Benjamin Disraeli, Richard Ford, Martin Amis, Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, García Lorca… There is a seemingly endless list of artists and intellectuals who have praised Ronda over the years. Few destinations in the world can boast the beauty, the wealth and the uniqueness of a town such as this, declared a Historic-Artistic site over 50 years ago.
NOT TO MISS IN RONDA
It"s difficult to put a number on all Ronda's natural, architectural and artistic gems, let alone limit ourselves to highlighting just a few monuments. However, an emblem for the town does exist in the collective imagination: El Tajo (the Gorge) and the eighteenth-century Puente Nuevo bridge that crosses it. The bridge, almost 100 metres high with its semicircular arches, is the focal point of the most iconic photograph of the town.
Less famous but equally beautiful is the Puente Viejo bridge, built in 1616. In the immediate vicinity, we can find the Arco de Felipe V and the Sillón del Moro ("the Moor"s Armchair"), a stone bench that was the setting to tales of kings and princesses in the days of Al-Andalus.
Ronda"s architectural heritage constitutes an extensive open-air museum, featuring a multitude of artistic styles and traditions. The Palacio de Mondragón, built in the fourteenth century and the headquarters of Ronda Museum, the Palacio del Marqués de Salvatierra and the Casa de San Juan Bosco, built after the modernist style, demonstrate the combination and dialogue between different styles, separated by just a few metres. Buildings of Arabic origin include the Casa del Gigante ("Giant's House") and the Palacio del Rey Moro ("the Moor King"s Palace"), where an imposing staircase cut from the rock of its grounds leads down towards the river.
Whether of not you come during the town's festivals, you can"t go to Ronda without visiting its Bullring. Ronda's Real Meastranza de Caballería (Royal School of Cavalry) is a large arena that has trained many of history"s most legendary matadors, making it an essential stop for any bullfighting aficionado. The bullring was constructed in 1785 and is one of the oldest and most monumental in the world.
Near the Bullring, visitors can see two monuments, dedicated to the writer Ernest Hemingway and the film director Orson Welles. Both men fell in love with Ronda, and the town wanted to return that affection to them. For Welles, this love would be eternal, as his remains rest in the town, specifically in the El Recreo de San Cayetano estate.
The town of Ronda has lived through centuries of history and different civilisations and preserves remains of nearly all of these. The Romans, for example, left a fascinating theatre, in part carved from the rock of the land, and from the days of Al-Andalus we have the best-preserved Arab Baths in Spain, as well as the Puerta de Almocábar gate.
Ronda also has impressive museums, offering an interesting take on the town's history and art. Some of the best are the Museo Municipal de Ronda, the Museo Lara, the museum dedicated to the famous writer Rainer Maria Rilke, the Museo del Bandolero (the Museum of Highwaymen), the Museo del Vino (Wine Museum) and the museum dedicated to the local painter Joaquín Peinado, located inside the Palacio de los Marqueses de Moctezuma.
Religious buildings also contribute to Ronda's unique character. The church of Santa María la Mayor, the church of la Caridad, the convent of Santa Isabel de los Ángeles, the church of El Espíritu Santo and the convent of Santo Domingo, built by the Catholic Monarchs, are a few must-visit monuments in the town.
Continue your visit with the temple to Ronda's patron saint, the Santuario de la Virgen de la Paz (Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Peace), and discover the imposing altarpieces of the church of Santa Cecilia or the convents of Madre de Dios and San Francisco. The Iglesia del Padre Jesús church and the Templete de la Virgen de los Dolores shrine are also worth special attention. Finally, a surprise for the more devoted: the incorrupt hand of St Teresa can be found in the Iglesia de la Merced church.
HOW TO GET TO RONDA FROM MÁLAGA
Ronda is almost 100km from Málaga capital. By car, it is best to take the Autovía del Mediterráneo (A-7) as far as San Pedro de Alcántara, then follow the A-397 to Ronda.
Ronda is not just a monumental town: it is also set in imposing natural surroundings. The municipality, capital of the Serranía de Ronda region, also features several Natural Parks: the Serranía de Ronda itself, the Sierra de las Nieves, the Sierra de Grazalema and the Los Alcornocales Natural Park. Rilke"s "city of my dreams" sits atop a plateau, isolated by a 100-metre deep gorge, known by all as el Tajo.
Both the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park have been granted Biosphere Reserve status by UNESCO because of their high ecological value. The Grazalema park covers more than 50,000 hectares of land, its unique landscapes boasting valleys, canyons and caves. The 20,160 hectares of the Parque Natural de la Sierra de las Nieves contains one of the best karstic landscapes in the world, the Sima GEMS chasm.
For those who enjoy outdoors sports and hiking, Ronda"s surroundings offer eight trails to enjoy on foot or by bike, as well as lookout points from which you can observe the local wildlife. Climbing, rafting and speleology are just some of the sports to choose from to discover the Serranía de Ronda.
Ronda offers visitors a wide range of recreational areas and experiences: from horse rides through the Sierra de las Nieves to guided tours of the bodegas where the region"s famed wine is made, from visits with Reservatauro where you can meet fighting bulls in their natural habitat to a pampering in the Arab Baths.
Ronda"s close links with the world of bullfighting is palpable at the Feria de Pedro Romero fair, declared an event of Tourist Interest in Andalusia. The fair is held in February and is one of the town"s main festivals. One of the most unique traditions at the event is the Corrida Goyesca, where all participants wear the typical clothing of a seventeenth-century bullfighter. Other things to be found at the fair include music, traditional food, horse riding and the Festival de Cante Grande (Great Festival of Song).
