I had never heard of Ronda, Spain until I was watching an episode of one of my favorite shows, House Hunters International, which highlighted a guy from the UK looking to relocate to Ronda. Watching the episode, I was captivated by the small glimpses of the gorge and Puente Nuevo (the “new” bridge) you could catch from the teeny, tiny balcony of one of the apartments. After the show, I remember going downstairs and telling my husband, if we ever go to Spain, I want to go to Ronda.
So when luck would have us planning a trip to Spain a little over a year later, I was insistent that we needed at least 24 hours in Ronda. I wish we could have stayed just a little longer but 24 hours was enough to see most of the highlights. The most impressive of course is the view of the gorge and bridge itself. The town of Ronda, one of the largest of the “pueblos blancos” or white towns, is about a two-hour drive from Seville and 2.5 to Granada, making a nice overnight stop along the way.
Ronda has a rich history, with prehistoric rock paintings from the Neolithic Period found nearby, the town was first settled by the Celts in the 6th century BC and later named a city under the rule of Julius Caesar. Once under Muslim rule, that changed with the Spanish Inquisition which drove Muslims and Jews out of Spain in 1492. In more recent years, the famous scene in Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” describing the 1936 execution of Fascist sympathizers in a village by being thrown off a cliff, is considered to be modeled on actual events at the time in Ronda.
With one of the main sights being the Puente Nueve, which was in built the mid-to-late 1700s and towers 390 ft above the canyon floor, I knew I wanted to stay in the old town with a view of the bridge. We had been pretty conservative on lodging in Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada, and Madrid, so I decided that our one night in Ronda was worth a splurge. I chose to stay at the Hotel Montelirio, perched on the edge of the gorge.
We picked the Marabella Junior Suite, with a pull-out sofa bed for our daughter and a magnificent view of the bridge. Of course, by the time we were finished with our drive through Andalucia, my husband’s nerves were shot and his fear of heights was on full alert. When we entered the room, it was dark so I immediately went to the curtains to open them up and reveal the view. He was too nervous to cross the threshold to look out the windows and definitely didn’t want us opening the doors to the small balconette. Good thing no one mentioned a history of earthquakes until the next day! However, if heights are not an issue for you, the extra expense of a room with a view is well worth it.
What to Do with 24 Hours in Ronda with Kids
Wanting to get a closer look, we walked out and it just a few steps to get to the bridge. The view into the gorge is just spectacular. If we had more time in the town I definitely would have wanted to hike down and explore the ruins.
Instead, after a quick bite to eat in a cafeteria, we set off to explore the oldest bullring in Spain, Plaza de Toros de Ronda. Inside, you get a look at the bullpens (empty when we were there) and chutes into the ring.
You then get to go out into the ring and the stands to play at being matador. After exploring the ring, you can also visit the museum and see the elaborate costumes, weapons, and historical artifacts. It was nice exposure to this quintessential sport without the blood and gore. Actually, in talking to some Spaniards on the trip, many of them were also squeamish about the sport and hoped it would be discontinued.
After exploring the park and walking along the gorge, we were hot, dusty, thirsty and in need of a rest before dinner. Keeping with our splurge, I had booked a degustacion dinner (Chef’s Tasting dinner) at Tragabuches in Ronda. When we arrived at 8:30 pm, we were the first ones there and as far as we could tell, the only ones that came in that night. However, the chef did not disappoint. The dining room was modern and beautiful and service was excellent. We were given a choice of the seven or five-course chef’s tasting menu. The waitress suggested “pollo y patatas” (chicken and french fries) for my daughter, but she promptly declined and chose the five-course tasting menu (she really wanted the seven course but at the price and her appetite, we thought five was plenty!)
I was I had kept better track of our courses. Each were beautifully presented over the course of a three-hour dinner (so probably not the best choice if you have rambunctious little ones or kids that aren’t yet on “Spanish time.”) We started with a foie gras pate (not my favorite), and had a wonderful presentation of salmorejo, an Andalusian specialty of bread and tomato soup (sort of like a creamier gazpacho,) and finished up with an oxtail stew. We walked off our meal with a stroll through town, where even at 11:30pm, the main square was hopping. But we had to get to bed because we had an early morning ahead.
Since we were really doing it up in Ronda, we booked a hot air balloon ride with Gloventosur Tours to get a birds eye view of the gorge. Even with his fear of heights, it was on my husband’s bucket list too so he was ready to brave it. We learned that the earlier you go, the better the air and wind are for bringing you over the gorge. Unfortunately, even with GPS and directions we had trouble finding our meeting place and had to hobble through our Spanish on the phone to meet up with our guides. They quickly found a place to set up and before long, the three of us, our guide, and one other gentlemen were up in the air.
The give you some funky straw hats, which at first you feel a little silly wearing but once the flame hits the gas and you feel the heat from above, you are happy to have them to protect your hair from getting singed. It is so quiet up in the air early in the morning. We surprised a few townsfolk stepping out onto their balconies for their morning coffee but most cheerfully waved and shouted “buenos dias!” The others probably grumpily mumbled about the loud noise we were making overhead as the “whoosh, whoosh” roar of the flame cut through the air. Even though we never made it over the gorge, the view was still spectacular. After a while though, enough was enough and we were ready to come down.
I’m glad I did it and have happily checked that off my bucket list, but wouldn’t feel the need to do it again. We were then taken to a local restaurant just outside of town for a late breakfast with the guides and our companion. Sitting around, trying to make conversation in Spanish and sampling a very authentic breakfast was one of the highlights of the trip. We had pan e tomate, jamon (of course!), cheese, and some other spreads for the bread which I couldn’t identify (and may not want to) but were delicious. It seemed like they were saying lomo, which is beef, so maybe it was a beef lard or marrow? Either way, sometimes you are better not overthinking it and just going with what tastes good.
After retrieving our car, we were on to our next destination…Granada to see La Alhambra!
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