Setenil de las Bodegas is known as one of the most beautiful villages in Andalusia or even Spain. The village is one of the many ‘pueblos blancos’ of southern Spain. You usually find these charming white villages strategically located on a mountain or hilltop, but Setenil is almost hidden in the rocks. The streets of this village wind up against the rocks with houses even built into the rock face! Setenil de las Bodegas with its unique locations and rock houses is one of the most special places to visit in Andalusia. The charming town should be on any Southern Spain itinerary. Read more about this white rock town in Andalusia and let us convince you to put Setenil de las Bodegas on your wishlist.
Readi more: best things to do in Andalusia.
Why Setenil de las Bodegas is worth a visit
As one of the most beautiful villages in Spain and a very different ‘pueblo blanco’ from all other white-washed towns in the area, Setenil de las Bodegas is well worth a visit.
Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the iconic ‘pueblos blancos’ from Andalusia. These whitewashed villages are scattered over the south of Spain where Setenil is located. Ronda, Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema are beautiful examples of well-known and popular white villages not far from Setenil de las Bodegas. Anyone visiting the south of Spain and wishing to include an iconic white-washed village on his itinerary will have a hard time choosing between all the beautiful characteristic villages. We would recommend you to visit not just one, but at least two of them. And Setenil de las Bodegas should be one of them, as this village is very different from all the others.
Tip: there is an official list of the most beautiful villages in Spain. This list of ‘Los Pueblos Mas Bonitas de Espana‘ is filled with charming towns and villages across Spain, but Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the showpieces on this list.
A big difference between Setenil and its white counterparts is the special location in the rocks. For strategic reasons, most towns and villages are located on hilltops and mountains. This location provides the town with the best views of the area and approaching enemies, making it easier to defend the town. Setenil de las Bodegas is located in a gorge between the mountains, hidden in the rocks.
The location of Setenil, hidden in the rocks, has a strategic reason as well. Temperatures in the south of Spain can get quite high in the summer, which is actually one of the reasons many houses are painted white. Setenil has an extra way to protect itself from the summer heath. The spaces under and against the rocks remain very cool during the summer months. So they were initially used to store food. Hence the addition ‘bodegas’, which in Spanish refers to something like (wine) cellars. The inhabitants of the village later started using the coolness of the rocks to avoid the hot summer days as well, building their houses against the rock walls or in cool spaces under overhanging rocks.
Setenil de las Bodegas is now known for these special rock houses and has become a well-known tourist attraction in Andalusia. The streets of the old town meander along the slopes with houses built against and into the rocks. Even when the weather is grey and rainy like during our visit in February, Setenil is a lovely sight. The white village is extremely picturesque, especially from one of the many viewpoints.
How to get to Setenil de las Bodegas in Spain?
Setenil de las Bodegas is located in the province of Cadiz in southern Spain, so in the heart of Andalusia. Many other places of interest are nearby.
How to reach Setenil de las Bodegas
Ronda is the closest and best-known town near Setenil. This white village is one of the most visited places in Andalusia. Many tourists visit both Setenil and Ronda on the same day. It is less than 30 minutes driving from Ronda to Setenil de las Bodegas.
Málaga is the largest city in the area and is often the starting point of a visit to Andalusia because of its international airport and the cheap flights to Malaga. From Málaga it is less than 1.5 hours drive to Setenil de las Bodegas.
A rental car is therefore the easiest way to get to Setenil. You can easily arrange a rental car in Malaga with many rental companies at the airport. Make sure to make the arrangements for your rental vehicle in advance online, so you can pick up your car immediately after landing and start your Andalusia trip. If you do not have a rental car, we would recommend you choose an organised tour to Setenil de las Bodegas. It is a bit difficult and very time consuming to reach this small village.
Parking in Setenil de las Bodegas
Parking your rental car in Setenil can be quite a challenge. Or even more difficult: parking a campervan like ours.
The streets of the village are very narrow and it is not permitted to drive in the old town unless you are a resident. You wouldn’t want to drive those tiny and narrow streets anyways. We were often surprised to see local cars taking extremely tight turns and fitting between the houses.
You can park your vehicle on the edge of the village. We parked our campervan in these parking spaces next to the road and the parking spaces at this viewpoint are a good option as well. Another good parking spot is the Parking Los Canos, often referred to as Parking CP-Plus on maps or travel guides, which is just on the other side of the village.
Where to stay in Setenil de las Bodegas
If you want to spend one or more nights in Setenil de las Bodegas, there are fewer choices than in the larger cities in the region. Many visitors only come here during the day on a day trip from nearby destinations like Ronda or Málaga. One day should be enough time to explore the rock village, but spending the night will give you the best experience. As most people visit during a day trip, Setenil is much more quiet and peaceful in the early morning or in the evening.
