When it comes to Andalusia, the small white town of Ronda is usually one of the first places people think of (and after visiting the region, it’s easy to understand why). Ideally located inland between the cities of Sevilla and Málaga, it is an excellent stop on a road trip through the region on the way to the famous Caminito del Rey or the beautiful natural park of El Torcal de Antequera.
Ronda is a beautiful example of an Andalusian city with its Arab influences, its palaces, its white houses, its emblematic bridge that overlooks the El Tajo gorge… It is also considered the spiritual capital of bullfighting (although we have to say that we think this tradition is outdated and cruel).
But in our opinion, Ronda is much more than that! Ideally located in a spectacular natural setting between the Sierras de Grazalema and Las Nieves ranges, it is also a small paradise for nature lovers and hikers like us.
So let’s get started!
- A brief history of the city of Ronda in Andalusia
- Our ideas of things to do in Ronda, Spain
- Puente Nuevo: Ronda’s bridge and emblem
- The Ronda Bullring
- The Almocabar gate and the Arab walls
- The arab baths
- The Cuenca garden
- The Plaza Duquesa de Parcent
- Palaces of Ronda
- The most beautiful viewpoints and miradors of Ronda
- A hike in Ronda to discover the whole city
- The wines of Ronda
- Our favorite restaurants in Ronda
- Where to stay in Ronda? (hotel, apartments)
- Our ideas of things to do around the city of Ronda
- Our map of things to do in and around Ronda
A brief history of the city of Ronda in Andalusia
Let’s make it short but to understand what you will discover in Ronda, a brief historical reminder is necessary 🙂 . Ronda is in fact one of the oldest cities in Spain and there are traces of human presence in the region that date back to the Paleolithic. Although it was already established in Roman times, the city of Ronda really took off during the Islamic period (between the 8th and 15th centuries), which left an important cultural heritage. In fact, you can admire some of the remains of this period, such as the Almocabar gate, the city walls and the Arab baths.
In 1485 Ronda was reconquered by the Catholic kings, who would complete the reconquista a few years later by taking the city of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula. From that date on, the Christians would construct new buildings that are still part of Ronda’s heritage today (churches, the Mondragon Palace).
Finally, it is not until the eighteenth century that the most emblematic monuments of the city were built, along with the new bridge and the rise of bullfighting and the Ronda bullring. It was also from this time that Ronda acquired an image of a romantic city after many artists and travelers had depicted the beauties of the city.
Our ideas of things to do in Ronda, Spain
Well, let’s move on, so what did we do in Ronda during the week we stayed there? (well, we didn’t only visit, we also worked a little bit but well… we took our time 🙂 )
Puente Nuevo: Ronda’s bridge and emblem
As I mentioned earlier, Ronda was built on a rocky promontory, split in two by the Guadalevin River, which carved out El Tajo, a deep gorge that is more than 100 meters high in some places. To connect the old city (palace side) with the new one (bullring side), it was decided in the 18th century to build an imposing bridge at this location (the Puente Nuevo). The bridge that you can admire today is in fact the 2nd attempt to build it since the first one collapsed in 1741, killing 50 people in the process. The result is a massive bridge of more than 100m high that has become the emblem of the city.
But as you can imagine, if it is called the new bridge, it is because there are also other older bridges. If you go down a little bit along the gorge, you will find the Puente Viejo (old bridge) which used to be the main link between the old and the new city. And if you go down to the Arab baths, you will also find the Arab bridge, which is the oldest one and dates back to the Moorish period in Ronda.
There are several ways to discover the bridge of Ronda:
- We suggest that you discover this magnificent architectural work in all its aspects from the different viewpoints around the bridge (next to the Parador Hotel, the Aldehuela viewpoint, the Cuenca gardens or by taking the path that goes down to the bridge’s base). But we’ll talk about the best viewpoints in Ronda in more detail below.
- You can also go down to the chamber above the central arch of the bridge, which is now a small museum about the bridge. You have to pay an entrance fee (2,5€) but it will allow you to see the arches of the bridge from below and to learn more about its construction. By the way, the museum room was once a prison and some prisoners were executed by being thrown down the bridge through the small opening visible from the outside.
The Ronda Bullring
Even if we think that corrida and bullfighting are among those traditions that should disappear as soon as possible, the city of Ronda is considered by some as the cradle of modern bullfighting. The Romero family, a famous lineage of matadors whose Francesco Romero would be the first to have perfected the “art” of using the muleta (the red cloth) and the sword to kill the bull, comes from Ronda.
