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Since the Roman era, this small mountain town has held an outsized role as a regional crossroads thanks to its scenic and strategic location at the lip of the El Tajo Gorge. Three bridges span the vast gorge, cleaved from the rock by the Guadalevín River, creating a bottleneck for armies, bandits and anyone else trying to travel through the area.

This turbulent history, combined with scenic views and a historic Moorish old town, makes the town an interesting rest stop on the drive between Seville and Granada, which are each about two hours away. It’s also convenient on your way from the Costa de Sol to points inland.

Tajo Gorge, RondaThe main feature of the town is El Tajo Gorge, a panoramic split in the mountains that offers sweeping views across the dry rolling hills and dusty green olive groves that cover the countryside.

You’ll find particularly photogenic viewpoints along the Paseo de E. Hemingway. This footpath runs along the lip of the ravine to Plaza de Espana, a park that overlooks the gorge. The walkway is named after the author, who loved Ronda and visited often. Orson Welles also admired the town — he had his ashes buried here — and the Paseo de Orson Welles offers similar views.

The gorge is rugged and high, and over the centuries it’s been spanned by three bridges of varying heights. The oldest and lowest is the Roman Bridge (known to locals as Puente San Miguel), which is a narrow affair with a single arch. Despite the nickname, it probably doesn’t date to the Romans, but instead the Moorish occupation. Further downstream is the also misleadingly named Puente Viejo (Old Bridge), built in the 16th century.

The biggest and newest option is Puente Nuevo, which spans the mouth of the gorge and offers the best views of both the countryside and chasm. Built in the 18th century, it’s a behemoth of a bridge with dizzyingly high arches that connects the city’s old and new towns.

The old town, or La Ciudad, is a twisting, turning collection of tightly packed cobbled alleyways, whose personality owes much to Ronda’s almost 800-year stint under Moorish control. The new rulers swept away the old places of worship from an earlier Roman occupation and in their stead built mosques, bathhouses and palaces.

Grand buildings stand right on the lip of the gorge, running almost flush with the sheer faces of the warm-toned stone. Narrow lanes of blisteringly white, terracotta-tiled houses with carved stone doorways bake in the sun. Tiled street name plaques allude to the city’s lengthy Moorish past.

Today, the interior of the bridge has been converted into a museum that discusses the history and engineering that went into its construction. In the past, however, local authorities used it as a prison.

The mountains around Ronda were a hotbed of bandits and highwaymen. They were drawn to the rugged landscape, which allowed for easy ambushes and plentiful hideouts, as well as the wealth of those who were forced to use the town to cross the river. During the Romantic era, European visitors flocked here, lured by fantastical tales of these bandits and the frisson of danger. As the least accessible and most secure location in the city, the bridge was where guards imprisoned those who were captured.

Today, Ronda has a strong complement of tapas bars across all its districts, bolstered by a flourishing local wine industry. The dishes come in many guises, served in traditional bars or given a fresh rendering in contemporary restaurants. Local produce such as cured ham, seafood and cheese form the backbone of the specialities you’ll taste.

Best time to visit Ronda

Like much of Spain, Ronda is a year-round destination. The weather is a bit cooler and wetter between November and March, which means thinner crowds. Summers bring clear skies, warm temperatures and more visitors. We like to visit in April and May or September and October.

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