Ronda: Planning Your Trip

Ronda Spain
Puente Nuevo bridge in Ronda, Spain.

Evgeni Dinev Photography / Getty Images

Bullfighting is deeply rooted within global historic traditions. But today, local public opinion leans against the tradition. Though the site includes information for tourists interested in attending the events, TripSavvy trusts its readers to make their own decisions on the ethics of bullfighting as an attraction.

On a tour of the sunny Costa del Sol, Ronda is a city well worth a multi-day diversion. This is an iconic Spanish city, one that bravely straddles the El Tajo Gorge and is best known for being the birthplace of bullfighting. The former Moorish bastion has captivated famous visitors like Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles and consistently impresses travelers with its long-running traditions, adventuresome vistas, and picturesque narrow streets. From finding the best trails that lead down into the gorge to deciding where to stay and when to go, there's much that visitors should know before planning their trip to Ronda.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: You'd think Ronda's mountaintop locale would spare it from Andalusia's scorching summers, but it still gets quite hot between July and August and winters can be cold with high winds. The best time to visit is in the fall or spring, especially if your trip coincides with the Feria de Pedro Romera, a September festival.
  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Euro
  • Getting Around: Nature lovers might consider driving to Ronda to more easily access nearby trails or tour local vineyards, but you don't need a car to explore Ronda. The city itself is very walkable and it only takes about 15 minutes to walk through town from the city gates to the bullring.
  • Travel Tip: A half-hour's drive from Ronda is the Cueva de Pileta, a cave with 25,000-years-old paintings from the Neolithic age. The privately-owned cave is open every day of the year, but reservations must be made in advance.

Things to Do

As one of the last towns to fall during the Reconquista, Ronda is one of the best destinations to appreciate Islamic architecture as you explore the Moorish Quarter, which is full of cliffhanging mansions and large gardens. Aside from the many breathtaking vistas, history is the main attraction in Ronda. Even to get to the "newer" side of town, you can't avoid crossing the Puente Nuevo, aka the "New Bridge," which despite its name is over 200-years old. In addition to the city's religious, political, and architectural history, you also have the history of bullfighting and a museum dedicated to Andalusia's 19th-century bandits.

  • Museum of Bullfighting: At the Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda, you can visit the museum to learn more about the Spanish tradition of bullfighting where flashy matador costumes and gilded harnesses and saddles are on display.
  • El Tajo Gorge: There are many ways to get down to the bottom of the gorge, whether you take the 200 stone steps from the House of the Moorish King, opt for a hiking route, or follow the trail that begins at the Puerta de Almocabar.
  • Arab Baths: Dating back from Ronda's Moorish days of the 13th and 14th centuries, these baths are located just outside of the city gates and are some of the best-preserved Arabic baths in Spain.

What to Eat and Drink

In Ronda, you'll find all the Spanish staples in the city's tapas bars and restaurants in addition to typical Andalusian dishes like fried fish, gazpacho, oxtail, and more. The region's cuisine is heavily influenced by its Moorish history, especially in the desserts. Because sugar was first introduced in the 10th century, many of these recipes date back 1,000 years. Take pestiños, the typical sweet treat in Ronda, which are deep-fried pastries slathered in honey.

Because the city is located up in the mountains, you will also find that the surrounding ecosystem plays a role on the menus of Ronda, in the form of game meat like rabbit and partridge, plus a wide variety of mushrooms. In the surrounding area known as the Serranía de Ronda, there are many vineyards and wineries worth visiting. Bodegas F. Schatz specializes in biodynamic farming and natural wine and Descalzos Viejos offers something for history lovers by being located on the site of an isolated convent that dates back to the 16th century.

Where to Stay

If you're in Ronda for more than a few hours, you will probably spend more of your time in the northern half than in the south, where the train and bus stations are. When exploring the town, Plaza España and the nearby Plaza de Toros will be your orientation points. In the old town, you can find many beautiful boutique hotels in the old Moorish quarter and the newer side of town. However, for a view unique in all the world you'll have to stay at the Hotel Catalonia, which has an infinity pool that looks over the city's famous bullring.

For a more daring scene, hotels like the Hotel Villa Zambra will check you into a room that looks out into the gorge with a postcard-perfect view of the city and the bridge. Of course, if you have a fear of heights, you may feel safer closer to the ground, which is where rural hotels like the Hotel La Fuente de la Higuera step in, offering luxury accommodations surrounded by olive trees.

Getting There

Located up on top of the gorge, Ronda may not seem like the easiest city to get to, but there are many ways to make the trip from the nearby cities of Andalusia like Seville and Málaga and the capital of Madrid. If you opt to drive or take the bus, you will have to navigate some daunting mountain roads, but thankfully there is also a train station. There is one direct route per day that can get you from Madrid to Ronda in 4 hours, but the journey is much shorter if you are starting from Málaga or Seville, which are both 2 hours away. If you are only interested in visiting Ronda on a quick stop, without spending the night, you can book a multi-day tour through Andalusia or hop on a day tour from another Costa del Sol city that will also take you through the region's other pueblos blancos, aka white villages, like Arcos de la Frontera.

Culture and Customs

Ronda is the cultural center of the Spanish tradition of bullfighting, but not all Spaniards are fans of this inherently violent and dangerous sport. On one hand, it is a tradition that has been tied to Spanish identity for thousands of years and is treated like an art form. On the other hand, it's an outdated and cruel spectacle that calls for the death of animals for the sake of entertainment. The practice has been outlawed in a few Spanish provinces, but the tradition continues throughout Spain.

In Ronda, you will find more bullfighting enthusiasts as this is where one of the most famous bullfighting events in Spain, the Goyesca Bullfight, takes place. It is the main stage for the country's most prominent bullfighters, which brings bullfighting fans to Ronda. However, in general, attendance rates are declining all over Spain, particularly among younger generations.

Money Saving Tips

  • Most of the attractions in Ronda can be enjoyed for free, such as the views from the Puente Nuevo Bridge and the Alameda del Tajo Park. There are many access paths down to the river for a day of hiking that doesn't incur the cost of an entry ticket.
  • For a low-cost meal, visit El Mercadillo where you'll find small bars and restaurants that serve affordable tapas.
  • To save a few Euros on accommodation, check out backpacking hostels like Hostal Virgen del Rocio and Casa Duende del Tajo.
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