Looking to get off the beaten track in Andalucia? We’ve scratched beneath the surface of this exciting, historic area of Spain, asked local experts and come up with a list of little-known things to…
From poets to presidents, visitors to southern Spain have been making a beeline for Ronda since before Roman times.
The wandering Romantic writers of the 19th century waxed lyrical about the virtues of ‘La Ciudad Soñada’, the enchanted city; in the 20th century, Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway came, saw and drank the bar dry.
The town is set on a rocky outcrop surrounded by lush, fertile plains that give way to sun-dappled cork forests and craggy mountains. Exposed and windswept in winter, broiling under a never-ending azure sky in summer, it has a wonderfully romantic, if slightly lonely, feel.
On a practical level, in spite of its rather isolated feeling location it’s actually easily reachable from Marbella or Malaga for a day trip. Here’s our guide to things to do in Ronda in a day to help you enjoy it…
Exploring on Foot
Ronda isn’t a large town, by any means, so the best way to get around is on foot. Take your time and try to explore without too much of a fixed agenda – even if time is ticking on a day trip. One of the most special things about Ronda is the myriad of little historic touches you can stumble across over the course of a day’s wandering – with an elaborate ironwork balcony or heavy studded wooden door here, and a tinkling fountain or a shady bougainvillea-filled square there, it all adds up to a marvellously photogenic sort of place.
Things to See & Do
The most iconic monument in Ronda, the bridge that joins the spectacular gorge was reconstructed in 1759 to replace the previous bridge that fell down in 1749. The bridge took 42 years to complete and many workers died during the construction. In the centre of the bridge there’s a room which used to be the town’s prison and now holds a small exhibition on the bridge.
There are two ways to enjoy Ronda’s gorge: from above and from below. Try and see Puente Nuevo from as many different vantage points as possible, from the bottom of the gorge 120 metres down, from a restaurant (see below for a few great picks) and on the drive into Ronda.
Top tip: Take in the sunsets at the Mirador de Ronda or while walking through the Alameda del Tajo park – it faces west, so the views of the sun melting into the horizon are truly stunning.
La Casa del Rey Moro & La Mina
One of our favourite Ronda sights – as it’s just so romantic – is the Casa del Rey Moro. While the name suggests it was the house of a Moorish King, the house which stands (only just) today was built in the 18th century with Moorish-style gardens being added by the renowned French landscape gardener Jean Claude Forestier in 1912.
Its real draw is a ‘water mine’ carved out of the bare rock in the 1300s as a way of getting water to the town when under siege by invading Christian armies. After winding your way down through 300 steps and a couple of interesting caverns, you finally emerge at the foot of the gorge on the banks of the babbling river. It’s a beautiful spot.
Opening times: Open every day from 10am-8pm.
Address: Calle Cuesta de Santo Domingo, 9, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 18 71 19.
Plaza de Toros
Whether you approve of its purpose or not, Ronda’s bullring is well worth a visit. Bullfighting is synonymous with Andalucia. It’s inarguable. And to really get under the skin of the culture of the region, at least a moment should be spent studying it. There are few better places to do so than in Ronda.
Built in the 18th century and founded by the Royal Cavalry of Ronda it’s the home of modern bullfighting. The iconic – and very lovely – bullring has a museum full of interesting and insightful exhibits on the history of bullfighting.
Carrying on with the bullfighting theme, just outside Ronda is the Reserva Tauro Ronda farm where you can learn more about how the bulls are bred and raised. If you would like to have a personal visit with the Torero who owns the farm please do contact our Concierge who can arrange this with our private guides.
Top tip: If this is your first time experiencing bullfighting we would also recommend picking up ‘Death in the Afternoon’ by Ernest Hemingway as a holiday read.
Opening times: Open every day from 10am-8pm.
Address: Calle Virgen de la Paz, 15, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 41 32; Rmcr.org.
