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Andalusia's White Villages
Looking a bit like sugar cubes spilled onto a green tablecloth, Andalusia's pueblos blancos (white villages) are usually found nestled on densely wooded hills, clinging to the edges of deep gorges, or perched precariously on hilltops.
The picturesque locations of the pueblos blancos usually have more to do with defense than anything else, and many have crumbling walls and fortifications that show their use as defensive structures along the frontier between the Christian and Moorish realms. In a few, the remains of magnificent Moorish castles can be spied. The suffix de la frontera, literally meaning "on the frontier," tacked onto a town's name relates to this historical border position. A visit to the white villages gives a glimpse into a simpler time when the economy was based on agriculture, architecture was built to withstand the climate, and life moved at more of a donkey-plod pace. Little wonder that foreign residents are starting to move to these rural communities in a bid to discover a more tranquil life, far from the crowds and clamor of the coast.
It's been suggested that Picasso, who was born in Málaga, was inspired to create Cubism by the pueblosblancos of his youth. The story may be apocryphal, but it's nonetheless easy to imagine—there is something wondrous and inspiring about Andalusia's whitewashed villages, with their houses that seem to tumble down the mountain slopes like giant dice.
Vejer de la Frontera
This dazzling white town is perched high on a hill, perfectly positioned to protect its citizens from the threat of marauding pirates. Today it is one of the most charming pueblos blancos on the Cádiz coast, known for its meandering cobbled lanes, narrow arches, and large number of atmospheric bars and restaurants. More recently, Vejer has been popular with an artsy crowd that has brought contemporary art galleries, crafts shops, and low-key music venues.
This impossibly pretty whitewashed village is 7 km (5 mi) north of the well-known resort of Nerja. Despite the encroachment of modern apartment buildings, the old center has remained relatively unchanged. Pots of crimson geraniums decorate the narrow streets, while the bars proudly serve the local sweet wine. Frigiliana is a good place for seeking out ceramics made by the town's craftspeople. Hikers can enjoy the 3-km (2-mi) hike from the old town to the hilltop El Fuerte, site of a 1569 skirmish between the Moors and the Christians.
The countryside surrounding Ronda is stunning, especially in the spring when the ground is carpeted with wild flowers, including exquisite purple orchids. Not surprisingly, the Serranía de Ronda (as this area is known) is famous for its superb walking. Gaucín is a lovely village crowned by a ruined Moorish castle. It is popular with artists who open their studios to the public each year over a couple of weekends in October. The town also has several excellent restaurants and a couple of sophisticated boutique hotels.
Pitres and La Taha
Granada's Alpujarras mountains are home to some of Andalusia's most unspoiled white villages. Two of the best known are Bubión and Capileira, while Pitres and La Taha villages of Mecina, Mecinilla, Fondales, Ferreirola, and Atalbéitar are lovely hamlets separated by rough tracks that wind through orchards and woodland and set in a valley that attracts few visitors.
About half an hour from Ronda is Grazalema, the prettiest—and the whitest—of the white towns. It's a lovely, small town, worth some time wandering, and well situated for a visit to the mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
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