The Route of the White Villages connects different municipalities in the Sierra de Cádiz. Whitewashed façades, a fascinating history with a past marked by Al-Andalus period, arts and crafts and spectacular cuisine. The 19 villages that compose it deserve to be enjoyed calmly, so we have decided to divide the route in two so that you can make a few tailor-made getaways.
The Route of the White Villages (Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos) connects different municipilaties in the Sierra de Cadiz. Whitewashed façades, a fascinating history with a past marked by the Moorish period, arts and crafts and spectacular cuisine. The 19 villages that compose it deserve to be enjoyed calmly, so we have decided to divide the route in two so that you can make a few tailor-made breaks.
You can visit the file of each municipality to obtain more information and select what you want to see or enjoy.
In the Sierra de Cádiz we find the Route of the White Villages. In these villages there are stories of what Al-Andalus was: its streets, the cultivation of oil, the artisan production of leather goods and Moorish recipes.
There are 19 villages that make up the route:
Arcos de la Frontera – Algar – Bornos – Espera – Villamartín – Algodonales – El Gastor – Olvera – Puerto Serrano – Torre Alháquime – Setenil de las Bodegas – Alcalá del Valle – Prado del Rey – El Bosque – Ubrique – Benaocaz – Villaluenga del Rosario – Grazalema – Zahara de la Sierra
Here, the Berber heritage is mixed with the Roman roads, the Christian invasions, the conquest of America, the arrival of the French troops. The thousands of bandit legends and the crossings of a train that was never built and that today is the Vía Verde de la Sierra de Cádiz.
Another feature of the Route of the White Villages is the rich archaeological heritage it comprises. We highlight the mills, the olive presses and other constructions.
Among these villages you will find the Sierra de Grazalema, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It is here where the greatest rainfall of the Iberian Peninsula is recorded, in which there are numerous caves. An incredible landscape to be found just a few kilometres away from the beach.
There are two types of routes on this Route of the White Villages. Route 1, towards the north of the Sierra (Arcos de la Frontera, Bornos – Espera, Villamartín, Algodonales – El Gastor, Olvera – Puerto Serrano, Torre Alháquime, Setenil de las Bodegas – Alcalá del Valle). Then, Route 2, to the south (Arcos de la Frontera, Prado del Rey, El Bosque, Ubrique, Benaocaz, Villaluenga del Rosario, Grazalema – Benamahoma, Zahara de la Sierra).
Whatever route you do, both depart from Arcos de la Frontera. This town is known as the “gateway” of the white villages. Arcos is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Spain and is declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. Excellent views, horse farms, bulls, almond trees, olive trees, orange trees and incredible nature. In addition, you can visit the famous balcony of Arcos or also called the “balcón del coño”. It is said that it is called that way because everyone who looks out says: “oh, coño (fuck!)! This is very high! ”
Holy Week stands out in Arcos, declared of National Tourist Interest; and Christmas, when the town is transformed into a living Bethlehem, of Tourist Interest of Andalusia. Among the tourist offers that Arcos offers we can find the practise of watersports in its lake and the free flight in hang gliding or paragliding. You can also (and must) enjoy its cuisine and its great “Tierras de Cádiz” wines.
Algar is very close to Arcos, where tourists can enjoy different leisure activities. For example, hiking in the Tajo del Águila, fishing in the Majaceite river, canoeing and sailing in the Guadalcacín reservoir or horseback riding enjoying nature. Although, if you love cars, you cannot miss the Subida a Algar Rally, which is normally held in the months of March-April.
Following Route 1, the next town we would find would be Bornos-Espera. Bornos is located on the banks of a reservoir. Its urban layout revolves around the Castle-Palace of the Riberas. The Bornos reservoir is a fantastic place to fish and watch waterfowl. Next to this you will find Espera, where you will find the Carissa Aurelia archaeological site. It is an ancient settlement from the Neolithic that continued with its development during Roman times. The remains of the castle dominate the entire town.
The next town would be Villamartín, surrounded by countryside bathed by the Guadalete River. This town was populated since ancient times due to its geographical location, which was a crossroads. It is demonstrated with the Alberite dolmen, one of the oldest megalithic structures on the peninsula. The dolmen is located about 4 kilometres away from the town, towards Prado del Rey. This megalithic structure is located within the Torrevieja site, which confirms the Neolithic, Tartessian and Moorish presence, where current Villamartin is.
Following the route we find Algodonales. With an enviable weather, it has become the crucial centre for air sports enthusiasts; especially paragliding, hang gliding and free flight. The human presence in this town goes back to the Neolithic. Once you are there, it is worth going to the hamlet of La Muela, where we can contemplate from the mountain tops the flight of the griffon vultures. Algodonales celebrates a peculiar celebration: the Historical Recreation of May 2, 1810. They relive the struggle between the people and Napoleon’s troops during the War of Independence, and all the inhabitants of the town participate.
From here we go to the town of El Gastor, located on a hill next to the source of the Guadalete River. This town is known for its panoramic views of the surrounding villages. They call it “the balcony of the White Villages”. The most important artisan product of this town is the “Gastor bagpipe”. It is an instrument that was once used with herds. Nowadays it is part of the Christmas tradition and the celebration of Corpus Christi, considered a festival of national Tourist Interest.
