If you are looking to visit one of Spain's famed Andalusian white washed villages - Ronda, Spain should be on the top of your list. Located in southern Spain, Ronda makes a perfect day trip if you are visiting from Malaga, Seville or anywhere along the Costa del Sol. Dramatically perched high above the El Tajo Gorge, this mountaintop village is split into two - Old Town and New Town, creating an enchanting, magical village that should be a part of any itinerary that passes through thru southern Spain. Ronda is one of the oldest villages in Spain, dating back to the 6th century and over time has been controlled by numerous groups including the Celts, Phoenicians, Romans, Berbers & Christians. It was in the 8th century when the Berbers were in control, that the area was named Hisn-Ar Rundah (Castle of Rundah) - which led to it's present day name of Ronda.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
IGLESIA CONVENTO DE LA MERCED
Starting our morning off bright and early, we arrived in Ronda and began our day in 'New Town' Ronda by visiting the Iglesia Convento de la Merced. Built in the 16th century after the 'Reconquista', the church is home to the nuns of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites and offered one of our more memorable stops as we visited Ronda. The nuns of this church sell bakery items to earn money and as we were entering the church to make a purchase a nun actually came out to see our 2 1/2 year old son, which as we understand is quite rare as the nuns of this church are 'cloistered' meaning they do not come out in public very often. Watching the elderly nun interact with our son was absolutely priceless as we watched her bless, hug and kiss our son. After she left, we proceeded to make our purchases of the delicious goodies - what a memorable treat! To purchase these treats, go around to the left of the building (when looking a the front of the church) and you will see a small side entrance. Once inside, ring the bell and then order thru a turnstile the goodies you would like to purchase. A nun will take your order and money and then will place the goodies you have purchased onto the turnstile. As you make your purchase you will not see these cloistered nuns.
ALAMEDA TAJO GARDENS
Located near the Iglesia Convento de La Merced is the beautiful Alameda Tajo Gardens. These gardens are the perfect way to begin enjoying some of the magnificent views offered throughout Ronda. Enjoy a stroll thru the 18th century park as you head towards the far end of the gardens where you will be rewarded with breath-taking views over the surrounding countryside. Numerous 'miradors' or viewpoints line the end of the gardens so make sure and have your camera ready!
PLAZA DE TOROS
For those looking to learn a bit about Spanish culture, head over to the Plaza de Toros to learn about the art of Spanish bullfighting. As one of the oldest bullrings in Spain, it is worth the time to stop by and explore the historic site. Self guided tours may be purchased and inside you will find the Museum of Bullfighting and access to wander thru the historic bullring. Make sure and spend some time down on the bullring floor! What an fun experience!
PUENTE NUEVO (NEW BRIDGE)
From Plaza de Toros, follow the pathway along the cliffs for your first glimpse of Puente Nuevo. Puente Nuevo is probably the most photographed sight in Ronda and it's easy to understand why! The bridge connects Old Town Ronda to New Town Ronda and is one of three bridges that spans the El Tajo Gorge. Also known as the Ronda Bridge or New Bridge, the bridge is the newest of the three bridges and was completed in 1793 after 34 years of construction. Spend some time just soaking in the stunning views of the bridge, the gorge and the beautiful Spanish countryside - the views of this bridge are a highlight of any trip to Ronda. Cross the bridge itself for a different perspective and keep your camera handy for more memorable pictures!
JARDINES DE CUENCA
After crossing the bridge, backtrack back across the bridge and head to the Jardines de Cuenca. Stunning views are the theme of your time spent in Ronda and to enjoy more amazing views, the Jardines de Cuenca are worth the effort! The gardens are made up of a series of terraces and platforms that wind their way down along the cliff side along the Tajo Gorge and offer beautiful views at every turn including views of both the Old Bridge and New Bridge.
PUENTE VIEJO (OLD BRIDGE)
From the Jardines de Cuenca, continue walking until you reach the Puente Viejo. As the name implies, this is the 'Old Bridge' and dates back to the 16th century. While the New Bridge seems to steal the spotlight and the Puente Viejo may not be as majestic as the Puente Nuevo it is still worth a stop. Standing on a bridge that dates back to the 16th century is a feat in itself - stop and enjoy more stunning views overlooking the Guadalevin River & Tajo Gorge while crossing Puente Viejo.