An event that has become very famous in recent years is Ronda Romántica, based on the traditional May Fair, but where thee whole town goes back in time to the nineteenth century, the time of highwaymen, mule drivers and travellers.
Another of the Ronda"s big celebrations is Semana Santa or Holy Week, which has a long tradition and a rich artistic heritage. The celebration, which also bears the seal of National Tourist Interest in Andalusia, includes processions from a total of 15 cofradías, or brotherhoods.
Ronda"s festive calendar is completed with the celebration of Corpus Christi, the Romería pilgrimage to the Our Lady of Cabeza in July, and an increasingly interesting cultural offering: the International Biennial of Scientific Cinema in November, a painting competition, a love letter competition, the painters' collective exhibition, celebrated since 1988, and the Semana Santa Art Fair.
Approaching the kitchens of Ronda, we will discover that the town's gastronomy is distinguished by its mountain tradition and the excellent combination of seasonal products. It"s a cuisine that has dazzled the most prestigious of chefs, for example Jamie Oliver. Migas (bread sautéed with garlic, accompanied by fresh and cured meats and vegetables), rabbit and partridge cooked a la rondeña, gazpacho a la serrana (a cold soup of tomato, peppers, cucumber, garlic, bread and oil, perfect in the summer), cochifritode borrego (yearling lamb meat, boiled then fried) and trout cooked a la rondeña are among the most traditional recipes. Other dishes that stand out are a soup made from chestnuts, a very prevalent product in the forests of the Serranía de Ronda, as well as local cured meats and wine.
The centuries of Arab presence in the town strongly influence its culinary tradition in terms of sweets, with honey and almonds being important ingredients. Pestiños (a delicious pastry bathed in honey), yemas del Tajo (egg yolks with sugar) and rosquillas de Ronda (the local variant of the rosquilla, similar to a doughnut) are three examples of the delicious sweets to be found in Ronda.
Finally, we mustn't forget Ronda"s wines, a product somewhere between gastronomy and legend, which dominates the municipality. Ronda wine is included in the "Málaga. Sierras de Málaga" denomination of origin. The town has a great many bodegas where you can try this local wine.
The cave paintings found in Cueva de la Pileta (Benaoján) and the Neolithic evidence unearthed in Ronda attest to the presence of man in the area in prehistoric times. The Celts settled in Arunda and the Iberians founded Acinipo, a village that became very important in Roman times.
The Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Carthaginians were all in Ronda. Then there came the Romans, who called the village "Laurus". With the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by Germanic tribes. They were turbulent times; Acinipo fell into oblivion.
In the days of Islamic Spain, Ronda was called "Izna-Rand Onda". It gradually strengthened its economy and mustered political power. In the ninth and tenth century, the city and the region were affected by the uprising led by Umar ibn Hafsun against the Caliphate of Córdoba. When the rebels were defeated, Ronda was under the rule of the Caliphs.
In the eleventh century, the Berbers turned Ronda into a taifa (independent Muslim-ruled principality). After a few years of growth and prosperity, the village lost its independence in 1066, when it was annexed to Seville. Then, for four centuries, it was ruled by various North African tribes and, finally, by the Nasrid dynasty in Granada.
The Christian troops conquered Ronda in 1485. A period of Christian-Muslim coexistence ensued, which ended with the Moorish riots. Then the village fell into decline, not recovering before the eighteenth century. The development of a new district, Barrio del Mercadillo, the building of the New Bridge and the inauguration of the bullring gave it a huge boost.
In 1810, the French army, led by Joseph Bonaparte, occupied Ronda. The French invasion kindled the fire of rebellion in the sierras, where there was intense guerrilla activity, going on even after Napoleon"s men left. These were the seeds of banditry, the gangs living in the sierras that inspired so many stories and legends.
In the early twentieth century, Ronda joined the modern world with the development of road and rail infrastructure. In 1918, the city played host to the Assembly of Andalusian Provinces, organised by Blas Infante, the "father" of Andalusia. The Andalusian flag, coat of arms and anthem were unveiled at the assembly.
People from Ronda
Pedro Romero, heir to a long line of matadors, was born in Ronda in 1754. He retired after killing more than 5,000 bulls without once being injured. The fair held in September, including a Goyesque Bullfight, is named after him.
Cayetano Ordóñez, nicknamed "Niño de la Palma" (after the shoes owned by his father, La Palma), established Ronda"s second dynasty of bullfighters. Five of his sons became matadors, the most brilliant being Antonio. Antonio Ordóñez earned Ronda international fame, befriending filmmakers like Orson Welles and writers like Ernest Hemingway. Carter, Richard Ford, Merimée, García Lorca and Alberti all succumbed to the charms of this beautiful city, which Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke described as the city of his dreams.
Ronda is also the birthplace of Vicente Espinel, a sixteenth and seventeenth century writer and musician, credited with adding the fifth string to the Spanish guitar and with creating the modern poetic form of the décima, named espinela after him. He was the author of a picaresque novel, Relaciones de la vida del escudero Marcos de Obregón (Stories from the Life of Squire Marcos de Obregón).
- Picturesque place
- Inland area
- Inhabitants (25,001-50,000)
- Historic monuments