By Mihaela Schwartz
Connecting 19 inland towns and villages located in the Southern part of Andalucia, the White Villages Route (also known as Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos among the locals) is an interesting holiday itinerary as well as a good opportunity to know the authentic culture, well-preserved traditions and rich heritage of the Spanish province of Cadiz.
Stroll along the narrow immaculate streets!
Sitting on a spectacular rock cut, the Queen of Andalusia – Arcos de la Frontera is the perfect venue for a peaceful walk. Get lost, by car of by foot, in the impressive labyrinth of narrow streets bordered by white-washed houses. While the immaculate facades gave the route’s name, the exquisite arches and valts connecting the buildings complete the typical “pueblo espanol” architectural style.
Discover the mixed heritage of the area!
Most of Cadiz’ pueblos were built during times of Berber dominance and this period’s traces can clearly be seen in the Moorish castles that overlook the village from their steep rock as well as in the maze of narrow streets that constitutes its central part. The Christian conquistadores have left their mark as well: the villages are dotted by massive Baroque churches.
Explore the Roman ruins!
The whole region of Spain is dotted with different sorts of remains from the Roman times. Near Espera you can visit a burial ground that once belonged to Carissa Aurelia or the former settlement Esperilla, now displaying some houses, town walls and water storage tanks. In Ubrique’s proximity, at El Salto de la Mora, you can discover the ruins of the old Roman town of Ocurris.
Taste the local dishes!
This region’s gastronomy is as rich as its history and as varied as its inhabitants’ origins: pastries and sweets of Arab influence; garlic an pepper soup made of fresh products coming from the nearby gardens; jamon, chorizo, lomo or other heavily-seasoned pork dishes; fish and sea fruit brought from the nearby waters. An indispensable ingredient is the exceptional slightly spicy and bitter olive oil of Sierra de Cádiz – a wild mountains scented oil, extracted from a fruit cultivated on a rough terrain where mass production is impossible. Don’t forget to combine your meal with a glass of local wine and to sip a glass of manzanilla or jerez – the original version of what is known as sherry.
Take the time to admire the panoramic views!
Spread around the Sierra de Grazalema National Park, the white villages benefit from natural settings you would not expect to encounter just a few kilometers away from the beach. Besides the narrow streets bordered by lime washed facades and olive or orange trees, you can enjoy here wild forest landscapes that reflect themselves in lakes with crystal clear waters, impressive natural caverns and terraced vineyards.
Enjoy the siesta!
One of the first things you should know is that, in these places life tends to revolve around the local bar and shops – all lined along the main street. Those are the best places to discover the inhabitants’ grace and generosity – main features of the Andalusian character.
Take part in the fiesta!
The various cultures that have lived for years in the province of Cadiz have left customs that constitute the origin of many local festivals. Visiting the Pueblos Blancos during one of these fiestas is another way of discovering their authenticity. Enjoy a bull chasing during the Semana Santa festival in Arcos de la Frontera or dance on the lively flamenco rhythms in August, when the Fiesta de la Virgen de las Nieves is celebrated.
Mihaela is an experienced travel writer, who likes exploring the world and analyzing it through different lenses. She enjoys tasting new dishes and trying out new recipes.