Travel tales

The romance of Ronda, Spain

The romance of Ronda, Andalucia, Spain

I have to confess I’m not much of a romantic. I don’t do Valentine’s Day, my husband and I don’t have a song, and I’m not 100% sure of the date of our first kiss. I’ve been romantically uninspired by big-hitters like Paris, Venice and Rome. But somehow the Spanish mountain town of Ronda managed to melt this cynic’s stony heart. Set on an Andalusian mountain plateau, Ronda is just over an hour from coastal resorts like Marbella and Torremolinos, but feels like a different world. It’s a comparatively small town so there are no high-rises or big branded hotels, and if you walk for 15 minutes in any direction you’ll find yourself out in the countryside. This is classic Spain, with whitewashed buildings, orange trees and olive groves.

Read more: Winter in Seville: A Spanish city break

Clifftop Ronda, Andalusia, Spain

Clifftop Ronda

Ronda is one of Spain’s oldest towns and the name comes from its position surrounded by mountains. It’s been inhabited by Romans and Moors and you can feel history all around you in its cobbled streets, old mansions and stone churches. The town is perched precariously on top of a cliff with views of rolling hills and Andalusia’s white villages. It’s the hilltop location that’s made Ronda famous – and a Pinterest favourite. And if you think Ronda is beautiful in the daytime, then you should see it at night. It’s a popular day trip for people on holiday on the coast. But once the sun starts to go down the crowds pile back into their buses, and the town melts back into a peaceful, sleepy state. As dusk falls, wrought iron lamps light the narrow streets and tapas restaurant tables spill out onto the pavements. It’s just magical.

Ronda at dusk, Andalusia, Spain

Ronda’s squares and the town at dusk

I’m not the only one who has been charmed by Ronda either. It was a big favourite with the 19th century Viajeros Romanticos, aka the romantic travellers. Though these romantics were less looking for love and more looking for inspiration for their latest book or painting in some of Europe’s most unspoilt destinations. Orson Welles, Alexander Dumas and Ernest Hemingway all loved Ronda and spent their summers here. Hemingway even said “Ronda is the place to go if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon… the whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set” – and who am I to argue?

Views in Ronda, Andalusia, Spain

Views over the surrounding countryside

Ronda isn’t one of those destinations that’s packed with must-see sights and museums. You can visit a couple of Moorish palaces – the Palacio de Mondragón and the Palacio del Rey Moro y La Mina – or the church and convent in the pretty Plaza Duquesa de Parcent square. The town also has one of Spain’s oldest bullrings, which is allegedly the home of modern bullfighting. I’m not a fan of the sport but the building is an impressively grand sight. It was built in 1779 and is home to a museum about the sport. There’s only one fight a year held there now as part of the Feria de Pedro Romero festival each September.

Bullring in Ronda, Andalusia, Spain

Inside Ronda’s Plaza de Toros (bullring)

But the main attraction of Ronda is just wandering around and soaking up the atomsphere. You can stop off when you see an interesting old building, want to cool off on a shady café terrace or spot a fantastic view. And there are no shortage of great views in this town. The heart of Ronda is the El Tajo gorge, a rocky drop plummeting over 100 metres down to the Guadalevín River. The gorge cuts right through the centre of Ronda and splits the town in two. On one side is the Moorish old town and on the other is the 15th century El Mercadillo ‘new’ town (old and new take on a slightly different meaning here in Ronda!).

Square in Ronda, Andalusia, Spain

One of Ronda’s squares

There are three bridges which link the two different sides of town. The oldest and smallest of them is the Moorish Roman Bridge. Then there’s the 16th century Puente Viejo or old bridge. And finally there’s the Puerto Nuevo or new bridge. This is the town’s postcard shot – a giant triple arch with columns stretching 120 metres down into the depths of the gorge. It’s only new by Ronda standards though, which means it opened in 1783 after taking 40 years to built. It’s lasted well though, especially compared to the previous bridge on the same spot which collapsed only six years after it was finished.

Tapas ar in Ronda, Andalusia, Spain

The El Sacristan tapas bar and a pretty side street

One of the best ways to see the Puerto Nuevo is to get down low and look up at it. It really gives you an idea of the scale of this spectacular piece of engineering. A pathway runs down from the clifftop into the gorge, with one route forking towards the bottom of the bridge where at one time there was an old prison, and one route leading you down along the river banks. It’s an undeniably beautiful place. But it’s not all romance in Ronda. There are gory stories about Nationalist sympathisers in the Spanish Civil War being thrown off the bridge – inspiring Hemingway who used the idea in his book For Whom the Bell Tolls. Though somehow I think that’s the last thing on the mind of the romantics crossing the bridge hand-in-hand at sunset!

