Spain is one of my favourite countries, and among its many delightful must-see destinations are the traditional whitewashed villages, or ‘Los Pueblos Blancos’, of Andalusia.
Visitors cannot fail to be seduced by the spectacular setting of so many stunning white villages. Dotted across the hill tops, they look almost like patches of spring snow in the High Atlas, visible across the Straits of Gibraltar to the south. Some are large, fashionable olive-farming towns, while others are remote hilltop villages: all can be found spread over the southern regions of Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huela, Jaen, Malaga and Seville.
As you approach any one of the villages, the wedding-cake style architecture draws you in as if into a fairytale. Simple whitewashed houses cluster around, across and on top of rocky outcrops, steep escarpments and towering mountain views. These white villages are entirely made up of white houses, painted with an outer lime sheen. More often than not they are built around an imposing castle and tall church tower. Terracotta tile roofs, narrow streets and sleepy balconies sprawl out like a moat before the stork nests, olive groves and rolling plains below.
Today’s residents, in addition to being traditional local families, continue to include people from other regions in Spain as well as a broad selection of internationals. As a visitor you will soon be drawn in by the chilled charm of the Pueblos Blancos, with their away-from-it-all peacefulness, spectacular views and sense of living on the edge.
Having visited the region many times over the years, I highly recommend a self-drive expedition. Visit and stay in a selection of villages, while keeping a slow siesta-dominated pace. The beauty of this is that you don’t really need to do much more than pick a selection of destinations and gently explore over whatever time period you have. Enjoy long lunches, sizzling siestas and as much sherry wine as you can take.
As a contrast to the vibrancy of large towns such as Seville, Granada and Córdoba you can steadily explore the Sierra de Grazalema, Sierra Nevada and Las Alpujarras regions, surrendering to the relative calm of the villages, with their surrounding Berber and Moorish influences.
I cannot choose which villages stand out more than the others, but any hit list of mine would include the gateway to Los Pueblos Blancos, Acros de la Frontera in addition to Casares, Vejer de la Frontera, Zahara de la Sierra (with Fiesta Corpus Christi), Benaocaz, Grazalema, Ronda and Montefrio.