The city of Seville is a starting point for Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos (Route of the White Hill Towns) of the Sierra de Cádiz Mountains where one can feel the different and more authentic interior and atmosphere of Andalucía.
The area of Pueblos Blancos is dotted by 20 (actually 19 … you will get to know why in the end) small postcard-pretty settlements with narrow winding white-washed and extremely clean streets. The small towns and villages give a real rustic feel and numerous food temptations prepared from unique, natural and fresh ingredients. Apart from this the area offers magnificent views and landscape. As to the history, it is amazing dating back to more than 250 000 years ago including Paleolithic cave paintings, Neolithic remains as well as Roman ruins and roads, Moorish architecture and the impact of Spanish Robin Hoods called bandoleros.
When visited, one could almost get the feel that the Moors have just departed from this region and actually they did it in the period 1483-1485 thanks to the command of Don Rodrigo Ponce de León who was Marquis of Cádiz. But as I said, their influence can still been seen in these towns and villages as they were created during almost 800-year Moorish domination when the Moors coming from Morocco built watch towers first and then other buildings. Moreover, some of the settlements still have got Moorish names like Algar (the Cave), Zahara (the Fort), Benamahoma (the House of Mohammed), Alcalá (the Castle) and so on and so forth.
If we make a short tour in Pueblos Blancos, surely, we should start with Ronda that was described by Hemingway as the “the most romantic town in Spain”. The other three towns (Zahara de la Sierra, Grazalema and Arcos de la Frontera) are really stunning and awe-inspiring since they have been carved in the mountains while Setenil de las Bodegas has been created into the curves themselves of a river. Their “plazas” and “patios” with splendid balconies offer the best and the most wonderful dreamlike views to the valley while Setenil’s castle is a must. I will open a bracket here. The origin of the name of Setenil de las Bodegas is quite interesting. The settlement was thought to have been the most strategic one in the war against the Moors in that region. The attacks started in 1407 and seven of them failed. That’s why the city was called “septem nihil” which reflected these 7 unsuccessful attacks. As for the second “part” of the name, i.e. “Bodegas”, it’s connected with wineries, or if I should be more specific – with vines, which had the misfortune to be devastated by a virus at the end of 19th century. The bracket closed.
Now let’s head for some other towns. Medina-Sidonia is a very tiny and quiet settlement in which there are almost no tourists but there is a plaza right in the middle of the village with several lovely tapas bars where you can enjoy the real flavour of Spain. Gaucin and Jimena require more driving and winding roads but the scenery is worthy, indeed.
There is one other city whose name I don’t know simply because I was too enchanted by the beautiful landscape along the road and I missed its name when our guide mentioned it. Well, the settlement in question declared war on France. The reason for that was because its inhabitants were greatly insulted by the French who had thrown tomatoes at the Spanish King during his visit in France. Everybody laughed at that act of the residents of this settlement but according to the international laws that declaration of war was valid and after one century politicians from both countries gathered there to sign truce.
If we continue our trip among the white hill villages we will stumble upon two small settlemens that are not “Pueblos Blancos” sort of towns. The first one is the leather town of the region and is known as such even throughout Spain. Its houses and buildings are ordinary Spanish ones and not all of them have been painted white. Acinipo (or old Ronda) is more an “ancient Roman” settlement than a Spanish one .Especially when the Roman theatre built in the first century is visited one can really feel the atmosphere of the ancient times.
And finally, I will end up with one very interesting pueblo blanco called Júzcar. It is famous worldwide for being the first Smurf Village. Yes, the movie was shot here and 4000 litres blue paint was used to transform the traditionally white village into the Smurfs’ blue “kingdom”. The entire village was painted blue together with the church and other historical buildings. 😀 After the glamorous premiere Sony offered to re-paint the village white and restore its former look but …. but the residents refused and voted to keep the Smurf-blue colour that had brought plus-minus 80 000 Smurf visitors only in six months after the “blue painting”. Thus the number of pueblos blancos was lessened and nowadays 19 towns and villages are in the traditional white colour and one is extraordinarily in blue. 🙂
So, folks, if you happen to be in Seville take a trip to these marvellous settlements dotted around whose views and scenery are awe-inspiring, churches and convents, castles and towers are full of history, and their plazas tempt you with pretty nice tapas bars and bodegas (locals) where you can indulge in home-made tapas from natural and home-made ingredients, unique cookies called sultanas, and of course – wines. Have fun …. 🙂