Palaces & Gardens
Palacio de Mondragón
Once again, this palace is a mishmash of the Moorish and the Christian. While only part of the original Moorish architecture remains as the palace was remodelled in 1491, you can still expect arches, exposed decorative carvings and tiles, courtyards and a water garden at the rear of the palace that’s a miniature replica of one in the Alhambra.
Opening times: Monday to Friday from 10am till 7pm (6pm winter); Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 10am till 3pm.
Entrance fee: 3.50€ individual; 2.75€ for a group of 10 or more, OAP or student under 26; children under 14 enter free.
Address: Plaza Mondragón, s/n, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 08 18.
There are a few places to see intact Moorish baths in Andalucia but Ronda is, in our opinion, possibly the best. Because the whole complex is so well preserved you can visit them from above and within as well as get a real sense of the working parts of a Moorish bath in the 11th century.
The word ‘baths’ is somewhat of a misnomer as the Moors used steam for cleansing and purifying, before entering the mosque which was almost invariably next door. There were however two small cold pools for cooling the blood – and catching up on the latest gossip as much as anything else – before heading back into the hot rooms.
Opening times: autumn and winter: Monday to Friday 10am till 6pm; Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10am till 3pm. Spring and summer: Monday to Friday 10am till 7pm; Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10am till 3pm.
Entrance fee: 3€ per individual; 1.50€ if part of a group of 10 or more, and children; free on Sunday.
Address: Calle Molino de Alarcon, s/n, 29400 Ronda.
The Museo Lara contains an ambitiously broad collection ranging from the Spanish Inquisition to film and pottery via pretty much every other type of historical objet you could imagine. It’s ideal for a fun family visit, too, with gory torture weapons, swords and weird and wonderful witchcraft pieces scattered amongst the varied assortment of other bits and bobs. The museum takes about an hour to visit and is also housed in a handsome traditional townhouse with central patio.
Opening times: 11am – 8pm (7pm winter).
Entrance fee: 4€ standard; 2€ for students, pensioners and groups of 10 or more.
Address: Calle Armiñán, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 12 63; Museolara.org.
Iglesia de Santa Maria La Mayor
As is so often the case in Andalucia, the roots of this church run deep: the Christians built on a mosque; the Moors built on Visigoth foundations; and the Visigoths erected their church on the remains of a Roman temple which probably stretched back to around 45BC.
Little is left to show from that ancient past, as the building that stands today was largely built in the wake of an earthquake in the late 16th century. These days, though, with its mishmash of Gothic and Renaissance styles it’s still a very pleasant place to nip into and escape the heat of the day.
Opening times: Mon-Sat 10am-8pm; Sundays closed.
Address: Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, 0, 29400 Ronda.
Iglesia del Espiritu Santo
Building work on this church began shortly after the town fell to the Catholic Kings in 1485. And if on first inspection it appears rather plain and austere-looking it’s because, joined to the city walls, its architects had to bear in mind a possible military function.
Look a little closer, and there’s plenty to enjoy inside and out, too: the main entrance is surrounded by a Mudejar-style alfiz, the typical panel that wrapped around the top of mosque doorways, while the ceilings are soaring vaulted affairs.
Tucked into the far southernmost corner of the old town, the location means you can also check out the impressive Almocabar gate, another dramatic relic from Ronda’s Moorish past.
Opening times: Monday-Saturday 10am-2pm; Sundays closed.
Address: Calle Espíritu Santo, 15, 29400 Ronda.
Restaurants & Places to Eat
Restaurante Bodega San Francisco
Bodega San Francisco is a typical-in-every-way Andalucian tapas bar. As soon as you cross the threshold you couldn’t be anywhere other than southern Spain. It’s traditional in all the right ways – namely décor, service, food and drink. Order tapas from the bar or a plate of cold cuts and wash it down with a bottle from an extensive list of local Ronda wines. This is a local haunt, and while there’s seating outside, it’s inside where the charm and atmosphere lies (not to mention the air-conditioning!)
