Visiting the big Andalusian cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada in Southern Spain and looking to experience one or more of the famous white washed villages (pueblos blancos) of Andalusia? The dazzling white washed villages of Andalusia along the coastline and in the Sierras are charming and make for a perfect day trip from one of Andalucia’s main cities.
1. Arcos de la Frontera – Province of Cadiz
One of our favorite white washed towns, this fortified stronghold situated high on a ridge is located between Ronda and Jerez. As you can imagine from its topography, it has witnessed quite a few battles. You’ll enjoy a day here and can use it as a starting point to explore many more of the white-washed villages. There are plenty of ceramic stores to explore and a castle, churches, palaces and convents to visit. As always, the Parador is a good place to stop and have a drink. It’s a busy place at fiestas – during Easter week and for its Feria de San Miguel at the end of September when its horse and human population soars.
Distance: 1hr 20mins drive from Seville; 43 mins drive from Cadiz; 30 mins from Jerez.
2. Grazalema – Province of Cadiz
One of 14 protected villages located inside the Sierra of the same name, this village is popular with hikers and nature lovers who want to explore the many trails – some of which require written permission for access. You don’t need anybody’s permission to come to Grazalema itself – just enough time and energy to soak up the charm and colour. The village was recently given the title of one of Spain’s prettiest villages. You’ll find three small museums but really, you’ll want to sit and enjoy the stunning views. Bear in mind that this area is the wettest part of Andalusia – no need to panic – it’s not v wet – but it’s also 812m above sea level so pack a jacket in case it’s damp or chilly when you get there.
Distance: 1hr 50 from Seville; 2 hrs from Malaga.
3. Setenil de las Bodegas – Province of Cadiz
The medieval white washed village of Setenil looks like it’s being swallowed up by the rocks but nothing unusual is taking place here – just architecture that embraces the caves and topography quite literally. It’s interesting to walk around the streets and see this geological interaction but don’t forget this is a living place – with all the usual fiestas and traditions too. Ask for the walking route of Ferdinand & Isabella – the Catholic Kings who were in town back in 1484 and yes, you can visit some of the sights they took in!
Distance: 1hr 45 from Seville; 30 mins from Ronda; 1hr 20 mins drive to Malaga.
4. Ronda – Province of Malaga
While Ronda is certainly not a village, it’s well-worth visiting while touring Andalusia’s white-washed towns. It’s famous for its connections with Hemingway, its taurine traditions and also its bridge. The Puente Nuevo is the newest and largest of three bridges that span the 120-metre-deep chasm that contains the Guadalevín River and divides the city of Ronda. Don’t let the word ‘nuevo’ fool you. It’s been here since 1793. Right beside the bridge you’ll find what was the town hall and is now a Parador – the views from the outdoor terrace are amazing! Whether you agree with bullfighting or not, the bullring is another major landmark that’s hard to miss – you can visit the museum. Leave time for the medina which is where you’ll find the Arab baths.
Distance: 1hr 45 drive from Seville; 1hr 25 from Malaga; 2hr 10 mins from Granada.
5. Casares – Province of Malaga
Standing at 246m above the sea between the Ronda mountains, the Costa del Sol and Gibraltar, Casares’ origins are attributed to Julius Caesar who it’s said ordered its construction as an act of gratitude for being healed by the hot springs of La Hedionda. You can still enjoy the hot springs as well as the ruins of an Arab castle, the 17th century church; the 16th century convent and the caves of Ballesteros.
The village seems to cling to the slopes, rising to meet these monuments at the top. The traditional white-washed buildings stacked higher and higher on top of one another like some impressionist painting. For a village of only about 3,000 inhabitants it has an incredible wealth of historical sites, all easily discovered whilst meandering through the streets en-route to the castle above – an imperative as much for a closer inspection as it is for the views over Gibraltar to the Moroccan coast.
Distance: 40 mins from Marbella; 1hr40 from Cadiz; 1hr 30 from Ronda.
