Photos from our travels around the Andalucía region of southern Spain, visiting the towns and cities of Córdoba, Sevilla, Ronda, Granada and Málaga. Our third stop, one of the ‘Pueblos Blancos’ (white towns) in the mountains, Ronda.

An early start this morning for our 08.50 train from Sevilla Santa Justa station, made all the more easier by our choice of hotel across the roundabout from the station. A rather convoluted route, started once again on an AVE train to get us back to Córdoba in around 40 minutes.

AVE trains at Córdoba station
AVE trains at Córdoba station

Then from Córdoba, the slightly slower Altaria service to Ronda, taking a couple of hours. Initially an electric service on the main line, there’s a significant change at the huge railway junction outside Antequera. Due to some historical oddities, Spain has several different railway gauges. Major intercity routes are now the standard gauge of 1435mm and electrified at 25,000 volts AC, but many of the more local routes are still on an older and wider gauge of 1668mm non-electrified. So at Antequera, there was a brief pause of a few minutes while firstly the locomotive was changed to a diesel, and secondly all of the coaching stock was switched over to its alternative slightly wider running gear.

Diesel Altaria locomotive at Ronda
Diesel Altaria locomotive at Ronda

The route to Ronda is very picturesque, with some incredibly steep gradients and tight turns for the train to negotiate. We pulled into Ronda station soon after noon, and began our short walk of about 15 minutes to our hotel for only one night, the Hotel Don Miguel. Our room shouldn’t have been available until 2.30pm, but the excellent reception staff were able to check us in immediately. Incredibly good value, this hotel is right against the Puente Nuevo (new bridge) with magnificent views of El Tajo Gorge. We paid the slight extra to guarantee a room with a view of the bridge and gorge.

Hotel Don Miguel, clinging to the opposite side of the gorge
Hotel Don Miguel, clinging to the opposite side of the gorge

Once we were checked in, we headed out across the Puente Nuevo to explore the older Moorish side of town, set on a hilltop and isolated apart from the bridges – the Puente Nuevo dating back to the 18th century, and lower down the gorge, the Puente Viejo (old bridge) and Puente de San Miguel.

View of Puente Viejo from Puente de San Miguel
View of Puente Viejo from Puente de San Miguel

Taking a clockwise walk around the old Moorish part of town, we started off at the Casa del Rey Moro. Our 6€ each admissions promised us an 18th century mansion and a ‘paradise garden’. The house was closed for refurbishment, and the garden was looking very neglected and in desperate need of some TLC. This apparent poor value was offset by our real interest in the visit – the ‘water mine’ carved deep into the hillside down to river level. In moorish times, there was a waterwheel mechanism constructed within a cave to pull water up several feet from river level, after which christian slaves would carry the water up to the town via steps carved into tunnels within the hillside. The town was laid siege to during the Reconquista period, until eventually the water source was revealed by a traitor and subsequently captured, resulting in the surrender of the town. It’s a difficult climb as the steps are uneven and occasionally slippery from dripping water, but well worth it to see this interesting piece of local history.

The Water Mine in Ronda
The Water Mine in Ronda

Our clockwise walk continued past the two bridges and the Baños Árabes (arab baths) on the eastern side of town, past the 14th century Minarete de San Sebastián to the south, and another local museum stop at the Palacio de Mondragón to the east, looking out over open countryside from its high vantage point on the cliffs.

View from the Palacio de Mondragón
View from the Palacio de Mondragón

I figured that our hotel had the very best restaurant view for the evening, looking out onto the El Tajo gorge and the Puente Nuevo bridge, so I had already reserved a dinner table when we first arrived. We enjoyed some starters and some very meaty local main courses, along with a brilliant bottle of Ribera del Duero Crianza 2018. I also got to try some complimentary sweet Málaga wine with our desserts!

Puente Nuevo at night, from the hotel
Puente Nuevo at night, from the hotel

Only one hotel night in Ronda, restricting our sightseeing to the one afternoon and evening, but we thought it was enough to see what we wanted. Our next journey in the morning would be to Granada.