If you find yourself in the fortunate situation of being able to spend a week or more in Ronda, you're in for a treat. Set amidst spectacular scenery in Malaga Province, this picturesque town is…
To really get to know Andalucia it’s often best to head away from the crowds and instead seek out the quiet solace of village life. This is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing villa break here in Spain.
In “Los Pueblos Blancos” you can escape the daily grind, and take a step back in time to a place where gentle fountains animate quaint town squares, and the slow pace of life is often interrupted only by children kicking around a ball, or by the town’s old folk enjoying animated debates at their favourite bench.
When you choose to spend a villa holiday on the Costa del Sol you can find a surprising number of charming sleepy villages within easy reach, just waiting to be explored. Here is a quick run through of some of our favourite white villages in Andalucia:
Casares is fifteen kilometres inland of Estepona, to the west of Marbella, in Malaga province of Andalucía. It is perched on the side of a mountain close to the Sierra Crestellina national park, approximately a twenty five minute drive from Estepona.
It is a breathtaking village which has been described as ‘sugar cubes’ on the side of the mountain and looks particularly stunning when lit up at night with the blue/green street lights. The best view is from the approach into Casares so be sure to take the time to stop and take in the sights before you get there.
Casares has a spectacular 12th century Moorish castle, several churches and chapels, each one as beautiful as the previous one, a visitor centre, fountain and is close to the Baths of La Hedionda which are Roman baths and sulphur springs said to have been used to cure a skin infection of Julius Caesar! It is known as the ‘Hanging Village’ due to its precarious location on the Cliffside. There are many great restaurants and tapas bars and lots of village shops to explore, if you are lucky you will see some eagles soaring above the cliffs around Casares.
As well as the national festivals such as of Andalucía day on the 28th of February, the Easter festivities and the Three Kings parades on the evening of the 5th of January, Casares has its annual feria in the second half of July and a second feria in the first week of August so it’s a great time to visit around then.
Frigiliana is to the east of Malaga and only a ten minute drive from the coastal town of Nerja in the area of Andalucía known as the Axarquia.
Voted most beautiful village in of Andalucía for several years running, the village’s cobbled streets gently wind up through the beautifully maintained white houses of the old town, splashes of colour wherever you look from the balconies and doorsteps full of beautifully kept flowers. The houses are painted every year and it is traditionally the women of the village who carry out this work.
Frigiliana has a great infrastructure including many shops, bars and fabulous restaurants, several hotels and a working molasses factory right in the centre of town. The streets are hilly here and there are beautiful mosaic covered steps leading to the tiny narrow residential streets from the main road.
The very famous Frigiliana festival, Festival de las Tres Culturas, is celebrated at the end of August each year, drawing crowds of hundreds to watch the fabulous concerts and many other festivities. There are also other fiestas throughout the year including Saint Sebastian day in January, the patron saint of Frigiliana. The day of the cross is in May each year and the annual Frigiliana feria is in June.
North of Casares, also to the west of Marbella, in the Malaga province of of Andalucía, is the white village of Gaucin. It is approximately nineteen km from Casares and a thirty minute drive from the coast.
Gaucin is around 600 metres above sea level in the Sierra del Hacho and has great views over Gibraltar and Morocco. It is surrounded by cork forests and because of this the local shops sell many items made from cork to tourists. The surrounding mountains provide a fabulous backdrop to the pretty white village, with contrasting colour from the wild poppies, orchids, olive groves and almond blossom.
At the very top of the village is a medieval castle, Castillo del Aguila or Eagle’s castle, where you can see eagles over the mountains as the name suggests. It is a sleepy, laid back town with a few similarly laid back bars and restaurants serving the traditional fayre of the area. The narrow winding streets of Gaucin have always been an inspiration for artists and photographers and there is a large artistic community here.
