Andalusia's White Villages

Andalusia's pueblos blancos (white villages) are usually found nestled on densely wooded hills, clinging to the edges of deep gorges, or perched on hilltops. The picturesque locations of the pueblos blancos usually have more to do with defense than anything else, and many have crumbling 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 reflects this historical border position.

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. Vejer is popular with an artsy crowd that has brought art galleries, crafts shops, and sophisticated restaurants.

Frigiliana

This impossibly pretty whitewashed village is 7 km (4½ miles) 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-mile) hike from the old town to El Fuerte, the hilltop site of a 1569 skirmish between the Moors and the Christians ().

Gaucín

The countryside surrounding Ronda is stunning, especially in the spring when the ground is carpeted with wildflowers, 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 in late spring (visit www.artgaucin.com for dates). The town also has several excellent restaurants and 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 the 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, set in a valley that attracts few visitors.

Grazalema

About a half hour from Ronda, Grazalema is the prettiest—and the whitest—of the white towns. It's a 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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