The cave church outside Ronda, known as the Virgen de la Cabeza, is a 10th century hermitage built sometime around 970-980AD, and is just a short walk out of Ronda. Most people should find this Ronda walk easy to do and gets you out of the city for some of the most spectacular views of the Ronda skyline you could imagine seeing. Continue reading
Ronda is one of the few cities in the world to have a deep gorge running through the heart of the city, and is luckier still to have the Puente Nuevo (new bridge in Spanish) spanning it. The gorge also served as the most formidable defence Ronda’s enemies have ever tried to attack. Known as El Tajo, the gorge was created by constant erosion of the rio Guadalevín which is fed by mountain streams and melting snow high in the mountains of the Sierra de las Nieves. Continue reading
The Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Ronda occupies a very special place in modern Spanish culture and history as the home of the Rondeño style of bullfighting and also of the Real Maestranza De Caballería De Ronda. The bullring was built entirely of stone in the 18th century, during the golden years of Pedro Romero’s reign as champion bullfighter. Continue reading
Welcome to one of Spain’s most visited cities (and for good reason.) Our little city is very compact and in fact from arriving in Ronda, to seeing the Real Maestranza bullring, the Puente Nuevo and El Tajo gorge, the many beautiful churches, our museums, or the wonderful coffee shops and tapas bars, we have it all within a short 30 minute walk.
If you’re only in Ronda for one day be sure to read our Michelle Obama tour of Ronda, but if you’re likely to be here for two days or more, then our most popular walks include the walk to the Virgen de la Cabeza, or Mr Henderson’s Railway Walk. Of course, most visitors need at least 2 or 3 days to see everything because a lot can be packed into your time in Ronda. A walking tour of Ronda is a pleasant and enjoyable way to spend a lazy few hours, almost everything you could want to see in Ronda is no more than 200-300 metres from the new bridge.
Visitors to Ronda find the city to be a wonderful location from which to explore the rest of Andalucia, and the Axarquia coast is within easy distance to spend a day on the beach, visit Nerja Caves, or explore the little towns of the coast.
Nerja is one of the gems of the south coast of Spain, about 40 minutes drive from Malaga, not much more from Malaga airport, and from Ronda only an hour and 15 minutes more. In fact a drive to Nerja to see the sights is easily done in one day, and for those without a car, Nerja is an easy destination by train and then bus.
From Malaga the road to Nerja is a pleasurable drive, the Mediterranean on one side and the Sierra de Almijara mountains on the other, and it is for this reason Nerja is known as the pearl of the Costa Axarquia, though the Costa Tropical with all year round perfect weather is so close to Nerja that it’s easy to understand why Nerja is so popular.
The caves at Nerja are an obvious drawcard, with the world’s largest stalactite, but also cave paintings that are now known to be have been drawn by some of the last surviving Neanderthal folk.
But the town shouldn’t be missed just because the Nerja caves are nearby. Nerja’s town centre is an attractive place to wander around in the old quarter looking at the shops, courtyards of people’s homes, or enjoying the smells of restaurants and bakeries.
The ‘Balcon de Europa’ is here too, the place where in the 19th century royalty from all over Europe would visit, and where now the promenade is filled with cafés, buskers, and stalls. There is a statue of King Alfonso XII in bronze, the town church, and a covered walkway overlooking the cove beach below.
The Balcon de Europa is also where you’ll find the tourism office, though the ton hall is just next to the church, and the entire plaza is only 100 metres long so you shouldn’t have any trouble :)
Outside Nerja on the way to the caves, be sure to stop and admire the El Aguila aqueduct built by Francisco Cantarero Senio to supply water to his sugar factory “Las Mercedes” at the end of the 19th century.
The aqueduct was built in mudejar style, is four stories high with a total of 37 half point arches, and made from brick kilned locally. The aqueduct is still used to this day, though only for irrigation, and has recently been restored to last another 100 years.
Ronda and the Serrania surround it have been lawless lands for millennia, not even the iron grip of the Almohads could stamp out rebellions and banditry, so it is hardly surprising that capital punishment has been so widely used.
