Ronda, Spain

Founded in the 9th century B.C., Ronda is a historical and visual gem of Andalusia. Its Old Town, encircled by Arab walls, reflects the Moorish occupation followed by a Christian conversion. The New Town mirrors a recent past immortalized by Earnest Hemingway. Between them is an enormous gorge with spectacular views of the valley below.

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1 El Tajo Gorge in Ronda, Spain

One look at this impressive cliff and it is easy to see why Ronda’s elevated position provided a natural defense since established by the Romans around 200 B.C. This is the west side of the El Tajo Canyon formed by the Rio Guadalevín. This dramatic gorge measures 1,640 feet long, 223 feet wide and plunges 328 feet.

Río Guadalevín, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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2 Puente Nuevo in Ronda, Spain

The first bridge to span the ravine dividing Ronda was constructed in 1734. Within seven years it collapsed, plunging 50 people to their deaths. Famed architect José Martin de Aldehuela was commissioned to develop a better design. Construction began in 1751 and finished in 1793 using ashlar stone from the base of the Tajo Gorge. The Puente Nuevo crosses over the Guadalevín River at a height of 323 feet, connecting Ronda’s Old and New Towns. In the center of the three-arched New Bridge is a 60 foot structure. It has been a guard house, torture chamber and prison before becoming a museum.

Plaza España, 7, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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3 Old Town From Puente Nuevo in Ronda, Spain

During Ronda’s almost continuous occupation by the Muslims from 713 until 1485, the city was confined primarily to a mount on the east side of the Rio Guadalevin River and the El Tajo Canyon. This Old Town called La Ciudad still contains numerous historic landmarks. The first edifice you reach on the left when crossing the Puente Nuevo is the former Convent of Santo Domingo. It was built in the 16th century on a Muslim structure after they were banned from Andalusia. Since 2005, it houses the Palacio de Congresos (equivalent to a convention center).

Plaza España, 7, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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4 White Houses atop El Tajo Gorge in Ronda, Spain

These white houses with their brown tiled roofs are perched precariously on top of the El Tajo Gorge. They are typical of the neighboring White Towns of Andalusia. Many tourists are so enthralled with this style they follow the Ruta de los Pueblos Blanchos to see similar villages such as Arcos, Zahara and Grazalema. This photo was taken from the Mirador de Aldehuela. The viewpoint’s namesake is José Martin de Aldehuela, a famous Ronda architect from the 18th century.

Plaza España, 8, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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5 Mondragón Palace in Ronda, Spain

Palacio de Mondragón was a lavish estate built in 1314 for the Moorish ruler Abbel Mallek, also known as King Abomelic. In 1491, Ferdinand II gifted it to Don Alonso de Valenzuela who extensively reshaped it. Over the centuries, it was owned by other elite families, each who made changes. Despite these renovations, the palace is the best preserved example of Moors architecture in Ronda, especially the elaborate gardens and the courtyards with horseshoe arches and tile mosaics. Sections of the building are now a history museum.

Plaza Mondragón, 7, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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6 Santa María la Mayor Church in Ronda, Spain

Santa María la Mayor Church has an impressive clock tower, an arched portico and two terraces defined with simple stone columns. These balconies were used by the social elite to watch festivals and bullfights in the adjoining square. The structure began as a Muslim mosque during the 14th century and was converted into a Catholic church beginning in the late 15th century. After an earthquake in 1580, the rebuilding process extended until 1720. Yet the tower still displays evidence of a former minaret. A highlight inside is a painting of Christopher Columbus by Jose de Ramos.

Calle Sor Angela de la Cruz, 5, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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7 The Town Hall in Ronda, Spain

Anchoring one side of Plaza Duquesa de Parcent is Ayuntamiento, Spanish for Town Hall. Its design of a two-level colonnade atop a stark white façade punctuated with birdcage windows immediately grabs your attention and raises questions about its architectural origin. During the 16th century, part of this structure was a Muslim marketplace. It was expanded into a military barracks in 1734. Since then, the building has undergone two restorations: one in 1818 and the last in 1973. The Casa Consistorial is now home to the municipality’s City Council and the mayor.

Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, 3, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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8 Convent of Santa Isabel de Los Ángeles in Ronda, Spain

The Convento de Santa Isabel de los Ángeles may go unnoticed if not for this salmon-colored bell tower accented with white dots. The rest of the convent and church have simple facades and are whitewashed. This Order of Saint Claire was co-founded by Francis of Assisi in 1212. The monasteries of the Poor Clare Sisters spread in Andalusia between the 14th and 17th centuries. The Convent of Santa Isabel de Los Ángeles was founded in Ronda during the 15th century. Some of the existing structures date back to the 16th century. Inside are religious works of art from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, 5, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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9 Minaret of San Sebastián in Ronda, Spain

After the Catholic Monarch Ferdinand II conquered Granada in 1492, he began to convert, expel, imprison or execute the Moors in Castile and Aragon. This included converting all Islamic mosques into Christian churches. This 14th century minaret is all that remains of Ronda’s original mosques. The upper level, formally used by the muezzin to call the faithful to prayer five times a day, was refashioned into a bell tower. However, the lower two levels of the Church of San Sebastián retain their original Islamic design.

Plaza Abul Beka, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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10 Casa del Rey Moro in Ronda, Spain

If you understand Spanish, you may get excited when you translate the Casa del Rey Moro sign on this building into the House of Moorish Kings. It is not. It was constructed in the 18th century and cannot be visited. Although their Jardines Históricos are lovely and populated with peacocks, these terraced gardens were designed in 1923. So why go in? The major attraction is the Water Mine. There are over 200 steps cut through solid rock during the 14th century leading down to the river. This treacherous, narrow and dark staircase punctuated with a few chambers was used by slaves to carry up water, by the Moorish military for defense and by royalty as an escape route if the city were besieged. It is an interesting experience. However, the drudgery of walking back up is literally breathtaking.

Calle Cuesta de Santo Domingo, 9, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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11 Palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra in Ronda, Spain

At the end of the 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs gifted to Don Vasco Martin de Salvatierra some Muslim homes called Casas Pintadas (Painted Houses). In the early 16th century, he converted them into an elaborate residence. During the late 1700’s, the mansion was reconstructed and expanded by his descendants based on a design by Martín de Aldehuela. The four nude, very curious caryatids represent Mesoamerican slaves from the pre-Columbus period. These symbolize the family’s enrichment from the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Within the pediment is the coat of arms of the Salvatierra family.

Calle Real, 2, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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12 Padre Jesús Quarter in Ronda, Spain

The enormity of Murallas de Levante on the left suggests the powerful deterrent these defenses had against attacking the northern edge of La Ciudad (Old Town) during the Middle Ages. In the background is the Padre Jesús quarter developed by the Christians outside of the Arab walls. The brown, Gothic bell tower is the Church of Our Father Jesus. When it was built after Ferdinand II ended the Reconquista era in 1492, the church was devoted to the 2nd century martyr Saint Cecilia, the patroness of musicians. The rest of Iglesia de Nuestro Padre Jesús was constructed during the mid-18th century.

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13 Puente San Miguel in Ronda, Spain

This one arch-span was called the Roman Bridge until the end of the 15th century when it was renamed Puente San Miguel (Bridge of Saint Michael). Both names are a misnomer because it is an Islamic construction. In the background are the ruins of Baños Arabes. This 13th century Arab Baths has three chambers for different stages of cleansing defined by horseshoe arches plus brick and marble columns. Water was supplied by a waterwheel and aqueduct from the Arroyo de las Culebras (Creek of the Snakes) near its confluence with Rio Guadalevín.

Calle Real, 2, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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14 Arco de Felipe V in Ronda, Spain

This passage into Ronda was built in 1742 during the second reign of Philip V as the King of Spain. Above the opening is a fairly unique trapezoidal pinnacle. Arco de Felipe V is located on a spot called Sillón del Moro. This translates into the Moor’s Armchair. The Archway of Philip V replaced a previous gate built during the Muslim occupation of the city.

Calle Real, 2, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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15 Narrowest Section of El Tajo in Ronda, Spain

This chasm is the narrowest section of El Tajo at about 216 feet across. It is located between Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) and Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). The Rio Guadalevín carved this ravine through the limestone during millenniums. Within the ridges on the left is the Water Mine at the base of La Casa del Rey Moro. Its natural camouflage from attackers made this a strategic location for defense near the water level and from the cliffs above.

Calle Escolleras, 1, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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16 Puente Viejo in Ronda, Spain

The Puente Viejo is a 33 foot, pedestrian bridge constructed in 1616. 101 feet below the single arch flows the Rio Guadalevín in the ravine of the El Tajo Gorge. Thank the work from the 18th century for adding the observation niches. The Old Bridge replaced two early ones at this same location constructed by the Arabs. In the background is the Archway of Philip V. Arco de Felipe V was built in the mid-18th century.

