While studying with AIFS in Madrid, I had a week-long break during which Catholic Spain celebrates La Semana Santa, or the Holy Week before Easter. During this time each and every city and village, no matter how small, will have processions and parades every single day. People dressed in cloaks and pointy hats called nazarenos, or penitents, parade through the streets usually dressed in white or purple, the color of death, as they remember the week leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion, as tradition goes.
During my spring break, I decided to stay in Spain while my mother came to visit. Along with a rental car, we took a girls’ road trip through Andalucía. We stopped for two nights in a town called Ronda, recommended by my mother’s travel booklet in the south of Spain, and it totally captured my heart! Best of all, it’s just an hour and a half away from Málaga and two hours away from Granada.
So, without further ado here are 5 reasons you must visit Ronda, Spain.
1) The Bridge
When my mom suggested going to Ronda, the first thing I did was look it up on Instagram, which is actually quite a great travel resource! I like to look up other people’s photos to get an idea of where to go and what to do in a new place.
All the photos, and the guidebook we had, featured the Puente Nuevo in Ronda, towering above the canyon at almost 400 ft. It’s called the Puente Nuevo, or New Bridge, because it was only built in the 18th century and is one of three bridges in Ronda. There are plenty of hiking trails and panoramic viewpoints in the city, including restaurants with outdoor terraces looking out onto the bridge, which make for incredibly Instagrammable photos. And boy, did I take advantage of them! (Perks to traveling with your mom include having your own personal photographer and #1 fan with you at all times). It’s an incredible structure, and looks beautiful when the sun shines upon it. My mom and I woke up very early to go hiking and I definitely recommend doing this, as it quickly gets crowded with tourists taking photos of the bridge.
2) It’s a Historical Mish-Mash
As is typical in Andalucía, Ronda was built and rebuilt many times depending on who was living there. The two other bridges are the Puente Romano, or Roman bridge, and the Puente Viejo or Old Bridge, also called the Arab Bridge.
Ronda was founded as a Roman city under Caesar, and then was taken over by the Muslims who lived in Spain up until the Spanish Inquisition. Ronda was under Islamic influence for about 400 years and the walls built during this time still stand strong encircling the city. For history buffs like my mom and I, this is the perfect place to get lost in a web of histories and cultures. Ernest Hemingway, Washington Irving, and Orson Wells all spent time in Ronda, as well.
3) Scenic Streets and Gardens
The streets of Ronda are winding and full of white houses and cobblestones. It’s fun to get lost following the precarious streets into the plummeting canyon and admiring the Puente Nuevo from various angles. During your visit to Ronda, you can explore La Casa del Rey Moro, or the Moorish King’s palace (which is a lie, it was built in the 18th century). This palace has beautiful hanging gardens full of Moorish architectural elements like irrigation fountains. There is also a fish pond and a bunch of peacocks. Seriously, I was not expecting to be looking out into the canyon one minute and then the next to find myself face-to-face with one of the four peacocks in the garden.
4) Two Words: Water Mine!
After enjoying the Casa del Rey Moro garden and its inhabitants, you can take the 231 steps down into the gorge in what is the Moorish water mine. During that era, the water resources needed to be protected and the way to access the river at the bottom of the canyon was by bringing it up the stairs to the city above, which was done by slaves.
The mine is essentially a fortress with many chambers, like the armory and various vaults. When you get to the bottom, you find yourself at the base of the canyon surrounded by cliffs towering above you and rippling blue water at your feet. It is like a secret sanctuary where all you hear is the sound of running water and birds. It’s really quite idyllic. And then, of course, you have to walk back up the 231 steps, which is a good way to walk off all the tapas you undoubtedly ate the night before.
5) It’s a Hiker’s Delight
Ronda is situated above the El Tajo Canyon through which flows the Guadalevín River. This canyon has plenty of trails for hiking, as well as rock climbing. Because the city is surrounded by ancient Moorish walls, there are trails around them so you can hike from one side of the canyon to the other. We even stumbled across old ruins of an electric power plant from the early 1900s which was probably powered by the river, more proof of the water’s importance throughout the centuries.
So there you have it; if old ruins, great photo ops, and peacocks don’t sell you on visiting Ronda then I don’t know what will. If anything, it’s a wonderful underrated place to visit if you ever find yourself in Málaga or Granada. The south of Spain is full of intermingled history that you cannot ignore.
In my opinion the Moorish influence makes it all the more beautiful; it’s a synthesis of culture, language and architecture that shapes how Spain looks today. It is important to look back at where we came from and discover what remains of those bygone eras so that we may preserve them for future generations to enjoy. So get yourself to Ronda and witness it all for yourself! I promise you won’t be disappointed.
This post was contributed by Camille Evans, a student from the University of Vermont who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Madrid, Spain.