Among the many festivals of Gaucin, of particular note are the release of two bulls on Easter Sunday which are left to run around the village and chased by the more adventurous or crazy villagers. The annual feria is in August, around the fourth, and involves three days of live music, eating, drinking and dancing.
Located north of the Costa del Sol in the Cordoba province of Andalucía is the beautiful town of Iznajar. It is around one hour drive from Malaga and one hour from Granada.
Iznajar has a unique location overlooking the Embalse de Iznajar which is the largest lake in of Andalucía and has a lovely clean, sandy beach which is very popular in the summer months with whole families arriving in their cars, driving straight onto the beach, unpacking gazebos and tables and spending the day there swimming, sunbathing and eating. The village is nestled on a rocky outcrop with amazing views of the lake below. It is dominated by a majestic Moorish castle which is sadly in ruins but is lovely to walk to and the views from there are spectacular.
The village offers bars, restaurants and a lakeside hotel as well as a municipal museum. On the lake you can go fishing, learn to sail and you can rent out pedalos and kayaks from the campsite right on the beach. The lake is clean and safe to swim in and there are several beach bars to shelter from the sun in the hot afternoons.
The local festivals of Iznajar include a fabulous carnival, with parades and dressing up, in February. The patron saint of Iznajar, San Marco, has a special day on the 25th of April where the whole town heads off for picnics in the countryside. The feria is around the 7th of September every year and usually lasts for three days and includes a candlelight procession through the town.
Jimena de la Frontera is in the province of Cadiz in Andalucía, it is about a thirty minute drive west of Gaucin and directly north of La Linea and the border of Gibraltar.
The village is surrounded by the Alcornocales Natural Park and is overlooked by a Moorish castle which was built around 750 A.D. It has been occupied since prehistoric times and here you can see cave paintings, at the archaeological site of La Laja Alta, which are the only examples of maritime cave paintings from the Bronze Age in Spain.
Transport links make Jimena easily accessible from all directions and the road and rail network is much improved in recent years. There are several beautiful churches and other buildings to visit. Other activities in the area include bike riding, horse riding and hill walking due to the proximity of the beautiful Natural Park.
As well as the national festivals of Spain, Jimena has several of its own throughout the year. The Carnival with parades of floats is in February, the agricultural fair is in the second week of May every year. There is an annual music festival in the second week of July and the Jimena feria is generally in the first week of September.
Mijas pueblo (village) is a short twenty minute drive from Malaga airport in Malaga province and is only fifteen minutes from the coast at La Cala de Mijas and Fuengirola.
Mijas is situated in the Sierra de Mijas mountains and is surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It has the best of both worlds with its white village charm, winding cobbled streets, breathtaking views and close proximity to the sea. If bullfighting is your thing, Mijas has its own bull ring which is still in use and is also used for horse displays. There is an auditorium which is used for concerts throughout the summer and there are also two museums to visit.
As well as being close to the coast, Mijas has its own fabulous infrastructure which includes shops and a wide and varied range of restaurants, all the usual supermarkets and other food shops and, perhaps best of all for the children a chocolate factory!
Special festivals in Mijas include Mijas International day which is a multicultural festival giving people from all over the world the opportunity to tell others about their culture and lifestyle, it is usually held in the first week in May. San Juan is celebrated on the night of the 23rd of June and is the celebration of the longest night of the year with festivities including dancing and fireworks. See our insider’s guide to Mijas.
Ronda is in the Malaga province of Andalucía and is a one hour twenty minute drive from the airport at Malaga. It is situated north and inland of Marbella and Estepona.
The village of Ronda is third only to Seville and Granada in the most visited places in Andalucía. It is famous all over the world for being perched on the edge of the El Tajo gorge and offers fabulous views and countless photo opportunities. It is the modern birthplace of bullfighting and its bullring ‘Plaza de Toros’ is now a museum and attracts many thousands of visitors each year.