6. Antequera – Province of Malaga
Like Ronda, you certainly can’t call Antequera a village but it is a gleaming white gem and very very charming. Located at 575 m above sea level, you can explore the old Alcazaba fortress, the Arch of the Giants – the 16th century entrance to the castle gardens, the 33 churches including that of Santa María la Mayor which dates back to 1514 and the many Baroque monuments. Outside the town you also have the recently listed UNESCO dolmens which were collective tombs dating from 2500 AC – and the also listed curious Lovers Rock in the shape of a person – which is the focus point for the underground passage of the dolmens as well as El Torcal mountain.
Distance: 1hr 15 from Ronda; 48 mins from Malaga; 2 hrs from Seville; 1hr 10 from Granada.
7. Frigiliana – Province of Malaga
The quintessentially Axarquian village of Frigiliana, in the eastern most region of Malaga, inside the Sierras de Almijara Natural Park, is aimless wandering at its best. The maze of narrow pedestrian streets may open unexpectedly onto a plaza suddenly teaming with life, or lead you into an apparent dead end only to reveal a cluster of shops and tapas bars. All the while you will marvel at the intricately designed stone pavements and the explosions of floral color hanging from proudly adorned balconies, window ledges and doorways. Once voted “prettiest village in Andalucia” by the Spanish tourism board, a darker tale explains that here was the final savage defeat of the Moorish uprising in 1569. The remains of the old Arab fort lie in ruins atop the hill at the site of the final battle, but the Moorish influence is more visible throughout the village still today. The must-see annual August festival of the “Three Cultures” celebrates a happier time of cooperation between the Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities that lived harmoniously there for centuries, as well as the lasting cultural and culinary legacies of these three groups in Frigiliana and Andalusia more broadly.
The Easter processions are very special here. If you visit on the 3rd May, you’ll find the town decorated with floral crosses for El Dia de la Cruz. Keep an eye out for the Sugar Cane Factory – El Ingenio. Distance: Nerja 20 mins drive; Malaga in 48 mins; 1hr 10 mins drive to Granada.
8. Nerja – Province of Malaga
Sheltered by the Sierra de Almijara, Nerja was once a humble fishing village but today it’s a charming and upmarket refuge from the heaving Costa del Sol. Pop into the Parador in Nerja, which was built in the 1960s on a cliff’s edge – you’ll love the location and sea-views. Must-sees here include the cobble-stoned old quarter, the pre-historic caves (which are a series of huge caverns stretching for almost 5km and home to the world’s largest stalagmite), the sandy Burriana, Calahonda & Carabeillo Beaches – and the Balcon de Europa viewing point.
Distance: 1hr 10 to Granada; 57 mins to Malaga.
9. Montefrio – Province of Granada
The sheer diversity of its landscapes makes Granada one of the best destinations to visit in Spain. The province has something for everyone: from the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada to the warm Mediterranean waters of its subtropical coastline. Granada city itself hosts some of the most beautiful monuments in Spain, including the awe-inspiring Moorish palace of the Alhambra.
Here we finish up in Montefrio – perched at 834m high – in the Sierra de la Parapanda. Named by National Geographic as one of the top 10 towns with the best views in the world in 2015, you won’t be disappointed with what you find. Must-sees include the two very distinctive churches – especially the rounded Iglesia de la Encarnación – which seems to mimic the curves of the nearby olive groves perfectly. Just outside Montefrio, you’ll find the Penas de los Gitanos – where over a hundred megalithic tombs and settlements have been excavated – an extraordinary Neolithic archaeological site. Situated on private land, the owner offers guided tours of the site. Montefrío is also famous for its large gypsy population, making it the perfect spot to take in some flamenco in a local tablao.
Distance: 55 mins drive to Granada; 1hr 30 to Malaga; 2hrs 40 mins to Seville; 2 hrs drive to Cordoba.
Try local produce: Montefrío is famous for its cured sausages, chorizo and black pudding, known as morcilla. Be sure to sample some in a local bar.
Visit the churches: In particular, the round church, Iglesia de la Encarnacion, which was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. This remarkable building is an absolute must-see.
