place. However, if you aren’t don’t despair, despite its under 40000 inhabitants, this small city has already found its way into the hearts of many visitors on its own terms. In a breath-taking location, Ronda stands at about 750 meters above sea level, divided in two by river Guadalevin, surrounded by the rolling hills of sierra de Grazalema in the region of Málaga. The affordable high-quality leather goods produced in the region are an attractive enticement for many. For others, it’s the medieval and Moorish historic sites. All in all, Ronda seems to have something for all. Who would have thought! During our amazing 8-day road trip we discovered how amazing this small city really is.
The three bridges that connect the different parts of Ronda to one another are one of the many sights worth seeing while in Ronda.
The “Puente Romano or Puente de San Miguel” (“Roman Bridge or Bridge of St. Michael”), is the original bridge in Ronda, and despite its name, it was originally built by the Moors. It would connect the city to the main northern gate. You’ll find this bridge if you head down towards the old (almost intact) Arab Baths from the 13th and 14th centuries.
The “puente Viejo o puente árabe“(“Old Bridge or Arab Bridge”), is the oldest of the three bridges in Ronda. Its origin is controversial but from the few records found it was probably built by the Arabs, and re-built in 1616 after being destroyed by a flood. This bridge would connect the city to the market neighbourhood.
The newest of the three, the “Puente Nuevo” (“New Bridge”), which is actually over 200 years old -finished in 1793- is the one that provides the most stunning views over the Guadalevin gorge. 120m above the river bed, this bridge took 42 years to build. If you are adventurous like us, you can take a stroll down to the bridger’s machinery, or even further down to the river. But make sure to wear appropriate shoes as it may be a bit slippery.
The Arab Baths
Built around the 11th or 12th century, these seem to be one of the best-preserved examples of an Arab Hammam in Spain. Carefully restored and handsomely conservated, this ruins gather to this day the splendour of the Moorish kingdom of Ronda. Despite being located outside the defensive walls of the city, it is believed that these were the main Ronda baths during quieter times.
La Casa del Rey Moro
It isn’t actually a Moorish King’s house, as it was built sometime in the 18th century. What is worth the visit to this place is the water mine. In the 14th century, Ronda was in the line of fire between the Christians from Seville and the Moors from Granada. Often besieged, the starting point was to cut the water supply. To avoid being left with no water, it is said that king Abomelik, with the “help” of Christian captives, carved steps on the stone of this cave to allow for them to get water from the river Guadalevin. Heavily damaged the original 360 steps-stair had to be restored. Even tho now there’re less steps than originally built, it’s still a challenge for the unfit, so take it easy on your way up!
The Riding School (The Bullfighting Ring)
Inaugurated in 1785, Ronda’s Bullfighting Ring is one of the oldest in Spain. Now principally used as a museum, with the exception of the Corridas Goyescas every September. But within the walls of the Plaza, is the world renowned (among horseback riding lovers at least) Real Maestranza de Equitación de Ronda (The Royal Cavalry of Ronda). Dating back to 1573 is the oldest known brotherhood, and a stunning sight if you catch the youngsters training in the paddock. If not, well, you’ll have plenty of time to read about the evolution of the Spanish (Andalusian) horses, the Spanish step, and how it all started.
As an interesting fact, while there, we learnt that the origins of Bullfighting weren’t as it is today. Nothing to do with show and glitter. It was a training technique for the cavalry when these were not yet fully developed to their full potential. They would train with bulls as a way to learn to fight against unpredictable opponents. Over time, it evolved to what we know now.
After just a day in Ronda, we were left wanting more. But for 24 hours in the Sierra de Grazalema, these 4 must-sees will keep you entertained. Have you ever been to Ronda? What would you recommend for my next visit? Let me know in the comments below!