Ronda is accessible by road and rail, the drive to the village from the coast or from further inland is quite spectacular. There are two tourist offices here and a whole host of fabulous shops selling traditional, and not so traditional, Spanish crafts and other goods.
The ‘Fiesta de la Virgen de la Paz’ is the celebration of the patron Saint of Ronda and is held on the 24th of January every year. The feria is around the 20th of May and the main events of the year are held in the first week in September with the International Folklore Music and Dancing Festival and other festivities. See our Ronda guide here.
Viñuela is another white village in the Malaga province of Andalucía. It is inland of Velez Malaga, to the east of Malaga city, and is approximately fifty minutes from Malaga airport.
The stunning village of La Viñuela is set in the breathtaking landscape of the Axarquia and situated next to the man made reservoir of Lake Viñuela which provides the majority of drinking water for the local area. There are many luxury villas nestled in the hills with beautiful views over the lake and the lake itself boasts pretty beaches and non motorized water sports for all. There are picnic areas and barbecue areas all around the lake and the surrounding pine forests provide shade and a peaceful atmosphere for visitors.
La Viñuela was named after the local grape vines from which a delicious sweet wine is still produced today. The town is also famous for its local olive oil which is of particularly good quality. There are many arts and craft shops here including basket making and leather goods. There are also archeological sites in the village dating back to prehistoric, Roman and medieval times.
In May in La Viñuela there is a pilgrimage from the village to the hamlets of Los Gomez and Los Romanes for the Romeria which is a traditional gypsy festival. The annual feria is in mid July and there are three more ferias locally in early August, mid August and mid September.
Our readers would love to hear about your favourite white villages to visit from the Costa del Sol, just leave your comments below.
If you love the idea of exploring authentic Andalucia, then here are our top villa recommendations from our Character Collection.
Array (  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 244982 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2023-11-30 13:47:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-11-30 13:47:18 [post_content] => If you find yourself in the fortunate situation of being able to spend a week or more in Ronda, you're in for a treat. Set amidst spectacular scenery in Malaga Province, this picturesque town is known for its iconic eighteenth bridge, which arches over the plummeting El Tajo gorge beneath, and offers fabulous restaurants and wealth of historical sites. Discover why Ronda is Andalucia's third most-visited destination with our ultimate guide to Malaga's most scenic town, with a full list of the best things to do in Ronda. Ready? Grab your sunglasses and let’s go exploring.
The 3 top must-sees in Ronda
1. El Tajo de RondaNo trip to Ronda would be complete without witnessing the captivating beauty of El Tajo, the gorge that divides the city into two parts: the ancient Moorish Old Town and the modern new town. The canyon and its surrounding valleys are best viewed from the Puente Nuevo, or New Bridge, a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture that spans the Guadalevir river. El Tajo de Ronda is not only a natural wonder, but also a cultural and literary treasure, providing the inspiration for Earnest Hemingway’s novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. Top tip: Stay at our beautiful pedigree townhouse Casa Amaia and enjoy your own private views of El Tajo gorge. 2. The Old City If you want to discover the true essence of Ronda, then the Old City is a must. Known as La Ciudad, this part of the town extends South of the famous Puente Nuevo Bridge. Featuring cobbled streets, charming squares and examples of Moorish architecture, this area is perfect for a morning of aimless wandering taking in the sites. Top tip: To get the best out of your visit to the Old City, visit early in the morning or later in the evening when the streets are quieter away from day-trippers, and the temperature is a little cooler.