Interested in visiting more white washed villages of Andalusia? We can also include the very picturesque Vejer de la Frontera, Medina Sidonia, Zahara de la Sierra & Benaocaz – in the province of Cadiz and Alhama de Granada – in the province of Granada.
10. Gaucín – Province of Malaga
Malaga is a popular destination amongst holidaymakers due to its famous sunshine coast and fabulous year-round weather. But there is more to the province than its bustling beaches and temperate climate. Situated inland from the coast is the whitewashed village of Gaucín. This gorgeous town boasts incredible views of Gibraltar and North Africa from its vantage point at 626m above sea level, overlooking the River Genal valley.
Check out the local wildlife: Gaucín is a mecca for birdwatchers. Trek up to the aptly named Castillo de La Aguila – castle of the eagles – and keep your eyes peeled for eagles winging the skies above. Kestrels can also be glimpsed nesting in the walls of the convent. There are informative plaques dotted around the town to give you the low down on the village’s population of migrating and native birds.
Pay your respects: Burial plots don’t have to be morbid, and Gaucín’s well-kept cemetery is truly something to behold. In accordance with common practice in Spain, remains are kept in niches in the wall rather than underground. The vertical graves are adorned with flowers and artfully inscribed plaques. The graveyard also boasts some of the most stunning views in the village.
Where to Stay: Beautiful boutique hotel La Fructuosa is situated in the centre of Gaucín in an elegantly converted townhouse, which boasts enviable views across the valley below. La Frutosa is co-owned by Belgian artist Catherine- whose private gallery adjoins the main building- which accounts for the numerous quirky design touches to be found throughout the hotel. Each of the six rooms is decorated with a different theme – from the Sea Room with its aquamarine hues to the Garden Room with its intricately patterned wallpaper and spectacular views. The hotel also has a fabulous in-house restaurant – located in a converted wine cellar which still contains many of its original features- and a pretty terrace ranged with outdoor tables for guests to enjoy during the warmer months.
11. Úbeda – Province of Jaen
The province of Jaén is the heart of olive growing country in Andalucia. The region’s trees account for half of Spain’s yearly production of olive oil. Often referred to as “the gateway of Andalucia”, Jaén boats an abundance of national parkland and verdant farming country. The region’s largest national park, Sierras de Cazorla, is covered in dense pine forest and is rich in wildlife such as bearded vultures and red deer. Jaen is also spoilt for beautiful towns, such as Úbeda, which is recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site alongside its neighbouring village, Baeza. Úbeda abounds with examples of Renaissance style architecture, amongst them the 16th-century Hospital de Santiago with its sweeping interior courtyard, graceful arches and intricate facade, now used as the town’s conference hall. Úbeda is also home to one of Spain’s most ancient synagogues, the atmospheric “Synagoga de Agua”, believed to date from the 14th century. Situated in a series of shadowed chambers below street level, the existence of the synagogue was stumbled upon in 2006 by a businessman who had bought the upstairs property to convert into tourist apartments.
Explore the secret synagogue: Learn more about the remarkable Sinagoga del Agua on a guided tour, costing from 4 euros per person.
Visit a chapel: Check out chapel Sacra Capilla de El Salvador, considered a flagship of Renaissance architecture. Commissioned in the 14th century by Francisco de los Cobos y Molina to act as his family’s private funeral chapel, the fascinating building is now open to the public and well worth a visit.
Where to stay: Luxurious 5-star hotel Palacio de Úbeda is situated in the center of the town – a short walk from the most popular monuments. Located in a beautifully renovated building which still contains an abundance of original features – such as a spacious interior courtyard with pillars -every room in this stylish hotel oozes understated charm. Guests can choose between the classically elegant deluxe suites, junior suites and the exclusive Conde Suite – which comes complete with a sumptuous freestanding bathtub and panoramic views of the town. The hotel also boasts a rooftop terrace with a cocktail bar and swimming pool and its very own spa – where guests can book themselves in for a range of relaxing treatments.