Address: Plaza Ruedo de Alameda, 27, Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 81 62.
With its mismatched seating, industrial-style metal tables, quirky basket lights and bare bulbs hanging over the bar, Tragata has a pronouncedly modern look and feel compared to most other more traditional Ronda restaurants. The food follows suit, too, with Asian and Moroccan flavours rubbing shoulders on the menu with imaginative takes on classic Spanish dishes. It has an invitingly lively vibe inside, whether you choose to sit at the bar or high tables, and outside on long summer evenings it’s very pleasant indeed.
Address: Calle Nueva, 4, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 72 09; Tragata.com.
Abades Ronda Restaurante
Set on the gorge with a huge terrace, this restaurant has some of the best views in town. The service is pleasingly formal, while the food is excellent and elegantly presented (with mouth-watering tenderloin of acorn-fed Iberian pork being a particular favourite on LVC’s last visit). An extensive wine list with a good choice of cavas caps off an inviting all-round offering.
Address: Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 13 67. Abadesronda.com.
Like our guide to things to do in Ronda and tempted by the idea of spending a day (or more) in the town? Check out our selection of nearby villas.
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If the bird's eye view of the inside of the cathedral looks spectacular, then to cap it off you emerge outside with 360-degree rooftop views of Malaga. [email protected]
Visit Malaga Cathedral's Roof
The top tip of Lindsay Gregory, Director of The Luxury Villa Collection: “Stroll around Malaga historic centre, take a hammam at Mammam Al Andalus and finish with cocktails at a rooftop bar.” https://malaga.hammamalandalus.com/en/
RELAX IN A HAMMAM
A rather lovely town with a Moorish fortress complex and no fewer than 30 churches. Don’t miss having tapas in the impressive Plaza de los Escribanos.
Meander in Antequera
Just outside Antequera, these are some of the largest and most complete megalithic structures in Europe. Museosdeandalucia.es
Visit Three 5000-year-old Dolmens
The ruins of a 9th-century church carved out of rock are the highlights of a larger fortified town complex. Anything 9th century and still standing is incredible in our books.
Wonder at a 9TH Century Church – Bobastro
A house with a garden in the Albayzin (the oldest part of Granada city) is known as a Carmen. These Carmens look out towards the Alhambra Palace, often have wooden balconies, plant-filled patios, babbling water features and decorative tiles.
Nose Around the Carmens of Granada's Albayzin
This 17th-century abbey and college comes complete with holy caves/ancient catacombs. The view of Granada alone is worth the walk.
Visit the Abbey of Sacromonte, Granada
This village has stately houses gripping onto the edge of a gorge, cobbled streets and spa credentials. Our top tip is to escape the summer heat in Granada and visit Alhama – it has a unique microclimate where summer nights cool to a comfortable level.
Take a day trip to Alhama de Granada and its Natural Hot Springs
Once part of several fortifications, the castle that sits on this tiny island dates back to the 13th century.
Find Out the Mysteries of the Island of Sancti Petri, San Fernando, Cadiz
This pristine white village, sitting high on a rocky hilltop, really comes into its own at sunrise and dusk. Aside from the dramatic light, there are lovely boutique shops, great restaurants and, during the summer, look out for their candlelight festival.
Experience the Beautiful Light in Vejer de la Frontera
While it's got a great beach with some decent Atlantic surf, it’s the laidback-hip bar vibe in El Palmar that makes it stand out from other stretches of southern Spain's coast.
Surf and Sip in El Palmar
David, chef at De Tako's top tip is, “One of the best ways to experience a country is through its food and an even better way is to enjoy perfectly cooked food is in an incredible setting surrounded by friends". We entirely agree – hire a private chef at your villa for the ultimate in convenience.
HIRE A Private Chef
One of our top hidden foodie treats in Andalucia is delicious Retinto beef from Cadiz. Much is spoken about fried fish, olives and olive oil, jamón ibérico and Sherry but this meaty option is also a real gastro-standout.
