When you think of Spain, what are the first places that spring to mind? The fantastic cities of Barcelona, Madrid or Valencia? Perhaps some of the countries picturesque islands with the likes of Ibiza or Mallorca? These are all fantastic locations and worthy of any European trip itinerary, but Europe can get extremely busy with tourists during the summer months. If you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter to visit this summer that has all its original charm, character and beauty but without the hordes of travellers, I have just the place for you! The Pueblos Blancos, or White Villages, of Andalucia in southern Spain. This region is unspoilt and a real hidden gem. Let me share some of the most beautiful white villages in Andalucia that are a real must visit!
Los Pueblos Blancos, Spain – The Most Beautiful White Villages In Andalucia
Arcos de la Frontera
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding countryside, Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most popular and beautiful of the white villages in Andalucia. With its labyrinth of alleys snaking their way through the whitewashed houses and the historic architecture you’re met with at every turn, it’s difficult not to fall for the charm of this Pueblo Blanco.
The 11th century Moorish castle still stands in the centre of the village, looking out over the steep cliff face which drops down to the River Guadalete below. Now a private residence, you can’t visit inside the castle but the former home of the town magistrate directly adjacent to it is one of Spain’s Parador hotels which you can book a stay in. Parador’s are heritage monuments which were converted into accommodation by the Spanish Government as a way to keep these pieces of Spain’s history alive and create a sustainable means of tourism. This parador, Parador de Arcos offers some of the best views in the village! On one side is the central Plaza del Cabildo, another the gorge over the Guadalete and on the other a spectacular view towards the Mercedarias convent.
Make sure not to miss:
The Basilica de Santa María de la Asunción, the main church in Arcos de la Frontera (there are two) which sits on the site of a former Roman temple, which then became a mosque and is now a magnificent church.
Mirador de Abades which is one of the most photogenic spots in the village and offers fantastic views over the surrounding landscape! It’s also considered a romantic spot with a sign below the archway that says “Bésame en este arco” – Kiss me in this arch. With the views here, it’s not difficult to see why.
If you have time, I’d recommend a visit to the nearby Bodega Tesalia. You can explore the vineyards which have lovely views of the Sierra de Grazalema, learn about the winery and the production process and finish off by sampling some of the Tesalia wines with an aperitif.
A much smaller Pueblo Blanco, but just as lovely, is Bornos. I absolutely loved it here with the palace which sits in the centre of the village, just next to the market square and of course, the palace gardens! The Palacio de los Ribera was the summer residence of Philip III in Valladolid. It was built in the 17th century and if you climb to the top of the castle, you get to enjoy the best views in town. Make sure not to miss the gardens though, they were stunning. Built around the exterior of the palace, you get to enjoy the architecture paired with beautiful bougainvillea, roses and iris galore. Not to mention the only loggia in Andalucia in Pompeian style.This Renaissance style palace and gardens are not to be missed. Afterwards enjoy a coffee from Restaurante el Castillo which you can take across the road and enjoy sat in the shade of the square, right by the entrance to the gardens.
Ubrique is a lovely, quiet Pueblo Blanco. Nestled in the south-western province of Cádiz, Ubrique is famous locally for its leather production. You can visit the museum where you will be able to learn about its processes and discover how it is still the best-kept secret of the luxury fashion designers, the place where the worlds top designers like Dior, Lanvin and Gucci go to get their handbags and couture items made. Make sure to stroll along the back lanes which are draped in bougainvillea during the summer months and make your way towards the picturesque town square where you can stop by for a spot of lunch.
Zahara de la Sierra
Zahara de la Sierra was once described by the romantic British traveller Richard Ford as “a Moorish eagle’s nest” and when you see the village from afar, it most certainly does look that way, perched a top a mountain. Unsurprisingly, you will have a steep climb into the village, which thankfully is rewarded with brilliant views out over the nearby man made turquoise lake and a selection of good restaurants. Make sure to stop and treat yourself to a glass of something cold while you take in the charming views of the village too, you’ll have earnt it after the climb! This village dates back to the 13th century and as such, there’s a lot of character and charm. There are some lovely churches to enjoy, my favourite being the pastel pink baroque church of Santa Maris de la Mesa which was complete in 1779.
