Andalucia: a place where the sounds of guitar and flamenco still resonate, a region where the corrida (bull fighting) agitates the spirits and where the numerous religious fiestas create a never ending vibrant atmosphere.
But behind these clichés lies a lesser known Andalucia. Deep within the valleys or high perched on a mountain top lie the numerous white villages of Andalucia, hidden from the madness of the coast! This is the Andalucia I love, the place I return to over and over again! This is the place where I decided to study Spanish and the place that I chose to volunteer. I have visited most of these villages on several occasions, but there are a few that hold a special place in my heart!
1. Zahara de la Sierra
Perched on a 511m high hill with on one side the green “Sierra de Grazalema” and on the other side the turquoise waters of the big lake-reservoir, it’s a wonder that Zahara still remains one of the least visited villages. An old fortress tower and whitewashed streets give the place a mystic feel.
In the evening, the whole village gathers in Cerveceria El Gallo, where you can enjoy very cheap, but tasty homemade tapas and a few beers in a local atmosphere. If you’re lucky, they’ll even throw in a free drink!
Grazalema is the highest village of the region and the one that experiences the most rainfall. The paved white streets don’t seem to have changed much since medieval times, but the place comes alive around lunchtime in the bars in and around the village squares. You can easily spend half a day here, watching village life go by. Close by, you can walk to the canyon of the “Garganta Verde”. A great way to enjoy the green surroundings of the “Sierra de Grazalema”, with griffon vultures circling above the mountains.
3.Arcos de la Frontera
The inner town of Arcos is absolutely stunning! Narrow, white alleyways are perched on the immense cliffs over the Guadelete river. From the Plaza de Cabildo you get an amazing view over the surroundings! Getting lost in the little side streets, with arches spanning over some of the churches, listening to a flamenco show behind the closed doors of the theatre, admiring the numerous beautiful portals… plenty to do to keep you busy! Arcos is one of the more famous villages, so it can get crowded at times on the main square. Staying overnight will allow you to join its treasures in a more relaxed way.
4.Vejer de la Frontera
Once again, difficult to find more charming! The village is only 10km away from the coast, but couldn’t be further away from it in atmosphere! It still bears traces of its ancient past with the old Moorish walls, the winding streets and the hidden little patio’s. Until the end of the 19th century, women still wore a long black veil (cobajado), a reminder of the muslim heritage. Enter the various “puertas” (old entry gates) and loose yourself in the narrow alleys. The Plaza de España is a goodFive splace for a drink in the midst of village life.
Gaucín easily wins the prize for the village with the best views! All around and even in the village you will find “miradors” (view points) from which you can admire the valley of the Genal river, the Mediterranean and in a distance Gibraltar and Morocco! The view even gets better when you climb up towards Castillo del Aguila!
These are just a selection of the most beautiful villages in Andalucia and other towns like Ronda, Jimena de la Frontera, Setenil, Olvera and Casares definitely deserve a visit too!
Have you visited the white villages of Andalucia? What are your favourites?