Ronda has a few prehistoric caves not too far away. The important one is located outside the village of Benojoan. A bit difficult to reach, it is about 25 km (16 miles) from Ronda. There is a train that will leave you at Benojoan if you prefer. Getting to the cave itself involves a steep climb uphill. Getting there on public transport would have been rather difficult. Perhaps you can check at the tourist office or your hotel if some private tours can take you there more economically.
In any case, the cave was discovered in 1905 and has some great cave paintings from the pictures Ive seen of it.
Entrance costs 8 euro.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows (templete de Nuestra Senora de Dolores) is one of those things that the tour guides often don't mention because it has much to do with the darker side of the city. You will see this little shrine, attached to a house and probably not think of giving it a second look.
Condemned prisoners used to be executed in the nearby Plaza Carmen Abela. This was a little shrine that the prisoners could use to say their last prayers before facing their destiny. Of course, this has to do with the Christian doctrine of redemption, that honest prayer and genuine sorrow over ones shortcomings (crimes) might lead to Redemption (though probably not in this world.) Next to the portrayal of the Virgin are the shields of the Reyes Cristianos, Ferdinand and Isabella..
The pillars supporting the cupola, when looked at more closely are a group of men with the rope around their necks in their final moments apparently.
I went to Ronda on a daytrip from Marbella, but of course you can also do it the other way round. Marbella is a vibrant beach resort at the Costa del Sol which is dominated by the tourism industry. It has endless beaches, a lovely marina and a small old town with cobbled alleys.
About 5-6 buses serve the Ronda to Marbella route per day and the trip takes 75 minutes.
This minaret used to be belong to one of the mosques in Ronda. When the Christians took over mosques were converted over to Churches, which is part of what gives churches in Spain their rather unique appearance. The mosque in question became the Church of San Sebastian, which has since also disappeared.
Originally used for the muezzin to call the faithful to prayer (in Islam 5 times a day), the minaret over time has been used for a variety of functions,. Notice, however, that for a minaret it is really quite small.
This route was recommended as a very scenic train journey to take - and it was part of the reason to go from where Id flown from London to Malaga on my way to Morocco via Ronda - to see the very recommended Andalucian town of Ronda, and the countryside between Malaga and Ronda.
Trains around Andalucia are not particularly fast but they are rather cheap and fairly frequent, and the countryside is lovely to see. There werent many fellow travellers on either of the train journeys I took enroute the month of March to Algeciras and so it was easy to take photos out the windows along the way.
The route goes through green pastoral countryside, interesting small railway stations and villages to see, landscape with interesting rocky formations and also picturesque gorges.
To see the famous White Villages at their absolute best it's hard to beat the A369 road from Ronda to Jimena de la Frontera.
Numerous 'Miradors' along the road are effectively viewpoints in all the best places, with a good place to pull off the road and park. The villages can be seen in all their glory, many of them are dominated by old fortifications from the Moorish times.
From the southern parts of the A369 it's possible, on a clear day, to see Gibraltar's famous rock and even across the strait to the mountains of North Africa.
Be sure to stop at the Mirador nearest to Ronda for a spectacular view of the City perched on the clifftop.
A369 Jimena de la Frontera - Ronda
The Arab Baths are reached by rudimentary steps from the Puente Viejo (old bridge) below the Salvatierra palacio. They are said to be one of the best surviving examples of original Arabic hammams, water baths, in Spain and well worth a visit - plus on Sundays you can get in free of charge! The three main rooms – hot, medium, and cold – would have been fed with water from the two streams (one is called Arroyo de las Culebras, the Snake Stream) that meet nearby. Most notable are the star-shaped light and air vents in the domed ceilings, a common touch in Arab architecture.T he baths are believed to have been the main hammam for Moorish Ronda, although interestingly they lie outside the defensive walls and would have been used in more peaceable times.
