Dubbed ´the city of dreams´, the famous hilltop fortress of Ronda is the third most visited city in Southern Spain, and by far the most spectacular. The largest of the celebrated pueblos blancos, Ronda is known for the architectural wonder that is the El Tajo bridge, which straddles a 300ft gorge and offers panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway- not to mention David Cameron and Michelle Obama- are just some of Ronda´s notable aficionados.
Aside from its breathtaking location, Ronda´s charm lies in its size. Small enough to explore on foot in one day, it still manages to boast all the best bits of rival Andalusian hotspots: the rich Moorish history of Cordoba, the Sevillian-style horse-drawn carriages and jasmine-scented plazas, and labyrinthine cobbled streets so reminiscent of those in Granada´s old Albaycín quarter.
But Ronda is simply the jewel in the crown of a very special and largely undiscovered part of Andalusia. The surrounding area, the Serranía de Ronda, is made up of sprawling natural parks, timeless white hamlets, and rolling green hills. Doe-eyed lovers gazing out at the landscape from one of Ronda´s many paisajes romanticos may well forget they are in dusty Southern Spain, and it would be a great shame to visit the city without venturing further afield to discover authentic Andalusian slow living at its most irresistible.
Without a doubt, the most awe-inspiring area of the Serranía is the Genal valley, just a few kilometres south of Ronda. Here, the smallest and prettiest pueblos blancos nestle amongst pine-clad mountains, and golden eagles soar high above the fertile valley of olive, lemon and orange plantations.
I have a new blog for eco-tourism in this beautiful part of Spain. If this interests you, you can find it here.