Our next stop happened to be in Setenil de las Bodegas. If you have never heard of this place, first just take a look to its photos, incredible! Most likely you wouldn’t doubt either, especially since it was on our way, that of course we couldn’t have missed this place out.
We arrived in the village during the day, on a super sunny and hot summer day, and first we decided to stop at the Mirador, on the very top of the hill, to enjoy the views of the valley and the village below. In order to get up there, first you need to drive through the village, and while the centre of the village was super packed with cars, on the top of the hill we could find a parking place much easier and from there the Mirador was just in short walking distance.
After our visit on the top of the hill we went back to the village, trying to look for a parking place there, that was not easy at all. Finally, we ended up in a school parking, at the very end of the village, but at least we managed.
Also, worth to mention that those medieval streets are not built for big cars, and even besides parking, just to pass by there is really a challenge, you will have to turn your side mirrors in order not to strike other cars or people.
But once all the struggle with the parking is done, you are just amazed by the natural beauty of the village. The houses are built underneath giant rocks, the narrow streets, the tiny bodegas, all in white and I’m repeating myself, that giant rock, unbelievable! It’s just simply amazing to walk around and admire this lovely village. Setenil is compact with intriguing architecture, stunning views, and easy to walk around, though there are several hills and steps to climb and “enjoy” under the crazy summer sun. But believe me, it’s worth all the sweating.
The caves were already inhabited in remote prehistoric times, that gave natural shelter in the vicinity of a natural watercourse, easy to inhabit. Many centuries later, in the surroundings of present-day Setenil, the Romans founded Laccipo colony. However, the current urban street design is from the Arab medieval period. In Juan II’s time, the Christians tried tirelessly to conquer it, due to the strategic position of the town. Its name curiously came as a result of that effort: “Septem-Nihil”, which means “Seven times nothing”. Seven were the number of tries which Christians tried to conquer and they did not succeed.
From this period comes the castle of Arab origin, of which only remains nowadays the Almohad tower built during XII-XIII centuries. Once the Christians managed to enter Setenil they gave it the title of “Villa de Realengo” due to its importance in advancing to take Granada. Later the church Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación was built, in the XV-XVII centuries, upon the old mosque, in late Gothic and Renaissance style. In parallel, the Arab population, already converted to Christianity, left testimony of their architecture style with the Town Hall building and their Mudejar art from 16th century we can see inside the old consistory, which today is the headquarters of the tourist office.
And tourism is indeed an excellent opportunity for this fantastic town, declared as Historic Site by the government. Tapas bars take refuge under the rocks, while locals and tourists fill the tables under the sun or shade. Tapas are still what they have always been and it is not a good idea to miss the experience of enjoying them in such an unusual place.
There are two main streets, one in the sun and one in the shade but both with the characteristic boulders overhanging above. Calle Cuevas del Sol and Calle Cuevas de la Sombra. The first, the sunny street is the most touristy with bars and restaurants. In addition to the cave houses there is a large church and Arabic wall high on the hill and there are plenty viewpoints as well as the unusual shapes of houses and streets and many old buildings to view.
All in all, we probably only spent about three-four hours in Setenil de las Bodegas. I think it’s indeed one of the most amazing and unique pueblos blancos – white villages of Andalusia. It was just the perfect stop over on our way to Ronda, where we planned to go after, and it’s only half an hour drive there, but that visit is for another article.
“Setenil, an amazing urban redoubt, an implausible alliance between architecture and geology”
Pepe Caballero Bonald