White towns (or Pueblos Blancos in Spanish) are well known for their unique beauty and spectacular settings – invariably hilltop locations, with the small whitewashed houses huddled around a ruined castle.

 

The mountains dotted with white towns are a sight to behold.

The White Towns of Andalucía, or los Pueblos Blancos in Spanish, are one of the most famous attractions in Andalucía in the south of Spain. The mountains dotted with pretty white towns are a sight to behold.

The white towns (Pueblos Blancos) in inland Andalucía are well known for their unique beauty and spectacular settings – invariably hilltop locations, with the small whitewashed houses, richly decorated with colourful flowerpots, huddled around a ruined castle. All white towns have a lively village square near the church, with many restaurants and cosy terraces shaded with orange trees.

EL GASTOR is a pretty white town with a central square and pretty church.

White towns: EL GASTOR central square and pretty church.

White towns: EL GASTOR central square and pretty church.

Although many famous white towns (Pueblos Blancos) are in the Malaga province, the Cadiz province has its’ fair share. Often the names of these white towns (Pueblos Blancos) in Cadiz are testament to the towns´ significant past as settlements built to defend the respective territories of the Christians and the Muslims; the frequently seen suffix “de la frontera” of a white towns place name refers to its historical border position.

Some examples of lovely white towns:

El gastor

The white town of El Gastor is just off the main road north-west from Ronda to Algodonales and a few kilometres from Zahara de la Sierra. It is also known as the ‘Balcony of the White Villages’ because from the two mountain peaks in its municipality, El Algarín and Las Grajas, there are magnificent views of other little white towns in the area and the surrounding countryside.

El Gastor street with colourful flowerpots everywhere.

White towns: Typical street of a white village with colourful flowerpots everywhere.

White towns: Typical street of a white village with colourful flowerpots everywhere.

El Gastor is a very pretty white town. The villagers are exceptionally friendly. In El Gastor you will find several bars and restaurants and some small village shops (a bakery, fishmongers, butchers and fruit and vegetable shop). A great place is the municipal swimming pool , with a lot of space to relax with gorgeous views over the area. Here is also a restaurant.

The white town has a small museum dedicated to local arts and crafts, and… to Jose María Hinojosa, ‘El Tempranillo’, Andalusia’s most famous bandolero, who was a former resident of the village.

Nearby is a dolmen dating back to neolithic times, ‘El Dolmen del Gigante’. It is the largest dolmen of Andalusia, and it is composed by great vertical orthostatst and menolithic coverings in good state of conservation.
The immediate surrounding area is famous for great walking.

Very special is the religious celebration of Corpus Christi (June), when the whole white village is carefully decorated with flowers and plants.

Corpus Christi is a special religious celebration in all the white towns.

White towns: Corpus Christi in El Gastor white village

White towns: Corpus Christi in El Gastor white village

Zahara de la Sierra

The white town of Zahara de la Sierra has one of the most stunning settings in the province of Cadiz, if not the whole of Andalucia. This lovely ‘pueblo blanco’ offers great views across the lake and a stunning hilltop castle (well worth the hike).

Perched on a hill this white town overlooks the lake Pantano de Zahara (Zahara reservoir).

ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA a pretty white village in a stunning setting.

ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA a pretty white village in a stunning setting.

The white town, with land covering a total of over 70 km2, is built on the sides of the hill whose height ranges between 300m and 1100m. The name of the town, which has about 1500 inhabitants, known as ‘Zahareños’, probably comes from the Arab word ‘sahra’, meaning desert.

The lake is in fact a reservoir. It is amid mountains and it is deep; the mountains of Grazalema being the closest and the main supplier of the water. The reservoir, which is relatively new, has made the town even more popular with visitors. No wonder that you will find many holiday villas in this beautiful area in Andalucía, with stunning views of the lake.
The lake of Zahara offers many opportunities to enjoy like kayaking, stand up paddling, and swimming at its artificial beach located in “Arroyomolinos Recreational Area”. There are lifeguards, six hectares of lush gardens with barbecue pits and a cafe-bar/restaurant. Just below the town is an area to park the car and walk by the reservoir. You can hire Kayaks to go out on the lake.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the main center of this lovely white town, as well as a small local shops and Tourist Info. There is a very good restaurant, ‘Al Lago’, above the road which skirts the bottom of the village; it has a nice terrace overlooking the lake. There is a bakery in the main plaza of the white town of Zahara de la Sierra, that offers whole wheat and rye breads if ordered slightly in advance.

