Setenil de las Bodegas, Andalucía
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The Cave Village of Setenil de las Bodegas in Andalucía - 10 Things We Bet You Don't Know!
The entire Sierra de Grazalema Natural park is a very special place. The scenery is breathtaking and very different depending on where you are. Most of the "white villages" are surrounded by soaring mountains and patchwork farmland that spreads for miles.
Zahara de la Sierra is even surrounded by bright turquoise lakes.
But things change when you get near the town of Setenil de las Bodegas...
As you drive through the surrounding countryside you will start to notice that you are descending quite quickly into a giant ravine. There are rocky overhangs that drop off dramatically into steep cliffs all around you.
Where most of the other villages were built high on the mountain tops to keep a watchful eye on their enemies, the village of Setenil was hidden deep down in these ravines. The homes were actually built into the sheer cliffs, this is what makes Setenil such a popular tourist destination and so interesting to explore.
Where is Setenil de las Bodegas?
Setenil sits in the center of the Province of Cádiz, in Andalucía. It's just a 25-minute drive from the town of Ronda.
A visit to this quirky town is easily done in half a day, which leaves you ample time to see Olvera as well (only 30 min to the north). With several hotel options available here you could also make this your base for exploring the other famous "pueblos blancos".
A Little History
Setenil de las Bodegas derived its name in two parts. "Setenil" is believed to have come from the Latin phrase "septem nihil", which translates to "seven times no". The village was conquered by the Christians and taken from the Moors in 1484, much later than other nearby villages. It is thought that the Christians had tried several times before (possibly 7) with no success.
"Bodegas" is a reference to its once thriving wineries. The full name "Setenil de las Bodegas" dates to the 15th century when the village was known for its successful olive, almond and wine trade. Today Setenil's olive and almond markets are strong, but its vineyards were destroyed in the 1860's by an infestation of phylloxera (a microscopic louse).
The true origins of Setenil are still a mystery. But the caves along the Cueva del Sol promenade clearly show signs of black soot on the ceilings. This takes us back to prehistoric times when the caves were probably used as a natural shelter.
10 Things You Might Be Surprised To Know About Setenil!
1. The Entire Village of Setenil is Built into an 'S' Shaped Gorge
From the top of Setenil, you can clearly see that the village was built low down in the Trejo River Gorge. The gorge forms an "S" shape where the river runs through town and meanders around. The town is built into one of the bends of the river.
The photo above shows how the Setenil de las Bodegas' homes curve around with the shape of the gorge.
Oficina de Información Turística - Calle Villa 2 - 956 134 261
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 am. to 2 pm.
2. The Houses in Setenil are built into the Gorge's Rocky Cliffs
The caves are natural and created by the rocky vaults that jut out from the cliffs. It is believed that the caves have been inhabited since prehistoric times based on the black soot that has been found on their ceilings.
At some point the villagers began building facades (or house fronts) that close off the caves from the outside. In most of the houses the rocky surface makes up the ceiling and back wall of the home.
The houses are also unique in that the cave walls keep the homes cooler during the summer months and warmer in winter.
3. The River Trejo Runs Through the Middle of Town
The River Trejo runs through the center of the gorge and splits the lower area of town in half. There are lovely river promenades and old Roman bridges that connect the two halves.
A nice area to walk is along the "Cueva del Sol" promenade that is always bustling with activity. There are several restaurants, bars and cafes right along the river.
Tugasa Hotel El Almendral - This is a great little hotel right at the top of Setenil. It has beautiful views of the town, a super-sized swimming pool and free parking.
TOP CASAS O CHALETS - SETENIL
Un Rincón en la Roca - Un Rincón en la Roca is a small cave house located in Setenil pueblo with views of the river and town.
Casa Rural El Tajo - Casa Rural El Tajo is a 2-bedroom cave house located in the center of Setenil with a balcony and views of the river and the famous town.
Bar Frasquito - Mediterranean style tapas bar located at the end of the Cueva del Sol Promenade. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great Prices.
Cafeteria Bar Sol y Sombra - Located just along the Cueva de la Sombra. Nice terrace with views of the river and town. Simple cafe but good value for money.
4. The Iglesia Mayor was Never Finished
The Iglesia Mayor in Setenil de las Bodegas was built under the supervision and financial backing of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.
It was built in the late Gothic style representative of the conquest of the Christians over the Moors. However, the central nave and façade were never finished. The project was suspended in 1614...never to be completed.
5. There is a Medieval Fortress in Setenil
This Nazari Castle was built by the Moors in the 13th century. It used to have 40 towers but today only one still stands (Homage Tower). It was conquered in 1482 by the forces of the Catholic Kings.
Today the Homage Tower has been completely reformed and can be toured for only one euro. The tower holds a small art gallery on three floors and has wonderful views from the top.
6. You Can Visit a Cave House
One fun thing to do while in Setenil is to tour an actual lived-in cave house. If you are interested, you must inquire at the Tourist Center and they will direct you to which homes are open for touring.
Another option for seeing the inside of these cave homes is to walk down to the Cueva de la Sombra shopping area. It is full of shops that are also built into the caves. You can go inside and take a look around.
7. There are Several Miradors in Town with Spectacular Views
Setenil de las Bodegas is one of those steep Spanish towns that takes a bit of effort to get around in. If you're up for the challenge then there are several miradors (or lookout points) at the top of the village that are fantastic for picture taking, or just enjoying the bird's eye view.
Mirador "Compania Mar Oceano", near Calle Jaboneria, has amazing views of the Cathedral and Medieval Tower from across the gorge.