12. Castro del Río – Province of Córdoba
The province of Córdoba is well known for its sweet white wines, baroque churches and famous flower-filled patios. The city of Córdoba itself houses one of the most important examples of Moorish architecture in the entire Islamic West: the iconic Mesquita de Córdoba, a sprawling mosque enclosed within the perimeters of the city’s ancient walls. Nestled in the countryside to the South East of Córdoba Province is the pretty town of Castro del Río. A stop on the world-famous pilgrimage, The Camino de Santiago, this village is overflowing with gorgeous churches and even has its own castle, Castillo Fortaleza, which was first constructed in the 14th century. It’s also famous for exporting furniture made from olive wood to destinations as far-flung as Japan.
Have a wander around its churches: Be sure to check out the Parroquia de la Asunción church, located in the top part of the town and rumored to be built on the ruins of a former mosque. Inside it boasts a wealth of sculptures, paintings and intricately carved gold displays.
Where to stay: If you’re planning a big group getaway, then spectacular rural farmhouse Hacienda Secadero Viejo is the perfect place to base yourself. This sprawling country house has room for up to twenty guests spread throughout five bedrooms and is idyllically located in the countryside a 2-minute drive outside Castro del Río. Guests at Secadero Viejo are granted private access to the entire property during their stay, which includes a large farmhouse kitchen with an open fireplace, a spacious living room and an expansive outdoor area with its own swimming pool (complete with waterfall!) and barbeque.
13. Cazalla de la Sierra – Province of Sevilla
The province of Seville boasts arguably the most beautiful city in Andalucia as its capital, meaning few visitors ever venture beyond its enchanting city center. But for those who are intrepid enough to explore the landscape surrounding it, the province has a great deal to offer. The town of Cazalla de la Sierra, situated in the heart of the Sierra Norte national park, can be found a little over an hour’s drive from the city of Seville. This pretty town boasts some of the most outstanding examples of religious architecture in Spain, amongst them the Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora de Consolacion, a stately church heralding from the 14th century. The town is also famous for its sweet morello cherry and aniseed liquor, and its acorn-fed Iberian pigs, which are said to produce some of the best jamón in Spain. Keep an eye out for other traditional dishes such as roasted game, wild deer and partridge. Fresh truffles are also often seen on the menu in this part of Andalucia.
Try some local liquor: A guided tour of the Bodegas Miura, located in a converted monastery, costs five euros with liquor tasting throughout.
Go hiking: There is a range of excellent walks in the national park surrounding Cazalla de la Sierra.
Where to Stay: Located at the entrance of Cazalla de la Sierra, remarkable rural hotel El Palacio De San Benito abounds in opulent, old-world charm. Housed in a converted 15th-century convent, this 4-star hotel has a variety of sumptuously decorated rooms on offer, each bestowed with individual names – amongst them the grandly titled “King’s Room” and the “Matador Room”. The hotel also boasts a music room, a library, an in-house restaurant and an abundance of outdoor space – including a central patio complete with whispering fountains, and an outdoor swimming pool.
14. Medina Sidonia – Province of Cadiz
Cadiz province is known for having some of the best beaches in Spain. Its silky white sands, rolling dunes and turquoise waters make it the perfect summer holiday location for locals and visitors alike. But venture inland and you’re in for a treat, too, as the province is also home to some of the most beautiful pueblos blancos in Spain. Awarded the title of “Most Charming Village” in 2018, the town of Medina Sidonia is perched on a hillside overlooking flat plains stretching towards the coast. It was historically used as a defense location due to its elevated position and is believed by some to be one of the oldest towns in Spain. This picturesque white village oozes authentic Andalusian charm: a haven of tiny, meandering streets lined with elegant townhouses, their balconies overflowing with vivid geraniums. The lovely town center is also scattered with stone arches dating back to Roman times, marking the entrance to the more ancient parts of the city.
