We feel that Ronda and the surrounding area has something for everyone. Love history? We have it. How do 20,000 year old cave paintings, Roman ruins, 13th century Arabic baths and reenactments of the Napoleonic invasion grab you? Nature lover? We've got it in spades. How about this?
Adventure sports? Hiking, biking, mountain climbing, canoeing, birding, horse riding, paragliding... Check! Musically inclined? There are daily concerts at the Ronda Guitar House and flamenco shows. Or how about something for artists? There's a permanent display by local artist Joaquín Ruiz-Peinado Vallejo, together with a few Picassos, at the Museo Peinado, and an abundance of inspirational scenery:
Of course, we are biased, so don't just take our word for it. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke said of Ronda: "I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda", "Nothing is more startling in Spain than this wild and mountainous city." So, prepare to be startled. To save you some time searching on the Internet, here are our recommendations for places to visit during your stay at La Cazalla de Ronda.
1. The Puente Nuevo (the new bridge)
Completed in 1793, the historic 'New Bridge' is an astonishing piece of architecture and engineering with an enthralling history. Described as "one of the greatest sights in Spain", this beautiful bridge standing 98m/321ft high provides incredible views of the Tajo Gorge and Serranía de Ronda mountains. Now a museum, parts of the span column were used as a prison for bandits and dangerous criminals during the 19th century, and then for political prisoners during the Spanish civil war. For those that fancy a bit of a trek, you can walk all the way down to the bottom of the gorge for your own fantastic photos... you'll just need to save some energy to hike back up again.
2. Los Baños Arabes (the Arab Baths)
The Arab Baths ('Baños Arabes') can easily be visited as part of one of our recommended walks, and are worth seeing just for the soft, beautiful light filtering through the star-shaped holes in the vaulted ceilings. They are the best preserved in Spain and one of Ronda’s most important tourist attractions. Dating back to the 13th-14th centuries, the baths contained technology for an underfloor heating system invented by Islamic engineer Abu al Tz ibn Razaz Al-Jazari (1136-1206). Similar to the design perfected by the Romans, the ruins are well preserved and make for an interesting and informative tour. A short animated presentation (5 minutes) provides the perfect introduction. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 10.00-19.00, Saturdays, Sundays and festivals 10.00-15.00, admission €3.50 for adults.
3. Palacio de Mondragón
With its pretty, mosaic-tiled courtyards and shaded water garden, the 14th century Palacio de Mondragón is an inspiration for photographers and artists. An attractive intellectual, the palace also houses a small museum devoted to the history of the region. Situated on top of Ronda's cliffs, before the Puente Nuevo and general hubbub of Ronda central, the museum's opening hours are Monday to Friday 10.00-19.00, Saturdays, Sundays and festivals 10.00-15.00, admission €3.50.
4. La Puerta de Almocábar and Iglesia del Espíritu Santo
Built by the Moors during the Islamic era, the interesting Almocábar gate was one of only two entrances to the fortified city of Ronda, and took its name from the Arabic cemetery (al-maqabir) which stood in this section of the town. The gate faces Gibraltar and the sea, and would have been the main point of entry for most people. (Tip: standing on top of the wall/gate is one of the best places to view processions through Barrio San Francisco during festivals such as Semana Santa.)
Towering above is the 15th century monolithic Church of the Holy Spirit - the Ciudad's unofficial cathedral, and the place to be for Sunday mass. More vast and impressive than pretty, the church does house one of Ronda's many spectacular funerary biers, which is paraded by dozens of bearers during the Semana Santa processions at Easter. And if visiting these two monuments whets your thirst, there are plenty of nearby bars in the Barrio to slake it.
5. Plaza de Toros (the bullring)
A touchy subject, but an indelible part of Andalusian culture, the Plaza de Toros is the home of the Rondeño style of bullfighting but also the Real Maestranza De Caballería (Royal Cavalry) de Ronda - Spain’s oldest and most noble order of horsemanship. It was built entirely of stone in the 18th century, during the golden years of Pedro Romero’s reign as champion bullfighter. The Real Maestranza de Caballería can trace its heritage back to 1485, and the year the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the Moors in Ronda, thus bringing the city back under Christian rule after 773 years of Islamic rule. The bullring is open every day from 10:00 to 20:00 and admission is €7 for adults.
6. Local artisans - The Ronda Experience Tour by Entrelenguas
Now, we could have included here the Palacio del Rey Moro, the picturesque parks and plazas, or any of the interesting churches, but Ronda is a small city and you will easily find these places and others during your explorations. What we recommend here is a different perspective and 'the Ronda Experience' offered by Entrelenguas is a superb and fun way to discover the heart of Ronda with a knowledgeable local guide. Entrelenguas help you immerse yourself in the town's culture and during the walking tour of Ronda will introduce you to local artisans and cooks at their workshops. You'll even get to create your own pieces of art! Allow yourself to be absorbed by the philosophy of Slow Tourism with a different kind of tour and discover the real rhythm of Ronda. Contact this passionate team in advance to book your tour.
22 kilometres northwest of Ronda is the ancient Roman city of Acinipo ('city of wine' - they even minted their own coins with bunches of grapes on them). The city was sacked by the Visigoths in 429 AD, but the well-preserved 1st century theatre remains and is a perfect spot for photographers and artists. There was also a Bronze age settlement here between 1,100 and 750 BC, and the foundations of circular huts with the floor paving still in place can be seen near the car park. Entrance is free, but opening times do vary, so phone ahead on 951 04 14 52 to confirm.
8. Cueva del Gato ('the cat's cave'), Benaoján
The Cueva del Gato (so-named because the entrance is supposed to resemble a cat's head, but we just can't see it!) is situated in such beautiful countryside that it is worth incorporating into a walk to Benaoján. If you like your vacations a little more leisurely, you can drive to the cave, or head to Benaoján station and enjoy the abundant flora and fauna during the short walk beside the Guadiaro River from there. Cross the line about 100m past the station, then follow the road another 150m till you cross the Guadiaro River. When you see the sign pointing to the three walking tracks, take the Ronda direction.
It is not permitted to enter the cave, but it's a stunning spot (popular with picnickers, and best avoided when there is a public holiday) with a very cold natural pool - perfect for cooling down during the heat of summer.
9. Cueva de la Pileta, Benaoján
4.5km south of Benaoján on the road to Cortes de la Frontera (MA-8401) is the Cave of the Pileta, with its 20,000 year old paintings of horses, cattle, deer, goats and fish. The cave was discovered in 1905 by a Spanish farmer, José Bullón, who was looking for bat guano to use as fertiliser. His descendants still own the land, offering tours to view these incredible paintings (over 130 were identified). It is possible to visit the cave on any day, but you need to organise your tour in advance - see here for full details.
10. Sierra de las Nieves
To the east of the Ronda-Marbella road is the magnificent natural park Sierra de las Nieves. Covering an area of 30km by 20km and centering on Mount Torrecilla (1909m), the park contains a variety of indigenous flora (pine, fir, ash, chestnut, wild olive and oak trees, as well as juniper) and fauna, including mountain goat, horses and wild sheep. As the name suggests, the mountains are sometimes snow-covered in winter. A network of popular hikes is present throughout the park and you can either go with a guide or obtain information from the park's website.
We hope that our top ten things to do during your stay in Ronda will give you some ideas for planning your visit, but if you have any special interests just send us an email and we will be happy to help. From Napoleonic invasion re-enactions to music festivals, there's always something happening in Ronda.