The Ronda-Pilar de Coca loop (PR-A 71) is a wonderful walk for exercise junkies and visitors to Ronda alike, it’s a circular route that takes us about 9km out of Ronda, past vineyards, oak groves, an old aqueduct that supplied Ronda with water, the Pilar de Coca spring, and finally the mountains of the Sierra de las Nieves and the Serranía de Ronda.
This article is part two of the Ronda to Virgen de la Cabeza walk. Please make sure you have also read part one.
To complete this walk you need to of average fitness. This walk is not suitable for people with heart conditions as the ascent at the end is steep.
Almost every keen walker who visits Ronda also walks to the Virgen de la Cabeza cave church across the valley from the Puente Nuevo, but most then turn back and return the way they came, yet the walk through the valley below is fantastic and for those game to try it should be a must do activity.
Michelle Obama, the wife of President Barrack Obama, and First Lady of the United States recently visited Ronda as part of a 5 day holiday in Spain, and Ronda Today is proud to provide her complete itinerary.
Arriving in Ronda, Mrs Obama first enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the Casgo Antiguo, Ronda’s old Moorish city, where she visited the Casa Don Bosco and admired their view of the Puente Nuevo, Ronda’s most iconic monument.
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.
We start the walk at the Almocabar Gate in the Barrio de San Francisco and walk along Calle Torrejones, passing the Bodega San francisco and further on the road the restaurant El Predicatorio which are on our right. Around 500m from the old walls of Ronda we encounter a small white roundabout in the street, and 100m further an intersection with a sign pointing to the right for the ‘Ermita Rupuestre Virgen de la Cabeza’.
A recent Andalucían Supreme Court judgement has overturned the catalog of public access ways drawn up by the Ayuntamiento de Ronda, which could see many of them fenced in again, and restricting public movement around the Serranía on roads traditionally seen as public highways.
For years land owners have been disputing the right of the public to cross land they consider their own, with hikers and nature enthusiasts often disagreeing over chains, fences, and other obstructions placed on the path to prevent public access.
The latest court verdict is a significant blow to public access after the court found Ronda’s council hadn’t followed correct procedure when creating their catalog of public access ways, with the court describing the approval of the catalog prior to public consultation as more than a little curious.
In late April 2005 the new catalog was announced in the provincial gazette which comprised 500 pages and 250 aerial photomaps of the public highways, however these had not been made available to the public beforehand, essentially meaning the Ayuntamiento breached article 9.3 of the constitution.
Where does this leave public access highways now? Well, essentially in the situation we were in prior to 2005 when landowners would block public access without penalty until a court has decided on the nature of the rights of way, but with Spanish courts being as slow as they are, many of the pre-2005 cases have yet to be decided, so we can expect to see a bunch of new fences and chains erected again as farmers learn of the court decision.
The walk to the Tajo del Abanico, named for the cave that looks like a fan (abanico), is a gentle walk measuring 3.8km from the Almocabar gate at the entrance to the medieval walls of Ronda in the Barrio de San Francisco. It is of low difficulty, and takes you to a river valley filled with wildflowers.
We start our walk from Ronda at the Almocabar gate, and exit Ronda on Calle Torrejones, this is the street that runs between the main plaza and the Bodega San Francisco, and after 300m passes a stone tower to your right with a cross on it, known locally as ‘el Predicatorio’ which is the location of a restaruant, and part of the Roman aqueduct that used to supply Arunda with water 2000 years ago.
Reaching a small traffic roundabout, we keep going straight ahead past the bar La Quadra, and turn right at the next roundabout with a pink sign point to the Ermita Virgen de la Cabeza. Around 30m around the corner the road forks, we take the left, a sign should point to the Tajo del Abanico.
Continue on this road veering left at the first intersection, you will see three blue dots and an arrow pointing to the left, and continue to the next intersection where the left fork continues alongside the cliffs to your left, whilst the fork to the right does a complete 180; we continue on the left path.
You’ll pass an abandoned tower and farmhouse which is one of many in these parts, most of them being several hundred years old having been built after the Christian reconquest to provide storage for grain, but no longer used and now falling into ruin.
At the end of the road you’ll come to a large farmhouse on your right with a huge steel cross in the driveway, but to the left of the farmhouse driveway is a small gate which should be closed. Simply pull the handle to open the gate, but please close the gate behind you, the gate keeps the dogs out of the Tajo del Abanico.
The path you travel on is the old Ronda to Algeciras road used during medieval and Roman times, and as you continue you will eventually come to sections where the cobbled stones yet exist. Unfortunately these are medieval in origin, probably 500-1000 years old, and whilst they would have been laid where Roman stones originally stood, none of the Roman road exists anymore.
At one point the path descends to the river, and you’ll need to cross the stones in the water to reach the other side, and it is only by going through that you’ll reach the cave of the fan. The cave has a rather unique history, being the place where Francisco Rosi filmed his bandit sequences for the 1984 film Carmen (by Georges Bizet) starring Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes.
You’ll notice also that the cave isn’t very deep and is breathtakingly beautiful despite this owing to the amazing colours in the rocks and the short stalactites hanging above the entrance. The cave is a favourite location amongst local climbers and you may encounter a small group performing some quite impressive free climbing here.
