Exploring the „pueblos blancos“ – the white villages of Andalucia

JUAN MARTINEZ

August 14, 2021

Exploring the „pueblos blancos“ – the white villages of Andalucia

Quiet, simple and extremely beautiful, the white villages of Andalucia deserve a visit on its own.

Andalucia is unlike any other place in Europe. It’s an enchanting combination of middle eastern influences and Mediterranean culture. It is a place where travelers come looking for sun and beaches, but end up staying because of its rich culture, mouth-watering food and welcoming Andalucian hospitality. And while the cities of Malaga, Seville and Granada attract most of the travelers due to their easy access and plenty of things to do, those who step a bit out of their comfort zone and explore its rural landscapes will find villages and towns that make you believe, you are being part of a fairy tale.

These are the white villages of Andalucia, also known as “pueblos blancos”.

door in Andalucia - pueblos blancos
Middle eastern influence is still visible everywhere you go in Andalucia

Today’s beauty rose up from a dark past

There is a unique charm in wandering around at the labyrinthic and steep alleys of a “pueblo blanco”. Everywhere you look, whitewashed houses adorned with colorful flowers, restaurants offering Spanish delicacies, and shops selling cute presents, invite you to explore more and get lost. You feel the magic in the air and the warm temperatures makes you want to stay there forever.

However, what today is a symbol of beauty and the perfect postcard photograph, was some centuries ago a way to prevent death. The origin of whitewashing the facades dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. It was a period full of successive epidemics of plague, yellow fever or typhus, which force the inhabitants of the towns to whitewash the facades of their houses.

People considered whitewashing their houses with limestone would prevent them from getting sick, and for many centuries it became a symbol of hygiene.

But don’t worry. The plague, yellow fever and typhus are gone long time ago, while the beautiful architecture of this period of history stayed. Today, many of the white villages of Andalucia are considered UNESCO heritage sites and a symbol of proud and beauty in whole Spain.

White houses in a pueblo blanco in Andalucia
Whitewashed facades became very popular in southern Spain some centuries ago

Traveling along the “Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos”

I visited several white villages for first time this Summer. My travel partner and I were looking for places to go on a road trip from Seville and exploring the countryside of Andalucia seemed to be the best way to spend some quiet days.

With not much time to explore and with the idea of discovering something different, we came across the “Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos”. This is the most popular road trip for traveling the white villages and a journey Andalucians are very proud of. The route covers 19 different white villages and it can be traveled by private vehicle or bus, as well by bicycle. Furthermore, travelers looking to explore only one or two of these villages can easily pack them on a day trip and get a good glimpse of the beauty of these towns.

Setenil de la Serrania street under a rock
The “Rura de los pueblos blancos” is well known all over Spain

The whole route covers following towns:

Arcos de La Frontera, Bornos, Espera, Villamartín, Algodonales, El Gastor, Olvera, Torre Alháquime, Setenil de las Bodegas, Alcalá del Valle, Prado del Rey, El Bosque , Ubrique, Benaocaz, Villaluenga del Rosario, Grazalema, Benamahoma, Vejer de la Frontera and Zahara de la Sierra.

And while visiting each one of these places is probably an experience of a lifetime, I ended up exploring 3 beautiful towns that fully caught my attention and left me going back home with a smile.

Zahara de la Sierra from the air - white villages in Andalucia
Most pueblos blancos are located on hilltops

Ronda

Ronda overlooks the Andalucian landscape - white villages in Andalucia
Ronda’s picturesque houses on top of a hill

Split in half by the majestic “El Tajo” gorge and connected by an even more impressive bridge, Ronda offers some of the best views in whole Andalucia. It is one of the most scenic places for hiking, as well a good spot for spending the night, eat some tapas and enjoy a cold drink before sunset.

There is a reason why Ronda is the third most visited spot in whole southern Spain and if you only have time to explore one single white village, Ronda is the place to go.

Read more: Traveling in Seville, Europe’s most underrated hidden gem

Ronda's famous bridge
Ronda’s famous bridge

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas under a rock - white villages in Andalucia
Some streets of Setenil de las Bodegas are litteraly under a rock

While Ronda impresses travelers with its views and its massive bridge, Setenil de las Bodegas will leave you wonder how people decided to settle here.

Surrounded by a gorgeous mountain landscape and with some part located literally under a rock, Setenil de las Bodegas is weird, but at the same time outstanding. It is an unusual place full of magic and charm.

Read more: Visiting the extraordinary villages of Alberobello and Matera in Italy

Streets at Setenil de las Bodegas
It is very easy to get lost at Setenil de las Bodegas

Zahara de la Sierra

View of Zahara de la Sierra with a drone
View of Zahara de la Sierra with a drone

Firstly set as a Moorish outpost overlooking the valley, the town of Zahara de la Sierra is one of the most beautiful hidden gems of Spain.

Its beauty is simply outstanding. Not only because of the surrounding sapphire blue lake, or its unique architecture of all-white buildings, or the impressive castle on top of the mountain. Its beauty relies on having all three in a single place.

Read more: Road Trip in Northern Catalunya and Andorra

Sunset view from Zahara de la Sierra
Sunset view from Zahara de la Sierra

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