by Taetske | 3:50 pm
(Last Updated On: May 21, 2019)

 

 

2 Unusual villages, Zahara de la Sierra and Setenil de las Bodegas in the south of Spain

 

One of our hobbies, exploring Spain

We like to make a nice day trip now and then, exploring special places in Andalusia. As Michael does not know Spain, I thought it was a good idea to show him some of the curious villages inland. The first place on the list was going to be Zahara de las Sierras (translates to Zahara of the mountain ridge), located about 2 hours away from where we live.

We live in an old farmhouse in the province of Malaga and Zahara de la Sierra is located in the province of Cadiz. We left at 10:30, dressed for a 26C but slightly windy day and good shoes, as some climbing was expected.

 

view from the dam of Zahara de la Sierra

View from the dam of Zahara de la Sierra

 

Taking the Thunderbird for a drive

We enjoyed the leisurely drive with the Thunderbird inland and reached Zahara at around 13:00. The placement of this village is really special, build on a hill overlooking a beautiful man-made reservoir. The houses are built at a height of 300 meters to 500 meters (above sea level). Around 1500 people live in this village. The name Zahara probably comes from the Arab word Sahra (desert). Its location and the village makes it one of the prettiest white villages in Andalucia.

 

Lovely view of the lake

 

A big artificial lake

To reach it you have to drive over the dam of the Reservoir el Gastor, which was built some 10 years ago, forming the lake which is used for water sports and swimming. Driving over the dam you have a nice view of this originally Moorish outpost.

As Zahara is situated between Ronda and Sevilla, the situation was ideal to have a castle on top of the hill, which could serve as a fortress in case there was an attack. Until 1407 it was under Arab rule. In 1481 it was recaptured by the Emirate of Granada only to be lost again in 1483 to the Duke of Cadiz, Rodrigo Ponce de Leon. As you can see, this castle has an interesting history.

We stopped at the entrance to the village to make some photos and then proceeded to drive uphill, through a rather narrow street on which many small eateries had placed some tables and chairs. Passing the church, the road really got steep but there was a good parking spot up on the hill, just beneath the castle. There were some foreigners but not too many as it is not high season yet. The streets, which are narrow are made in a pretty cobblestone pattern.

 

The Madonna Statue

The Madonna Statue

 

If you wish you can climb up to the castle, but be warned, it is a steep climb and not all the steps are in good condition. In case it has rained, it can get slippery. Not so much is left of the castle but the view from the highest point in Zahara is spectacular.

Walking down towards the center we passed a bend in the rock and found a pretty little place surrounded by different plants. A statue of the Virgin Maria was standing there. It looked like a small oasis.

 

Meson Los Estribos

Meson Los Estribos

 

Having lunch at losing your nerves

We had a little lunch in Meson Los Estribos. That really is a funny name. In Spanish, when you lose Los Estribos, you have lost your nerves, anyhow there we sat down on a glassed-in balcony overlooking the lovely lake. Michael had slices of pork with plums and I chose a trout with a too big slice of Spanish ham. The ham was too salty in taste, but we shared a hazelnut mousse for an after meal treat so all was fine.

 

Grasses growing on the church tower

Grasses growing on the Church Tower

 

Close by is the Plaza del Rey with the church Santa Maria de Mesa. The church dates from the XVIII century and is a good example of Andalusian religious architecture.

After walking around some more and enjoying the spectacular view we started on our way to Setenil de las Bodegas, a very unusual village about 45 minutes away from Zahara.

 

 

Arriving at Setenil de las Bodegas

This village lies at an elevation of about 640 meters above sea level and is known for its whitewashed houses built into the surrounding cliffs. When building a house here, you will only need 3 walls as the back wall is a rock cliff. There is an Arab hilltop castle which once was an Arab fortress dating from the Almohad period in the 12th century.

 

The old Castle of Setenil

 

In 1484, Setenil finally fell after being besieged for 15 days and the Moorish occupants were expelled. The Christian forces used gunpowder artillery. The ruins of the castle overlook the village.

 

Rock hanging over the houses

Rock hanging over the houses

 

The Bodegas of Setenil

Setenil de las Bodegas belongs to the province of Cadiz and has approx 3000 inhabitants. This town is built along the narrow river gorge Rio Tejo, and the outlying farms produce fruits and vegetables which are also sold in Ronda. It is said that the name dates from the 15th century when the new Christian settlers introduced vineyards. The first 2 crops still exist today, but the once flourishing wineries (bodegas) were dealt a heavy blow when in the 1860’s most were wiped out by the phylloxera insect which at that time nearly destroyed all of Europe’s vine stocks.