3. Plaza de Toros (& royal cavalry of Ronda)Completed in 1785, Ronda’s bullring was declared a National Heritate Site in 1993. Known locally as the Real Maestranza de Caballería, its the oldest and one of the most attractive in Spain. This unique bullring offers a fascinating glimpse into Spain's (often controversial) heritage of bullfighting and equestrian arts. Nowadays, the Plaza de Toros is mostly a museum and cultural centre, and it continues to house the Royal Riding School teaching professional dressage. It is used only for its original purpose during the spectacular September Goyesca bullfights and annual festival, in which the townsfolk dress in the manner of Goya's portraits of 18th century life in Spain. Where is Plaza de Toros? C. Virgen de la Paz, 15, 29400 Ronda. When to visit? 10:00 – 18:00 November to February, 10:00 – 19:00 March to October. Partially closed early September for the Goyesca festival Website: Royal Cavalry and Bullring of Ronda
- Castillo del Laurel: Explore the historic Castillo del Laurel, a captivating fortress with a fascinating past.
- Puerta de Almocabar: Step through Puerta de Almocabar, a medieval gateway to Ronda's enchanting Old Town.
- Murallas del Carmen: Discover the ancient city walls, Murallas del Carmen, that once protected Ronda.
- Fuente de los Ocho Caños: Charming eight-spout 18th century fountain.
- Plaza España: Revel in the lively ambiance of Plaza España, a bustling square at the heart of Ronda.
- Plaza del Socorro: Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Plaza del Socorro, a central square surrounded by cafes and shops.
- Plaza Duquesa de Parcent: Experience the elegance of Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, a picturesque square renowned for its tranquil atmosphere.
- Talleres de Granados Somera: Explore the artisan workshops at Talleres de Granados Somera.
- Ernest Hemingway Sculpture/Orson Welles Sculpture/Hemingway/Welles Tour: Tap into Ronda's literary history with sculptures and tours dedicated to Hemingway and Orson Welles.
- LA Organic: Savour exquisite organic products at LA Organic, a boutique offering a taste of Andalusian luxury.
The 4 best viewpoints in Ronda
Mirador Puente Nuevo de Ronda New BridgeFor a truly unforgettable experience, take a short walk down a steep but well paved path from Plaza de Maria to a viewpoint approximately halfway down the gorge, where you will be treated to incredible views of the New Bridge. Consider visiting with a local guide who’ll not only provide some fascinating insights but also have transport waiting at the bottom to whisk you back to the town, sparing you the tiring hike back. Where is Puento Nuevo? C. Tenorio, 20, 29400 Ronda, Málaga
Alameda del TajoLocated next to the bullring, this 19th century park culminates in a sheer drop (don’t worry, there are railings!). From here you can enjoy expansive westward views of the neighbouring Grazalema Natural Park, the highest peaks of which are often snow-capped in winter. For an extra special visual treat, visit in Autumn when the park comes alive with a rich tapestry of colours. Where is Alameda del Tajo? P.º Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda, Málaga
PUENTE VIEJOOne of the two original - and much lower - crossings that Puente Nuevo was designed to replace, Ronda’s “Old Bridge” dates from the early seventeenth century and offers views of the canyon and the rolling farmland south of town. Where is Puente Viejo? C. Real, 2, 29400 Ronda, Málaga
JARDINES DE CUENCANamed after Cuenca, a hilltop town halfway between Madrid and Valencia with which Ronda is twinned, these gardens consist of a series of terraces pinned to the edge of the gorge. Follow them all the way down - lingering in the colourful rose garden on the way - and you’ll end up on Puente Viejo. Where are Jardines de Cuenca? C. Escolleras, 1, 29400 Ronda, Málaga
some other incredible views in Ronda
- Paseo de los Ingleses
- Mirador de Aldehuela
- Calle La Bola
- Mirador de Ronda
must-visit Ronda Museums
