It’s no secret the three months I spent writing my book in Granada were some of the toughest of my life. And, confession time: it was during those dark days that I developed an obsession with Pinterest.
I’d set myself a target to write/edit a thousand words and then allow myself a small escape to pin photos of the pretty places I’d visit once it was all over. It was through Pinterest that I discovered Ronda, one of the oldest cities in Spain, and conveniently, a three-hour train ride from Granada. What it’s most well known for, though, is its stunning cliffside location.
And when I say cliffside, I mean cliffside.
So when I handed in the first draft of my manuscript, I celebrated the momentous occasion the only way I know how: by booking a trip.
I packed my daypack and hit the rails with Dave, hoping that Ronda would bring me the rest and relaxation I’d been craving. I wanted to be outside. To wander down tiny alleyways and take photos of beautiful buildings, and not fall into El Tajo Gorge.
The moment I arrived, I felt like this was the Spain I’d been dreaming of, all white-washed buildings and rolling hills and orange trees and olive trees and signs advertising tapas outside of every bar.
We started our explorations by picking a street at random and wandering down it. Five minutes later, we had reached the outskirts of the city and were making our way down a dirt track and into the countryside. I relished in the peacefulness and the sweet, unfamiliar sensation of fresh air on my face.
As we walked, I craned my neck behind me, grinning as I caught glimpses of Ronda, a mishmash of white buildings and red-tiled roofs crammed up against the cliffs.
Despite it being March, it felt like an autumn day. The air was crisp, the branches of trees were stark, and the foliage a reddish-brown.
We returned to the city and passed through Plaza de España, the main square, which was full of Chinese tour groups and overpriced restaurants. Although we were firmly visiting in the low season, there were still a surprising amount of tourists around.
By this point, I was itching to find those views of Ronda I’d spotted on Pinterest. We made our way over to Punte Nuevo Bridge, and from there, we had a spectacular sunset view of one of the most unusual places I’ve visited.
It doesn’t look too bad until you snap a portrait shot…
Pretty incredible, huh? We must have stayed around the bridge for over an hour, snapping photos and watching the sunset, and all I could think about was how amazing this place was.
The following day, we awoke to incredible bright blue skies and a gale in the air. Given Ronda’s location — 750 metres above sea level and on top of a mountain — it wasn’t surprising to find ourselves being blown from one activity to the next.
Our first stop was the Plaza de Toros, one of the oldest bullfighting rings in Spain. Maybe even the oldest, depending on who you choose to talk to. Bullfighting isn’t my thing, of course, but aside from one week every September, this one remains empty for tourists to wander around.
Inside, it was beautiful.
We also visited the bullfighting museum to learn more of the history and honestly, it was really boring. Dave found it interesting, though, and dragged me around for far too long.
With sunny weather and a chill in the air, it felt like the perfect time to go for a walk. There are many, many hikes you can do outside of Ronda — or so we read. When we visited the tourist information shop, the woman there couldn’t tell us anything about them.
With a shrug we walked out of town along a small path to see what we could find.
Amazing views, the answer would be. Check out that ridgeline!
As the path dropped down, hugging the side of the mountain, it gave us a spectacular view of the bridge from below.
Can you spot a small bridge at the bottom of the photo below? We walked to the that point and then an angry farmer chased us back up the hill because we were trespassing on his garden.
The following day, we decided to hike again, because while Ronda has to be one of the prettiest places I’ve visited, there wasn’t all that much to do there. We’d hit up all of the tourist spots we’d found recommended online, and spent hours wandering along narrow backstreets. I wanted to get down into the countryside and spend an entire day walking.
It made me nervous.
I hadn’t walked more than around 20 steps a day for the past three months, so my fitness levels were at an all-time low. I was traipsing around like I’d just returned from a stint on the International Space Station.
We found another path to lead us out of Ronda and followed it, telling ourselves we’d walk until the end.
Dave had been toying with the idea of walking the Camino for a while now, and our wander through the countryside only served to increase his desire.
I totally got why he wanted to do it, because even though I’ve never been much of a walker, escaping the world and concentrating only on my feet sounded appealing
“We could go offline for months,” I found myself suggesting every few minutes. “Each year, we could go on a long walk together. Stop working for a month or two, leave our laptops behind, and just walk.”
I loved the solitude and the silence. That we had yet to spot a single person, or any signs of life. There was just a tiny track and the sound of our footsteps.
This walk was the highlight of my time in Ronda. It gave me the chance to get away from the world, clear my head, and focus on nothing but putting one foot in front of the other.
So we walked and we walked, and then we walked some more. We walked for three hours, and with the end not yet in sight, I asked if we could turn back around. I was exhausted.
Feeling like a failure, I trudged my way back to Ronda.
When we returned to our room, I began researching the track we’d been walking along. It turns out, it was part of the E4, a 10,000 kilometre-long walking route that runs from Southern Portugal to Greece!
Suddenly, I didn’t feel quite so disheartened about turning back around.
What to Know About Visiting Ronda
How to get there: You can grab a direct train from Granada and the journey takes two and half hours. Trains run five times a day and cost around 30 euros for a return ticket.
Where to stay: We stayed at Hotel San Francisco for around $45 a night, and were really impressed. The continental breakfast was surprisingly good (as a rule, I always avoid continental breakfasts in hotels because they’re uniformly atrocious), and it was in a central location, a few minutes away from the main square. The room was clean, the staff were friendly, and the Wi-Fi came in at 3 Mbps. No complaints!
Where to eat: Bodega Bar Restaurante was our favourite place to eat in Ronda — it’s a little outside of the main tourist area, and is a popular local haunt. Grab their tapas menu and order a dozen dishes (around a euro each) for a delicious lunch or dinner. My favourite dishes were the avocado pears, jamon croquettes, and fried anchovies.
If you’re looking for a cute breakfast spot, Sweet Bakery was the best spot we found, with plenty of pastries and smoothies to choose from.
Aaaand if you happen to have a craving for Indian food, like we did, hit up Curry & Grill. We were skeptical, but it was actually pretty good. Lots of spice, which is unusual for Spain!