Ronda is a logical base from where to explore the Pueblos Blancos region. It is a white-washed city in its own right, albeit fairly big and touristy. Because of its spectacular location – it straddles a precipitous limestone canyon – it is also a great destination by itself. Puente Nuevo ♥ connects the old and new Ronda 330 feet above the floor of the gorge.
A number of historic sights is located in the older part of the town, the most interesting of which is Palacio Mondragon ♥, whose patio is decorated with Moorish tiles and plasterwork, and from whose terraces you can take in the unforgettable vista of the valley below. Ayuntamiento (the town hall) is worth checking out.
The newer town is fairly commercialized, but is home to one of the oldest bullrings in Spain, the cathedral and very atmospheric Plaza del Socorro ♥.
On one of our visits, we came across a local troupe of flamenco dancers – several times in different squares. This is very emblematic of this fine place – you feel as if you are truly in Spain.
Places to Eat
On our first visit, in 2004, we had dinner at Pedro Romero ♥♥, across the street from the bullring. My old notes name it “one of the best places that we’ve been to in Spain”, which is a high-enough praise across a sample of twenty or so eateries. Last visit: Spring 2004.
On the repeat visit, we went to a place with more kid-friendly menu, Don Javier ♥♥, half a block up the street from the bullring. Somewhat bland sopa de pescados was the only disappointment. Main courses – entrecot de terner, conejo a la rondeño (rabbit) and, especially, pierna de cordero (leg of lamb) – were sizable and tasty. The desert was fantastic: a chocolate cake, a cheesecake and a sorbete de limon of the kind that we never tasted before. Our damage: €121 for four people, including a half-bottle of wine. Last visit: Spring 2008.
La Casona de la Ciudad ♥♥♥ is a delightful hotel in the old town. The house dates back to the 16th century and is well maintained and decorated. There is an outdoor dining terrace and a pool; the rooms are well-appointed. Underground parking is a big bonus where car space is at the premium. Puente Nuevo is a couple of minutes away on foot, and so are the other sights. Last stay: 2004.
We stopped at three other white-washed towns on our driving tour of the area in 2004. All of these towns have something that distinguishes them from their brethren. I will concede half a point to anyone who claims that they are all similar, though. Unless you are a big fan of stunning juxtaposition of blinding-white walls and colorful flower arrangements decorating said walls, you may feel that once you saw one of these towns, you saw them all.
Zahara de la Sierra ♥ was our favorite, perched high above the sky-blue waters of the eponymous lake. You can climb up the hill to the castle ruin for the best views; if you sit down at a café table on the central square, you can imagine yourself being a local.
Grazalema, which nestles under a mountain side, has interesting vistas of its own, and a main square with an imposing church.
Arcos de la Frontera is bigger and not as cleanly-white, which is the main reason we liked it the least of these three. A nice church with a bell tower sits on the main town square, but the square is given to the parked cars, negating the positive impression. As behooves a larger town, there are several minor sights in its labyrinthine old quarter, none of which we explored.
Other top candidates for the visit in the region are Olvera or Setenil de las Bodegas.