Set high above the Costa del Sol, at the north-western end of Málaga province, Ronda epitomises the best of two worlds. On the one hand… its venerable history, dramatic scenery and grand architecture encapsulated by the iconic Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). Spanning the plunging El Tajo gorge, with the River Guadalevén meandering through the valley nearly 100 metres below, Ronda delivers some of the most awe-inspiring views seen anywhere in Spain.
And then there is modern-day Ronda… The road journey to Ronda from the coast is a winding and gently escalating route – a picturesque joy for many but something of an ordeal for vertigo-sufferers – and the verdant lower terrain is home to some of Andalucía’s most exclusive gated developments, wonderfully juxtaposed by the intermittent presence of goat herders transiting their livestock from one valley to the next.
As you travel higher, the Mediterranean disappears from view and the landscape turns almost lunar-like as you approach the heart of the mountain range and, eventually, the stunning Sierra de Grazalema.
Breathtaking Countryside Views
Once in town, Ronda's location is a veritable paradise for sightseers, provided you have a head for heights.
In addition to the cavernous El Tajo, Ronda has several other viewing platforms that provide breathtaking views of the surrounding plains and distant mountains, as well as attractive plazas, boutique-lined streets and bars, restaurants and tapas establishments. Just about everything, in fact, that you would be able to find along the coast. The difference here is that you have mountains rather than beach and sea – and far fewer expats (apart from the tourists).
Day-Time Pursuits and Evening Pleasures
There is much to see and do in Ronda, despite its relatively small size. Your days can be filled hiking in the hills, shopping in the centre, sipping coffee from the numerous vantage points that overlook the gorge, or simply enjoying a diverse array of leisure activities.
If you are comfortable with the “cultural experience” of bullfighting, the famous bullring is worth a visit out of season so you can go behind the scenes and understand the history of the pastime.
Beyond the town are 52,000 hectares of lush, rugged and varied terrain to traverse in the Sierra de Grazalema, the fertile land that rings Ronda city and divides the highlands of the southern Andalucian plateau between Sevilla, Ronda and El Bosque.
Reaching heights of 1,600 metres above sea level, this wild and undulating terrain is home to very few humans, but plenty of flora and fauna, including some of the most impressive examples of birds of prey found anywhere in Europe. Soaring and circling high above the Sierra de Grazalema are lion buzzards, black vultures, ospreys and eagles.
Diverse Culinary Options
In Ronda, you are just within reach of Marbella and Puerto Banús if you fancy a night out on the coast, but it’s a longish, awkward drive back. For something a little more traditional and not requiring a car, Ronda itself has an excellent selection of restaurants serving all manner of cuisine from around the world. Many of the local delicacies differ from the light, seafood-inspired dishes found along the coast; here, the often hardy winters mean that dishes can be heavier and richer, but well worth experiencing.
With its small expat population, Ronda also offers the opportunity of enjoying Andalucian-style evening revelry. That means heading out to a bar at around 11pm, enjoying a couple of small beers or wines and maybe a gin tonic, then moving on to a louder (and often garish) club to continue until the early hours.