Exploring Ronda, Spain’s Spectacular Cliffside City


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.

Ronda views

Yup.

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.

Views of Ronda, Spain

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.

Ronda horses

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.

ronda 2

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.

Ronda in the spring

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.

Ronda main square

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.

Ronda by the bridge

It doesn’t look too bad until you snap a portrait shot…

ronda portrait

ronda bridge 2

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.

ronda 4

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.

The Bullring in Ronda

Inside, it was beautiful.

Ronda Bullring
Ronda Bullring view

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.

Outside Ronda Bullring

Onwards!

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.

Ronda countryside

Amazing views, the answer would be. Check out that ridgeline!

Ronda views
Dave in Ronda

As the path dropped down, hugging the side of the mountain, it gave us a spectacular view of the bridge from below.

Ronda bridge

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.

Views from Ronda bridge

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.

hiking in Ronda

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.

Ronda Hike
GR7 hike

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.

GR7 hiking

Guess what?!

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.

ronda from afar

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! 

Would you like to visit Ronda? Have you ever seen anywhere like it before?

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33 Comments

  1. Aisling
    November 24, 2015
    Reply

    Wow….those cliffs…and that bridge! Stunning!!

    • November 25, 2015
      Reply

      Isn’t it amazing? :-)

  2. November 24, 2015
    Reply

    I have never seen something like this, amazing! Gorgeous pictures:-)

    • November 25, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Lotte! It’s definitely a unique place :-)

  3. Shan
    November 25, 2015
    Reply

    Love love love this post! The tips at the bottom are so helpful.

    • November 25, 2015
      Reply

      Glad to hear that, Shan! That’s a new addition after a lot of readers requested it in my recent survey :-)

  4. November 25, 2015
    Reply

    I loved Bodega Restaurant! I got so excited by the multitude of delicious-sounding tapas on the menu and the fact that each one was only €1 that I seriously over-ordered and consequently ended up sharing my feast with one of the local felines ;-)

    • November 25, 2015
      Reply

      Oh, amazing! We did exactly the same haha. I think we ended up with about 15 different dishes for lunch :-D

  5. Marg
    November 25, 2015
    Reply

    What an amazing place !! Going to Spain next year. So will visit.. Just love the Photos..

    • November 25, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Marg! It’s one of the prettiest places I’ve visited in Spain :-)

  6. Ronda was one of the first places I visited when moving to Spain – gorgeous! And definitely do the Camino. I am planning on a second this spring!

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Dave’s planning his second for next year as well! I’m still not sure… :-)

  7. November 26, 2015
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing! This town looks awesome :) This is why I like reading blogs! You find out so many nice places through there (I’m not on Pinterest, so I’m happy I found out through you :) )

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Happy I could introduce you to it, Dominique! :-)

  8. Shaz
    November 26, 2015
    Reply

    As a histoty buff, it makes me want to give Ronda a visit one day. The historical outset of Spanish towns that blend so well with nature and located far from the city excites me. Looks like one of those towns that troops could’ve garrisoned in during the Napoleonic Wars, and most probably the Spanish Civil War as well due to its geographical advantages. Thanks Lauren!

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Oh, definitely. I think it played a large part on the Spanish Civil War (I’m not a history buff at all)

  9. November 26, 2015
    Reply

    I was never a big fan of Spain until I visited the Andalucia region – Ronda, Granada, Casares, Las Alpujarras, Nerja – I loved them all. I only did a day trip to Ronda but it is definitely somewhere I would love to return to hike

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Same! My family holidays to Mallorca and the touristy part of Valencia had me feeling ambivalent towards Spain. Now I’ve visited places that aren’t near a beach, I like it a lot more!

  10. Amazing! I first learnt about this Spanish city in another article a couple of years ago. Recently I decided to look it up again, but I just couldn’t remember the name of the place! I’m very happy to be reading all about it again, this time with more information and prettier photos,

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Oh, that makes me so happy, Daniela! That was perfect timing on my part then :-)

  11. Adrian
    November 26, 2015
    Reply

    Awesome place! It’s amazing that this kinds of places exist in the world! Very beautiful!

    • November 27, 2015
      Reply

      It almost doesn’t look real, does it? :-)

  12. November 29, 2015
    Reply

    HOW did I live in Granada for three months and never go here!? I feel I have failed – but reason to go back, I suppose. Looks incredible.

  13. Surabhi
    December 8, 2015
    Reply

    I’m glad I found this on my Google search as I am planning my 28 day Spain/Morocco trip in Jan/Feb. The end of my trip is 6 days in Barcelona that I felt would be a great base.

    • February 18, 2016
      Reply

      Have a fantastic time! Will you make it to Ronda?

  14. December 10, 2015
    Reply

    This makes me really want to add Spain onto my itinerary backpacking Europe just to go here haha!! This place just looks SO beautiful. I don’t think I have enough time this trip though :(

    • December 13, 2015
      Reply

      I remember being in the planning stages of my trip and hating having to eliminate so many countries!

  15. December 23, 2015
    Reply

    Amazing post, Lauren!
    Ronda has made it to my list now. It looks absolutely stunning. Thank you for sharing.
    P.S. – I also loved your post about Granada. Useful tips!

    • February 18, 2016
      Reply

      I’m so happy to hear that, Maria!

  16. Ernesto VM
    November 3, 2016
    Reply

    Seeing your photos of Ronda makes me yearn to go there, by hook or by crook. Now, what I need to do is some planning since most of my trips as of late have been day trips. The 5 to 6 hour travel can be daunting, but I think I can manage. I’ll just think of the spectacular shots I can get. Also, I don’t know if I can stay in one of those cliff side homes, pretty scary, don’t you think? Only for the brave!

    • November 4, 2016
      Reply

      Ha! They didn’t seem too bad, but then I didn’t get to stay in one and have to peer down into the gorge.

  17. August 31, 2017
    Reply

    This was a really good read. Brought back all the memories of my trip to Ronda. The best thing about Ronda is that there are so many spots where you can just sit by, admire the views and just forget about the rest of the world! I always tell people Ronda is so much more than a day trip!

    • January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Absolutely agree! There’s so much to do and so many walks and trails to follow :-)

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