In a tiny village like this, every accommodation is within walking distance of all attractions. One of the most popular hotels is Villa de Setenil with well-priced and modern rooms. With a location around the corner from the castle and the central Plaza de Andalucía, you’ll stay in the heart of the village.
But if you want to experience what Setenil is famous for, you should book a stay in one of the iconic rock houses. Like Casa Cueva La Tosca, Casa Cueva Un Rincon en la Roca or Casa Cueva Las Calcetas.
If you don’t mind staying a little further away from the village, we would recommend you this special yurt in a beautiful mountain location. The ecostay has a dry toilet, solar panels and a solar shower, so the accommodation is almost entirely off the grid. There is a private wooden deck overlooking the valley and cliffs offering guests the most of the impressive views.
The tourist attractions of Setenil de las Bodegas on the map
The best things to do in Setenil de las Bodegas
#1 The iconic Cuevas del Sol and Cuevas de la Sombra
The iconic overhanging caves Cuevas del Sol and Cuevas de la Sombra are the most photographed and best-known sights in Setenil de las Bodegas. The caves are on either side of the Rio Trejo River that created the gorge in which Setenil was built. The Cueves del Sol are on the sunny side, while the Cuevas de la Sombra are on the shady side of the rocks.
At the Cueves del Sol you will find restaurants and terraces. The facades of the buildings are deep under the overhanging rock and there are plants hanging from the rocks toward the river water, creating an extremely picturesque sight. The terraces are strategically on the water of the Rio Trejo where they make optimal use of the sun. If you’re looking for a place to have some food or drinks, this is the most popular and most photogenic place to do it.
On the other side of the river is the Cuevas de la Sombra, shrouded in shadows. The rocks hang over the houses and the street so far that it almost looks like a tunnel. Where the sunny side mainly has restaurants, there are mainly shops with souvenirs and local delicacies at the Cuevas de la Sombra. Setenil is known for its typical chorizo, which is a great souvenir to bring home for meat lovers.
#2 The rock houses in Calle Mina and Calle Herreria
The streets with the most rock dwellings are Calle Mina and Calle Herreria. The streets run straight along the rock wall and the caves and indentations in the rocks have been used for houses. These are the special rock houses for which Setenil de las Bodegas is famous.
When you wander through the town, these streets should be on your walking route. You can even visit some rock houses at this location. It is not an official museum, but a regular home. Locals try to make some money from tourism by opening up their homes for a small fee. Like the house at Calle Herreria 15 which you can visit for € 1.
Two of Setenil’s best-known photo spots are also in these streets. There are tiles with texts on the walls in two places: the text ‘Una flor, una mujer’ (translated: A flower, a woman) in Calle Mina and ‘Bésame En Este Rincón’ (translated: Kiss me in this corner) on Calle Herreria.
#3 The picturesque old town
Wandering through the historic town is one of the best ways to explore it. The charming white houses are a beautiful sight to see. The white color, just like the location against the rocks and in the caves, is a way to keep the hot sun out in the summer months.
The caves in the gorge of the Rio Trejo have probably been inhabited for centuries, long before there was an actual village and before houses were built. This long history is reflected in the different architectural styles in Setenil de las Bodegas. As you meander through the narrow streets, you will encounter influences from the Romans to the Moors to the Christians.
The best example is at Calle San Benito 13 where you’ll see the most photographed door of Setenil de las Bodegas. You can see the Moorish, but also Christian influences in the horseshoe shape, white walls, heavy wooden door, old-fashioned lanterns and mosaics with saints. This combination of Moorish and Christian influences is unique to this region and is also known as the Mudajar style.
#4 The historic churches
Also worth a visit are the churches in Setenil. However tiny this town is, in Catholic Spain you can still count on a good dose of churches. Many of the churches are built on the remains of a mosque from the Moorish era, although you don’t see much of it today. The most beautiful churches in Setenil de las Bodegas are the main church Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación and the small Ermita de San Benito.
The Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación is beautifully situated on the hilltop near the castle. You can see this church towering high above the town from many viewpoints. It is not built in an extravagant architectural style though. From the outside, the church looks sober but monumental. Inside, you’ll see a sober white interior with columns and a vaulted ceiling.
The yellow and white Ermita de San Benito is a charming building at the bottom of a staircase up the hill. The facade has a classical style with a bell tower and cross. The church is not always open to visitors, but you don’t miss much. The interior is rather simple with a sober style and simple altar.
#5 The beautiful viewpoints
In a village with as much height difference as in Setenil de las Bodegas there are many beautiful viewpoints. The Rio Trejo River has carved a gorge in the rock and the streets of Setenil wind up against that rock face. You therefore have the best views from the higher points.
One of the most beautiful viewpoints is from the hill on which the old castle tower is built. If you climb up from the Plaza de Andalucía through the narrow streets towards the castle tower and the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación you have some beautiful views over the white town.