The Arab Baths of Ronda were built between the 13th to 15th centuries and are considered the best preserved Moorish Baths in the Iberian Peninsula. Upon arrival, there is a short video presentation which provided for a better understanding of how these baths functioned. After the video, you can explore on your own and imagine what these baths were like over 500 years ago.
As you explore the bathes, the Moorish influence can definitely be seen in the columns, ceiling and the star shaped ceiling vents found throughout the bathes.
EXPLORE OLD TOWN
Now for the hike of the day - leaving the Arab Baths entailed a climb back up the hill towards the Old Town. For most people, it shouldn't be a big deal - for us, pushing a stroller back up the hill provided for a bit of extra exercise! After you have caught your breathe, a couple key sites to look for are the Plaza Duquesa de Parcent and Santa Maria del Mayor Church.
Plaza Duquesa de Parcent: This plaza is the heart of Old Town Ronda and is the ideal spot to stop for some lunch or a glass of wine at one of the cafes lining the square. Sit back, relax and enjoy the fragrant smell of the orange trees lining the square, the beautiful architecture and the overall beauty of this lovely plaza.
Santa Maria del Mayor Church: Towering over Plaza Duquesa de Parcent is the Santa Maria del Mayor Church with it's beautiful bell tower and it's gorgeous architecture mixed with Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque styles. Built over remains of a Moorish Mosque, the church was built in 1486 and offers a treat for those that venture inside. Once inside the interior is gorgeous and you can even take a short climb up to the rooftop walkway that provides views over the city of Ronda.
PUERTA DE ALMOCABAR
At one time during the Moorish rule, the entire city of Ronda was contained within high walls and gates that protected the city. Today you can still view the main gate - the Puerto de Almocabar as well as a bit of the remaining walls still connected to the gate. Standing the test of time, this gate dates back to the 13th century and has recently (in the 1960's) been restored so that you can climb to the top and walk along these historic walls.
WINE TASTING AT BODEGA GARCIA HILDALGO
After a fabulous day exploring Ronda, it was time to head to Bodega Garcia Hildalgo for dinner and wine tasting. What an experience - we absolutely loved visiting this winery and it was one of our favorite experiences from our time in Spain. Opened in 2006 by the Garcia Hidalgo family, this family run winery is top notch. Offering different tasting options from the basic wine tasting and tour, to wine tasting, tour & dinner to even overnight accommodations - this winery is not to be missed! We had reservations for the wine tasting, tour & dinner and enjoyed the best wine and dinner of our time in Spain! Generous pours filled the evening as we sampled the delicious wines - the Zabel de Alcobazin was our favorite variety - named for the owner's wife. In addition to the
fabulous wine - the food was amazing! Homemade chicken paella, fresh made bread, olive oil, pate, Spanish cheese and meat platter and Spanish omelette were just some of the delicious food we enjoyed with our wine. For an evening you won't forget - spend an evening at Bodega Garcia Hildalgo!
PUENTE NUEVO (NEW BRIDGE) FROM BELOW:
For the perfect end to our day in Ronda, we were able to stop and view the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) from below just as the sun as beginning to set. What a view! Anytime of the day, this view of Ronda is stunning but seeing it as the sun was setting was magical! For us, we had a car and were able to drive down to enjoy this view. For those not wanting to drive, you can also access this view by walking down the pathway that descends from Plaza de Maria Auxiliadora.
Interested in planning your own trip to Ronda, Spain? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!
Day trip to Ronda: Start in New Town at Iglesia Convento de la Merced for some nun goodies, then go to Alameda del Tajo Gardens (wander until far end for great views of countryside), walk east along promenade, Plaza de Toros (€8 - famous/oldest bullring), keep following cliff side towards Puente Nuevo (walk across for views), walk back towards New Town to Jardines de Cuenca (great views of the bridge), Walk down Gardens to the Old Bridge and cross into the Old Town, Arab Baths, Explore Old Town, Plaza Duquesa de Parcent with Santa Maria del Mayor Church, Puerta de Almocabar (former city gate). Wine Tasting & Dinner at Bodega Garcia Hidalgo 6pm, catch the sunset by viewing the Puente Nuevo Bridge from below.