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In pictures: Life in the stunning white villages of Andalusia

Visiting these beautiful villages in Spain’s Cádiz province is like taking a step back in time

  • Spain’s exotic white villages have more than a touch of North Africa about them. Pictured here is the hilltop town of Vejer de la Frontera, a 20-minute drive from the lighthouse at Cape Trafalgar.
    1Spain’s exotic white villages have more than a touch of North Africa about them. Pictured here is the hilltop town of Vejer de la Frontera, a 20-minute drive from the lighthouse at Cape Trafalgar.
  • In the mountain ranges of Cádiz province, 19 town halls have banded together to create the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos (the White Villages Route). Pictured are attendees at the procession of the Vírgen de los Ángeles in the village of Grazalema near the stunning Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
    2In the mountain ranges of Cádiz province, 19 town halls have banded together to create the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos (the White Villages Route). Pictured are attendees at the procession of the Vírgen de los Ángeles in the village of Grazalema near the stunning Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
  • The labyrinthine white villages are a reminder of Al-Ándalus, or Moorish Spain. Many of the names of these towns are also of Arab origin, like the “Alcalá” of Alcalá de los Gazules, which means citadel, or fortification. Pictured is the village of Olvera which sits at one end of the Vía Verde de la Sierra, widely considered the most spectacular of Spain’s “greenways” – a network of disused railway lines that has been reconditioned as cycling and hiking trails.
    3The labyrinthine white villages are a reminder of Al-Ándalus, or Moorish Spain. Many of the names of these towns are also of Arab origin, like the “Alcalá” of Alcalá de los Gazules, which means citadel, or fortification. Pictured is the village of Olvera which sits at one end of the Vía Verde de la Sierra, widely considered the most spectacular of Spain’s “greenways” – a network of disused railway lines that has been reconditioned as cycling and hiking trails.
  • Another reference to the region’s ancient past can be found in the term ‘de la Frontera’ (of the border) in the names of some white villages. This refers to the period when Spain was divided into Christian and Muslim territories, and when these villages marked the border between the two communities. In this image, a woman steps out of a house in Arcos de la Frontera.
    4Another reference to the region’s ancient past can be found in the term ‘de la Frontera’ (of the border) in the names of some white villages. This refers to the period when Spain was divided into Christian and Muslim territories, and when these villages marked the border between the two communities. In this image, a woman steps out of a house in Arcos de la Frontera.
  • The white villages of Cádiz have a shared physical and historical heritage. Picture here is Setenil de las Bodegas, famous for its distinctive houses built into rock faces along a narrow river gorge.
    5The white villages of Cádiz have a shared physical and historical heritage. Picture here is Setenil de las Bodegas, famous for its distinctive houses built into rock faces along a narrow river gorge.
  • The white villages all have obscure origins that date back to Roman times or earlier. They were controlled by Arabs and then retaken by Christians before witnessing a spontaneous flowering of convents. Here a warehouse in Setenil de las Bodegas catches the last rays of evening sun.
    6The white villages all have obscure origins that date back to Roman times or earlier. They were controlled by Arabs and then retaken by Christians before witnessing a spontaneous flowering of convents. Here a warehouse in Setenil de las Bodegas catches the last rays of evening sun.
  • A castle, a bell-tower, a warren of twisting streets, orange blossom, geraniums and silence: stereotype and reality meet often in these white villages. Pictured here is a bride entering a church in the village of Espera.
    7A castle, a bell-tower, a warren of twisting streets, orange blossom, geraniums and silence: stereotype and reality meet often in these white villages. Pictured here is a bride entering a church in the village of Espera.
  • A heifer chases a runner during the Toro de Cuerda festival in Villaluenga del Rosario. These public festivals see locals “playing” with the bulls, displaying their strength and bravery, while trying to avoid being gored.
    8A heifer chases a runner during the Toro de Cuerda festival in Villaluenga del Rosario. These public festivals see locals “playing” with the bulls, displaying their strength and bravery, while trying to avoid being gored.
  • Women in Vejer de la Frontera wearing a layered garment traditionally worn by older women and known as a ‘cobijada’ – a word coming from ‘cobija’, or blanket. While this item is thought to be Spanish in origin, much has been made of its similarities to the burqas worn by Islamic women.
    9Women in Vejer de la Frontera wearing a layered garment traditionally worn by older women and known as a ‘cobijada’ – a word coming from ‘cobija’, or blanket. While this item is thought to be Spanish in origin, much has been made of its similarities to the burqas worn by Islamic women.
  • A colored tile showing the Vírgen of Fátima on a house in the white village of Arcos de la Frontera. Such tiles are typical of the region.
    10A colored tile showing the Vírgen of Fátima on a house in the white village of Arcos de la Frontera. Such tiles are typical of the region.
  • Prado del Rey has its origins in the Roman city of Iptuci, the archeological remains of which have been given special protection under Spanish heritage laws. Here a worker at Prado del Rey’s Iptci salt mine takes a break.
    11Prado del Rey has its origins in the Roman city of Iptuci, the archeological remains of which have been given special protection under Spanish heritage laws. Here a worker at Prado del Rey’s Iptci salt mine takes a break.
  • Castle-capped Olvera, which resembles Arcos de la Frontera more than a little, is well worth a visit.
    12Castle-capped Olvera, which resembles Arcos de la Frontera more than a little, is well worth a visit.
  • At the foot of an impressive rocky outcrop is Villaluenga del Rosario, the highest village in Cádiz province. In this image, cheese makers from the firm Payoya hold up a tray of goats cheese.
    13At the foot of an impressive rocky outcrop is Villaluenga del Rosario, the highest village in Cádiz province. In this image, cheese makers from the firm Payoya hold up a tray of goats cheese.
  • Residents of Andalusia’s white villages usually coat their houses in whitewash once a year before the local festivals are held. At this time of year, it is possible to buy ‘capanclá’ (‘cal para encalar’, or whitewash) on the streets. Here, a flowerpot bathed in sunshine in Olvera.
    14Residents of Andalusia’s white villages usually coat their houses in whitewash once a year before the local festivals are held. At this time of year, it is possible to buy ‘capanclá’ (‘cal para encalar’, or whitewash) on the streets. Here, a flowerpot bathed in sunshine in Olvera.
  • The village of Zahara de la Sierra by night.
    15The village of Zahara de la Sierra by night.