Ronda lies high in the mountains and is surrounded by other white villages (pueblos blancos). Many of them are fortified and lie high on a hill for protection.
Make a tour around the lovely landscape and visit some of the nice white villages where time stood still.
Our hotel in Ronda was opposite a nice park, which was the first thing we visited in the town. At the end of the park there were fantastic views across the valley to the mountains in the distance. It was a nice area to sit and have lunch, away from the crowds in the nearby streets and squares.
Orson Welles was one of the most famous visitors to Ronda. He is buried in Ronda in the grounds of the family home of Antonio Ordoñez, a famous bullfighter, with whom Welles struck up a friendship. A street near the bullring has now been named after Welles.
South of the Old Town, beyond the Almocabar gate lies the San Francisco district of town, the third and least visited district of Ronda. There are fewer things to see in this district but perhaps that is its attraction. It seems to be a more residential area than the other areas of Ronda and with fewer tourists around you can probably see more of the real, everyday Ronda. We had a quick walk around the streets just beyond the Almocabar gate, and passed some nice looking bars and quiet streets. It would have been nice had we had more time here to explore the area properly.
One of the things I liked about Granada And Ronda was the water fountains which you could sell all around these cities. There are still very much in use and as the locals drink from them I assume they are safe to use. The elegant Fuente de los Ocho Canos (Fountain of the 8 Spouts) in Ronda is a good example of these type of fountains. It can be found below the Iglesia de Nuestro Padre Jesus, just beyond the Puenta Viejo.
The town walls were built by the Moors when they controlled Ronda. In medieval times, Ronda's strategic position made it difficult to attack. However, there were parts of the town that were vulnerable, especially on the lower lying Eastern and Southern sides. It was here that the town wall was constructed and much of it can still be seen today.
NOTE: Bring patience, seriousness, a flashlight & shoes with good traction. You must be able to walk over rough terrain to climb from the carpark up to the mouth of the cave, where you wait for the guide. Also, inside it's rather slippery, with few handholds to prevent falling.
In 2001 we drove out from Ronda to visit this prehistoric cave that still lets ordinary people, and not strictly scientists, view pictographs.
When enough people had gathered at the entrance to justify a tour, our group had a brief introduction by the guide, who then handed out several lanterns. Walking back into the cave, our guide pointed out some of the highlights, which he asked the lantern-holders to illuminate. It would be much better to have your own flashlight, because you can't always rely on the little, smoky lanterns to do a good job. The route was never very small, so we didn't feel claustrophobic. As I recall, we went only about 500 m. inside, but the cave goes much farther back than the guided tour does.
There was an incredible feeling of being face to face, almost, with the users of this cave 20K years ago. Where these people had had fires in one chamber, the charred rock at the back of the "fireplace" had been partially covered up by now-solid layers deposited by limestone drips over the eons*. It's impossible to describe the intellectual/emotional experience. It was one of the highlights of my life.
The first 2 links below treat the cave as if it were an amusement for cavers, but that doesn't do it justice. La Cueva de la Pileta is definitely accessible to able-bodied non-cavers who - I sincerely hope - plan to take it seriously: this is one of the only prehistoric caves which "mere mortals" can enter.
A much better explanation, although much is in Espanol: http://www.cuevadelapileta.org
*(My apologies to geologists for this unscientific description of the process.)
If you're from the U.S., going to the Cueva de la Pileta gives you the feeling of what it must have been like not long after they opened up Carlsbad Caverns to the pubic. The entrance is literally a cave in the side of a mountain and there's no electricity within so several tourists are asked to carry a lantern to provide light during the 1-hour tour. But the formations and prehistoric cave drawings make the entire experience worth it.
Tours leave approxiately on the hour and are limited to 25 people so you may have to wait if it's a busy day. Guides speak a variety of languages to give you the background of the cave (still family-owned and operated) and point out significant drawings and formations. You also drive through some pretty countryside to get there as well as the small town of Benaojan.