Taste Riotinto Beef
Hire a boat and hit the sea - you’ll almost inevitably come across a pod of dolphins in the Mediterranean.
Take to the Sea – Dolphin Watch
This forgotten about 12th-century arched gateway and wall was the main entrance into Seville, and is certainly off the beaten path.
Puerta de Macarena/Walls of Seville
You'll never have experienced a bar like Garlochí, a homage to Easter in Spain. All year round there's incense burning and procession music playing – they call it the cathedral of bars. Don’t miss their signature cocktail: Grenadine, whisky and Cava.
Drink at a Bar Dedicated to Easter in Sevilla
There’s a succession of beautiful waterfalls running over some interesting limestone formations in Sierra Norte de Sevilla Nature Park.
Wild Swimming at Cascadas de Hueznar in Seville Province
Fiona Flores Watson, Telegraph Travel Writer and Seville resident recommends: “The summer outdoor concerts held in the Alcazar Palace… a magical setting for live jazz, flamenco or classical music by moonlight.” Alcazarsevilla.org
SEE LIVE MUSIC IN THE ALCAZAR PALACE
The castle of Castillo de Almodovar del Rio was built in 740. You can join theatrical tours, do some medieval combat training or spooky storytelling. Castillodealmodovar.com
Visit Highgarden, the Tyrell’s House in Game of Thrones
Manni Coe of Toma & Coe Tours' top tip is: “One of the most consistently excellent restaurants I know in Andalucia is located on a little-known street, in the little-known town of Lucena. It's called Tres Culturas and it's also a handy stop off en-route to Cordoba." Tresculturasrestaurante.com
TRAVEL TO EAT AT TRES CULTURAS
In the Sierra de Cazorla natural park this castle was built at the start of the 16th century. A beautiful monument in an even more beautiful part of the world.
Marvel at the Castle of Iruela, Jaen
The colours of autumn over the vast landscape of rural Huelva is the perfect way to disconnect. Local people flock here to experience the change of the season.
Reconnect with Nature and See Autumn in Aracena
This breath-taking beach near the charming village of San Jose feels like another world.
Genoveses beacH in Cabo de Gata, Almeria
A bit of a cheat but do a tour…
Our top 5 are: Most unusual is in Segura de la Sierra in Jaen province: this square bullring is the old courtyard of a castle and was built in the 18th century. Ronda bullring is the second oldest and the biggest. Seville bullring is the oldest; Antequera's is famed for appearing in Madonna’s Take a Bow video; Mijas has spectacular views and is simply charming. Archidona usually erects a bullring inside its eight-sided main square during the summer season. Like this and want to know more about visiting southern Spain? Check out our 50 things to do in Andalucia and our guide to the five best cities to visit in Andalucia [post_title] => Hidden Andalucia [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hidden-andalucia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://theluxuryvillacollection.com/?p=139603 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 133379 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_content] =>
See Andalucia through its Bullrings
(As of Nov 2020)Since the global pandemic reached our countries in early 2020 there has been restrictions in one way or another on the way we live our lives. With the sheer amount of press on Covid-19 it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees. So we wanted to reach out to our guests and give you a clear idea of what it’s really like to be in southern Spain in 2020. As we become used to Covid-19 not going away we’re getting better at carrying on with our lives but with safety measures in place. Obviously, those who are at high risk may adopt a more stringent approach to their activities but for the rest of us we’re getting out and about responsibly. While we at The Luxury Villa Collection welcomed guests during 2020 we realise that clarity on what it's like in southern Spain is needed.
What restrictions are there in southern Spain?Shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, events, museums and art galleries all have capacity limits to ensure social distancing can be adhered to safely. Businesses all have hand sanitizer at the door so customers can clean their hands upon entering and leaving an establishment. As of 25th October there is a curfew between 22.00hrs and 07.00hrs. Further restrictions have been put in place to limit the movement of people outside their municipalities. Face coverings must be worn at all times if over 6 years old, other than:
- People playing sports do not have to wear a mask whilst engaged in the sporting activity.