That concludes the walk, you have two options for returning to Ronda, either continue along the path until you see the current Ronda-Algeciras road, which we don’t advise since the track is degraded, or turn back the way you came.
Photos from the walk Ronda to Tajo del Abanico
The park Dehesa del Mercadillo is a pine forest just outside Ronda on the Ronda-Sevilla road, and is very easy to get to, however the direct route doesn’t take in any of the valley below Ronda, but using the industrial area of Ronda as a starting point passes through some gorgeous countryside with mountains on the horizon, along farm roads with numerous horse studs before finally entering the forest from the north.
We start the walk in the industrial estate, follow signs pointing to the Poligono, and look for the hotel Berlanga which is very close to the Día supermarket. Directly across from the hotel Calle Genal, which looks industrial, but after 100m begins to descend out of the city to the railway line.
If you keep going straight ahead on this road you’ll come to some olive groves around 150-200 metres from the hotel, and then a little further you’ll cross the railway line before reaching an overpass for the highway. After the overpass, turn immediately left and then immediately right.
You are now on the old Ronda-Setenil road and will continue going down hill for a kilometre or thereabouts. As you descend you’ll come across a small fuente known as Don Pedro, and shortly after this, the road naturally veers to the left.
At this point you are now on the European walking track, the E-4, also known on some maps as the GR-7 and is a walk that commences in Tarifa, and terminates in Athens. You continue on this road which bends to the right near some horse stables, and then continues toward the forest park.
When you reach the next intersection you’ll see a sign pointing to the Hotel Molino de Arco. You could detour here and travel back through the Llano de la Cruz to Arriate or to Ronda Viejo and then onto Acinipo, however for this Ronda walk we are going to continue straight ahead.
Very soon you’ll pass the municipal riding school and some other stables, and immeditately after that the intersection with the Ronda-Sevilla highway. You’ll know you’ve reached the highway because on the right is a large sign showing the route of the GR-7 walk as it crosses the Serranía de Ronda.
Turn left, but avoid the highway, instead follow the dirt track for safety reasons, and then enter the park via a wide entrance. You are now at the end of the walk and have two options; the first is to follow the dirt road inside the park past the forest fire service, or take the more scenic approach and walk from the picnic and play area you find across a small fence into the forest proper.
Once in the forest take a moment to enjoy listening to the birds, their song is fantastic and definitely a highlight of this walk. Birdwatchers and nature lovers might find the forest a little pedestrian, but if you don’t have a lot of time, or only fancy a gentle stroll you won’t be disappointed.
To get back to Ronda, continue through the forest and then follow Avenida de la Legion into town. Here are a few photos of the walk, and if you enjoy this walk please return and leave a comment below for other visitors to Ronda.
This is one of the walks most people want to do because of the Roman Aqueduct you see at the end of the walk, but is also one of the walks in Ronda rarely undertaken by visitors because very few people know the Roman aqueduct even exists, in fact Roman Ronda was a reality for nearly 700 years.
You’ll start the walk at the old entrance to Ronda, the Almocabar Gate which originally was used to reach the Muslim cemetery outside the city walls. In fact the plaza you walk across at the start is where the cemetery was. During the reconquest Spain’s Christian monarchs attacked Ronda from locations near the plaza.
As you walk across the plaza, look for the middle road of the three you can see leading away from Ronda, this is Calle San Francisco de Asís, and isn’t very long, you’ll know you’re on the right track when you reach the school at the top of the street, Colegio Fernando de los Rios.
Keep going out of Ronda until you cross the motorway then turn right onto a gravel track that runs parallel to the motorway, and at the end you’ll find a gate and a small gravelled street to the left. Turn left and you’ll wander down a street surrounded by olive groves, and at the end, a rather large power pole.
Continue to the left of the power pole along a walking track that runs along a fence. This once again becomes a small gravelled road the winds to the right before it reaches a t-intersection.
At the t-intersection you’ll see a sign pointing to Pilar de Cartejima (1600m). At this point, turning left will take you back to the bridge over the motorway, so we want to go right following the sign for Pilar de Cartejima.
Once you reach the Pilar de Cartejima feel free to drink from the constantly running tap, the water is delicious and quite safe to drink, in fact many Rondeños bring empty bottles here to fill so they have fresh drinking water in their homes.
The Roman Aquaduct isn’t too much further, keep walking past the Pilar de Cartejima along a the gravel track that runs along the river. Soon enough the track ends and becomes a walking track, now keep an eye on the rocks above you and to your right. It won’t be long until you spot the tell tale signs of Roman arches against the rock.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how far you have to walk, that would spoil the surprise, but it isn’t far, the only hint I’ll give is that if you see a bridge over the river to your left and behind a fence you’ve gone too far.
Often people get a little lost looking for the Roman Aqueduct, they can be hard to spot, in fact on my own first walk along this track I probably went about three km too far. That was also the day I ended up with a flat battery on my camera and was cursing not having bought a PowerMonkey to recharge it before heading back to Ronda, oh well, I did get a lot of exercise that day.
This Ronda walk is around 6.8 km, and is considered light up to Pilar de Cartejima and then moderate in sections near the Roman Aquaduct.
The photos below were taken over a couple of excursions to the Pilar de Cartejima. If you like the video more will be coming soon, but please leave a comment here or on YouTube if you’ve attempted this walk and have something to share. Also feel free to ask questions.