I’m not sure how a pin on the map of Spain was dropped on the white hills of Andalucía, but we dropped in from the Costa del Sol on our way to Granada for a pleasant three night stop in Ronda. That means tolerating the day-trippers from Seville or the Costa del Sol resorts making it very touristic by day but quiet and charming at night.
Ronda is a town where you can put away the map. It’s possible to get lost in the narrow alleyways (which are most of the fun) ending up in any one of the plazas dotting the one road leading from the old town to the new town. A tapa bar is around every corner. Sit down, have a glass of wine, and take in the spectacular panoramic views of olive orchards down below as you cling to the wall of a canyon.
The are two must-sees in Ronda. Most people see these in a half day. I would suggest at least two nights to get a good feel for Ronda’s breathtaking ravine and the town’s labyrinthine Moorish quarter at night.
Ronda is situated in the white hills of Southern Spain on top of a canyon which was once dominated by the Moors (Muslims). The town is divided in two sections by a new bridge (circa 1745) and an old bridge (circa 745). The old section definitely has the Moorish influence with its white washed homes, blue tiles, and arched entryways. The white washed walls and narrow alleyways provide natural air-conditioning during the blazing summers.
Walk the perimeter of the walls and you’ll notice the old versus the new. Staggering to think this was built “by hand”. A massive maze of little lanes, inside a walled island, perched atop a canyon.
Come September, Ronda is the bustling capital of bullfighting. However, we picked October to visit so that we weren’t privy to the slaughter. Most Spaniards refer to the bullfight as art and agree this is the most awe-insipring bullring in Spain. It is also the oldest. Worthy of the admission price to get a first-hand look into the history of bullfighting.
King Phillip II initiated bullfighting as training for his knights in the 16th-century. The heroic matador of Ronda, Francisco Romero, combined the noble to the chaotic kinds of bullfighting with “rules” to establish what we know as modern bullfighting. Romero’s bullfighting skills were passed down by generation. This family of matadors are practically worshipped in Ronda. The red carpet is rolled out for the royalty as the main events get underway.
Tuck into a 15th-century church to see some of the best art of its time. Visit the Museo del Bandoleros (Bandits) to kill some time. Or stroll the paseo in the evening for some excellent people watching. Life is good in Ronda.
There are several hill towns in Andalucía dotting the front line of the centuries-long fight to recapture Spain from the Muslims who were eventually pushed south to Africa. Ronda is the largest hill town and easiest to get to by bus or train. It’s also the cradle of modern bullfighting, romantic stories of bandoleros, and a town that straddles a gorge with impressive views. Just walking the back streets you feel the local pride and tradition with colorful flowerpots lining the balconies and ancient walks to Arab baths.
Something you won’t see from a tour bus. Thankful that random pin was dropped on the map in Ronda. Smack dab in the middle of the bullring. ¡Olé!