PUENTE NUEVO Ronda's New Bridge

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Why visit the Puente Nuevo?

You travel to Ronda to see the colossal Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). It alone is worth the journey. You won’t find another bridge like it anywhere else in the world. But its monolithic-like design and sheer strength is the result of a tragedy that occurred when the first bridge collapsed, killing 50 people.

The story of how Ronda crossed the deep chasm of the gorge and created such an iconic bridge is fascinating. Find out more below about the bridge’s history as well as the best viewpoints for photos.

History of Ronda’s New Bridge

Ronda's impressive New Bridge seen from the bottom of the gorge, Spain
New Bridge seen from the bottom of the gorge
© ESPAÑA GUIDE

For centuries, Ronda’s was prized for its strategic position. More than half of the settlement was protected by cliffs as tall as 100 meters. Once the Muslim Moors captured the city in 713 AD, they erected city walls around the perimeter that didn’t have natural protection from the vertical cliffs. For almost 800 years, the city was basically impenetrable.

That is, until Christian forces were able to successfully block access to the town’s water via a mine that the Moors had built. With that, an era in Ronda had come to an end but a new one had started. Lands were divided between knights and noblemen that had participated in the conquest. The city prospered. However, high taxes were imposed on those entering into the city walls and as a result, markets began to form outside of them.

It is at this point in the 15th century when Ronda’s strategic position above the Tajo gorge began to conflict with its need for expansion. Having a 100 meter high gorge is great for protection, but horrible if you need to cross to the other side for commerce.

The other side of the city was aptly named El Mercadillo (The Market). This new neighborhood saw the development of inns, taverns, hospitals and even the city’s bullring. During this time, the only way to cross from one side to the other was to descend down to the Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) located at the bottom of the gorge and then hike to the top on the other side. Understandably, this caused a lot of hardship for those wanting to cross.

Crossing the old bridge in Ronda, Spain
Crossing the Old Bridge in Ronda
© ESPAÑA GUIDE

A NEW BRIDGE

By the beginning of the 18th century, Ronda knew it had to construct a proper bridge at the top of the gorge. But how could they cross the gap? Until this time, only a few arches had been built that reached the 30m marker set by the Romans centuries earlier. However, the new bridge design called for a single arch that spanned 35m across – a very ambitious goal.

In 1735, after only 8 months of construction, the bridge opened. Unfortunately, only 6 years later, it came crashing down into the gorge below, killing 50 people. The collapse seems to have been caused by a lack of proper support. Back then, there weren’t calculations to determine what was actually needed for the construction and instead it was more of a trial and error basis.

This was one of the last bridges to be built before modern engineering began with the world's first engineering school, the École Royale des Ponts et Chaussées which opened its doors in 1747 in France. Spain wouldn’t see its first engineering school until 1802.

A NEW, NEW BRIDGE

It took several years for the inhabitants of Ronda to recover and even begin to think about building another bridge after such a traumatic event. Imagine knowing the people who had died and then seeing the rubble from the fallen bridge at the bottom of the gorge for so many years – it was a painful reminder. So when they finally started with the new Puente Nuevo that we see today, they didn’t want to take any chances. In fact, you could say that the underlying design was based on fear.

The architect José Martín de Aldehuela was selected to undertake the work on the bridge. Aldehuela was already famous for building cathedrals like the Malaga cathedral, and even the Bullring in Ronda. However, the main reason the city selected him was due to his immense experience in constructing an 11km long aqueduct to bring water to Malaga. If anyone knew how to construct solid arches, it was him.

Puente Nuevo seen from the Mirador de Aldehuela in Ronda, Spain
Puente Nuevo seen from the Mirador de Aldehuela
© ESPAÑA GUIDE

When work began on the new mammoth structure, a sophisticated set of pulleys and lifting equipment had to be developed to raise the quarried stones from the gorge below. Finally, in 1793, the 98m tall (300 ft) bridge was opened, 34 years after its construction began. It remained the tallest bridge in the world until 1839, when the Caille suspension bridge in France surpassed it.

In today’s Puente Nuevo we can see how the ravine was practically solidified all the way across. The main arch that crosses the river is only 15m wide. Unlike most bridges that have ever been built, the Puente Nuevo becomes one with its surrounding, including the riverbed. It’s almost difficult to see exactly where the cliff ends and the bridge begins. It’s no wonder why Ronda’s Puente Nuevo is such an icon. No bridge had been built like it before and it is highly unlikely anything will be built like it in the future.

Where Can You Get the Best Views of Ronda's Puente Nuevo?

Cuenca Gardens lookout in Ronda, Malaga
Cuenca Gardens lookout

If you want to take some amazing photos of Ronda’s New Bridge, you are in luck. There are several great vantage points to view the bridge and the surroundings. But the best viewpoint is from the bottom of the gorge. Here you can see the full magnitude of this grandiose construction.

To get to the bottom, you have two options:

  • The path to the bottom is called La Cuesta del Cachondeo. It starts at the Plaza de María Auxiliadora and zig-zags rapidly to the bottom of the gorge. There are several great vantage points along the way.
  • The other option is to drive or walk through the Moorish old town and then stay to the right once you leave the walled city through the Almocábar Gate. Follow the road along the town’s cliffside until you reach a small parking area.

In addition to the bottom of the gorge, there are also three main spots from the top that shouldn’t be missed. These are our favorite spots to admire the bridge from the top:

Hike Ronda's Perimeter

Hiking around Ronda, Malaga – Spain
Hiking around Ronda
© ESPAÑA GUIDE

If you like to hike, then it’s also possible to walk the entire outside perimeter of the walled town. It takes about 40 - 60 min one way. Start at the Cuenca Gardens and continue down to the Arab baths. From there, stay on the road (Calle Molino de Alarcón) until reaching the Almocábar Gate. Then, follow Calle del Prado which becomes Carretera de los Molinos in the last stretch.

Green countryside around Ronda, Spain
Green countryside around Ronda
© ESPAÑA GUIDE

If you don't mind the long walk, then we really recommend to do the entire perimeter – it’s simply beautiful. You will have the opportunity to enjoy great views of Ronda and the green hillside landscapes that surround it while listening to the birds singing and the cow bells in the background.

Also, instead of backtracking from the viewpoint at the bottom, you can follow the zig-zagging path (Cuesta del Cachondeo) back up to the Plaza de María Auxiliadora. It is much quicker and you will be rewarded with some more amazing views of the bridge.

Visit the Interior of the New Bridge

Apart from enjoying the New Bridge from different perspectives, it is also possible to visit its interior which is occupied by the Centro de Interpretación del Puente Nuevo (New Bridge Museum; 2€ entrance fee).

You can climb down and enter the structure of the bridge itself. There you will find information about the bridge’s construction and history as well as its relationship with the landscape, the city and the locals.

The museum is housed in a small chamber located in the center of the bridge just above the center arch. This room served as a prison throughout history. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) it is alleged that some inmates were tortured and thrown out of the window to the gorge below.

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