The sun-drenched white villages near Seville are perched on steep mountain sides, a strategic ploy of the Moors, who founded them. Mostly situated at vantage points high up on the slopes for protection from invaders, these villages now portray the traditional way of how people survived in a stunning but hostile environment.
Today, as these well-loved villages, known in Spanish as “Pueblos Blancos”, shimmer brightly under the Andalucian sun, their meticulously white-washed exteriors provide a dazzling contrast to the surroundings and especially to the beautiful colored flowers that fill either side of the narrow streets.
Apart from offering a pretty facade, these villages were painted white for two reasons, both practical and political. While the bright white colour proved effective in warding off the strong rays of the sun in summer and kept the houses cool, the decision to use lime in the entire region was to forge a sense of unity between the Moorish pueblos.
Located between Malaga, Granada and Cadiz, you can find a surprising number of such villages with a laid-back vibe and all within easy reach of each other, just beckoning to be explored. So here is a quick run-down of some of the best.
A visit to some of the charming white villages near Seville, in southern Spain makes for a very interesting road trip in Europe and is one of the top attractions in Andalucia. If you are planning a trip to Spain, this is one of the most beautiful regions to explore.
Grazalema, Sierra de Grazalema Parque Natural
Grazalema is a great place to stay for a night or two and sample the many attractions that lie within the park. The lovely white village is located on the south side of the Sierra de Grazalema at an elevation of 800m and is said to be the wettest place in Spain. The wealth generated by the woollen industry, founded by the Berbers, has allowed the wool merchants to build fine houses, which in return has made Grazalema a thriving tourist destination.
The first thing that strikes the visitors are the high 1500m limestone crags towering over the village on three sides of which Penon Grande is the highest.The second impression is of the white buildings, decked with flower baskets in a degree of uniformity that blends with the atmosphere of the village. Grazalema sits in the province of Cadiz and is a forty minutes drive from Ronda.
Zahara de la Sierra
As you drive along the A376 road from Seville to Ronda about 16 km north of Grazalema, you will spot a castle built on a highly rocky peak and the turquoise blue waters of a lake below.Here you will find the whitewashed village of Zahara de la Sierra sprawled beneath the rock on which the castle is erected.
Declared a historic site in 1983, a walk through the villages will take you to the main attraction of Zahara, the 13th century castle which affords spectacular views of the beautiful countryside below. Another feature of Zahara is the Church of Santa Maria de la Mesa and its star attraction, the main altarpiece. There are some great food and accommodation options in Zahara de la Sierra, with a number of tapas bars vying for attention from the tourists.
Moron de la Frontera
Many first time visitors will be vowed to a place like Moron de la Frontera simply because of the unique things you can do in this lovely Spanish destination. It does not take long to walk around the village and all you need is a useful map and a guide from the tourist office to show you around.
Set in a geographically rich agricultural region between the Guiadaira and Guadalete rivers, the gleaming white town is full of houses and palaces which reveal the splendors of the historic past. The evidence of the rich history of the village is evident in the historic monuments of Church of la Victoria and the hermitage of Nuestro Padre Jesus de la Calzada.
Steeped in history, Carmona is a beautiful white village in Andalucia which can be accessed by four Roman entrance gates. Park your car outside Puerta de Cordoba and walk through Puerto de Seville. A sight worth visiting here is the astounding 16th century Gothic church, Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asunción. As you wander down the streets, make sure you do not forget to visit the Plaza de Abastos square and the Roman amphitheater.
Carmona makes for an ideal day trip from Seville as it lies just 33 km north of the city. The village lies on a ridge which overlooks the peak of San Cristobal. The village stands out with its traces left behind by past cultures such as the Arab fortress, Alcazar del Rey Don Pedro. Carmona is also known for its gastronomic delights with succulent dishes of Sevillian and Andalusian tradition on the menu.
Arcos de la Frontera
This is another gorgeous Pueblo Blanco known for its ancient and Moor architecture and the famous arcs. Dramatically positioned over the Guadalete River, the village’s steep winding streets start uphill from the river banks.The village buildings are a unique mix of Moorish, Roman and Baroque architecture.
From the banks you can reach Plaza del Cabildo, the most important square in the old town and a fifteen minutes walk from the car park. The lookout point is an important church in Arcos, the Basilica de Santa Maria de la Asunción. The view point is a bit further down from the town center at Mirador de Abades. A wonderful place to eat local tapas and enjoy refreshing drinks in the middle of a hot day.
Setenil de la Bodegas
The rocky village of Setenil de la Bodegas, unlike most of the other white villages in the region which are built on a hill, is located on a gorge with most of the houses carved directly into the rocks, presenting a truly surreal sight. In fact, there are some houses which are totally covered by rocks, particularly on the streets of Cuevas del Sol and Cuevas de la Sombra.
Another worthwhile feature here is a stroll to the Calle Herreria, an iconic photo spot for couples and lovers.The village is not very large and tends to look crowded, so come here on a weekday or early in the morning. The village is a short thirty minutes drive from Ronda, but driving into the town centre is not recommended. Instead park at Parking CP Plus, from where you can reach the heart of the town in minutes.
A perennial tourist favorite, the stunning white village of Olvera, with its church and castle, towers over the countryside like a picture out of a fairytale. The two main attractions of Olvera are the Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion, the parish church and Castello de Olvera, the Arab fortress, which provides the best views of the countryside around Olvera.
Olvera is only a 25 minutes drive from Setenil de las Bodegas and plenty of free parking is available at Calle Buenavista quite easily. A few minutes by a staircase from Plaza Andalucia is another great vantage point for photos on top of Monumento al Sagrado Corazon.
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Noted for its production of vegetables, the 790m high village of Benaocaz dates back to the 8th century. Here in the upper parts of the historic town of Barrio Nazari, visitors can still explore ruined houses and the flight of steps which prevailed in the Moorish era. Some important attractions here are the Town Hall, the parish church of San Pedro and Ermitas San Blas. If you enjoy hiking, head to the Monte Taillo for surreal views of Sierra de Cadiz.
Benaocaz village sits on the A 374 highway in an area that is perfect for those who want to enjoy a perfect vacation among some of the best hiking and cycling destinations near Seville. The name of the town dates back to the Moors with Ben meaning ‘Son of’. This historic site includes the beautiful Aznalmara Castle dating back to the 13th century.
Located just an hour and forty five minutes drive from Seville and one hour and thirty minutes from the Malaga airport, the white town of Ronda is one of the most visited in Andalucia. It enjoys a spectacular location on the edge of the El Tajo gorge that separates the city from the old town and the new town, thereby providing countless photo opportunities of the surrounding countryside.
Ronda is also accessible by train, but the road trip from inland or further down the coast is absolutely fascinating. Ronda is small and can be explored on foot and additionally has a large underground car park just outside the historical centre. The visits can be visited on foot, and a single day is enough to see all the points of interest.
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