Black Book Travels: Ronda, Spain
Head in the clouds, feet on the ground. Dreamer or doer; optimist or realist? The continuum need not be so dichotomous, at least not when in Ronda, where the yin and yang energies of dreaming and doing are reconciled.
In Ronda we find the value of a little of both: that firm roots give the depth and strength to reach higher and farther than ever before; to believe that anything is possible. For here, in this Andalucian pueblo blanco, it is (almost) possible to quite literally stand with your feet on firm ground, and hold your head in the clouds, full of dreams.
It’s a city on the edge of many edges: perched precariously on the very edge of a spectacular cliff; somewhere between the land and the skies, rooted in the rocks, but touching the clouds; somewhere between the old and the new, with all the heritage of a rich, vibrant past still alive today; somewhere between reality and a dreamland, Andalucía’s ciudad soñada, a city of dreams, after all.
Surrounded by pristine mountainous scenery, sitting enthroned atop a rugged Andalusian plateau, Ronda has one of the most beautiful, and equally dramatic, settings around. Its heart is sliced in two by the El Tajo gorge and the Río Guadalevín, which has carved out a unique, spectacular cleft in the landscape. The 100m-deep canyon cleaving right through the town is traversed by 3 bridges, the most emblematic of which is its photogenic, and postcard-famous bridge Puente Nuevo, which connects the Moorish Old Town of Ronda (La Ciudad) on one side, to the 15th Century newer town (El Mercadillo) on the other. A construction of no less than 34 years of progress, if you’re not afraid of heights, walking across this bridge will have you dazzled. The sight of buildings that perilously cling to the cliffside, a dizzying effect if you even dare to look down into the ravine below, and thrilling vistas out into the rolling hills beyond are enough to give even the most fearless a little vertigo. While this is one the best ways to absorb the astounding views of the town, to appreciate the bridge itself, check out the Casa del Rey Moro – its landscaped terraces give access to La Mina, an Islamic stairway of nearly 200 steps into the rock all the way down to the river at the bottom of the gorge.
Ronda is one of Spain’s oldest towns, and the rich culture inherited from conquests, cultures and civilisations long passed sets the ambience of the white-washed town, seeping through its cobbled streets, filling the air of its old mansions and stone churches. It’s not surprising therefore, that it’s the home of one of Spain’s traditions. In existence for more than 200 years, Plaza de Toros is one of Spain's oldest bullrings and the site of some of the most important events in bullfighting history. Only one fight a year is held there now, each September, for the Feria de Pedro Romero festival.
Other places not to miss include the baños arabes, built partially underground, where you can explore the arched ceiling rooms and the beautiful effect of their star-shaped roof vents, designed to let steam out and light in. With panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, watching the sun rise or set at the cliffside Alameda del Tajo gardens is another unmissable! The park is set out with 5 avenues which all lead to the cliff edge, from which you can appreciate El Tajo gorge below.
So no more head in the clouds or feet on the ground. Do them simultaneously. Keep your feet a little more well-rooted and your head a little further into the clouds. Live, like Ronda, a little more on the edge – in that blurred boundary, where dreams turn into real life.
Where to stay?
A charming olive-mill-turned-boutique-hotel, the romantic and secluded countryside finca of @molinodelarco is a blissful retreat. Set amidst a serene 10000 square metres of gardens fringed by orange, persimmon and almond trees, a satisfying serenity pervades the hotel’s guest rooms, all decorated with warm tones, elegant furnishings and rustic finishes. Cool off by one of the two pools and delight in food, served unsurprisingly fresh from the hotel’s gardens.