If you continue along the road from Zahara towards (eventually!) another one of the white towns, Grazalema, – a stunning drive – you will find El Vinculo, a restored and working olive mill with a small museum and shop at the rear. The oil is renowned as being one of the very best. It comes nicely packaged and makes a good gift to take back home.

Further along this road you will find the entrance to the walk of the Garganta Verde. If you’re feeling fit, it really is breathtakingly beautiful (you need a permit from the Tourist Info prior to visiting). Walking into the gorge is easy enough … coming back out takes a little more effort, so take some water with you.
Zahara, as El Gastor, has a spectacular Corpus Christi celebration end of June, which attracts visitors from all over Spain. In summer, a bull run in the streets of the white village attracts many spectators too.

Grazalema

Located in a valley high in the mountains, over 800m, in the Sierra del Endrinal and dominated by the magnificent rocky outcrop known as Peñon Grande, the pretty white town of Grazalema is a very popular base for visitors to the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

The white town of Grazalema offers nice bars and restaurants, small supermarkets, bakeries, post office, banks, souvenir shops, etc, and the Neilson international art gallery.

It is well-preserved and sits amidst stunning scenery.

Grazalema Natural Park is a vast protected area of rugged limestone mountains.

Grazalema Natural Park is a vast protected area of rugged limestone mountains.

The park is a vast protected area of rugged limestone mountains, a Unesco Bioreserve park. This area is famous for having the rainiest spot in Spain. The high levels of precipitation account for the verdant vegetation in the surrounding countryside. The limestone peaks of 1,500m around Grazalema are the first barriers that clouds from the Atlantic meet, causing plentiful rainfall. A unique microclimate has developed where a wide range of flora flourishes, such as the rare Spanish fir (pinsapo) that grows in the Sierra de Pinar close to Grazalema.

This unique spot with plenty of rain does not mean however, that you can expect a lot of rain in and around Grazalema during spring, summer and autumn; the white village has to import lots of water every year, to have enough to last until the next winter.

Setenil de las Bodegas

Named after its once flourishing wineries – bodegas – Setenil is probably unique among the pueblos blancos, white towns, of Andalucia. Where most white townss were built on protective bluffs and pinnacles, this town grew out of a network of caves in the cliffs above the rio Trejo north-west of Ronda.

These interesting cave-dwellings nowadays attract many tourists.

SETENIL DE LAS BODEGAS a white village with cave dwellings

SETENIL DE LAS BODEGAS a white village with cave dwellings

The white town of Setenil de las Bodegas is home to around 3,000 people; it is located beneath a giant rock. The natural caves of Setenil turned out to be ideal living quarters because rather than needing to build entire houses to keep out the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter, all they needed to build was a facade. Its blinding white houses seem to emerge from the rocks, and some have rock roofs and even olive groves on their roofs.
Setenil’s bars, restaurants and food shops are widely regarded as being the best in the region.

There has been a human settlement here since at least the Arabic Almohad period in the twelfth century. Given the evidence of other nearby cave-dwelling societies, such as those at the Cueva de la Pileta west of Ronda, where habitation has been tracked back more than 25,000 years, it is possible that Setenil was occupied much earlier. Most evidence of this however has been erased in its continued habitation. It was certainly occupied during the Roman invasion of the region in the first century AD.

Olvera

There has been a human settlement on the site of the white town of Olvera for more than two thousand years. Archaeological findings suggest this verdant agricultural region north-east of Ronda was an important area for settlement as far back as the Palaeolithic era, at least twelve thousand years ago.

The white town was founded during the Phoenician and Roman periods; the latter calling it either Hippa or Hippo Nova. Its first appearance in history is in the 1st century ACE History of Pliny. You can still visit the amazing Cathedral and its’ restored castle.

OLVERA has an amazing cathedral and a restored castle.

OLVERA has an amazing cathedral and a restored castle.

Like much of the Iberian Peninsula, the area was overrun by Visigoths from the Baltic region in the 5th century ACE, and they were themselves expelled by Berber armies from north Africa in the 9th century. The Berbers, roughly termed as ‘Moors’ in most histories of Spain, began construction of the town, which they called Wubira, or possibly Uriwila, as a defensive garrison that they managed to hold on to under the rule of Granada’s Nasrid rulers until the town fell to the Christian conquistadores in 1327.

Places of interest in Los Pueblos Blancos

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