8. The "Cueva de la Sombra" is the Shadier Side of Setenil
One of the most visited areas of Setenil is the "Cueva de la Sombra" or "Shady Cave". It is a quaint little shopping area just at the bottom of town along the river. It's called the "shady cave" because there is a large rock that juts out from the cliffs above covering the whole area, keeping it shaded most of the day.
This is a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts for friends. There are several shops selling specialty items and products made locally as well as wine shops and sweet artisan bakeries. There are also a few small cafes where you can relax and take it the views of the river, gorge and beautiful village above.
9. The "Cueva del Sol" is the Most Photographed Area of Town
Just across the bridge from the "Shady Cave" you will find the "Cueva del Sol" or "Sunny Cave". This is THE most popular area of town and you will always find it teaming with people enjoying the cafes, bars and of course... the sun!
The Cueva del Sol is a sunny walkway that runs along the riverside with shops, cafes and bars all built into the caves with a massive overhang above for cover. This is also the most photographed area of town and you will often see photos of the Cueva del Sol in Spain travel brochures.
10. The Three Most Visited Streets are...
These three streets are perfect examples of how the Setenil homes are built. You can see how they are cut directly into the rocky cliffs of the gorge. The homes are all currently occupied as they have been for centuries.
1. Calle Herreria (Blacksmiths Street) - Right off the popular "Plaza de Andalucia" this street curves down towards the lower area of town and is where the blacksmiths used to have their shops. There are a few homes you can tour along this street.
2. Calle Mina (Mine Street) - Just off Calle Herreria, Calle Mina seems to be getting a facelift. Most of the houses along this street are under reformations, it's a good time to sneak a peek inside.
3. Calle Jaboneria (Soap Dish Street) - This street probably got its name from a soap factory or market that once existed here. It is also thought that it could be a reference to the fact that the local women passed through here on their way to the washing house.
11. There is a Roman Amphitheatre just outside Setenil
Less than 15 minutes from the town of Setenil de las Bodegas you will find the ruins of the 32-hectare ancient city of Acinipo. Acinipo was an urban area that thrived in the first century AD and had a population of more than 5.000 people. The city even minted its own money, which was decorated with bunches of grapes.
Acinipo fell in 429 AD but its believed that its people moved to Arunda (modern day Ronda) because it was strategically better located.
The Acinipo Roman theatre, which seated 2,000 people, is still in good condition today. It is thought the theatre had its start as early as 65 AD and was completed around 200 AD.
Tuesday to Saturday: 10.00 to 17.00
Sunday: 09.00 to 14.00
Other Important Information You Should Know About Setenil de las Bodegas
1. Setenil de las Bodegas has been Chosen as One of the "Prettiest Villages in Spain":
Setenil has been chosen by the Association of The Most Beautiful Villages in Spain as one of the most beautiful villages in the Cádiz province.
We highly recommend visiting these amazing villages while you're in the area.
2. Setenil de las Bodegas is One of the Famous Villages on the "Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos"
The White Towns of Andalusia, or Pueblos Blancos, are a series of towns and large villages in the northern part of the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga in southern Spain, mostly within the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
Other villages on this route are: Casares, Zahara de la Sierra, Mijas Pueblo, Villaluenga del Rosario, Benaocaz, Ubrique, Benamahoma, El Bosque, Prado del Rey, Puerto Serrano, Algodonales, El Gastor, Grazalema, Alcalá del Valle, Torre Alhaquime, Olvera, Arcos de la Frontera, Algar, Espera, Bornos and Villamartín, Vejer de la Frontera and Frigiliana.
3. Distances to Other Important Towns:
Larger Cities / Towns
Malaga 97 km / 1 hr 26 min
Cádiz 134 km / 1 hr 44 min
Sevilla 117 km / 1 hr 45 min
Ronda 17 km / 31 min
Other Smaller White Villages
Jerez de la Frontera 104 km / 1 hr 30 min
Villamartín 54 km / 56 min
Olvera 15 km / 27 min
Grazalema 32 km / 49 min
Zahara de la Sierra 35 km / 45 min
4. When is the Best Time to Come
- During the months of April, May and October you are most likely to experience good weather with pleasant average temperatures that fall between 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and 25 degrees Celsius (77°F).
- On average, the warmest month(s) are July and August, with July being the hottest.
- The months of January, February, March, April, August, September and October have a high chance of precipitation, with November being the wettest.
- On average, the coolest month is January.
- June is the driest month.
Setenil de las Bodegas is known locally for its meat products, particularly chorizo, sausage, and cerdo (pork, from pigs bred in the surrounding hills). There are also several fantastic bakeries in town that make wonderful cakes and pastries. The surrounding farmland also provides Ronda and the other white villages with much of their fruit and vegetables.
Dia de San Sebastian - January 20th - Setenil's top fiesta is the festival of its patron saint, Saint Sebastian.
Carnaval - February - Celebrated alongside all the other small villages.
The Annual Fair - Takes place in the first week of August.
7. How To Arrive
From Malaga, Take A-357, A-367, MA-414 and CA-414 to CA-422 in Setenil de las Bodegas.
From Ronda, Take A-428, MA-7403 and CA-9122 to CA-422 in Setenil de las Bodegas.
If you need a car rental, we recommend RentalCars.Com as a GREAT low cost option.
If entering town coming from Olvera (lower Setenil), there will be a large underground parking garage on your left-hand side.
If you are coming in from the other direction (upper Setenil) there is another large parking area at the top of town. You will then have to walk down the hill to access the town.
I think that's all you need to know for an amazing day in Setenil de las Bodegas! This is a town you will not forget! Have a safe trip!! ;-)