Ronda and the White Villages
Total length of the trip: 115km via Castelar and Jimena de la Frontera. 100km between Ronda and Arcos de la Frontera.
Point of Departure: San Pedro de Alcantara.
There is a well-paved mountain road between the coast and Ronda, which asses through the whole mountain range from south to north with lovely scenery on either side and practically no settlements.
Ronda (49km from San Pedro de Alcantara) lies on top of a rocky projection with vertical walls and is one of the most interesting towns in Andalusia. It is divided by a deep chasm which reaches a depth of 100m at some points. El Puente Nuevo (the New Bridge), built in the 18C connects both parts and at the same time is the landmark of the town.
Upon arrival, on one side the traveller finds the 16C convent of San Francisco with an interesting Gothic Isabelline portal. Soon afterwards there are the Gates of El Almocabar – of Muslim times – and of Carlos V, which give access to the most representative area of Ronda. The Church of El Espiritu Santo, founded at the request of the Catholic Monarchs, stands next to the wall.
The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria should, without a doubt, be the first place to be visited. It is an important Renaissance building which still preserved inside an arch of the vanished mosque. The interior is a combination of late Gothic and Baroque. Other sights of this section of the old part of Ronda include El Cuartel las Milicias (today’s Town Hall), the convent of the Clares, La Caridad church and Mondragon Palace.
Also in the vicinity of the collegiate church, there are La Casa del Gigante (Giants House; from Muslim times) and the Church of La Virgen de la Paz, dating from the 16C and 17c. On the way to El Puente Nuevo, there is the minaret of San Sebastian, the only vestige of the vanished mosque. On the right, the visit should include the Palaces of El Rey Moro and of Salvatierra, the Arab baths and the Arch of Felipe. Despite its name, the Palace of El Rey Moro is an entirely western building dating from the 18c. It has a lovely façade typical of Ronda. Salvatierra, on the other hand, has a curious Renaissance portal.
The well-preserved Arab baths are found in the lowest part of town. Close by there is the 17C Puente Viejo (Old Bridge), which leads to the most recent area of Ronda. It is suggested, however, to return to El Puente Nuevo: the view over the precipice of the River Guadalavir is absolutely breathtaking there.
Very near España Square, today’s town centre, there is the bullring, a lovely 18C construction which replaced that of Felipe II, dating from the 16C. In this bullring Pedro Romero, the father of fighting bulls on foot, created a school, and every year it is the scene of a traditional bullfight recreating Goyas times. In the area the traveller will find signposts pointing the way to the Victoria Hotel, where the room is preserved in which Rainer Maria Rilke lived while he was in Ronda.
The ruins of Acinipo lie at a distance of 19km from Ronda. Part of an ancient theatre is preserved of this Roman settlement.
With Ronda as the starting point the traveller has two options to get to know the white villages. The road descending towards the bay of Algeciras passes through a good part of the mountain range and then enters the Province of Cadiz. There are two lovely villages to be visited: Jimena and Castellar de la Frontera. The other option takes the traveller to Arcos de la Frontera after passing through really magnificent mountain scenery and through Grazalema and Ubrique.