The mountain-top city of Ronda is breathtaking, to say the least. First declared a city by the Romans, during the time of Julius Caesar, Ronda is a jumbled mix of old and new with Roman, Islamic (Moorish), and early-modern Spanish architecture.
My trip to Ronda starts in the late morning as we scarily maneuver the 9 seat van through narrow streets to find parking. The streets are rickety and difficult to navigate, but we eventually find a parking space on a small street – high up in the densely packed roads.
The walk from the car down to the Arab Baths is beautiful, yet challenging with two pushchairs. We follow the fastest route on Google Maps, which doesn’t show how steep or narrow the paths were. After walking down an especially steep and rocky path, there is an area covered in wasps. I am certain that I just got stung in my foot after feeling a tiny stab. I pull out a small thorn-type thing, but there’s no pain or swelling afterwards.
Immediately after the wasps is a road with two barking dogs behind a fence. I am not usually afraid of dogs, and walk in front of everyone else without a care. But as I casually make my way down, one of the dogs (who’s probably just scared) jumps over the fence, raging and running straight at me. I bolt in the opposite direction, with my sun hat flying onto the ground behind me.
After an eventful 15 minutes, we walk out onto a large road, and the bridge leading to the Baths.
Outside the Arab Baths are a few parking spots (which we bring the car down to), and a cafe and spa further up the road. The area is surrounded by lush trees, the sound of birds, and a view of the mountain top houses.
The original plan was to visit the Baths first, but we discover that they are free to enter after a certain time. So instead we freshen up at the Arab Bath washroom facilities, have a little picnic, and pray*, before heading up to the old City Walls.
The stairs wind up the side of the mountain, gradually revealing beautiful views. There are horses grazing and endless fields with buildings dotted over it.
The final climb before the City walls is a rocky slope. As much as I love my jelly sandles in the summer, I am wishing for comfortable shoes at this point.
Eventually, with little rocks between my toes and regret for skipping the gym for so long, I reach the top. And the view is worth it. The old city walls are just like I imagined; built up stone imposing over the land below.
I stop to climb up to the highest point on the wall and take pictures. We then continue walking along the wall, through an old arch, to another set of steps. As I make my way up these steps, I notice the change back to modernity, with shops appearing on the right, and a bar cafe on the left.
The seating area of the bar cafe is blissful! After a long walk uphill in the sweltering Mediterranean sun, we’re met with cold water sprays – something I later found is quite common in the cafes and resturants. We refill our water bottles inside, and continue on our way to the Plaza de la Encarnación.
The plaza is made up of greenery, a central fountain, drinking water fountains, benches, and the main attraction: the Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion. The building was first built as a mosque in the 13th Century, and was later converted into a church, and has been extended over the years, whilst maintaining the layout of the mosque.
The original mihrab** of the mosque still remains and has been preserved. I particularly want to see the mihrab and get my first glimpse of the 13th Century Islamic Architecture. We pay an entrance fee of about 4 Euro and start on our tour of the church with a digital headphone guide.
The inside is grand. Tall pillars linking the floor to an extremely high ceiling. A set of stairs go up to a room with views over the plaza, and another set of stairs lead down into a cellar style room. Both rooms have museum casings with old books and artifacts.
As we go into the reception foyer to leave the church, we spot the mihrab near the reception desk. Most people walk past it, unknowing to the piece of history they just missed.
Part of it has been preserved behind glass. Some of the inscription rubbed away over time. The grey colour contrasts with the browns and reds inside the church. Despite the restoration efforts, the Arabic calligraphy has faded in some areas and I can only make out a few parts of what is written.
Once we finish looking around the plaza, we make our way back down to the car.
In the courtyard of the Arab baths is a plum tree, with so much fruit! I am fascinated by the idea of picking fruit off a tree and immediately eating it. I later discover that this region has fruit trees everywhere, including public streets.
We take a look around the Arab baths and gardens, and watch a short video about how the baths used to function.
We drive around Ronda, into the centre and find underground parking near Plaza de Espana. The area is surrounding with souvenir shops and restaurants, and is buzzing with tourists. The plaza leads to a busy intersection, and eventually offers the one place I have been itching to see: Puente Nuevo.
(If you type in ‘Ronda’ on Google Images, most of the pictures are of the view I had in front of my eyes).
The area has a tall bridge, sitting on a crack in the gorge. A pathway takes us round to the perfect spot overlooking the gorge.
It is breathtaking, and I simply cannot explain it in words. So, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. (Check out my Instagram to see more pictures!)
At the end of the long day of walking, we stop for pizza, and set off for the next destination on our Adventure.
See you in Seville.
*Muslims pray five daily prayers at allocated times during the day: before sunrise, early afternoon, late afternoon, after sunset, and at night.
**Mihrab: a niche in the wall of a mosque, displaying the direction to Makkah, towards which the congregation faces to pray.
This post doesn’t include all of the details I hoped it would. I wrote it a long time after my trip, and simply cannot remember all of the details. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy the little detail it does include. And the pictures, of course!. 🙂