Thursday, 26 September 2019

The Route of the White Villages

Between the Atlantic in the west and the Mediterranean in the east, lies some of the prettiest hidden towns of Spain. If you are visiting or living in Andalucia, southern Spain, you cannot miss a trip to “pueblos blancos”, also known as white villages

They date back to the Romans and Moors, offer spectacular flora & fauna, historical walking routes and are havens for birds watchers & wildlife lovers. Although all the white villages may look the same, white and all, they each have their own characteristics and charms to experience and explore.

The “route of the white villages” is a tourist route that spreads from region of la Sierra, the region of Janda, in the province of Cadiz and the Serrania de Ronda, in the province of Málaga. The official route goes through many villages and towns but we will introduce the most popular ones.

1. Arcos de la Frontera. Gateway to the Pueblos Blancos. 

Sitting on a spectacular sheer cliff, Arcos de la Frontera is a picturesque town full of small reminders of its Arab inheritance. Its old town has been declared Property of Cultural Interest. Towers, churches and splendid viewpoints with views of the River Guadalete are just some of the countless attractions offered by this area. 

A few kilometres from the village is the lake Arcos, which offers the possibility of water sports and take a dip if the heat squeezes.

2. Grazalema: A High-Mountain Village in a Natural Park. 

Grazalema is a picturesque high-mountain village nestled in a valley and surrounded by the Parque Natural de Sierra de Grazalema. This expansive natural park covers more than 53,000 hectares and is listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, as well as a "special protection zone" for birds.

The rugged scenery of limestone mountains, pine forests, oak groves, and rushing rivers inspires outdoor activities. Favorite things to do at the Sierra de Grazalema nature reserve include hiking, fishing, and bird-watching.

3.  Zahara de la Sierra. 

The town is found in the heart of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, offering views of the valley that you can not miss.  The views are stunning and best appreciated from the look-out balconies or by climbing higher up to the Moorish castle. Zahara is also well known for its beautiful turquoise lake. The water that comes from mountain springs is clean and inviting and the reservoir is a popular venue for swimming in the summer months.

4. Setenil De Las Bodegas.

For many it is the most charming town of the route.What really drew attention to Setenil de las Bodegas is the town itself – the beautiful streets and its intriguing houses. The streets go down from the castle taking the path of the river and locals have learned to take advantage of the cliff that the river forms on the rock to build houses. This type of housing is known as “abrigo bajo rocas” (rock shelters) and in contrast to other Andalusian constructions (for instance the caves in el Sacromonte de El Albayzín) it is not carved into the rock, instead the walls are enclosed by the rock and then made into houses. Quite an impressive and ingenious way to get close to nature.

5. Ronda 

Ronda is one of Spain’s oldest towns and the name comes from its position surrounded by mountains. It’s been inhabited by Romans and Moors and you can feel history all around you in its cobbled streets, old mansions and stone churches. The town is perched precariously on top of a cliff with views of rolling hills and Andalusia’s white villages. It’s the hilltop location that’s made Ronda famous.

It was a big favourite with the 19th century Viajeros Romanticos, aka the romantic travellers. Orson Welles, Alexander Dumas and Ernest Hemingway all loved Ronda and spent their summers here. Hemingway even said “Ronda is the place to go if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon… the whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set”.
The town also has one of Spain’s oldest bullrings, which is allegedly the home of modern bullfighting.

6. Casares

More about Casares you can find in our previous post HERE