Dine out with a view: For panoramic views of the surrounding land, head to La Vista de Medina restaurant, opposite the Santa Maria de la Coronada church. There are spectacular vistas on show from the comfort of the restaurant’s terrace and windowed dining room. With a bit of luck, you’ll able to glimpse the ocean on a clear day.
Hang out with the locals: Check out Medina Sidonia’s beautiful main square, Plaza Mayor, surrounded by fantastic local restaurants with a buzzing atmosphere, especially on weekends.
Discover the underground city: Medina Sidonia is strewn with relics from its Roman past. On offer for perusal are the immaculately preserved remains of a Roman road or a museum where you can explore the relics of a roman sewage system in a labyrinth of tunnels beneath the town.
Where to Stay: Situated between Medina Sidonia and the nearby white village of Vejer de la Frontera is gorgeous boutique hotel Casa La Siesta.
With only 8 guests rooms and wraparound views of the surrounding countryside, this small hotel is the perfect spot for a secluded weekend or a romantic getaway. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with thoughtful interior design touches such as vaulted ceilings with exposed wooden beams and freestanding bathtubs perfect for a long, relaxing soak. Casa Siesta also boasts an excellent in-house restaurant with a seasonal menu largely sourced from the hotel’s own kitchen garden and a private wine cellar!
15. Almonaster la Real – Province of Huelva
The province of Huelva, located on the Western edge of Andalucia and bordered by Portugal, is often overlooked as a tourist destination, but there’s plenty on offer for those who wish to explore. The region is made up of diverse landscapes: a long Atlantic coastline with wild, unspoilt beaches combined with sprawling national parks comprised of pine woods and saltwater lagoons. Huelva also has its fair share of charming white villages. Amongst these is the picturesque town of Almonaster la Real. Situated on the edge of a National Park and surrounded by forests of cork trees, this sleepy town is also home to a hilltop mosque – a must-see monument for all visitors to the town. This incredible example of Islamic architecture dates back to the 10th century and is encircled by the scattered ruins of a former castle. Almonaster la Real has charm by the bucket load: the white walls of its houses are splashed with bright tendrils of bougainvillaea flowers, and the national parks of Sierra de la Aracena and Picos de Aroche provide a stunning backdrop of rolling meadows, woodlands and undulating hills.
Go for a hike: Almonaster la Real is surrounded by amazing hiking trails for walking enthusiasts. If you’re feeling particularly sprightly, a trek up Cerro de Cristobal above the town will provide you with some of the best views in Andalucia.
Sample the local cuisine: Try some local delicacies, such as the famous cured ham from nearby Jabugo. Other typical dishes include hearty poultry stews, garlic fried breadcrumbs known as migas, and potatoes with chorizo. This part of Spain is also famous for its gambas blancas – or white prawns – which go perfectly with a glass of cold beer.
Where to stay: Rural B&B Finca Buenvino is flung out in the cork forests of the natural park, a 25-minute drive from Almonsater la Real. Owned by Sam and Jeannie Chesterton, this idyllic country estate is split between a five-bedroom B&B and two self-catering holiday cottages with private gardens and a swimming pool. There’s also the option of enrolling on a cookery course during your stay.
16. Canillas de Aceituno
Positioned on the slopes of La Maroma, the tallest mountain in the province at more than 2000m, and only about 10km from the sea as the crow flies, Canillas de Aceituno offers unique views and a calming atmosphere. The locals are friendly and welcoming to visitors, but not overly eager to develop tourism in a commercial capacity, keeping the village in touch with and connected to its past. For this it is all the more attractive to nature lovers and adventure seekers as well, with one of the primary trail heads leading from the village straight to the top of La Maroma and all through the expansive mountain nature reserve of the Sierra Tejeda. Although one of the final strongholds of the Moors in the region, evidence of the Moorish past in the village has largely been lost to time and conquest unless you know what to look for in the ancient aqueducts and water storage systems, hints of architectural remnants and the foundation of a long demolished castle. No visit to Canillas de Aceituno would be complete without sampling the roast kid, or “chivo lechal” for which the village is perhaps now most famous.