1. Palacio de MondragónA firm favourite with The Luxury Villa Collection team, the Palacio de Mondragón is is one of Ronda’s finest remaining instances of Arabic architecture and dates back to the 14th century. Key features include tranquil inner courtyards, intricate tile mosaics and cliffside gardens. There’s also a museum housing Roman and Moorish relics. Where is Palacio de Mondragón? Plaza Mondragón, s/n, 29400 Ronda Opening times: Monday to Friday 10:00 - 13:45 and 15:00 – 18:00, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 -15:00. Website: Palacio de Mondragón
2. Arab Baths Archaeological SiteTucked away in the old Jewish quarter, Ronda’s Arab baths date back to the 13th and 15th centuries and are considered the best preserved in Spain. The Arab Baths served both a practical and spiritual purpose for the Moors, and although buried by floods over time, the three rooms with star-shaped skylights have been meticulously restored to their original splendour. Where are the Arab Baths? C/ Molino de Alarcón, Ronda, 29400 Opening times: Tuesday to Friday 09:30 – 19:00, Saturday 10:00 – 14:00 and 15:00 – 18:00, Sunday 10:00 – 15:00, Monday 10:00 – 14:00 and 15:00 – 18:00. Website: Ronda’s Arab baths
3. La Casa del Rey MoroAnother favourite of ours is the enchanting Casa del Rey Moro, an incredible 18th century palace with Moorish-style gardens. Its pièce de résistance is the 14th century 'water mine' ingeniously carved into the solid rock. Descend 300 winding steps through intriguing caverns and emerge by the babbling river at the foot of the gorge. Make sure you take water, though, as there’s only one way back up! Where is La Casa del Rey Moro? C. Cta. de Santo Domingo, 9, 29400 Ronda Opening times: 10:00 – 21:30 May to September, 10:00 – 20:00 October to April. Website: Casa del Rey Moro
4. Reservatauro RondaOwned and run by local bullfighter Rafael Tejada, this vast bull- and horse-breeding ranch is situated a ten-minute drive outside the town. Guided 4X4 tours take visitors through the countryside, enabling glimpses of the magnificent fighting bull in its natural habitat. You can even round off a visit with lunch and a wine tasting. Where is Reservatauro Ronda? Carr. Ronda Campillos, km 34, 29400, Málaga Opening times: Open every day 10.00 – 18.00 Website: Reservatauro Ronda
Other Ronda museums to explore
- Centro de interpretacion del puento nuevo
- Palacio de Salvatierra
- Casa del Gigante
- Museo de Carruaje de Ronda
- Museo Lara
- Casa Museo Don Bosco
3 best places to eat in RondaWhichever restaurant you choose in Ronda, we can say with confidence that you’re unlikely to be disappointed! However, we've picked out 3 of the best restaurants in Ronda:
1. BardalIn this incredible Michelin-starred restaurant, Chef Benito Gómez crafts creative dishes inspired by local traditions. Two tasting menus, with 16 or 19 courses, offer wine pairings and a tempting trolley of Andalusian cheeses before a sumptuous dessert. Where is Bardal? C. José Aparicio, 1, 29400 Ronda Website: Restaurantebardal.com
2. TragataBoasting an eclectic decor with mismatched seating and quirky lighting, Tragata’s menu seamlessly blends Asian, Moroccan and Spanish flavours, offering imaginative twists on traditional dishes. With its lively ambience and modern vibe, this is a real favourite of ours. Where is Tragata? Calle Nueva, 4, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 72 09; Website: Tragata.com
3. Restaurante AzaharLocated in Hotel Catalonia Reina Victoria, this top fine-dining spot with stunning views across the mountains and gorge offers exquisite, high quality dishes presented in a fresh and innovative style Where is Restaurant Azahar? Calle Jerez 25, Ronda 29400 Website: ebocarestaurants.com/en/restaurants/azahar/ For more top tips on where to eat in Ronda, take a look at our Guide to Ronda’s best restaurants and tapas bars.
Churches in RondaRonda’s churches stand as magnificent symbols of the town’s diverse history and spiritual legacy. Here is a selection of some of the finest:
- Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor: a majestic mosque turned catholic church showcasing stunning Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture.