They did keep the Arab almond and olive groves, which to this day are 2 famous products in Andalucia. The almond is, besides other traditional sweets, used for the turones, the renowned Christmas sweets made in Estepa.

Olive Oil has been used in daily life for thousands of years. Nowadays one knows it is very healthy and keeps your arteries clean.

 

Typical Andalusian flower pots

Typical Andalusian Flower Pots

 

We found a large underground parking garage next to the village. We could immediately see a street which had its houses built under the rock. In one place a new house was being built and we asked the workman for directions. Climbing upstairs we started taking photos as the sights were really fascinating. Walking through an old tunnel with a ceiling made of small bricks, we arrived on the small Plaza de Andalucia where we had something to drink.

 

The old Tunnel

The old Tunnel

 

The gift of the Catholic Kings

The church Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion is the nicest to visit. It was built on top of a mosque in late Gothic style, under the patronage of the Catholic kings Isabella and Ferdinand between XV and XVII century. Inside the church, you will find a Christ statue from the beginning of the XVII century and an altarpiece painted on wood from the end of the XV century. The Catholic Kings gifted the church, on its inauguration, with a Casulla de seda y oro (silk and gold chasuble).

Through a very narrow and steep street, we walked down to the little river which curves like a serpent through Setenil. Some houses are abandoned and up for sale, but we did not inquire how much it would cost. Our walk was a slow, peaceful and a comfortable jaunt but to think that in high season this little village is packed with tourists, kind of makes me think twice about buying a cliff house as I like to live in a quiet place.

 

Very narrow and steep passage

Very narrow and steep passage

 

Conclusion

It is always a little sad to have to go home again. We enjoyed the lovely colors in the countryside. After about one and a half hours, we arrived home at 19:00 hours. Happy to have seen these unusual places. We will continue making these short trips as Andalucia still has so much more to discover.

 

 

Source: My Life, Wikipedia

Photo Source: Private

 

You might be interested to read the following post. A visit to a very special museum.

Amazing Nativity Museum, one of a kind

 

Comments

Ashley

Hi, these villages have such amazing views! I was thinking about visiting Spain last year, but I ended up changing my destination because of other reasons. Well, I never actually wanted to visit major tourist objectives, like Barcelona, Madrid and all the larger cities. What I wanted to see were traditional places, where Spanish people live. In big cities you can find more tourists than inhabitants and real life, which is not what I wanted. After reading your article, all the plans I had last summer came back into my mind. I’m not sure if I manage to visit these very villages you mentioned, but I will surely try to go into a less famous part of Spain.

May 21.2019 | 08:31 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Ashley,

    Nice to hear you liked my post on 2 special villages in the south of Spain. If one day you come to the south do not hesitate to contact me. I love to meet the readers of my articles. We went in the off-season time as the high season will be too crowded. Have a look on my website as I have written about some other places too. Ronda, El Torcal, and Cabo de Gata. 

    Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?

    Regards, Taetske

    May 22.2019 | 06:12 am

Agnes

Thank you for sharing the experienvce you had in these wonderful villages. The photos you shared are very nice and it really must have been a wonderful day you had! I can totally understand you that having such trips is a very good hobby! We also do that, mainly at the weekeends or we spend travelling when we are on vacation. I have a friend who lives in a village not far from Barcelona and she always tells me that it is impossible to see all the wonders of Spain as there are so many! I have been to Barcelona and Malaga, and we also had smaller trips around these two cities. They are really wonderful! My daughter loves Spain as well and the language too and she would like to visit different parts of Spain in the future. How do you suggest exploring the wonderful places: by car, bus or train? I hope you’ll share new photos here in the future as well.

May 21.2019 | 08:32 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Agnes,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I hope you have downloaded your free PDF?

    My personal experience is that big cities are better with public transport, not knowing where to park and parking fees are high it would be also time intensive and rather nerve-wracking. As an example from Malaga go to Madrid by Ave train, very fast and good. I had to go there for my passport so we did 4 days in the capital. Everything by bus and walking functioned really good. In Madrid, we visited the oldest restaurant in the world but that post is on my other website.

    Inland and smaller towns are best by private car. You will be able to reach places public transport does not. Waiting for public transport to do this particular trip would have taken ages. This trip would be too complicated so it is best to go by car.

    Regards, Taetske

    May 22.2019 | 06:24 am

TimMoto

My goodness, these place are beautiful!  In reviewing the video the beauty, the serrenity and the wonderful architecture all seemed so inviting.  I am envious of those who travel to these places and enjoy them so much as you.  You’re very fortunate indeed.  