Olvera and Puerto Serrano are the next towns we find. The first one’s city centre has been declared as an artistic ensemble, as it presents a combination of Moorish heritage, popular architecture and monumental beauty. We highlight a neighbourhood, La Villa, where you can find the Church of La Encarnación, a neoclassical treasure. In addition, you can investigate the role played by the mountain range of Cádiz as a border with the Nasrid kingdom by visiting the Olvera Museum, the border and the castles.
Although there is nothing better to enjoy this area like a horse ride, bike or walk along the Vía Verde de la Sierra. It is an old railway network that linked these two villages, Olvera and Puerto Serrano. The latter is a very captivating town for nature lovers. You can see there the largest colonies of griffon vultures in Europe in the Peñón de Zaframagón Nature Reserve. This town, along with Algodonales, Zahara de la Sierra and Setenil, produce incredible olive oils of “Sierra de Cádiz” origin.
Following the route you find Torre Alháquime. Its name is due to an Arab family, “Al Hakin”. The tower of “Al Hakin”, whose word in Arabic means “the wise”, was the one that gave name to the town. Here you can make the famous route of José María “El Tempranillo”.
The next ones are Setenil de las Bodegas and Alcalá del Valle. The first is one of the most visited places by tourists, due to the uniqueness and beauty of its urban network. Many of the houses are located inside or under the rocks. It should be noted that its Holy Week is declared of National Tourist Interest. It is called “de las Bodegas” because Setenil is located in Cádiz bordering Málaga, right next to the Ronda mountain range. Ronda has always lived on the olive tree, cattle, cereals and their vineyards, which made wineries exist in the town.
We reach the end of the first route with Alcalá del Valle, founded by the Muslims. Water is the main resource of this town. That is why it is present throughout the town, as in the Great Fountain and even in the immediate vicinity of the town, in an incredible natural landscape with fountains, streams and springs. There you will find the Tomillos Dolmens, a megalithic jewel.
The route starts again from Arcos de la Frontera and runs through the villages integrated by the Sierra de Grazalema.
Prado del Rey is the first stop, whose roots are from the Roman era. Salt evaporation ponds stand out, which emerged from a salt water spring. These are one of the last indoor salinas that continue to operate in Andalusia. They can be visited by appointment through the Tourist Office.
Our next stop is El Bosque. The origin of this villa dates back to the Modern Age. This whole area was a donation from the Catholic Monarchs to Don Rodrigo Ponce de León. It is located in the Sierra de Albarracín and next to the Majaceite river. Nestled between lush forests and springs, it is perfect for activities where you are in touch with nature; such as fishing or hiking.
The next town is Ubrique. It is surrounded by incredible mountains and between the Natural Parks of Grazalema and Los Alcornocales. Known as “la piel de Ubrique” (“Ubrique’s leather”), they make all kinds of high quality leather goods. In addition, they commercialise with the best brands (Gucci, Dior or Adolfo Dominguez, among many others.). You can do hiking activities on the Roman road that connects Ubrique and Benaocaz. Moreover, there are natural landscapes suitable for activities related to fishing, cycling, mountain sports or other activities.
Benaocaz is the next town we find on this Route of the White Villages, a small and charming Arab town. Here, in addition to the walk along the Roman road named above, you can go hiking in its surroundings on other routes such as the Salto del Cabrero, the Buitreras de la Otrera or the Subida del Caíllo.
Villaluenga del Rosario is next. This is the smallest and highest town in the entire province. It is located in the heart of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. In this town you will find the oldest bullring in the entire province. What is more, it is very original: it is not round, but polygonal. Speleology lovers enjoy visiting this town, as it has more than 80 caves and three of the four most important chasms in Andalusia. This town is increasingly famous for its flagship product: payoyo cheese. It comes from a type of goat from the Sierra de Cádiz, the Payoya goat.
Once we pass this, we arrive at Grazalema-Benamahoma, one of the most beautiful white villages. This town enjoys a special weather, since in winter it snows and collects the highest rainfall rate of the entire peninsula. Cheese tastings are organised here, led by supervisors. Besides, you can practise active tourism in the Sierra de Grazalema. There is a great diversity of routes, and the most recognised is Pinsapar’s. Benamahoma is a district of Grazalema where the Moors and Christians Festival is celebrated. In this show of fights and gunpowder, the opposing armies dispute the image of San Antonio. This party is usually held in early August.
Finally we find Zahara de la Sierra. Some people define it as the most beautiful town in the entire province. Especially for its setting, which resembles a medieval story with its castle, the remains of the wall and the town down the slope with its white houses. The most characteristic thing about this area is that there is a beach! The artificial beach is located in a recreational area called Arroyomolinos. Regarding its cuisine, it is a great producer of oil from the mountains together to other villages named above.
On this route you will savour incredible culinary products; such as homemade stews, olive oils, magnificent cheeses, peculiar pastries… In addition, you can enjoy the festivities offered by these villages; such as Easter, Fairs, Carnivals, pilgrimages…
After discovering the charm of the Route of the White Villages, you won’t want to leave. What are you waiting for?
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