- Masks do not need to be worn by customers who are eating, drinking, or smoking.
- In the sea or swimming pool.
- In a designated household sunbathing area on the beach.
Do I have to wear a face covering?The use of face coverings is mandatory for anyone over the age of 6 years old at all times unless during one of the points stated above. This includes in all forms of indoor and outdoor public spaces even if social distancing can be applied. For countries that haven’t adopted this measure, face coverings seem a huge inconvenience but what they have allowed people to do is enjoy their holiday as normal with face coverings and social distancing being the only restrictions.
Are restaurants open?Yes, restaurants and cafes are open with limitations place upon their capacity to ensure tables are spaced out enough so customers can remove their face coverings while drinking or eating. Serving staff and chefs must wear masks at all times.
Are Beaches open in Andalucia?Yes. Once on a beach in your own sunbathing area and in the sea you may remove face coverings. The sunbathing areas must be 2 metres apart and social distancing must be adhered to in the sea. Some beaches have allocated sunbathing areas others are flexible but there are personnel checking that people adhere to social distancing rules while enjoying the beach. No distancing is necessary within your family unit. The norms that local governments put in place over summer 2020 worked to great effect and people could enjoy the beaches of the Costa del Sol, Costa de la Luz and Costa Tropical.
Are tourist sights open?Yes. Restrictions on numbers being allowed into famous landmarks, tourist attractions and galleries has meant some sights have never been so quiet. Achieving the perfect photo of the Alhambra Palace or Real Alcazar de Sevilla without other sightseers is actually possible.
Does a face covering need to be worn while driving?When driving alone or with your household no face covering needs to be worn, but if there are passengers or a driver from a different household then everyone must wear a face covering.
What’s the general mood in southern Spain?Summer 2020 saw fewer parties for sure: the dancing all night in a club and watching the sunrise from a buzzing rooftop bar was and is not on the cards at the moment. However, long lunches beside the sea, visiting theme parks, historic sights, galleries and museums, beach days and outdoor activities are all there being enjoyed. It's really business as usual with the some sensible parameters in place. Some of our guests used our villas with entertainment rooms, cinemas, spas and abundance of space to organise private experiences from chefs to talks to spa treatments and live music. Bringing the wonderful Spanish culture into the safety of their private villa.
What is State of Alarm and What Does it Mean?The phrase state of alarm sounds very official and, well, alarming however, it is really just an administration step for the government and helps regional governments put in place restrictions. This phase allows the government (if necessary) to limit the movement of people at specific locations and times, temporary use private industries (such as private hospitals), limit the use of services and ensure the supply of necessary goods and services. In 2020 during Covid19, the state of alarm has meant limiting the movement of people between different provinces and curfews been implemented (from 23.00-06.00hrs). In no circumstances does state of alarm mean visitors aren't permitted to travel back to their home country.
Air travel – Is it safe?So far there has been little evidence of in-flight transmission of coronavirus, but there have been a couple of examples of transmission early on in the pandemic before more stringent controls were in place. Shaun Fitzgerald, Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor at the University of Cambridge said, aircraft ventilation systems are unique, the “replacement rate” - the number of times a volume of air equivalent to the volume of the cabin is removed each hour - can be four minutes in a aircraft. Compare this to 20 or 30 minutes in an indoor environment on the ground and it’s very brisk. The air filters themselves on aeroplanes are sophisticated and much more effective than filters found in indoor venues on the ground. Most airlines say face coverings are mandatory, limit food and drink services and don’t allow queuing for the toilet. The airports themselves are being diligent ensuring social distancing is in place as well as temperature controls in some. As from October 2020 if traveling from Europe or the UK:
- You must complete a health control form - which includes a HCF - a negative PCR test within 72hrs of your arrival to Spain.