Setenil de las Bodegas is a unique white village of Andalucia because of its unusual location. Whilst all the other fortified villages in the county are situated on top of hills, Setenil de las Bodegas has been built inside the canyon carved by river Trejo. The village is famous for the houses inside the caves, carved into the cliffs above the river. Located in Cadiz province, visiting Setenil de las Bodegas is a wonderful unique experience that will give you a taste of something different that Andalucia has to offer. There are many things to do in Setenil de las Bodegas, from visiting a 12th century castle to enjoying the local cuisine at a cave restaurant.
How to get to Setenil de las Bodegas
Getting to Setenil de las Bodegas from Malaga is pretty straight forward, on a fast road. The 96 km trip takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on the traffic. Most of the times I drove to this part of the country, the roads were pretty empty and pleasurable to drive. Currently there are road works on A367, so speed restrictions apply. This particular road is not in a very good condition right now.
From Malaga, follow the A35 until just after Ardales, then merge onto A367 towards Ronda until reaching Cuevas del Becero, where you till take the regional MA 414 road. Below you can see a detailed map of the route which you can save on your GPS.
Where to park in Setenil de las Bodegas
Even if Setenil de las Bodegas has a challenging landscape, you don’t need to be a professional driver to navigate through it. There are two parking spaces that I recommend both free of charge.
The first parking place in Setenil de las Bodegas is on the hill behind the village, where you will find a few spaces on the side of the road. This is the GPS location for it. Be aware however that in high season they will be the first ones to go, as they are so accessible. Beware that the drive here is steep, and the curves are very tight.
The second parking area in Setenil de las Bodegas is just off the centre of the village, on a narrow street. This is the GPS location for it. There are always plenty of empty spaces here.
You can also park off road, before the roundabout which marks the entrance to the village, but I personally never had to, as I always found a spot (except during the carnival).
What to do in Setenil de las Bodegas
Even if Setenil de las Bodegas is a small village, there are plenty of things to do, besides just taking a photo of the houses carved inside the rocks.
Wander around the rock covered streets
Most of the tourists who come to Setenil are visiting the village just for a limited time and don’t adventure themselves on the narrow, beautiful streets beyond the main Calle de las Cuevas, where the most popular cave restaurants are.
I challenge you to walk further and explore more, discovering caves that you can visit but also glimpses of the local life, such as laundry out for drying over the streets, houses decorated with the most colourful pots of flowers, or friendly cats sleeping in the sun. You can easily spend a couple of hours just wondering around the streets.
Visit the Arab Castle
The Arab Castle from Setenil de las Bodegas was built during the 12th century, during the Almohad Caliphate occupation. During its glory times, the castle used to have 40 towers, out of which only one remains today. The Nazari Castle from Setenil de las Bodegas was very hard to conquer, taking the Christian troops of the Kingdom of Castile over seven attempts to finally seize it from the Moors, from 1407 to 1484. As very little is left from the 13th century, it is hard to imagine how the fortification used to look like back then.
From the rooftop of the castle you can admire beautiful views over the village and the entire valley around it. It costs 1 euro to visit the tower.
Enjoy the viewpoints of Setenil
I have mentioned above that one of the most beautiful viewpoints of Setenil is from the top of the tower of the Nazari Castle. Another great viewpoint overlooking the village, the valley, as far as Olvera – which is 15 kilometres away, is located on top of the hill, above the village. Click here for its exact location.
For a special viewpoint of Setenil de las Bodegas, head over to this bridge, from where you will see the river passing by through the houses climbing up and up, on the hill.
See the churches of Setenil de las Bodegas
Even if Setenil de las Bodegas only has 3000 inhabitants, there are five churches in the village. The most important one is the church of Our Lady of the Incarnation, built on top of the old mosque. It has a gothic architecture featuring elements from the Renaissance and is located near the Arab Castle. The interior of the Our Lady of the Incarnation church is all white, with a statue of the crucifixion above the altar, daring from the 17th century. The church is free to visit.
Other church worth visiting is the beautiful but very small Eremita San Benito.
Enjoy the local cuisine
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Setenil is sit down at one of the restaurants underneath the rocks and delight yourself with the local cuisine. Cold meats, pork dishes, asparagus revueltos, or sweet potato with honey are some of the local dishes you can enjoy at the restaurants in Setenil. The traditional local dish of Setenil de las Bodegas is the sopa cortijera, a wild asparagus soup enriched with hard boiled eggs, chorizo, rustic bread and paprika. It is a warming comfort dish for cold days.
Drive the gorgeous road between Setenil and Olvera
Olvera is only 15 kilometres away from Setenil, but the drive to it can’t be more spectacular. The road follows the river deep into the heart of the canyon, only to go back up on the side of hills planted with olive trees.
This road is to be slowly driven and admired. And, with speed limits that often go as low as 30 km/hours, enjoying this drive is not hard to do at all.
Visit the nearby ruins of Acinipo
Acinipo is a hidden gem that nobody knows about. These roman ruins are just 10 minutes’ drive away from Setenil and are free to visit. It is believed that Acinipo was founded by the Roman soldiers more than 2000 years ago. Even if there is not much left today and your imagination must work hard to imagine the entire town, the amphitheatre still stands tall, almost intact.
Anicipo is not open every day, so make sure you check the schedule on Facebook before you visit. There is plenty of free parking in front of the gates. The kind guard will explain what Acinipo was and guide you to which path to take and what to pay attention at along the way.
Don’t be shy and take a few extra steps, behind the theatre, to look at the view. It’s stunning!
Where to eat in Setenil de las Bodegas
I stopped by at Bar Frasquito, one of the restaurants inside the caves, on the main road of Setenil. As it was a beautiful day, I decided to sit outside, watching the people pass by.
I ordered tapas and an alcohol-free beer, as I was driving. For three tapas and 2 drinks, the bill came somewhere at around 9 euros. The tapas were large and came with a side of fries as well.
This is a lovely place with good food that I highly recommend for a filling lunch. Do come early though, as once the buses with tourists arrive, there won’t be any space left at any of the cave restaurants. Unfortunately, Setenil de las Bodegas seems to be on a touristic bus routes and around midday can get pretty busy.
Where to stay in Setenil de las Bodegas
Being a small village, in Setenil de las Bodegas you won’t find massive hotels. Most of the accommodation options will be small B&Bs or holiday homes. You can find plenty of homes that are carved inside the rocks, where you can experience how it is to live in a cave house. Some of them even have Jacuzzi’s in the bathrooms, where you can enjoy a nice relaxation session after a day of walking up and down the narrow streets of the village. You can check out the options by clicking on the link below.
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