Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos
Wondering how to fit the best of rural Spain into one inspiring drive? As its name suggests, the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos (or “White Villages Route”) links together a string of Andalucian villages with their iconic white-washed façades. Dotting the otherwise lush, green hillsides like diamonds in the Spanish sun, these dazzling architectural gems make this relaxing drive all the more rewarding. Combine the breath-taking scenery with the region’s fascinating Moorish and Roman history, rich cultural heritage and fine food and wines and it is hard to understand how this truly blessed part of the world has remained off the tourist radar for so long. Indeed, this scenic drive features some of the most spectacular sights in all Andalusia and, if you believe the locals, the whole of Spain.
We begin our journey in Arcos de la Frontera, itself a prime example of the Andalucian architecture and the contrasting Christian and Islamic influences that define it. Perched rather precariously atop a rocky cliff face, the village is the gateway to the White Villages of the Cadíz province. You could easily spend hours if not days getting lost in its maze of narrow, white-washed streets, making new discoveries at every turn.
From Arcos, the route follows the River Guadalete via Villamartín and onward to other iconic villages that dot the hillside in bright dabs of white such as the picturesque Olvera – famed for its high-quality olive oil and Arabic fortress; the spectacular Zahara de la Sierra – cut off from the world by the rugged mountain terrain and lake which takes its name; El Bosque – with its ancient castle and ruins dating back to Roman times; and Ubrique – a throwback to the region’s Arabic history – before returning to Arcos de la Frontera.