When I first moved to Spain to teach, I had no preference where I ended up. Though I probably could have chosen a better city, I definitely fared well on choosing a region that offered the quintessential, romanticized Spanish experience we all dream of: Andalusia.
If you hear anything about Andalusia, probably amongst the first few things you’ll hear about are: the sunshine, the bullfighting and the flamenco. Though these are aspects of Andalusian culture, they barely scratch the surface of what this beautiful and diverse region offers.
One of my favorite things about Andalusia is undoubtedly los pueblos blancos, or Andalusian white villages. These white villages all share lofty views of the local landscape—after all, they were founded by Berber tribes in need of a high, protected place to keep watch over approaching enemies. They’re also called white villages for a reason—they’re whitewashed to reflect the sun and keep the interior of the houses cool during the long, hot summers.
If you’re headed to southern Spain anytime soon, see the big cities, but make room to visit a pueblo blanco or two and get a feel for an authentic Andalusia you won’t find on the Costa del Sol.
The Most Beautiful: Ronda
Though most pueblo blancos are small—Ronda is one of the biggest with a population of over 40,000. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful white villages as it straddles a deep gorge and offers sweeping, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Though Ronda can fill up with lots of day-trippers during the summer months, it will still completely charm you. Explore the old town (known as La Ciudad), tour the bullfighting ring (Spain’s oldest!) and take in the views from the local Parador—preferably with a picnic in tow.
The Most Underrated: Jimena de la Frontera
One white village I just discovered this year was Jimena de la Frontera. Though you may see hints of tourism in villages like Ronda, in Jimena, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any tourists at all, much less find it in a guidebook. Jimena de la Frontera is a pueblo blanco in its purest form.
Aside from a few beautiful streets, and the ruins of the Moorish Castle, Jimena’s beauty lies in its surroundings: Los Alcornocales National Park, where cork oak trees are shaved of their bark for none other than their spongy cork we so often so in our wine bottles and bulletins boards. If you head to Jimena, bring your hiking shoes!
The Most Interesting: Vejer de la Frontera
The white villages intrigue me so much because they are from a time when Andalusia was still known as “Al-Andalus”, and the Moors reigned over many parts of southern Spain. That’s why you’ll see so many of the villages with “de la Frontera” in their name; it’s a reference to when they were literally “on the border” between Catholic and Moorish Spain.
In Vejer de la Frontera, their ties to Moorish Spain feel much stronger. In fact, it wasn’t until very recently (the beginning of the 21st Century!) that the women of Vejer stopped wearing the traditional full-length black cloak so representative of the Moors. There’s a distinct Moroccan vibe in this white village, which distinguishes it significantly from the others I’ve been to.
Have you ever been to a white village in Spain?
Christine Medina is a freelance writer, aspiring photographer and wanderlust-stricken expat currently living in Andalusia, Spain. Upon graduating from university, she set off to Spain to immerse herself in a new culture and learn the Spanish language. She writes about expat life and all things Spain on her blog, http://www.christineinspain.com. Follow Christine on Twitter at @christinenspain or on Facebook.
Feature Photo By: lukasz dzierzanowski (all others by Christine Medina).