The full natural drama of RONDA, rising amid a ring of dark, angular mountains, is best appreciated as you enter the town. Built on an isolated ridge of the sierra, it's split in half by a gaping river gorge, El Tajo, which drops sheer for 130m on three sides. Still more spectacular, the gorge is spanned by a stupendous eighteenth-century arched bridge, the Puente Nuevo, while tall, whitewashed houses lean from its precipitous edges.
While much of the attraction of Ronda lies in this extraordinary view, or in walking down by the Río Guadalévin, following the donkey tracks through the rich green valley, the town has a number of museums and, surprisingly, has sacrificed little of its character to the flow of day-trippers from the Costa del Sol.
Ronda's old town, the Ciudad retains intact its Moorish plan, and its houses are interspersed with fine Renaissance mansions. It is so intricate a maze that you can do little else but wander at random. At its centre, on the picturesque Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, the cathedral church of Santa María La Mayor (daily 10am–7pm; 3) was originally a mosque. Externally, it's a graceful combination of Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance styles with the belfry built on top of the old minaret. Slightly west on c/Montero lies the fourteenth-century Casa de Mondragón, the palace of the Moorish kings (Mon– Fri 10am–7pm, Oct– March until 6pm, Sat & Sun 10am–3pm; 3).
Other highlights include the two old town bridges, the Puente Viejo of 1616 and the single-span Moorish Puente de San Miguel. Nearby, on the southeast bank of the river, are the distinctive hump-shaped cupolas and glass roof-windows of the old Baños Árabes (Mon– Fri 10am–7pm, Sat 10am–1.45pm, Sun 10am–3pm; 2, free on Sun). Dating from the thirteenth century and recently restored, the complex is based on the Roman system of cold, tepid and hot baths and is wonderfully preserved; note the sophisticated barrel-vaulted ceiling and brickwork octagonal pillars supporting horseshoe arches.