In Ronda, nowhere is this more obvious and chilling than the Temple of Our Lady of Sorrows, also known as the Shrine of the Hanged, with its frightening depictions of condemned men’s eyes bulging as they desperately try to get a last breath while the hangman’s noose crushes their windpipe.
Capital punishment is gruesome business, but under the authority of the church, and with the shields of Ferdinand and Isabella (the Catholic Kings) and their descendent Philip V on either side of the image of the Virgin to lend legitimacy.
The Temple of Our Lady of Sorrows was more than just a reminder to all who pass of its terrible duty, but also a place where the condemned could beg forgiveness for their mortal sins. It was only through beseeching the Church State to intercede on their behalf that they could stand any chance of forgiveness in the afterlife.
Modern day visitors to the temple are rarely told of its past, most of the tour guides make only a passing mention of the condemned, though a cursory examination quickly reveals a dark past.
The temple is nothing more than a roof and two pillars leaning against an adjacent house, but intricately decorated and adorned with the date 1734, the year of it’s construction. Each of the pillars look less like supports and more like statues, a cunning effect intended to frighten the condemned into confessing their sins.
The corners of the temple appear incomplete, descending only to a point around 40cm from the roof, but adding to the illusion that once under the cupola one is completely inside the temple.
Intricately constructed, the cupola is beautiful, almost heavenly, and once again an appeal to the condemned to confess in the hopes of eternal forgiveness. The trick on the mind cannot be understated, the mindset of a person from the 18th century brought to beg forgiveness would be sure to see the connection that in the 21st century we see only as an expression of art.
Interestingly, the images of the hanged men closely resemble the style of statue found at the Palacio de Salvatierra, as well as Aztec temple artwork. This is no coincidence, with the last king of the Aztecs (Moctezuma) having spent his years in exile in Ronda. To this day his descendants are still powerful landowners around Ronda.
For nearly 700 years Ronda was an Islamic city, and during this time is believed to have had 7 or 8 mosques, none of which exist today, except for the Minaret of San Sebastian which was converted into a bell tower after the adjacent mosque was reconsecrated a Christian church. It was here in 1485 that Ferdinand II is believed to have ordered a mass to offer thanks for the capture of Ronda.
The mosque wasn’t particularly large, but being the closest to the central mosque frequented by the city’s rulers and elite families, the mosque in Plaza Abul Beka probably served as the main mosque for merchants and middle ranking families of the city.
Originally the mosque minaret was built from locally quarried stone slabs, this is the bottom level with the horse-shoe arch entrance leading to an office or storage room. From two side it appears the stonework is incomplete, as if the structure had been destroyed, and then rebuilt using brick. However, archeologists now believe that an event much less destructive may have been the cause – money.
It appears that the minaret couldn’t be completed in stone, and the original builders switched to brick for the top of the first level, and all of the second level upto the line of green glazed bricks between the second and third levels.
We now believe the minaret was a two level structure with an open patio on the third level where the muezzin (Islamic priest) would call the faithful to prayer. It is possible that during the hot summer months a canopy or umbrella may have been erected, but certainly there is no evidence that the minaret ever had a built-in third level.
Of course to serve as a bell tower the third level would need to have a roof built with supporting beams to carry the weight of cast-iron bells. Fortunately the church elders weren’t insensitive to the original design, and the roof of the third level was built following mudejar principles.
Some historians have speculated the church tower may have been altered by Moriscos (Muslims who were forcibly converted to Christianity), and who would not want to destroy all remnants of their former city.
Coincidentally, the church was utterly destroyed in the 1600s during the Morisco uprisings that led to their expulsion to North Africa. It is possible the minaret was purposely left standing as a permanent reminder to Moriscos of all they had lost.
In 1931 the Minaret of San Sebastian was declared a national monument of historic importance.
For many thousands of years Setenil de las Bodegas has been occupied, possibly for as long as people have been using the Cueva de Pileta, though it wasn´t until the age of the Phoenicians and then Romans that the village was first mentioned in texts.