On the way back down, make sure to enjoy lunch or dinner at Meson Oñate Zahara which offers the best views in town, alongside truly fantastic homemade food!
Being one of the larger of the white villages in Andalucia, you will see Olvera from miles away. Right at the top of the village you’ll find Castillo de Olvera which dates to the late 12th century and the Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación church, which dominate the horizon. Both are impressive and not to be missed. Climb to the top of the castle and you’ll get the most amazing views out over the surrounding landscape. We visited at sunset and got to enjoy the most beautiful golden hour I’ve had in a while! For the €2 entrance fee, it’s unmissable. On the walk back down, make sure to wander some of the back lanes behind the church. This was the most beautiful part of the town and was adorned in flower baskets and bougainvillea, alongside views over the rolling fields which turned golden as the sun dipped below the horizon.
Setenil de las Bodegas
Of all the pueblos blancos in Andalucia, I think Setenil de las Bodegas might be my favourite. With its whitewashed houses built into the rock face, this village is quite unique. The town grew into a network of caves in the cliffs above the river Trejo and its fascinating to see these houses emerge from the rocks. Like the other white villages, there is a Moorish castle and church at its heart which to enjoy the best views of, climb the steep steps to Mirador Balcón De Setenil de las Bodegas where you’ll be treated to a wonderful sight.
Make sure not to miss:
Calle Cuevas del Sol or Cave Street of Sun, which is the main street in Setenil de las Bodegas and the best place to go for traditional Andalusian tapas. There’s loads of lovely restaurants to choose from, all nested into the rock. Take a seat underneath the overhanging rock face with views to the river below and enjoy some good local food!
Directly across the river from Calle Cuevas de Sol, wander across the bridge and you will be on Calle Cuevas de la Sombra or Cave Street of Shade. Built through the overhanging rock, this street is more of a tunnel, which is lined with lovely shops and cafes. You can pick up local food and delicacies as well as really good coffee along this street.
Villaluengo del Rosario
This is one of the smaller villages on this list but well worth a visit. Villaluengo del Rosario is famous for its incredibly unique cemetery, which is the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever laid eyes on! Built into the ruins of El Salvador church which was burnt down in 1808 by Napoleonic troops, this cemetery is absolutely laden with flowers and enjoys a stunning backdrop of the mountainous landscape in the distance. One of the most stunning elements of this unusual cemetery is the missing dome on the roof. The framework however, still remains and frames the sky above, which allows beautiful sunlight to stream down into the church/cemetery. It’s truly gorgeous and needs to be seen for yourself.
Elsewhere in the village there is the oldest bullring in Cadiz, a uniquely hexagonal bullring rather than the usual round structures which dates back to 1640. Before you leave, make sure to enjoy the panoramic views out over the village and surrounding landscape. The best mirador, or viewpoint, is Cancho Castillo.
How To Get To The Pueblos Blancos?
The biggest and closest airport is in Seville which is well linked to from airports all across Europe. Check out Omio for all the cheapest prices on airfare.
How To Get Around The White Villages In Andalucia?
Los Pueblos Blancos are off the beaten track which is what makes them so special! But, this also means public transport, although available, can take quite a bit longer. The best way by far to explore the white villages in Andalucia is by car, which gives you the flexibility to visit a number of these beautiful villages per day. If you arrive into Seville you will find numerous options available to hire a car and begin your Andalucian road trip. To save yourself time and money, I recommend taking a look at Sunny Cars so you can have a car rental ready to go when you land! They’re a great company who pride themselves on working with local rental companies and when you book through them all insurance is covered so you don’t have any of the usual hidden extras like with other companies! Plus, they offer free cancellation, always a bonus.
I hope this guide has given you the inspiration to enjoy a trip some place new! I’m always on the hunt for quieter places to visit in Europe during the summer months and this region of white villages in Andalucia really fits the bill. Let me know if you pay a visit or if you already have, is there anywhere else you would recommend I visit?