Calle Real, 2, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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17 Jardines de Cuenca in Ronda, Spain

The Jardines de Cuenca is a winding staircase from Puente Viejo to the top of El Mercadillo (the Little Market or New Town). Based on the 328 foot height of El Tajo, this sound strenuous. To the contrary. It is delightful! After each handful of steps you arrive at another walled terrace offering incredible views of the gorge, valley and the Río Guadalevín plus landmarks such as the Casa del Rey Moro and Puente Nuevo. You are surrounded by flower beds, palms, cyprus, succulents and evergreen trees. The Cuenca Gardens were built in 1975 and named after Ronda’s sister city.

Calle Escolleras, 4, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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18 Casa Palacio Museo Lara in Ronda, Spain

These mannequins of a soldier with enormous mutton chops beside Charlie Chaplin on a balcony are a lure to tourists to visit the Lara Museum. Inside is an eclectic assortment of arms, clocks, scientific instruments plus other artifacts from different periods including the Romantic era, the Inquisition, witchcraft plus contemporary times. Museo Lara was founded by the tireless collector Juan Antonio Lara Jurado. The exhibition is housed in the Palace of the Counts of Conquest.

Calle Armiñán, 29, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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19 Church of the Holy Spirt in Ronda, Spain

Ferdinand II of Aragon, the King of Castile and León, conquered Ronda in 1485. However, he would not defeat the Moorish Kingdom of Granada until 1492. This victory ended the Islamic era in Spain. So political and military tensions were high when he commissioned the first Catholic church in Ronda. Therefore, Iglesia de Espíritu Santo was built on the city walls and resembles a fort. Construction was finished in 1505.

Calle Espíritu Santo, 15, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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20 Alcazaba Ruins in Ronda, Spain

The first stronghold in Ronda – the Castle of Laurel – was built by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. After the city was conquered by Abbad II al-Mu’tadid in 1065, the Muslims constructed their fortified palace called Alcazaba. It suffered major attacks by Ferdinand II’s troops in 1485 and then by Napoleon’s French army in 1812. Most is now in ruins. Yet the Alcazaba walls along the northeast section of Ronda remain impressive.

Calle Cuesta de las Imágnes, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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21 Charles V Gate in Ronda, Spain

Most of the walls encircling Ronda were constructed during the Islamic period (712 – 1485). Occasionally they were augmented in later centuries. The Puerta de Carlos V at the east end of the city is an example. The Charles V Gate, named after the ruler of both the Holy Roman and Spanish Empires, is from the 16th century. Next to it is the 13th century Almocábar Gate, a derivative of the Al-maqabir cemetery previously adjacent to the portal. Now this space is Plaza Ruedo Alameda within the San Francisco Quarter.

Plazuela Arquitecto Francisco Pons Sorolla, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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22 New Town From Puente Nuevo in Ronda, Spain

Puente Nuevo is a feat of 18th century engineering for spanning the El Tajo. After its construction, the New Town called El Mercadillo (Little Market) flourished and is now the city’s commercial center. On the right is Plaza España. The Parador de Ronda Hotel is perched on the massive wall of Tajo Gorge. To understand the grandeur of this escarpment, notice the relative size of the people walking along the promenade.

Calle Armiñán, 3, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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23 Parador Hotel in Ronda, Spain

The Parador de Ronda is a luxury hotel occupying the former town hall built in 1761. From its position hugging the cliffs of Tajo Gorge, it offers guests stunning views from its 79 rooms, balconies plus two gardened terraces. Paradors is centrally located in the Mercadillo section, a short and scenic stroll from the Puente Nuevo which crosses over to La Ciudad or the Old Town.

Plaza España, 6, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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24 El Balcón del Coño in Ronda, Spain

On the far right is a Victorian-style gazebo with the best view of the valley at the foot of Ronda. Look closely to see the brave people standing on a tiny, protruding platform. It is guaranteed to give you vertigo. Rondeños call this El Balcón del Coño. Its English translation is not politically correct. If you are curious you will have to look it up. Let’s just say this precarious balcony is not for the faint of heart.

Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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25 El Mirador la Alameda in Ronda, Spain

Mirador is the Spanish word for viewpoint. El Mirador la Alameda is the best feature of Alameda del Tajo in any language. This balcony – also called Mirador de los RRCC – is located along Alameda Park’s southern edge. From here you can enjoy spectacular views of the Rio Guadalevín Valley and the mountainscape of Serranía de Ronda.

Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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26 Alameda Park in Ronda, Spain

Alameda del Tajo is a delightful park created in 1806 adjacent to the Ronda Bullring (Plaza de Toros). The shade from numerous 200-year-old trees offers a wonderful respite from Ronda’s summer heat although the average temperature in July and August is a pleasant 75° Fahrenheit. Children enjoy the duck pond and playgrounds. Adults love the stroll along the five paved walkways.

Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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27 Pedro Romero Statue in Ronda, Spain

Native-born Pedro Romero was not only the most famous matador in Ronda during the 18th century but remains a legend among Spanish toreros. From 1775 until 1799, he is reputed to have been in over 5,500 bullfights, earning the nickname El Infalible. And unlike his processors who rode horseback, Pedro Romero matched his skills against the bulls on foot. This statue of the legend is at the Virgen de la Paz entrance to Alameda Park.

Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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28 Plaza de Toros in Ronda, Spain

Plaza de Toros is Spain’s second oldest bullring. When it opened in 1785, the first torero to enter the sand arena was Pedro Romero, one of the greatest Spanish matadors in history. Inside is seating for 5,000 along two levels defined by 136 columns. The Ronda Bullring is now Museo Taurino featuring bullfighting memorabilia and art plus antique firearms. Yet during the second week of every September, it comes alive again for the Feria Goyesca (also called Feria de Pedro Romero). This four-day event features a parade, costumed festivities and culminates with a bullfight named Corrida Goyesca that dates back to 1954.

Paseo Blas Infante, 2, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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29 Matador Statues at Plaza de Toros in Ronda, Spain

These statues outside of the Plaza de Toros honor two accomplished matadors. On the right is Antonio Ordoñez. From 1951 until 1968, he faced over 3,000 bulls. He was also a longtime friend of Orson Wells whose ashes were scattered on Antonio’s ranch. Earnest Hemingway wrote about him in “The Dangerous Summer.” On the left is his father, Cayetano Ordoñez. Nicknamed El Niño de la Palma, he was not only a famous torero but also the owner of the Ronda Bullring. Earnest Hemingway studied him as a surrogate for Pedro Romero for the 1926 novel, “The Sun Also Rises.”

Calle Virgen de la Paz, 15, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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30 Church of Socorro in Ronda, Spain

The Church of Socorro is the youngest in Ronda. It was constructed in 1956. But its location is filled with history. First it was the site of a mosque. During the Reconquista, it was used as an encampment for the Order of Calatrava, a Castile military order sanctioned by the pope in 1164. During the 16th century, a hospital and chapel were built here. This was followed by a new church in 1709 that was destroyed by Nationalist forces in 1936. By the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the square was renamed to Plaza del General Franco as a tribute to the new dictator and El Caudillo (The Leader). Since 1981, it is known as Plaza del Socorro in honor of Our Lady of Socorro Church.

Plaza del Socorro, 15, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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31 Plaza del Socorro Fountain Sculpture in Ronda, Spain

In 1918, during the Assembly of Andalusian Provinces in Ronda, Blas Infante displayed a flag in this square with Hercules standing triumphantly beside two lions and the pillars from the Strait of Gibraltar. The Father of Andalusia Nationalism sought to become an independent republic within Spain. His rebellious leadership resulted in his execution by General Francisco Franco in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War. His last words were, “Long live free Andalusia.” The sculptures in front of the Church of Socorro are part of Andalusia’s coat of arms and flag.

Plaza del Socorro, 9, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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32 Church of the Merced in Ronda, Spain

The Church of Merced is what remains of a late 16th century hospital and the San Jorge convent founded by the Mercedaries. The Order of Mercy was established in 1218 to free captive Christians from the Muslims. The order then moved to Ronda in 1522 and built Iglesia Convento La Merced in 1585. The convent closed in 1822. However, the church is still open, managed by the Discalced Carmelites and part of the Catholic Diocese of Málaga. Inside is a 17th century, jeweled relic of Saint Teresa of Avila.

Calle Carlos Cobo Gómez, 2, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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33 Typical Cobblestone Street in Ronda, Spain

In a city as historic as Ronda, most tourists shuffle between landmarks while following a guide or with their nose pressed into a travel book or phone app. But also take time to stroll along the cobblestones flanked by whitewashed buildings. Enjoy the flowers dangling from second-story balconies. Talk to some Rondeños. Sense the history, such as when the troops of Marquis of Cadiz raced through this street (Calle Espíritu Santo) during the siege of Ronda in 1484. Explore boutique shops. Afterwards, order a lunch of Andalusia cuisine like gazpacho with a glass of sherry. These are the special rewards of travel.

Calle Espíritu Santo, 31, 29400 Ronda, Spain
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