The Ronda bullring dates back to 1785 and was built by Martin de Aldehuela, the architect who also designed the New Bridge. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful bullrings in Spain and it was here that Pedro Romero (Francesco’s grandson), one of the most important figures in bullfighting, performed… This dear Pedro is said to have killed 5600 bulls during his career without being scratched once. A real matador!
Anyway, we didn’t visit the bullring of Ronda (we didn’t really want to support the bullfighting tradition with those 16€) but you can visit it and a bullfighting museum for something like 8€ per person.
The Almocabar gate and the Arab walls
You will find the Almocabar gate (13th century) at the entrance to the Ronda’s old town and it was the main entrance to the city in its Muslim era. If you enter the old town through the gate and continue a little further, you will come across another section of wall from that era that has been completely restored.
Frankly, with such a geographical situation (on a rocky promontory on the edge of a cliff) and such strong walls, you will understand why Ronda was difficult to retake 😉
The arab baths
It happens that in Ronda you will also find the best preserved Arab baths of the Iberian peninsula… the problem is that we went there early in the morning (we were starting a beautiful day hike to discover Ronda that we’ll talk about below) before the opening which is at 10 am I think. Therefore we could only look at them from the outside 🙁 #Fail
Now that you know about that, you won’t make the same mistake and you will be able to see this yourself. Apparently, the irrigation system and the boiler room are still very well preserved, and you will also be able to visit the 3 thermal bath rooms that had 3 different temperatures. From what we read, it’s 4,5€ well invested 😉
The Cuenca garden
This is clearly one of our favorite places in Ronda. These gardens are suspended at the edge of the El Tajo gorge (on the side of the new town) and will offer you a spectacular view of the gorge and the Puente Nuevo (and the Viejo too). You will pass from flowered terraces to flowered terraces through small staircases that connect the old bridge to the Plaza España.
And if you wonder why the gardens are called “of Cuenca”, it is because Ronda is twinned with this beautiful Ecuadorian city from which we have excellent memories (at the time of our round the world tour).
The Plaza Duquesa de Parcent
Located just behind the Almocabar gate and its walls, the Duquesa de Parcent square is, in our opinion, the prettiest square in the city. It was the heart of the old Medina of Ronda in the time of the Moors. Today it is a very lively square surrounded by magnificent historical monuments such as the church of Santa Maria la Mayor and the town hall. You will also find several nice sunny terraces where you can have a drink or a bite after a day of visits.
Palaces of Ronda
On the old town side of Ronda, there are several palaces (or Palacio) some of which can even be visited. As for us, we did not visit the interior of these monuments because we always had our dog Winchy with us. But we were able to admire them from the outside and if you come to Ronda we recommend you to have a look at the following palaces:
- Mondragón Palace (municipal museum): This palace is one of the most important monuments in Ronda and was the home of the last city governor. Today it houses the Archaeological Museum of Ronda, but it is most visited for its beautiful interior courtyards and gardens overlooking the cliffs.
- Palace of the Moorish King and its water mine: Just across the gorge from the Cuneca gardens, on the other side of the El Tajo, is the palacio del rey Moro. Unfortunately, the house itself cannot be visited and it is only possible to visit the hanging gardens over the gorge (which we saw from the other side). It is also possible to go down to the Guadalevin river via a staircase built into a crack in the rock. In the Moorish era, this construction was one of the main sources of water for the city and many Christian slaves used these stairs every day to bring water. Apparently, this building was also the weak point of Ronda when it was reconquered by the Catholics in 1485.
- Salvatierra Palace: I don’t think you can visit this palace, but its baroque front facade is impressive… and as it is only a few steps away from the Palace of the Moorish King, it would be a shame not to take a look at it.
The most beautiful viewpoints and miradors of Ronda
As you can see, Ronda is a magnificent city with an extremely rich and varied historical heritage. To discover it under its most attractive views, we share with you below the viewpoints that we liked best in Ronda (you will also find them all on our interactive map at the end of the article):
New bridge viewpoints
Since the Puente Nouevo is the emblem of Ronda, there are several viewpoints that will let you enjoy it from all sides. Here are the ones we liked best:
- Mirador de Aldehuela: Located right next to the bridge, on the old part side of the city, it offers a breathtaking view of the el Tajo Gorge and the bridge.
- The Cuenca Gardens: as explained above, these gardens overlook El Tajo and offer a superb panorama of the entire gorge, the old and new bridges and the Moorish king’s palace just opposite.
