Ronda is one of Andalucía's loveliest towns, steeped in history, reputedly Hemingway's favourite in all Spain …
María Santísima de la Paz
The 'romería' in honour of the Virgen de la Cabeza in early June
The Fair and Festival of Pedro Romero, throughout the first week of September, culminating on 8th, 9th and 10th.
The Flamenco Singing Festival and the International Folklore Dance Festival are held in August.
Holy Week in Ronda is also a major event
Situated on its plateaux, and surrounded by mountain ranges, winters can be cold but in the main it's a delightful climate with 300 or so days of sunshine each year, and daytime summer temperatures usually around 30ºC
Ronda is one of Andalucía's loveliest towns, spectacularly situated, steeped in history, reputedly Hemingway's favourite city in all Spain.
Standing on a towering plateau (739 metres above sea level) in the mountains of Málaga Province (not far from its border with Cádiz), it is perhaps most famous for the dramatic, plunging river gorge which divides the medieval (old) part of town from the 18th Century (modern) part. Coming a close second is its bullring, the oldest, largest and most beautiful in Spain.
The main road up to Ronda from San Pedro de Alcaucin on the Mediterranean coast (close to Marbella) is a spectacular one, climbing its windy way up through the mountains of Sierra Bermeja, before finally dropping down through the Serrania de Ronda to the town itself.
It's a spectacular setting surrounded by the incomparable backdrop of the high sierras.
Three natural parks are in close proximity, each of them offering a wealth of beauty, great hiking and other outdoor activities.
Both La Sierra de las Nieves and La Sierra de Grazalema have been declared Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO. These craggy, limestone mountain regions, full of deep ravines, spectacular gorges and some of the world's deepest potholes, are extensively forested with rare Spanish fir. Home to one of the biggest populations of Spanish Ibex, here you will also find roe deer, wild cats, golden eagles, the owl and the otter, to name just a few.
Los Alcornocales Natural Park is another very beautiful region and contains one of the most important and extensive cork oak forests in the world.
The town itself, with a population of 35,000, is a delight, richly endowed with a heritage of magnificent buildings.
Although one of the oldest cities in Spain, with a history which dates back to the mists of time, it was only in the Middle Ages that Ronda finally came into its own, achieving the status of an independent kingdom under Arabic rule.
Its impenetrable position offered natural defences, in the form of high cliffs on three of its sides. And where the cliffs ran out, massive defensive walls were erected.
Small wonder that during the period of the Taifa kingdoms, when dozens of independent Islamic states vied for supremacy, the fiefdom of Ronda was even able to challenge the authority of Cordoban Caliphate. And the town was amongst the last to fall during the Reconquest, finally capitulating to Ferdinand's army in 1485.
The cultural legacy of the Moors is to be seen throughout the city. Ronda's strategic and defensive importance is seen in its imposing city walls. The ancient Medina was located between the natural border made by the Tajo Gorge and, on the other side, by the city walls themselves.
These walls - and their entrance gates - still stand proud today.
The Palace of Mondragon, the home of the great king Abbel Malik, has seen the best of Renaissance architecture added on to its already magnificent mudejar structure.
The Giant's House is another classic, one of the best conserved buildings of all nazari architecture. St. Sebastian's Minaret was formerly the tower of one of the many mosques of Ronda, later used as the bell tower of the church of St. Sebastian.
After the conquest of the city by the Catholic Monarchs in 1485, economic and cultural changes took place, streets were widened and squares opened. But the most impressive buildings and monuments, including The New Bridge and the Bullring, were constructed in the 18th century.
The Modern Age had arrived and Ronda had finally become of age, an affluent and important focal point within Andalucía, a romantic city with a diverse culture and traditions which spanned bullfighting to bandits, roaming the nearby hills.
The town is famous throughout Spain for two reasons. Firstly for the extraordinary bridge that spans its dizzy gorge and secondly for its bullring (Plaza de Toros) where the rules of the modern fight were laid down.
The New Bridge (Puente Nuevo) was finished in 1793, after more than 40 years of construction work. Almost 100 metres high, built with vast stones taken from the depth of the Tajo's gorge, it connects the modern quarter of the city with the old.
It was the second attempt: the first 35 metre arch across the ravine was built in 1735, but collapsed soon after, causing the death of some 50 people. More recently, the bridge made still more macabre history as communists were tossed over, onto the rocks far below, during the Spanish Civil War.
Claimed to be the oldest bullring in Spain, the Plaza de Toros is also one the most monumental, with great character and beauty. For many rondeños, it is their spiritual home. It can rightly claim to be the ring where the rules of bullfighting, as practised today, were first laid down by Pedro Romero.
Until the time of Romeros (three generations of them fought bulls in Ronda), bulls had been fought on horseback. Legend has it that Romero's grandfather leapt into a ring during a 'corrida' to distract a bull away from a friend who had fallen from his horse. His grandson would perfect this way of moving then killing the bull on foot.
Where the uninitiated see simply a bull passing by a cape, an 'aficionado' can see a whole art form being acted out. Over the course of fifty years Romero killed some 5,000 bulls without ever sustaining a serious injury. He was so venerated by the people of Ronda that the annual September Feria became known as the Feria de Pedro Romero.
The other great fighter from Ronda was Antonio Ordoñez. He was fighting bulls during the period when Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway were frequent visitors to the town. Hemingway was to write several books inspired by his experiences during this time and Welles was so smitten by the town that he insisted that his ashes should be scattered in the patio garden of Ordoñez.
Known simply as El Maestro (the Master), Ordoñez is known for defining the 'deep' (hondo) manner of fighting bulls, a pared down, solemn way of approaching and passing the bulls which has none of the flourishes of the fighting style of Sevilla. Many claim that he was the greatest fighter to have lived. Ordoñez died a few years ago and his statue, and that of his uncle, now stands outside the Bull Ring. You'll see photos of him in most of the bars and restaurants of the town.
It was the Romantic movement who first 'discovered' the attractions of Ronda and it is easy to see why the town appealed to them. The houses of the town push right up to the very edge of the cliff face and a walk along the cliff-side walkway at sunset is an experience not to be forgotten.
This path, which runs from the Reina Victoria Hotel along and past the Alameda Gardens to the Bull Ring, came to be known as the 'paseo de los Ingleses'. This was because in the first half of the twentieth century Ronda came to be a sort of hill station for the Gibraltar garrison. Officers would ride up via Gaucín (or later take the train) in order to escape the heat and humidity of the coast. They would stay at the Reina Victoria which still retains, in parts, the airs and graces of that period. The hotel's terrace is a stunning place to watch the sun setting overt the Grazalema Sierra.
Obviously, no visit to the town would be complete without seeing both the Bull Ring and the New Bridge over the Tajo Gorge. But there are many other fabulous buildings and sights too. And lots of good restaurants and tapas bars to choose from.
Enjoy your visit to Ronda!
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