My wife and I have traveled to northern Spain in the Zaragoza area, to Madrid and we spent some time in Barcelona as well.  All so inviting from the people, the food and the incredible sites.  

Your article and the video has made me with such a strong desire to return and discover Zahara de La Sierra and Setenil de las Bodgas.  My heart yearns for these two beautiful villages.  Maybe some day.

May 21.2019 | 08:33 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Tim,

    Spain is a lovely country. I have been here since 1975, starting on the Costa Brava, the Canary Islands, and came to the Costa del Sol in 1976. In 1981 I moved into my, at that time 150 years old farmhouse just outside the village.

    As Michael emigrated from the U.S in August 2016 I have to show him around so now I write posts about our trips.

    I love to meet the readers of my website so in case you should come to the south one day do not hesitate to contact me. On this website, you will find more posts on special places here in the south. Ronda, Cabo de Gata. and El Torcal.

    Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?

    Regards, Taetske

    May 22.2019 | 06:32 am

jpaliskis

Wow, awesome places,clear and clever explanation with details! My husband and I like to travel, planning our trips a year in advance. I need to show your article to my husband  and I believe he will love it too. We definitely will go to visit Spain and will use your advice. Thanks for a great article.

May 21.2019 | 08:41 pm

    Taetske

    Good afternoon,

    Nice to hear you liked my article on the day trip we made recently. Spain has so many different things to offer that you cannot get bored during a holiday in this country. If you come to the south do not hesitate to contact me. I love to meet the readers of my website. I have a couple of more posts on special places. Ronda, El Torcal, and some days at Cabo de Gata.

    Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?

    Regards, Taetske

    May 22.2019 | 12:10 pm

Gokhan

Great! I have always wanted to visit Spain, I have never heard that there are so many historical buildings in Spain like that.

I will write down my favorite places.  All these new places you talk about are very interesting to see one day. To be able to absorb the local culture and history.  Thank you Taetske to sharing an amazing informative trip experience.

Have a nice day!

May 21.2019 | 08:46 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Gokhan,

    Thank you for visiting my website and leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?

    Spain is a beautiful country where you will find impressive nature, great cities with historical buildings, good food, and friendly people. In the south, the weather is nice and warm and there are also lovely beaches. I think Spain has something to suit all tastes.

    Regards, Taetske

    May 22.2019 | 06:44 am

Fahim Shahriar

Traveling, exploring new places and get out of your comfort zone can be always fun and energizing. As I love traveling so
It feels really good to know about these villages, old structures, culture and bit of history of these places. Thanks a bunch for sharing your experiences through this article and I am happy to know that you enjoyed your time over there. 

May 21.2019 | 09:12 pm

    Taetske

    Good afternoon Fahim,

    We definitely enjoyed our trip. Driving at a slow speed through the lovely countryside, wildflowers, and bushes in different colors. I would have loved to add a lot more photos to my post. Spain has such a fascinating and old history it never gets boring to explore new places.

    Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?

    Regards, Taetske

    May 22.2019 | 12:15 pm

Linda Frankson

Hi, there my dear friend, absolutely lovely. I loved walking through those small villages the cobblestone streets and view history through my imagination, the wake ways so very different from the western world so much history. I can visualize the battles between the Moorish and Christians, those were wild times.

I have visited Spain and have lovely memories of that holiday.

Granada was especially magical so full of Jipsy culture in the caves of Granada. The music and dance. I can hear the clicking of their feet and slapping of their hands the strumming of the guitars wild and wonderous.

Thank you for this tour in the south of Spain, I really liked it.

Linda

May 25.2019 | 07:34 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Linda,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Nice to see you again.

    Spain is full of lovely places to visit. Many are world famous like Granada or Ronda. Then again there are those smaller places not everybody has time to visit while being on holiday in the south. Michael who is from the U.S. loves to see these type of places, so different from where he comes from.

    I also find old history very fascinating. For next week we plan a day trip and I think I will write about it again.

    Regards, Taetske

    May 26.2019 | 06:43 am

Kaju

Zahara is absolute;y breathtakingly beautiful, you are so fortunate to live only 2 hours drive from this place. Setenil de las Bodegas is also wonderful in a different way, with its 15th-century Gothic style architecture. Thank You for sharing 2 towns in Spain I was not familiar with.

Jun 10.2019 | 09:15 am

    Taetske

    Good afternoon Kaju,

    Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?

    The south of Spain has many beautiful and unusual places one should visit. Michael also likes these trips very much, so different from Idaho where he used to live. Nice to hear you enjoyed my post.

    At least once in a lifetime, one should come on a holiday to this great country as it has something to suit all tastes.

    Regards, Taetske

    Jun 10.2019 | 03:39 pm

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