- The Puente Nuevo mirador (from below): from the alley that continues behind the Mondragon palace, there is a path that goes down to the bottom of the cliff and offers various really impressive views of the bridge (especially in the afternoon and at night). This path is also used by the people who do the Via Ferrata in Ronda (they were coming out of the Via Ferrata as we were passing by and it looked really nice). The path also allows you to go to the base of the bridge, in the El Tajo gorge. To be done absolutely even if it is a goot climb to come back up 😉
The viewpoints of the city of Ronda
- Ronda lookout point ( from afar): Frankly it is certainly the mirador that we preferred and also the one where we went the most often (since it was in general the morning walk with the dog from the camping). It is located at the edge of an agricultural track towards the Virgen de la Cabeza chapel (1st photo below). The viewpoint is on the first hill in front of Ronda and offers a spectacular view of the entire city center with the bridge, the cliff and the El Tajo gorge. If you don’t mind a little walking, we highly recommend this place!
- The English Promenade: This promenade runs along the edge of the Ronda cliff and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and all the houses on the cliff side. At the end of the walk, you will come to the el Tajo gorge and have a beautiful view of the Puente Nuevo (this is also where the entrance is located to go down under the bridge and visit the museum).
- Ronda Cliffs Viewpoint: This viewpoint is on the hike I’m going to suggest just below and offers a very nice view of the whole cliff of Ronda. It is clearly not the perspective of the city that you will see most often in photo but we liked this place a lot.
- old town viewpoint: If you’re too lazy to walk to the Ronda lookout point that I mentioned first, you can also come to this one, which is located at the outskirts of the old town, right next to the Torre del Predicatorio. From there you’ll have a great view of the old town (but you won’t see the bridge)
A hike in Ronda to discover the whole city
You start to know us, if we can get a nice hike to discover a place, it will always be our first choice 😉 . And for Ronda we suggest you an itinerary of 9kms that passes by all the points mentioned above except the Ronda lookout point that we did during the morning walk of Winchy.
So if you are not afraid to walk 9kms and you want to discover Ronda while hiking, we can hardly recommend you a better hike 😉
This beautiful walk, half urban and half rural, starts at the entrance of the old city, in front of the Almocabar gate. It will first take you to discover the old Medina starting with the walls, the Arab baths to go up on the left side of El Tajo to pass in front of the Moorish king’s palace.
Staying on the side of the old city, you will discover for the first time the Puente Nuevo from the Mirador de Aldehuela before heading to the Mondragon Palace. You will leave the city to go down to the base of the cliffs by a beautiful path with impressive views. Then you will follow a small road through fields and almond trees before going back up along the cliffs to the new town.
At the La Merced church, turn right into the Alameda del Tajo park and then take the English walk while enjoying beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. After passing the Ronda bullring, you will find the Puente Nuevo to continue on the other side of the el Tajo gorge through the gardens of Cuenca. After crossing the old bridge, you will finish this hike in the heart of the old city passing by the plaza de la duquesa de Parcent where you can have a well deserved beer (and/or eat some tapas 😉 )
So, not bad as a scenic walk in Ronda, right?
Speaking of hikes, there is also a free walking tour in Ronda. If you don’t know the idea yet, you go on a walking tour of a city with a guide (in a small group). The tour is “free” but you have the possibility of tipping the guide if you enjoyed the visit and his explanations. Every time we visit a city, it is always the first thing we try to do because it gives a very good overview of the city and the things to do. We wanted to make the free walking tour of Ronda but as we were in low season, it was cancelled each time due to the lack of people 🙁 . #Snifff
The wines of Ronda
Another thing we like about the Ronda region is that it produces very good wines (with the denomination of origin Sierra de Ronda). The wine tradition in the region goes back to Roman times! But with the arrival of the Arabs on the Iberian Peninsula, the viticulture obviously took a hit (since they were not supposed to drink alcohol).
The wine production started again after the reconquest under the impulse of the monks who cultivated the vineyards around their abbeys. However, it went through another difficult period with the arrival of phylloxera (as was the case throughout Europe in the 19th century) and then the civil war and the world wars in the 20th century.
It was not until the 1980s that the first winegrowers moved back to the Ronda region to revive this almost extinct tradition. Nowadays, many wineries have developed in the region… We certainly could not taste everything but we enjoyed a lot the wines that we tried around Ronda.
Besides, if you are interested in wine tourism, there is a wine route in Ronda and we suggest you read this blog post that will tell you a lot more about the wines of the region. And to taste the wines of Ronda, we recommend you our 1st favorite restaurant in Ronda below.