- Nuestra Señora del Socorro: a charming 20th century parish church located on one of Ronda’s beautiful plazas. The current structure was built in the 1950s to replace the original 18th century church, which was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
- Iglesia de Padre Jesús: 17th century catholic church renowned for its baroque style architectural beauty. Notable features include a Gothic arched entrance, Renaissance-style bell tower and an ornate image of Jesus which is paraded through the town every year on Holy Thursday.
- Minaret of San Sebastian: a historical monument with Moorish origins, offering a glimpse into Ronda's diverse heritage.. Once attached to one of Moorish Ronda’s several mosques, this small tower was later converted into a bell tower for the San Sebastian church, which was destroyed in the 1600s
best places to visit near RONDAIt’s not just the town of Ronda itself which is worthy of a visit. The surrounding countryside is jam-packed with areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of historic interest. See below for our pick of the best:
Parque Nacional Sierra de las NievesOnly a 15-minute outside Ronda, this natural park is home to Andalusia’s most elaborate system of underground caves, along with 2,000-metre-high mountains and sulphurous water baths. Fauna includes 120 species of bird and the largest spider on Continental Europe
Parque Natural Sierra de GrazalemaOn the other side of Ronda from Las Nieves is another natural park, home to a scattering of white villages – or Pubelos Blancos – dotted amongst the oak forests and mountains. Atlantic storms make this the rainiest spot on the Iberian Peninsula.
Cueva del GatoFound near the village of Benaoján in the Grazalema Natural Park, this is the southern entrance to a network of underground chambers, lakes and caves. Its clear, cool waters make for a perfect summer swimming spot. Where is Cueva del Gato? MA-7401 Km 3 Carretera de, 29370 Benaoján, Málaga
Cueva de la PiletaSituated just south of the Cueva del Gato, this cave was discovered in 1905 by a local resident. Visit the interior to see Neolithic remains and Palaeolithic wall art representing animals such as horses, fish, goats, bulls and bison. Where is Cueva de la Pileta? Cueva de la Pileta Parking, 29370 Benaoján, Málaga
The Ruins of AcinipoSituated a half-hour drive north of Ronda, the ruins of the Roman town of Acinipo feature one of the best-preserved amiptheatres in Andalusia: you can still a section of tiered seating, the orchestra pit and actors’ changing rooms. Where are the Ruins of Acipino? MA-8406, s/n, 29400 Ronda, Málaga
13 unforgettable experiences in rondaWe know many of our guests love to dig deeper into the culture, history and nature of our Spanish destinations. That’s why we've curated some exclusive, unforgettable activities designed to make your stay in Ronda truly memorable. Here are 13 of the most amazing experiences we can organise for your private group:
- Access to the main events of the Ronda Romántica (May) and the Corrida Goyesca (August-September) de Ronda, or a private guide to show you around.
- Private tours following the footsteps of Hemingway and Orson Welles in Ronda and around the pueblos blancos (whitewashed villages of the Serrania de Ronda).
- Closed tour of the Real Maestranza (bullring) and private access to other places of interest around Ronda.
- Romantic private dining at a selection of local beauty spots.
- Advance reservations at the Michelin-starred Bardal and Tragata or have a local Michelin-grade chef cook up a feast for you and your guests in the comfort and privacy of your luxury villa.
- Spectacular horse riding trails through the woodland of the Serranía de Ronda.
- Bookings at Ascari race course for the ultimate VIP Ascari experience - perfect for motorsport enthusiasts.
- Meditation in the Cueva de Pileta – open-eyed meditation sessions that take place in complete darkness.
- Visits to the makers of international award-winning goats cheese, ‘Queso Payoyo’ produced in Ronda
- Private wine tastings in some of the area’s finest boutique wineries followed by a gourmet lunch with the winemakers themselves
- Tasting of Jamon de Castañas – fine cured ham made from very rare breed, chestnut-fed pigs.
- Workshops with local artisans including seagrass weaving or ceramics.
- Outdoor sports around Montejaque, Benaoján and Grazalema, such as hiking, cycling, mountain climbing, river walking and wild swimming.