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 to the Virgen de la Cabeza Cave Church easy to do and it 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‘.
From here the walk is another 2km, though one of the signs indicates the walk is 2.5km, however it is a gentle walk and by no means challenging. The road very quickly changes from paved to gravel, and remains so until we reach the church.
After a few hundred metres we see to our right the Casa Rua, a ruined manor house, and on closer inspection you’ll see a property with a belfry above the main entrance, moorish guard towers on the two front corners of the building, and to the right past an empty swimming pool you’ll see a three level tower which you can access.
The ruined house is falling apart, in fact the roof has already collapsed, and is VERY dangerous to enter, be warned that the rest of the roof or first floor could collapse at any moment so be sensible and view the house from the outside. the tower to the right is safer, and the views from the second level are quite spectacular.
Urban legend in Ronda tells that the builder of the Villa Polo, which is the name of the ruined house was a local architect who also held a position of authority within the religious orders but led a secret life as a warlock.
The front patio and tower were reputedly used by his cabal for seances and witchcraft to encourage evil spirits to venture from Ronda to his manor, which by the way forms one of the three point of an equilateral triangle between Ronda’s Puente Nuevo bridge, and the cave church Virgen de la Cabeza. The story might not be true, but are you willing to take that risk?
After leaving the grounds of the Casa Rua we continue along the same road and eventually reach a dead end, and to the right you’ll see a chain between two posts with a very steep track that goes down to the Virgen de la Cabeza. After heavy rainfall the path can be littered with mud and debris but is otherwise passable, though people with heart conditions might consider the return climb is steep and could cause problems.
Around the time the church was built Ronda was a Muslim city under the Caliphate of Córdoba so Christians whilst tolerated, were required to worship outside the city walls. The hermitage started as a home for the monks of the area who would travel to Christian communities to administer mass and hear confessions, and then return to the hermitage where they slept.
Coincidentally, this was a rough time in Al-Andalus and a fairly powerful rebellion of Muslims, Christians, and Jews under the leadership of Omar ibn Hafsun was causing problems for the caliphate. ibn Hafsun was born very near to Ronda in Juzcar, and started his rebellion to protest high taxes and unfair conditions. At one stage ibn Hafsun’s forces controlled Ronda and may have been temporarily abandoned until forces loyal to Córdoba brought Ronda back under control.
To return to Ronda, simply head back on the same road you reached the Virgen de la Cabeza on, or if you’d like to return via the valley below the church to the Puente Nuevo bridge, then follow our instructions for part two of the Virgen de la Cabeza Ronda walk.
Everything you need to know before you visit Ronda “The city of dreams” in Andalucia. https://www.rondatoday.com/
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12 thoughts on “Ronda Walk to the Virgen de la Cabeza Cave Church”
Hi,, would it be possible to make this a circular walk ?
Yes! However the circular route takes you down into the valley below the cave church, and not around the edge of the tajo lip. From the Virgen de la Cabeza carpark there are three gates, the one on the right takes you to down to the church, the one in the middle is a dead end, it takes you to the house above the church, but the one on the left takes you down the hill behind the church.
If you keep veering right you enter a short stretch of forest-like path that brings you onto the road beneath the cave church, and if you follow this road you end up at the horse stable near where you originally started the walk. From the stable you then have the choice of turning left and returning to Ronda via the Puente Nuevo, or continuing past the stable until you reach Almocabar again.
Thanks to Stephen for this update…. :) Re the pilar de coca being dry…. We haven’t had a lot of rain over the last tear or so and everything is really dry everywhere…
We have used your site and walk details several times. Very useful. This trip to Ronda we tried to utilize part 2 of your walk to Virgen de la Cabeza but the gate through which you suggest we pass from the Virgen de la Cabeza car park is no longer available. The owners of the land where the gate is has closed it since 2015 and there is certainly no gap in the fence. So the walker has to return the way they came. Actually the church was closed at 11 o’clock on Monday 3 July although it should have opened at 1030 according to the timetable on line.
We also went to the Pila de Coca but the directions are a bit off at the start as the starting point in the car park of the SuperSol hypermarket needs the visitor to know that the supermarket has been closed for sometime and is now an empty site. So coming from Ronda to the large roundabout is a bit confusing. Coming back it is obvious that the supermarket is not there. Incidentally the Pilar de Coca was dry when we walked there on 4 July and had been dry for some time by the look of it. Do you know if there is a problem with the water supply?
We consider to do this walk in April. I’ve never been in Ronda and wonder how strenuous it is considering the elevation of Ronda. How much of a climb is it to descend to the start and to climb back up?
Its not that far, but that depends on how far you walk on a weekly basis?… Ronda is a fantastic place to explore so I am sure that you will be fine…
I just want to say THANK YOU for all these useful tips! I’m visiting Ronda in May and this website is the main source of information for me :)
Some time ago I saw a photo with a panoramic view of Ronda, taken somewhere near the church Virgen de la Cabeza – it’s such a wonderful viewpoint – and I was so amazed, I knew I need to go there! And thanks to your tips now I know how to get there. I hope I will have enough time to do other walks too.
By the way, do you happen to know if the part 2 (the return path) is now open?
Thank you so much,
Hi Zooey… Thank you for your kind comments and I am really pleased that my site has helped you plan your trip to Ronda….. Some people have told me they have done the second part of the walk without a problem and others have said they encountered a closed gate with a no entry sign…. maybe people are confusing “Coto privado de caza” which means private hunting… It doesn’t mean no entry…. let me know how you get on!
Thank you very much for your reply and for this tip. So if there is “Coto privado de caza” sign, it is allowed to get in?
I will definitely check on my own in May if this trail is open or if there’s a no entry sign, and come back here to let you know!
“Coto privada de caza” does not mean “no entry”….. People see the word “privada” and automatically think “private”…. It means the hunting in the area is private and licenced…. In these areas stay on the public footpath beacuse there may be hunters around and you dont want to be lurking in the undergrowth and mistaken for a deer! That said, I would be most surprised if you encountered anyone let alone a hunter…. :)
Oh.. I get it now! :) Thanks for the explanation and for these useful tips!
Hi, Thanks for this great article about Ronda ! I planed to go in Andalusia for my next holidays. To be honest, I was hesitating with Mallorca. Your article just inspired me and made me want to go there. Your pictures are so beautiful!
Also your tips on how to get to the church Virgen de la Cabeza are really welcome for such a trip.
Do you think that we can go there with 2 little children ?
Hi Barbara, glad to hear that Ronda Today has been usefull for you! :) Re the children,it depends what time of year you visit, if it is high summer then remember that the sun is very strong and this particular walk doesn’t have much shade. Whilst you are in Ronda then also look at visiting the other villages in the area, especially Grazalema. http://turismograzalema.com/english/the-white-village-of-grazalema/
Let me know if you have any more questions…