Our favorite restaurants in Ronda
So you can imagine, we obviously didn’t try all the restaurants in Ronda. But well, considering that we stayed one week in the area and that we had not eaten a lot outside until then in Andalusia (the advantages to have a van and to be able to cook), we took the opportunity to go out in Ronda with Tapas and Vino Tinto as our goal 😉 .
Here are our favorite restaurants in Ronda (you will find them on the map at the end of the article):
- Entre Vinos: This is without a doubt our favorite in the Tapas – red wine category in Ronda. The restaurant is very small (so try to come early) but has a lot of charm. The tapas are original, delicious and there are even vegetarian options (which is rare enough to be noted in Spain). Moreover they have a great choice of wines which come only from the region of Ronda with a beautiful selection by the glass. We left with several bottles to take away for the van… and to crown it all, the value for money is great!
- Toro Tapas: We stopped in this restaurant during the hike we described above. It is located just a stone’s throw from the Ronda bullring and offers a nice selection of tapas and wines from the region (special mention for the boletus risotto and the eggplant with honey).
- Las Tablas: So we didn’t manage to test this restaurant ourselves because they were closed for vacations when we visited. But a reader assured us that it had been their best restaurant of all their stay in Spain (and the online reviews seem to be unanimous)… so we took the liberty to recommend it to you.
Where to stay in Ronda? (hotel, apartments)
In our case, we left our van at the camping El Sur which is a little bit outside the city of Ronda (20 minutes walking to the center). We found that this place was good but not very practical to go out to eat in town since we had to walk quite a bit to reach the center.
If you are looking for a hotel or an accommodation in the center of Ronda, we recommend you to have a look at Booking or simply to use the interactive map below:
Our ideas of things to do around the city of Ronda
Well, now that you know what to see in Ronda itself, we’ll share with you below all our favorite things to do or see around the city of Ronda. As we said at the beginning of this blog post, the city of Ronda has an interesting location between the ranges of Sierras de Grazalema and Las Nieves. It is a real little paradise for the nature and hiking lovers that we are… And as we are in Andalusia, there are also real gems of small white villages typical of the region around Ronda.
As always, we don’t pretend to have seen or done everything in the area (there is plenty to keep you busy for months)… But we simply share what we liked the most among the visits we made. Let’s go!
The white village of Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil de las Bodegas (15 kilometres north of Ronda) is a truly atypical place, since part of the village is built under a rocky overhang on the banks of the Trejo River. The troglodyte houses of Setenil are more impressive than other houses of this type that we have seen in Andalusia precisely because of the rocks that advance above the front of the houses, creating a kind of natural pergola 😉
Setenil is quite a touristy village and we really recommend you to come in the morning or at the end of the day to avoid the crowds from the tourist buses. Otherwise, here is what we think you should not miss in Setenil de la Bodegas:
- Calle Cuevas del Sol: This is clearly the most touristy street at the entrance of the village but there is plenty of reason for it. This is where you’ll find several bars/restaurants along the river with terraces shaded by the rocky overhang. Really impressive!
- Calle Cuevas de la Sombra: This street is well named because here the rocks cover completely the street with houses on both sides. So we really have the impression to be in a tunnel whose side walls are houses… Quite crazy!
- Calle Herreria: C’est la ruelle piétone assez pentue qui monte jusqu’au château contre les rochers (d’ailleurs le château se visite s’il est ouvert). C’est certainement ma ruelle préférée du village car plus calme que les 2 premières citées ci-dessus.
- Mirador del Carmen: Located at the top of a staircase in front of the castle, you will have an unobstructed view of the castle and a part of the village below.
- Mirador de Calle San Sebastian: Located at the edge of the main road (CA-4223) which passes above the village, you will have a splendid view on the whole village. There is room to park the car at the side of the road if it is not too big but if not just walk up 😉
The white village of Olvera
It is honestly not easy to choose a nicer white village than another one in Andalusia (and besides we will certainly write a blog post about the villages we preferred during our trip in Andalusia) but Olvera is clearly at the top of our list.
Built on a hillside, at the foot of a 12th century fortress and an imposing church, Olvera makes an impression from quite a distance. It is not the most famous place in Andalusia but it was clearly one of our best surprises of the trip!
In Olvera, we recommend you not to miss the following things:
- Visit the Arab castle: This is the visit not to be missed in Olvera! For 2€/pers, you can visit this imposing fortress and climb to the top of the highest tower to have an incredible view of the village, the olive groves and the surrounding mountains. Simply spectacular!
- The Olvera cemetery: It is located literally under the dungeon of the castle and is just very beautiful and well maintained with beautiful views of the surroundings.
