Our drive to Ronda was short and quite leisurely as we were not on a toll road and were driving though comparatively pretty countryside. The fields looked more fertile and the green belts looked more lush, plus the drive was much shorter too, so we arrived in the early afternoon. We had planned to make a stop in Malaga en route, but due to road diversions we ended up not being close to the beach, so we continued on.
Ronda itself impressed immediately. It has a great vibe, is easy to negotiate on foot (though the slippery cobblestones can be a bit tricky if you are not careful), has spectacular scenery, and a wonderful history to pursue -with an obvious Moorish influence. However, probably most important, is the strong bullfighting tradition apparent here (not that I am an advocate but the Bullfighting Museum is really interesting).
Ronda is town divided by the Tajo River, which is spanned by the amazing Puente Nuevo bridge. Our hotel, the Parador de Ronda perches atop the northern side of the Gorge – it is eerie yet exciting to see what lies below if you are standing on one of the many viewpoints available, either from a hotel like ours, from the bridge, from the gorge below if you you take the walking track down as we did, or from one of the restaurants on the southern side -two of which we dined at and experienced beautiful sunsets, though once the sun disappears, it becomes quite chilly.
While the bridge is an absolute drawcard there are many other interesting sights to see in Ronda including the Colegiata Santa Maria la Mayor, a stunning church, which looks more like a town hall than a place of worship – until you go inside. There is a tour available with an audioguide and it was well worth doing for the small charge of three Euro. The church is cavernous and is divided by huge Renaisaance choir stalls. The Altar of the Sanctuary at the entrance end is an elaborate and quite overwhelming affair while the High Altar at the opposite end is a much more simple example. The High Altar of the Sacred Heart is heavily carved in wood, and stands to the left of the High Altar. Altogether impressive, it is built on the site where a mosque originally stood.
Another fascinating place is the site of the old Arab baths (Banos Arabes)- which are set below the old bridge in Ronda, the Puente Viejo (also called the Arab bridge), and could be easily be missed if you stay on the flat – so wandering around the town is a must so that all its charm and history is revealed.
An interesting and quite charming place to visit in Ronda is the Mondragon Palace -famous for its pretty Moorish gardens and architecture but also because it houses a Museum which walks you through centuries of history.
Next post – our side trip to Gibraltar