Mention the Costa del Sol and few will think of dramatic scenery, sweeping mountain landscapes and hill-top towns with elegant, traditional architecture. But just a few miles from the sunshine coast lies one of Spain’s most picturesque towns.
Making our way to Ronda from our resort, Club La Costa’s Marina Del Sol on the Mijas Costa, we climbed higher and higher, twisting and turning on mountain switchbacks and we knew something was up – we’d taken the scenic route. Yes, it’s an area of outstanding beauty – perhaps not highlighted as such by a government or tourist department – but you couldn’t fail but to be mesmerised by around 44 kilometres of peaks, pine forests and views to the sea, still like a sheet of glimmering glass way off in the distance.
However given that winding mountain roads leave me heady with something akin to vertigo, we headed to Ronda’s tourist information office on arrival to find a better route back.
As we left with an armful of possibilities of ways to spend our day in the town we headed straight for Puente Nuevo – the bridge overlooking Ronda gorge the town’s most celebrated view that drops away into the River Guadalevin below.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic views in the region Ronda gorge commands you to stare into its depths – almost 100 metres below. We tried to spot the source of distant gurgling – it’s such a long way down it’s hard to see the river at first – then it was there before us, rushing over rocks crowned with clumps of trees and shrubs like sprouting broccoli.
As we wandered alongside the gorge we came across stunning views over the Andalucían countryside and paused to take it all in as music wafted across the mountain air from two guitarists performing under a gazebo. As the melody to Stairway to Heaven lilted from their Spanish guitars and the sun trickled over the cliff tops adding highlights to the landscape, two horses seemed to dance in a field and we felt as though we’d already climbed the stairs, held in a perfect moment.
Reluctantly we left the view of the gorge to take in more of the town’s highlights. Like much of southern Spain, Ronda has been touched by the Moors and this is apparent in much of its architecture in buildings like the Alcazaba, the Church of Santa Maria La Mayor which was once the town’s principal mosque, Casa Del Rey the Moorish king’s house and the town’s Arab Baths.
We also took in one of Andalucía’s most unusual museums. The Bandit Museum tells of the legendary highwaymen, thieves and smugglers that lay in wait ready to hijack travellers throughout the region.
We built up an appetite on tales of romantic journeys and exciting chases across Andalucía’s heartland and decided on a bite to eat further up the road at Sol y Sombre. The restaurant was a hot twitter travel tip from cortijovalverde on whose recommendation we had the house speciality – oxtail and cinnamon. It was definitely an unusual choice but it made for a very tasty selection.
Heading out of Ronda we made for the less scenic route but somehow found ourselves stuck on the same road we’d headed in on. Faced with 44 kilometres of winding roads and fading light we were less than impressed until we caught glimpse of the incredible colours playing along the mountains. The setting sun turned the peaks russet red, then brown, orange and pink with every twist in the road. It was a truly amazing display that made the scenic route special.
You can view more photos from our trip to Ronda on Flickr.
We visited Ronda whilst staying at Club La Costa’s Marina Del Sol.