- Church of the Encarnación and it’s square: The church is the 2nd symbol of Olvera and the view from the esplanade in front of it is superb. Even if we strongly recommend you to pay the 2€ for the castle visit which offers the most beautiful views, the church square is not bad either 😉
- Calle Llana: Magnificent colored street with beautiful well-kept facades to go up to the church and the castle.
- Mirador Sanctuario de los Remedios: Located 2 km from the center, this sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary especially caught our attention because of the magnificent view it offers over Olvera. To the left of the sanctuary there is a small hill from which you will have the most beautiful view.
The cueva del Gato (cat cave)
The Cueva del Gato is located at the eastern end of the Grazalema Natural Park and together with the Hundidero Cave, it forms an underground complex with more than 8 km of caves and 25 lakes. The river actually gushes out of the cat cave through a waterfall forming a beautiful translucid pond right in front of the cave. Even if it is not possible to explore the cueva del Gato without a speleologist guide, the visit is well worth it just for the waterfall, the pond and for the hiking possibilities in the area. Besides we made a nice hike around this cave which we talk about in the post below:
The cueva del Hundidero
Surprisingly less known than the Cueva del Gato, the Hundidero cave is, in our opinion, even more worthwhile than its cat counterpart. To get there you have to dive into a gorge not far from the village of Montejaque, and this cave marks the entrance to the underground complex I mentioned earlier.
Once at the bottom of the gorge, you will find yourself at the entrance of the Cueva which measures more than 50m high. We tried to explore a little further inside the cave but it is quickly very dark and we could hardly advance more than 100m without equipment. Anyway, we found this cave very impressive and we warmly recommend you to take a trip there.
the natural park of Sierra de Grazalema
The Sierra de Grazalema is one of the two natural parks that surround the city of Ronda. It is known for its kharstic mountains, its caves (of which the 2 mentioned above), its pretty white villages as well as the numerous wild animals that can be found there (vultures, eagles, bats…). It is recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO since 1977.
So as we spent 2-3 days in the park, I am not going to summarize you all you can do there in a few lines here. But as we are nice people, we prepared a whole post about the Sierra de Grazalema with our highlights in the park, the hikes we did and all the useful information to visit it.
The national park Sierra de Las Nieves
The Sierra de las Nieves is the second natural park around Ronda and has been recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO since 1995. It is named like this because in winter, it is not uncommon for the highest peaks of the park to be covered with snow (such as the Torrecilla, which reaches 1919 meters). It has also been declared the 16th national park in Spain in 2021 (the third in Andalusia).
We had planned to go to hike to the summit of the Torrecilla but unfortunately the weather was not with us (we did not want to hike in the snow… we save that for Switzerland 😉 ). So we preferred to leave aside the Sierra de las Nieves for this time! But if you are interested, here is the hike that we wanted to do on Wikiloc.
The Caminito del Rey region
Finally, I also wanted to mention the area around the Caminito del Rey which is located just 60kms northeast of Ronda. You’ve probably already heard of this trail which is one of the most famous attractions in Spain. The Caminito del Rey is certainly worth a visit (even if it is very touristy) but in our opinion, it is also worthwhile to linger a little longer around the Caminito to do other hikes. There are some gems in this area and it would be a real shame in our opinion not to take the time to do a little more than the Caminito del Rey 😉
For all the information, we let you have a look at our 2 posts about the Caminito del Rey region below
Clearly the best way to visit Ronda and its surroundings is to have your own means of transportation. There is a train and bus station in Ronda, but public transportation will not get you everywhere. By bus you can go to Setenil, Olvera or the Caminito area (although it is difficult to go to the caves or the parks) but there is often only one bus per day which is not very practical. To see the bus schedules, the easiest way is to check the Omio website.
But if not, as usual we recommend you to rent your own vehicle. Andalusia is a great place for a roadtrip and you will be much more flexible this way. To rent a car, you can compare offers on the rentalcars website and if you want to try renting a van, we’ve written a complete guide on this topic to help you.
Then, if you are only in Andalusia for a few days only and have little time, you can find day trips that will take you to Ronda and other white villages of Andalusia from big cities like Sevilla or Malaga.
Our map of things to do in and around Ronda
So much to do in and around Ronda, eh? To help you find it all, we have prepared a small Google map with all the places and addresses mentioned in the post.
That’s it for the Ronda region in Andalusia. We hope that this post will have been useful to you and we will see you very soon for the rest of our adventures in the south of Spain. And as usual, if you have been here and have additional information or favorites to share about the city of Ronda and its region, do not hesitate to leave a comment below. It could be useful to other travelers.
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