One of the few cities in the world to be naturally split into two halves. The city of Ronda has the Puente Nuevo and El Tajo Gorge! 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 river Guadalevín.
Visiting the area around the Puente Nuevo and El Tajo Gorge.
The gorge is quite narrow only 68m at it’s widest, but in places very deep and up to 120 metres. Incredibly photogenic, the Puente Nuevo is one of Spain’s most photographed locations. The rio Guadalevín exits El Tajo into the valley below where it was traditionally used by a number of flour mills to drive their grinding stones. All flour grinding activity ceased in 1917 after a rock slide destroyed the canal supplying the water.
Most people start their exploration of Ronda on the north side of puente nuevo. This is the side where the Parador Hotel, the tourist office and the bullring are located.
Built into the gorge (but not really visible from the bridge) is the water mine. A tunnel carved into the rock and which descends 60m with 231 steps down to the river level. It’s an impressive feat of engineering and can be seen by visiting the Moorish King’s House (Casa del Rey Moro) for a tour of the garden and the mine.
The Puente Nuevo spans the El Tajo gorge at its highest point and is a must see destination on any tour of Ronda. The north side of the Puente Nuevo is Plaza de España, which is where the Parador hotel is located. Crossing the bridge to the the south(parador) side will take you to the old town and towards the main museum of Ronda
Pedestrians are able to walk along both sides of the bridge and there are several seating positions built into the protective barrier.
How to visit the museum inside the Puente Nuevo?
To get into the interpretation museum of the Puente Nuevo simply descend the steps on the north side closest to Ronda’s Parador Hotel. There is a charge of 2.50€ per person but the view of the gorge below and the photo opportunity of the hills in the distance taken through the arch of the bridge is well worth it.
Puente Nuevo Interpretation Centre Opening Times
Autumn and Winter
Monday to Friday 10am till 6pm (10:00-18:00)
Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays 10am till 3pm (10:00-15:00)
Spring and Summer
Monday to Friday 10am till 7pm (10:00-19:00)
Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays 10am till 3pm (10:00-15:00)
Price of Entry
2.50€ per individual
2€ if part of group larger than 10, a student or retired.
Children under 14 free
registered disabled free
A bit of history about the Puente Nuevo
Many people assume Ronda’s famous icon is a recent construction but, in fact the bridge was first proposed in 1542, though not completed until 1793.
In 1542, a few short years after the reconquest, and at a time when the market districts of Ronda were forming, the citizens of Ronda requested a new bridge that would directly connect the two sides at the highest point across the gorge, an area that was long and flat, and ideal for the expansion of Ronda which, even then, was already becoming crowded.
It wasn’t until Ronda’s golden years of the 1700s that permission was finally granted to span the rio Guadalevin with a new bridge that would be able to carry more traffic and be a more direct route between the two areas known as El Mercadillo and La Ciudad than the older and more circuitous road lower down and In 1734 the first attempt to span the gorge at this height was completed by the architects Jose Garcia and Juan Camacho using a single arch design.
Unfortunately, their bridge was hastily built and insufficiently strong enough to withstand the stresses of carrying traffic, and in 1741 the entire bridge collapsed taking 50 souls to their deaths in the gorge below.
The current bridge stands 98m from base to top and was built from 1759 to 1793, a total of 34 years, and spans 66m from side to side. The original design was drawn by Domingo Lois de Monteagudo, an architect of great renown, and it is believed the bottom third of the bridge was built under his direction although by 1778, for unknown reasons, he was no longer involved with the project.
By 1785 work on the bridge had stalled and the administrator of Ronda, Pascual Ruiz, called on the expertise of one of Andalucia’s top architects, José Martin de Aldehuela to complete the bridge. His remarkable design built on Lois de Monteagudo’s foundation, turned the bridge into a work of art which has since become Spain’s most photographed bridge.
Rumour suggests Martin de Aldehuela committed suicide from this very bridge, although in fact he lived a long and happy life dying many years later in Malaga in 1802. The rumour came about after suggestions from critics that a second, and perhaps more beautiful bridge, would be needed, and that he jumped from the bridge in despair that his work was not good enough. Martin de Aldehuela was an architect of great renown in Malaga and the Puente Nuevo in Ronda, even in those days, was considered his crowning career achievement. Fortunately the rumour was just that, a rumour and to date a second bridge hasn’t been needed, so it is safe to say the architect’s fame legacy is safe.
The job of actually constructing the bridge from the architect’s plans fell to a Rondeño, Antonio Diáz Machuca who invented the systems of pulleys and other heavy lifting equipment that hoisted the large stones from the gorge floor where they had been quarried and shaped, up to where they were needed on the bridge.
Constructed in three stages, the first stage forms the foundation against the bedrock and the first arch, which in turn forms the foundation for the main arch that takes the bridge to a height of 90m. The final stage includes the two top arches and the centre room of about 60 square metres that today contains the interpretation museum of the bridge, although it’s most famous use was as prison for bandits and dangerous criminals during the 19th century, and then for political prisoners during the Spanish civil war.
Sitting talking to the locals a few years ago I was told that a gruesome rumor persists even to this day that civil war prisoners were thrown to their deaths from the bridge, and written about by Ernest Hemingway in the novel For Whom The Bell Tolls, it’s a great story embellished by a great writer, maybe it’s true, maybe not. who knows what Ernest was thinking when he wrote that story.
Best places to take photos of the puente Nuevo in Ronda?
Viewing points for photographing the Puente Nuevo and El Tajo Gorge in Ronda.
You may also hear someone exclaim the word “Tajo” whilst you are out and about in a local bar. The standing joke in Ronda for anyone who has to go to back to work when they’d rather stay at the bar with their mates is the shout ‘Tajo!’, a reminder of Moorish times when Christian slaves and prisoners would spend their lives chained to the steps that lead to the river; their job under pain of a good thrashing was to pass empty buckets down and full buckets up so that Ronda’s water tower was always full.
Photographing the Puente Nuevo can be a challenge although there are several publicly accessible locations that offer good views. Closest to Plaza de España, walk around the gorge side of the Parador hotel, or from the south side of the bridge, onto the viewing platform next to Santo Domingo.
For a wider view of the entire bridge, the Cuenca gardens on the eastern side are a perfect location in the mornings, whilst in the afternoons, the viewing platform in the garden of the House of Don Bosco (1.50€) gives a very pleasing photo.
It is also possible to descend into the gorge from Plaza Maria Auxiliadora and take a photo of the bridge at the old gate of Albacara.
The Grazalema Guide
The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.
The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.