When people think of “Ronda”, the first thing many will think of is that superstar MMA fighter with killer armbars. Well, I’ve been to Ronda, and I surely didn’t suffer any judo throws along the way. On the contrary, I was struck with one of the most beautiful views I’ve seen as of late.
I’m talking about Ronda City, a place in the Andalusian province of Málaga. It is located around a hundred kilometers from the province’s namesake capital city, and the population is just around 35,000. It’s a fairly small population, and could bring to mind a quaint old Spanish town. That’s true, but even that’s an understatement.
The city stands surrounded by prehistoric settlements that date back to the New Stone Age. Ronda itself first went by the name “Arunda” when it was settled by Celts back in the 6th Century BC. The area was handed over to the Romans, who first used the city as a post during the Second Punic War due to its strategic environs skirted by high and rocky gorges. These gorges also added greatly to its scenic beauty. Ronda became a city during Julius Caesar’s reign, elevating it from being a mere fortified settlement. It then passed down to the Eastern Roman Empire, to the Visigoths, to the Arabs, and then finally to Spain itself.
The Wonders of Ronda
- The Bullring. Back in 1785, a momentous bullfight was held in Ronda’s bullring. It was attended with legendary matadors Pedro Romero Martínez and José Delgado Guerra, known as Pepe-Hillo. The Ronda Bullring is the world’s first purpose-built bullring, which revolutionized the art/sport and led it to the form we know today. Incidentally, the Romero family (who were natives of Ronda) were also some of the most influential bullfighters who ever lived. They introduced some of the iconic elements of bullfighting, such as using a cape and going for the kill with a specially-designed sword.
Going to the Ronda Bullring is like walking into history itself. The vacant stands and the sand-colored ground contrasting against the deep sky almost echoes the cheers of the ecstatic crowds that have been here for generations.
To commemorate the importance of Ronda in the bullfighting, there is also a bullfighting museum next to it. It contains period costumes owned by the best fighters in their day, along with original posters advertising past fights. Oil paintings also highlight the artistic part of bullfighting. All these for just 7 Euros. We opted to not get the audio guide because descriptions in the museum was sufficient enough to give context to the place.
- Puente Nuevo. Also called the “New Bridge”, this structure is a gorgeous creation that dates back to the late 1700s. It bridges a chasm that’s 390 feet deep, crossing it with a stately structure of stone. While tourists can cross the bridge, for me the best view is from Jardin Cuenca. This allows tourists to behold the bridge in its whole magnificence. You can also get a good view having breakfast (like we did) at the Don Miguel Hotel’s terrace.
- Puente Viejo. Also called the “Old Bridge”, this is the oldest and smallest among the three bridges in Ronda. It was built way back in 1616. While less stately than the Puente Nuevo, the bridge is steeped in history. It currently only accepts pedestrian traffic.
- The Santa Maria la Mayor Church. This is a brick church that was first constructed in 1485, but was only completed way into the 17th century. It has a Gothic architecture, and is home to an image of the Virgen del Mayor Dolor.
- Casa del Rey Gardens. This costs 5 Euros, but it’s worth every bit of the price. A secret cave leads down from it to the water mine. Beware, though, as this is steep and high. If you plan to visit this, wear something comfortable and warm, as the cold damp can make you shiver.
- San Felipe Arch. Also called the Felipe V Arch, this can be seen on the way to the Arab Baths (next stop). It is historic, and with the Church in the background, makes for the picture-perfect view. In the past, this arch used to be one of the gateways to the city.
- Arab Baths. The Arab public baths are well-preserved structures in brown stone. The arches and the beautifully carved ceilings that let in spotlights of the sun was a magnificent feat of engineering for its time. The hot and cold waters are splashed on the person, instead of dipping in it. A 5-minute film explains everything in detail, too.
- The Town itself. Of course, Ronda itself as a whole is a sight to see. The quaint houses painted in clean white stand stately beside cobblestoned pathways. The sight is calming, the very picture of a quiet life. Of course, being a place passed through the fires of war several times in history, this is not how it always was. But seeing the town as it is now gives one an insight into that part of mankind that seeks peace and tranquility above all.
If you wish to stay here, I recommend the Hermanos Macias hotel where we stayed. You can rent a room for 4 at only 70 Euros a night. It was a good deal, especially since it’s right across the Ronda Bullring. The place has a good WiFi connection, too!
For food, we had lunch at the hotel. It was a little pricey, though the ambience is good. The chorizo and the churrasco was great, too. The omelette, on the other hand, could be better. For 38.75 for 4 girls, it’s not bad for a scrumptious meal.
We also tried eating at the Pedro Romero, which was just two minutes from our hotel. Imagine another hotel named for a famous bullfighter! This hotel really knows service — our waiter was great, and gave good suggestions. The oxtail was mouthwatering, and the salad that came after was spectacular! We were sharing for 4 in the table, but my friend and I took the bulk of it, digging through the chorizo and coquetas. The waiter also suggested some great wine. With food and that level of service, the whole night felt like a fancy dinner out some high-class restaurant. They even give you a shot of El Tajo at the end. The total bill was 92 Euros, for us 4 girls.
Just before our drive out of Ronda, we went to the Hotel Miguel Terrace, from which we bid goodbye to the gorgeous vistas of El Tajo gorge and Puente Nuevo. It was a cold morning (our stay there was the coldest in our experience, sending frequent shivers), but coffee and hot chocolate by the terrace was the perfect place to marvel at the scene. Come to think of it, we did drink up a lot of hot chocolate and hot water along the way.
Ronda is a small area, and most places can be reached on foot. You can comfortably cover everything in a day. It was a great place for family, and I wish mine were with me, too. I wrote them a postcard (sent one to my friends, too), showing them what one of my favorite Spanish cities so far looked like.
Ronda is a place of sheer beauty, and you must be there to actually appreciate it. We may have bid goodbye, but our experience there won’t leave us for a long, long time.