The town’s Puente Nuevo is 120 metres high and spans the gorge. :: SUR
For a town with such a turbulent history, Ronda emits a remarkably peaceful energy. A day spent here relaxes and energises at the same time, in this oasis of history amid stunningly beautiful scenery.
Even the drive to Ronda is lovely, no matter from which direction you come, but the A-397 from San Pedro Alcántara is a particular favourite. This road is about 50 kilometres of ‘up’, rising higher through evergreen mountains with the sound of waterfalls in winter, the chirping of cicadas in summer and with tantalising glimpses of traditional white villages of the Upper Genal in the distance. It is, however, a major road so it is wide and in good condition.
Once in Ronda, innumerable treasures await. Of course you have to peer into the gorge. Everybody peers into the gorge, even those who have lived there all their lives and those who visit frequently. You might even give in to temptation and stop for refreshment in one of the establishments that hang almost over the edge, or are part-way down so you can gaze up at those gazing down from the ‘Puente Nuevo’ bridge. Which isn’t very ‘nuevo’ actually, as it was built in the 18th century to join the two sides of the town together.
First time visitors will want to see the sights, and there are plenty of those: historic buildings, galleries, museums, churches, palaces, Arab baths, the oldest bullring in Spain and very much more. You can even take a horse-drawn carriage ride to see where the main attractions are. But for those of us in the know, the best way to enjoy Ronda is just to wander about, look around and soak up the unique atmosphere. Head for ‘La Ciudad’, the most ancient part of town, roam the tiny narrow streets, admire the beautiful buildings and explore the pretty squares. Somehow, although there may well be other people about, you feel as if you are alone and you can’t be sure but - was that the rustle of a monastic cloak that you just heard? The swish of a robe, the slap of a leather sandal on the cobblestones? It would be understandable if those who inhabited Ronda in the past have no more wish to leave it than those who live or visit there today....
Ronda is not just a beautiful town. It perches on its plateau amid scenery so stunning that it is hard to believe it is real. Just sit and gaze, watch how the movement of a single cloud changes the shadows and the colours of the mountains, breathe in the pure air, and feel the stresses and strains of everyday life ease away. And of course, when your energy is restored, countryside this beautiful is too tempting just to look at. How about a walk to the 10th century Virgen de la Cabeza cave church, just 2.5 kms from the San Francisco district and with spectacular views across to Ronda? Or a drive of about 20 kms to the remains of the Roman town of Acinipo. One day, when the regional government has money again, these ruins will be properly prepared for visitors, with information about the history of Acinipo. For the moment, though, it is like stepping through a gate and back to the time between the 1st century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D when this town, which was so important that it minted its own coins, took shape. It is a surreal and spine-shivering experience to stand on the stage of the theatre, look into the auditorium and imagine the toga-clad Romans watching you. It’s impressive - just like everything else about Ronda.