Sun, sea and sangria, anyone? While Andalusia’s lush beach resorts are a must-visit for some much-needed R&R, the Spanish region’s treasures go far beyond just that. It’s also an area jam-packed with incredible cities – from stunning Seville to historic Granada – as well dozens of pretty white-washed towns hidden away in the hills…
Known as Pueblos Blancos, you’ll find these sleepy locales scattered across the Sierra de Grazalema, Sierra Nevada and the Las Alpujarras foothills. Each one is blessed with bright white buildings featuring red tiled roofs, charming cobbled streets and tiny village squares lined with fascinating heritage sites and traditional eateries where you can relax and fill your belly with yummy local treats.
If you like the sound of all that (who wouldn’t?!), we’ve got the lowdown on these dreamy destinations below…
For awesome architecture that you won’t be able to stop snapping, head to Arcos de la Frontera
Stand aside, Granada! This pretty town is considered the gateway of the Pueblos Blancos and it’s absolutely rammed with lovely old buildings which’ll make gorgeous backdrops for all your holiday snaps.
The whole town was made a National Historic Monument in the 1960s and it’s not surprising considering how many beautiful and ancient structures are crammed along its street! Fill up your camera roll with pics of Arcos de la Frontera’s magnificent fortress, which dates all the way back to the 11th century, and then get ready to admire the ornate interiors of the town’s main church – the stunning Santa María de la Asunción.
For baths, bullfighting and bandits, Ronda is the one
The next major town in the Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia is Ronda. You won’t want to get too close to the edge of this town if you’re afraid of heights – it perches on the edge of a cliff which plunges almost 500ft into the El Tajo Gorge!
Once a Moorish settlement, Ronda is home to ancient Arab Baths which have been amazingly restored (sadly, you can’t actually bathe in them). Fan of Westerns? You’ll want to make a pitstop at the town’s Bandit Museum to learn about the fearless highwaymen who roamed around the region and robbed travellers during the 1800s.
If the name of this town is ringing bells, it might be because it was a favourite of Ernest Hemingway. A few of his novels mention the town, in particularly its bullfighting which you can discover more about at the Plaza de Toros – a famous bullring and one of the oldest in Spain! The locals love to party here, too, and you’ll find there are plenty of festivals held throughout the year – including the lively Ronda International Folk Festival in late August.
For tasty tapas…in a cave? Make your way Setenil de las Bodegas
Like your meals served hot and in unusual locations? It doesn’t get much more unique than the cave restaurants at Setenil de las Bodegas. This town should be top of your list to see thanks to its many white-washed buildings built directly into the rock or beneath huge rocky overhangs.
The whole town is positioned in a narrow gorge and you’ll be able to sit down with a glass of vino and a plate of mouth-watering tapas with a huge rock jutting out just above your head. Setenil’s caves also house many local homes, plus a handful of B&Bs if you like the novelty of saying you’ve slept in an actual cave!
For epic outdoor adventures, Grazalema is the place to be
This Pueblo Blanco sits at the heart of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. While it comes up trumps for its stunning surroundings, it’s also a mecca for those after a little adventure…
Keen hikers will be able to set off for the day along one of 20+ incredible hiking trails (including one down the awesome Garganta Verde canyon) to soak up unrivalled views of Grazalema and beyond. You could also test your strength with an afternoon of rock climbing or delve deep into the limestone rock of the mountains on a caving expedition.
For fans of colourful, local festivals Zahara de la Sierra can’t be beaten
Booking a getaway to Southern Spain in June? Make sure you visit this next Pueblo Blanco which is famous for its lively Fiesta del Corpus Christi. Usually taking place around the end of the month, Zahara’s streets come alive with celebration and are blanketed in fresh cut flowers and herbs.
Zahara is also set in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, making it another good spot to base yourself for outdoor exploits. Canoeing and kayaking are great shouts, especially as the town is right next to the Zahara-El Gastor Reservoir.
For a taste of the tropics, you can’t miss Salobreña
If you don’t fancy straying too far from the sea, small but sweet Salobreña is the Pueblo Blanco for you. It sits on a hill bursting with tropical fruit trees overlooking the sea and even has its very own Moorish castle!
As well as strolling leisurely around Salobreña’s tiny streets and soaking up insane views, you’ll have the chance to dive into the balmy Mediterranean. Less than 10 minutes away by car is a whole chain of gorgeous beaches where you can swim, surf or even learn to scuba dive!
Driving around Andalusia
To do this lovely corner of Spain justice, hire a car and take your sweet time exploring. As the region sits in between several major cities (including Seville, Granada and Malaga), it’s easy to access and ideal if you want to escape the city crowds and go off the beaten path.
Planning an amazing Spanish road trip? Why not check out our guide to cruising around the beautiful Basque Country or get to grips with Galicia’s eerily named Costa da Morte?