The white villages of Cádiz: a magical route through the Sierra de Grazalema

Some of the most beautiful villages of Andalusia are hidden in the heart of the province  of Cádiz and surrounded by the Sierra de Grazalema. In these villages, humankind and nature hold hands and whitewashed facades shine among mountainous landscapes with  water and vegetation. There are 19 towns that make up the route of the white villages of  Cádiz. In the following lines, we are going to have a look at the most remarkable ones, but any traveller should consider exploring them all. They are all white, charming destinations, but so different too! 

The most beautiful white villages of Cádiz

There are countless fascinating places to see in Cádiz, but these white villages are special  either because they have an interesting past, they are surrounded by unique landscapes, or because they  reflect the essence of Andalusia. Choosing among the 19 is difficult because they all  deserve a leisurely visit, as it has been previously mentioned, but when being short on  time we are somehow forced to choose, so let’s go over the most beautiful white villages of Cádiz.

Arcos de la Frontera

Panoramic view of Arcos de la Frontera

Panoramic view of Arcos de la Frontera. | Shutterstock

Arcos de la Frontera proudly rises over the landscape as it is placed on a hill  over a meander of the Guadalete River. There could be no better gateway to this route  through the white villages of Cádiz. Arcos de la Frontera is a unique symbol of vertigo as we can see some of its architectural treasures from a distance. The Castillo de los  Duques, which is an ancient Arab fortress, the church of San Pedro, with its robust but  elegant tower, or the minor basilica of Santa María de la Asunción, of Mudejar origin. 

In fact, this basilica is the center of the Plaza del Cabildo and it is possibly the best  viewpoint of the town too. However, following those narrow streets of pristine facades in the heart of Arcos de la Frontera, we will reach other viewpoints that are also worth seeing, like the Abades, San Agustin or Peña Vieja. 


Olvera, a beautiful white village of Cádiz

Olvera. | Shutterstock

Like most of these villages, Olvera is a white village that guards its surroundings from above. In this case, not from a hill but from three hills, and two of them are crowned by  magnificent buildings. Its Moorish castle stands on one of them: a watchtower from  which we can contemplate how the whitewashed houses climb over the hill to almost  touch the castle. The imposing church of the Encarnación, from the 18th century, stands  on the other hill. 

Olvera is formed of whitewashed houses but also of narrow and staggered streets like the ones of the neighborhood of the Villa. Its streets reflect a small urban chaos that recalls  its Muslim past, of which, in addition to the castle, part of the wall is preserved. All of  this is surrounded by olive groves that spread to the horizon. 

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas, one of the most beautiful white villages of Cádiz

Setenil de las Bodegas. | Shutterstock

This village is located on a rock; on its slopes and under it. The urban plan of Setenil  de las Bodegas seems almost unbelievable, as it was made just to adapt the  village to the crescent-shaped Trejo River. Its ancient Almohad fortress and the  church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación stand out over the landscape from the top of  the promontory and, if we climb the hillside up to reach them, we will be able to see how  those white houses look like stars.

But you need to get lost in its narrow streets to feel the essence of this town and discover  why Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the most beautiful villages of Cádiz. In no other  village you could walk, literally, under the hill. In some cases, this hill doesn’t even let  the light in. Moreover, it hides another special feature of this town: cave houses. 


Main square of Grazalema

Main square of Grazalema. | Shutterstock

Grazalema was built surrounded by the crags of the mountain range it took its name from. Like few others, Grazalema is an idyllic place which can be admired from the viewpoints  of the Asomaderos and Los Peñascos.  

Although it is a great starting point to explore the paths that go over the range,  Grazalema is not only landscapes. Grazalema is history which can be admired in its main  square, where the church of Nuestra Señora de la Aurora stands. Moreover, a medieval  fountain can be discovered there. Grazalema is also gastronomy, and it is known thanks  to its most famous products: honey and goat cheese. 

Zahara de la Sierra

Panoramic view of Zahara de la Sierra

Panoramic view of Zahara de la Sierra. | Shutterstock

Zahara de la Sierra has all the key points to be considered one of the most beautiful white villages of Cádiz. Its houses climb up a hill but do not reach the mighty 12th century  Nasrid fortress which even in ruins impresses and overlooks the landscape of the Sierra  de Grazalema. The path is steep and even exhausting at some points, but the views with  the reservoir at the foothill remain etched in memory forever.  

In addition, you should not miss the Baroque church of Santa Maria de Mesa, the chapel  of San Juan Letrán or the clock tower. What is more, if the heat rises and becomes stifling, the turquoise waters of the reservoir of Zahara-el Gastor are perfect for cooling off. In  fact, the town has a charming artificial beach that comes in handy. 


View of Ubrique from above

View of Ubrique from above. | Shutterstock

This village has an extraordinary location. The white houses of Ubrique are joined  together under the protection of the Peñón de la Becerra and among two natural  parks, the Sierra de Grazalema and Los Alcornocales. But that is not all because Ubrique  can boast much more. The remains of the ancient city of Ocuri and an ancient road of  Roman origin are still preserved. On the other hand, from its Arab past, there is still  preserved its occasionally chaotic urban layout, as well as the remains of an ancient castle. 

Architectural jewels were built centuries later, such as the church of Santa María de la O and the convent of Capuchinos, which nowadays hosts an exhibition dedicated to the  other treasure of Ubrique: leather craftsmanship. 

The treasures of Cádiz are these 19 white villages: 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, Zahara de la Sierra and Algar. One dream after  another.  

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