New bridge in Ronda, Andalusia, Spain

The Puerto Nuevo

The details

We stayed at: The Alavero de los Banos, a Moroccan-style hotel with beautiful gardens full of flowers and a swimming pool overlooking the Roman Bridge. It’s right next to Ronda’s 11th-century Arab Baths and a short (but steep!) walk up into the old town. Double rooms from £84 a night including breakfast.

We ate at: Spain means tapas, and some of the best we found were at De Locos Tapas, where the menu changes frequently and includes dishes like tuna tataki and belly pork, and Meson El Sacristan with its lovely terrace. The cliffside restaurants are a bit touristy, but are worth a visit for a drink with a spectacular view.

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 A romantic break in the Andalusian mountain town of Ronda in southern Spain, a spectacular setting on the clifftop overlooking the dramatic El Tajo gorge.

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Darlene
    August 18, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    One of the best articles on Ronda I have read! These are the places in Spain I love the most!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 19, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Thanks so much Darlene, I did love it there so glad to do it justice!

  • Reply
    restlessjo
    August 19, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I have to confess to being a bit of a soppy sort, Lucy. I was full of smiles watching Prunella Scales and Timothy West on the canals in Venice on TV this week 🙂
    Superb Ronda post! It’s somewhere I always wanted to go and we bypassed it on our way back to the Algarve from Granada. You’re right though- much better to stay the night. And I hope to some day. 🙂
    Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve glimpsed your posts mostly when I’ve been in transit and I hate reading them on my phone. Not the same at all. The laptop is playing up a little this morning so I saw this on the phone but I’m back on the laptop for a proper look. Gorgeous 🙂 🙂
    Couldn’t help but notice that you’re working with Airbnb now? Seems like an excellent move. I just booked my very first stay with them, in Edinburgh, a week or two ago. Should have come here first! 🙂 Happy travels, hon!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 19, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Lovely to hear from you Jo, it looks like you’ve been busy travelling! Ronda was so lovely I’ve been meaning to write up about it for a while (the blog backlog gets ever bigger!). I do love AirBnB, we’re actually staying in a place in the Outer Hebrides with them at the moment, and were in Edinburgh just before this – another fab city.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    August 19, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I just had a few hours in Ronda and it really wasn’t long enough judging by your photos. I need to go back and stay for the evening – you’re right it looks so magical at night.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

      It was pretty by day but even lovelier at night, would definitely recommend a night or two there!

  • Reply
    Bama
    August 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Your photos do Ronda justice, Lucy. They all look so beautiful, dreamy, and.. well, romantic. The Puerto Nuevo is particularly stunning!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 19, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks so much, the Puerto Nuevo is really spectacular, it’s one of those places you can’t imagine looks like that in real life but it does!

  • Reply
    lexklein
    August 19, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Did you visit the parador that practically dangles off the cliff? We stayed there and I did not sleep well that night, thinking about my bed slipping down into the gorge! We also had a few driving scares, wondering if we’d ever get turned around in those impossibly narrow streets. I’m making it sound like a horror, but we loved Ronda and its many charms!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 19, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      We did! Didn’t stay there but we did go in and it certainly was a bit precarious. The drive down to our hotel was a bit hair-raising too, we had to squeeze our way across the Roman Bridge!

  • Reply
    Vlad
    August 19, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Your photos are gorgeous! To be honest, I didn’t know much about Ronda besides the iconic Puerto Nuevo – which was enough reason for me to go – but now you’ve made me move it higher on my travel wish list, haha.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 21, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Thanks Vlad, I bet there are a lot of people who visit after seeing Pinterest pics of that bridge (me included!). Luckily the rest of the town is just as pretty.

  • Reply
    Victoria
    August 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I must admit I hadn’t heard of Ronda until recently when someone I work with went there for their honeymoon – he loved it and after reading this too, I really must go! Great post 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 21, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      Great destination for a honeymoon! It’s such a lovely place it deserves to be a lot more well known.

  • Reply
    plaidshirtdiaries
    August 31, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Gorgeous photos! I’m definitely adding Ronda to my travel list. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      September 1, 2016 at 9:43 am

      You’re very welcome, so great to introduce people to such a fab place!

  • Reply
    MummyTravels
    September 3, 2016 at 10:28 am

    How gorgeous- my fantasy trip around Spain, visiting some of the major cities and lots of Andalucia has another stop on it now.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      September 5, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      I’ve become such a Spain convert over the last year after not visiting for ages – Madrid posts coming up next!

  • Reply
    Marvin
    September 24, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Great post about Ronda…one of our favorite cities in Spain! We too, loved wandering the streets and soaking up the charm. I remember buying a little painting from an artist just outside the bullring. Ahhh….Ronda!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      September 26, 2016 at 11:31 am

      It’s such a lovely place, I’m so glad I decided to go – though would’ve just liked to have longer there!

  • Reply
    Paige
    August 29, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Okay, okay.. you’ve convinced me to make that a stop for the night 😉 Can’t wait to go next month!

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