A viewpoint slightly outside the old town, on one of the higher points, is on Calle Ventosilla Alta. There are parking spaces along the street, making it easy to make a short stop here on arrival or departure. Or you could park your car here and explore the village from this viewpoint. The lower streets parallel to Calle Ventosilla also have a beautiful view of the village. We loved the beautiful view from Calle Cantareria Altae, where we had parked our campervan nearby.
The most popular viewpoint of Setenil is the Mirador del Carmen. This viewpoint is located directly above the famous Calle Cuevas del Sol and has a beautiful view over the rocks, the town and the rock houses. You have to make a pretty steep climb to get there, but the view is worth the effort.
#6 The Torre del Homenaje of the old castle
Like the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, the Torre del Homenaje towers over Setenil de las Bodegas. It was once part of the city’s citadel, so of the old castle that stood here on the hill.
The tower is the only remnant of the old castle. In the Middle Ages there was an imposing fortress here, with which the Moors managed to repel the Christian conqueror for a long time. It took the Christians seven attempts to capture the fortress in the fifteenth century. That’s also what Setenil’s name would refer to: Septem Nihil, which is Latin for seven times nothing
In order to supply the inhabitants of the castle with water, huge water reservoirs were built under the Torre del Homenaje. You can now visit those water reservoirs and the tower with a beautiful view from the top for a small fee. The entrance is at the Tourist Office building.
#7 Plaza de Andalucia
A visit to the Plaza de Andalucía is unavoidable with a central location at the end of the photogenic Calle de Herreria with its rock dwellings. If you walk to the castle from Calle de Herreria, you will first pass the main square of Setenil de las Bodegas.
The Plaza de Andalucia is one of the most atmospheric places in Setenil. With sunny terraces, whitewashed facades, green trees, cobblestone pavement and colorful flowers, the central village square is a lovely place. It is not very big, but that’s normal for a village built up steeply against the rocks. Have a drink or bite at the terraces to give your feet some rest and enjoy people-watching.
Be sure to admire the facade of the building next to Restaurante Dominguez with glazed tiles in green and white. This is one of the few buildings in Setenil that looks different from most whitewashed buildings. The best view of Plaza de Andalucía is from above, when you take the street up towards the old castle and the church Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación.
#8 The historic building of the tourist office
The local tourist office of Setenil de las Bodegas is located in a beautiful building which is worth a short visit. You can find the building near the Plaza de Andalucía and the castle of Setenil.
Dating back to the sixteenth century, this Casa Consistorial was once the town hall of Setenil de las Bodegas. The most beautiful part of the historic building is the wooden ceiling. It has centuries-old beams and ribs with a beautiful pattern. You can clearly see the Moorish influences in the pattern. Also check the lower beam. It has an inscription referring to September 21, 1484, the date when the Catholic conqueror finally conquered Setenil from the Moors after seven attempts.
You can buy souvenirs and tickets for the castle tower at the tourist office. Of course you are also at the right place for more information about the town. But most of all, just walk in to admire the beautiful building.
#9 Spend the night in a rock house
If you really want to experience Setenil de las Bodegas to the fullest, you should spend the night in one of those iconic rock houses. The village is small enough to explore in a few hours, so most travelers visit the village on a day trip, as we did ourselves. But when those day trippers have left, the authentic village atmosphere returns. The town is then at its most beautiful and you can only experience that if you stay here for the night.
Because Setenil is so popular with tourists, several rock dwellings have also opened their doors to guests. Not only for a short visit, as we mentioned earlier in this blog, but as a vacation rental where you can spend the night! With your bed next to a jagged rock wall, you can experience how these cave houses stay wonderfully warm in the winter and wonderfully cool in the summer. These are the three rock houses where you can book a stay: Casa Cueva La Tosca, Casa Cueva Un Rincon en la Roca or Casa Cueva Las Calcetas.
#10 Hiking in the surroundings of Setenil de las Bodegas
The area surrounding Setenil de las Bodegas is characterized by vineyards, rocks, cliffs and the Trejo River. If you have enough time and like hiking, it is worth exploring the area via one of the walking trails.
The best known is the Ruta de los Molinos, the trail of the mills. This short hike takes you to the town of Alcalá del Valle through a beautiful landscape of rocks and cliffs. Along the way you will come across the old grain mills the name of the route refers to. The trail is 6 kilometers in total.
The Ruta de los Bandoleros takes you from Setenil to the Roman ruins of Acinipo, near Ronda. The route is 11 kilometers long and is centuries old. In the past, travelers on this path were often attacked by bandits and the name still refers to that history (‘bandoleros’ means bandits).
The Ruta de los Escarpes del Rio Trejo is also a lovely walk from Setenil. The trail leads to the town of Olvera and follows the Trejo River and beautiful sheer cliffs for 5 kilometers.