“Flamenco”—the word calls up an image of a slender dancer in an elaborate, ruffled costume with her fringed shawl and her castanets. Certainly, this stereotype has been perpetuated in everything from airline posters to dolls made for souvenirs. To some, this is flamenco for tourists, as they embrace the cante jondo, the deep song of agonizing lament sung by a man, a cantaora, without accompaniment, or with a single guitar. This, they claim, is authentic flamenco, the blues of Andalucía, improvised in jam sessions called juergas, sung because it must be sung, not because someone is listening or watching.
The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced is one of Ronda’s more curious churches, and is also a convent for the nuns and priests of the Discalced Carmelites of Ronda. La Merced is more correctly a basilica since it is home to a holy relic, the incorruptible hand of Saint Teresa of Avila and the story behind this is in itself worth telling even if you never visit the church, although if you come to Ronda you’ll most certainly see the church as you pass by.
If you don’t mind a short walk of ten minutes after leaving the Puente Nuevo, just keep walking all along that same street, known as Calle Armiñan, for about a 700m. At the bottom of the hill you will find the old wall that used to protect Ronda from attack. Within the wall are two gates that were the main entrance to Ronda during Moorish times.
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.
Imagine a quiet haven away from the crowds, in the heart of Ronda’s Moorish quarter, a house that one could easily believe was once owned by a wealthy Moorish trader, and now your home away from home, in Ronda, Andalusia.
Baraka B&B is this place; a unique bespoke hotel in Ronda, with just three rooms, situated in a quiet pedestrian alleyway. The internal patio is the centrepiece of the entire house, the stars forming the ceiling. A central staircase winds it’s way to the roof, where a sun drenched terrace awaits, offering views of the hills surrounding Ronda.
The Cortijo Las Piletas is a country hotel set in the midst of beautiful gardens in rural Andalusia. This hotel is family owned and operated with a focus on creating a warm appeal for guests. Thanks to its location and design, the hotel’s grounds have plenty of surprises in store for visitors.
Aside from a spacious hotel, beauty treatment services are also offered onsite. This combination provides guests a chance to pamper themselves during their vacation in this part of Spain.
The hotel’s restaurant serves a variety of dishes in its welcoming dining room, with a range of traditional drinks served at the bar which is more a lounge than bar.
When visiting Ronda, getting out into the little villages is one of the must do excursions that would render your vacation incomplete if you didn’t do, however a lot of visitors to Ronda don’t have access to a car, so Benaojan is one of the options to see an authentic white village.
Located on the southern boundary of the Sierra de Grazalema, Benaojan is convenient because both bus and train visit the village, and the trip is only 25 minutes from Ronda. My own trip saw me take the train along Mr Henderson’s railway walk, a comfortable and air conditioned journey that does however stop at Benaojan Estación, a small hamlet below the main village that requires a 20 minute walk before you see what Benaojan has to offer.
Jimera de Libar, easily reached by train from Ronda, by walking from Benaojan, or by car from both Cortes de la Frontera and Benaojan, is a delightful white village in the Guardiaro Valley of the Serranía de Ronda. Limestone mountains for the Sierra de Libar tower over the village and birds of prey frequently look down on the ant-like people going about their business.
In recent years the village has become exceedingly popular for holiday makers choosing to rent self-catered homes away from the hotels of the area, and then use the village as a base from which to explore the hiking trails of the Grazalema Natural Park. Mr Henderson’s railway walk from Benaojan to Jimera de Libar is a popular local excursion or day trip from Ronda.