Always eclipsed by nearby Acinipo, Setenil was nothing more than a warehouse for storing goods that were traded with other parts of Iberia or the rest of the Empire. It was during this time that archeologists believe the caves were first closed off with brick walls to prevent thieves from stealing goods produced in the area.
After the fall of Acinipo (and the Roman Empire) in 495AD, Setenil´s fortunes changed as the village was forced to convert the warehouses into homes.
For many hundreds of years Setenil was a quiet almost ignored village, a mosque was built after the Islamic invasion of Iberia in 711AD, and it wasn´t until the 1200s when Christian advances had taken Cordoba and Sevilla that Setenil finally became an important frontier post.
So critical was its position that 7 separate attempts were made to capture the town, however the castle was built to be impregnable. It stands at the highest point of the village and one of the two towers remains along with the well.
Next to the ruined castle stands the largest church in the village, Our Lady of the Incarnation, built in the last years of the 16th century and completed around 20 years later. It includes a gothic vaulted ceiling and ribbed vaults.
Within the church there is a chasuble, a vestment worn during Mass which was presented to the people of Setenil by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella to commemorate the first Mass in the village after the it fell to their armies.
The rest of the castle was demolished by cannon on the 21st September 1484, a momentous occasion in the Christian reconquest of Andalucia, which directly led to the fall of Ronda one year later, and then Granada in 1492.
Also not to be missed in Setenil, and of course the main reason people visit, are the homes, shops, and bars that occupy the caves. Unlike other cave villages, most of Setenil has not been enlarged, the caves have simply been closed in.
Visitors often wonder how safe the people of Setenil feel living under the rock, but villagers will tell you the village has existed for many years so it must be safe, though the truth is they prefer not to think about it.
Lesen sie mehr über Setenil de las Bodegas
Within the Serrania we are lucky enough to have three natural parks, Grazalema, Sierra de las Nieves, and Alcornacales, and at El Bosque, a small botanical garden “El Castillejo” devoted exclusively to the local and endemic plant species of these mountains.
Due to the Serrania being both Moediterranean and European, many of the tree species are common throughout Europe, whilst most of the shrubs are generally Mediterranean. Most of the flowers and grasses are either Mediterranean or endemic to the area. Your stroll will take you through several mini ecosystems, each with their own viewing area to sit and appreciate the surroundings.
Sadly many of the endemic species of the area are endangered, and not just in the Serrania, so the botanical gardens now also have preservation areas set aside for plants from the Sierra de Loja and Sierra Bermeja, thus ensuring that qualified botanists are able to track grwoth patterns and grow new seedlings for transplant should this ever be required.
As you wander around pay attention to the signs next to each species, a red dot in the top left corner indicates the species is in danger of extinction, while a yellow dot indicates the species is vulnerable. An orange dot signifies a species that is endemic or peculiar for some reason.
The park has adequate parking, and toilet facilities at the main entrance, which is also where the library and classrooms are located. Take care not to hurt any wildlife you encounter, from insects to lizards and snakes, all of which are a vital part of the ecosystem.
Sometimes you just want to go to the beach, but staying near Ronda means a one hour drive to the coast for the closest beach, however, not too far away at Zahara de la Sierra is La Playita at Arroymolinos, a fresh water pool made into a huge man-made beach.
From June until mid September the little beach is open, and is only a 25 minute drive from Ronda, or 10 minutes from Zahara de la Sierra or Montecorto. Located under Monte Prieto, the views of surrounding mountains make La Playita a truly isolated place, yet just a few minutes from civilization.
Facilities on-site include ample parking, changing rooms with toilets and showers, picnic tables under shady trees, a bar, plenty of room for kids to play, and the pool is nearly 100m wide. Lifeguards also keep an eye on the pool ensuring your day will always be fun.
After a day at the little beach, drive into Zahara for dinner or tapas at one of the village restaurants overlooking the azure waters of the lake.
Directions: From Zahara drive along the lake until you reach marker 5km, you’ll see a sign for the Playita, and then drive through the gate.