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Closest to the Costa del Sol of all the celebrated hilltop “pueblos blancos” (white villages) of Andalusia, Spain, Casares is a popular day trip for people staying by the ocean. While most are there to soak up as much sun as possible on the fabulous beaches of this famous expat enclave, the fascinating hill towns of the interior are too good to pass up.
Built upon a high ridge (as all great pueblos blancos are) with fantastic views all the way to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and – on a clear day – even Morocco, Casares certainly looks the part. This photogenic cluster of white buildings perched high above the plains is a great introduction for anybody looking to experience these intriguing remnants of Moorish/Christian history.
Casares has just 3,000 permanent residents and a relatively small selection of hotels and restaurants. Despite this, the main square tends to be surprisingly busy, constantly full of families, traffic, pedestrians and the standard Spanish quota of old men hanging out on benches.
Those looking for something a little different than the usual busy beach town should consider basing themselves in Casares, Spain where they can enjoy cooler temperatures, outstanding views and historical significance, yet still be just a short drive from the beaches.
Because of its strategic location – both from a military standpoint in the past and a tourism standpoint today – Casares is known as “The Guardian of the Costa del Sol” and “Access to the Mountains”. Both have been true at one time or another.
Casares, Spain Map
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11 Things to Do in Casares, Spain
Thousands of people make their way up to the white towns on day trips each year but few realize that there is plenty to do in Casares on a longer stay as well. If you are wondering what to do in Casares, Spain wonder no longer. Here is a list of the best things to do in Casares.
Enjoy the Plaza de España
The buzzing heart of Casares, the Plaza de España is the first place every visitor needs to go to get a feel for what makes this bustling little town tick.
The focus is the Carlos III fountain, which used to be the main water source for the entire village and still provides fresh, clean mountain water (a perfect place to fill up that water bottle). There is also an imposing statue of Blas Infante, the famed Andalucian Nationalist leader who was born in Casares in 1885.
All roads in town lead to and from the square so even if you find yourself wandering and lost (a white village rite of passage), chances are you’ll eventually end up back at the Plaza de España.
The restaurant situation is Casares is rather limited (especially if you can’t quite master Spanish eating schedules and still prefer to eat before 9 pm) but for a bite at other times of day your best bet will be one of the bars or shops on this square. At the very least, you’ll want to settle in for a drink and some people-watching.
There are always people in the square (including a few old guys who may or may not actually live on one of those benches) but be sure to stop in at dusk if you are staying overnight. It feels like everyone in town converges there for their nightly constitutional, the ongoing conversations provide a soothing hum as the swallows arrive to swoop around like maniacs, as they do.
Explore the Narrow Streets
Just wandering the narrow, cobblestoned streets is an adventure in itself. Built on steep hills, the roads and alleys can provide a stern challenge to your cardio but you’ll get an essential look at daily village life in among the abundant Arab architecture.
Wander the Casares Castle Ruins
The remains of the Moorish castle are found at the highest point of the village (like in almost every white village) and are an extraordinary place to explore. Wandering in and around the castle – some parts surprisingly intact, others in complete shambles – was definitely my favourite part of Casares.
There are a few towers still standing, some solid walls, a pair of picturesque arched gates (Arrabal and Villa) and even an Ethnology and History Museum. But the real highlights are the stunning views from the limestone cliffs of the plains below – there is a good chance of spotting eagles and Griffon vultures – and the freedom to delve into all the cool nooks and crannies.
In our experience, this also seems to be where the elderly women of the neighbourhood come to get their afternoon exercise walks (50 metres this way, 180-degree turn, 50 metres that way, prison yard style). Probably because it is one of the only flat spots in town.
Walk under the Arrabal Arch
The Arrabal and Villa gates were the only ways into the fortress and are a fascinating blend of eras. While the lower part of the Arrabal Arch remains from Moorish times, the entire top half (including the hot oil chute) was added much later by Christian rulers.
Check out the Iglesia de La Encarnación en la Colina
This 16th century church was built on the remains of a mosque and is located very close to the castle (meaning more great views). It still features a magnificent Mudejar bell tower (that can be seen from huge distances around Casares) and the remains of a Franciscan-Capuchin convent.
Currently being restored to its former glory after suffering significant damage during the Spanish Civil War, you’ll have to try to imagine what it must have been like to see enemies thrown from the ramparts into the gorge. To their death, in case that wasn’t clear.
History aside, it still serves as the primary church in Casares and is also known as La Iglesia del Castillo (Church of the Castle).
Find the Ermita del Santo de la Vera Cruz.
Founded in the 16th century but later destroyed, this version was built in 1811. Although very close to the castle, as well, the Ermita del Santo de la Vera Cruz is not as obvious as the other church but is still very interesting. Although there are bars to keep you from getting too close, you can still have a look at its three standing walls and enjoy its classic appearance (if you look close enough you’ll notice some old bullet holes).
Pop into the Hermitage of Saint Sebastian
You can’t miss this cute little 17th century church since it is right off the Plaza de España, quite likely in your eye-line as you enjoy your latest caña of beer. It holds a famous image of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Fields, the patron saint of Casares, plus an immaculate limestone façade and a tower that was added in the 18th century (with an adorable little bell on top for good measure).
An annual 11-kilometre pilgrimage takes place every May that finishes up at this popular church.
Visit the Casares Cemetery
Yet another Casares landmark that is appealing for its amazing views of the surrounding plains. Following typical Spanish custom, the graves are above ground, elaborate and impressive.
See the Casa Natal of Blas Infante
As we mentioned earlier, Blas Infante (full name Blas Infante Perez de Vargas) was born in Casares before growing up to be an important writer and leader in the Spanish Civil War, eventually arrested and executed by the Franco government.
In these parts he is often referred to as “The Father of Andalusia”, credited with providing the region its identity and values. His childhood home is now a cultural centre open to the public. It houses an exceptional collection of his works and life, along with historical displays from the area and even some Roman artifacts.
Marvel at the Casares Viewpoints
In case I haven’t mentioned it enough yet, Casares has its fair share of excellent viewpoints. Here are several more you won’t want to miss.
Next to the info centre coming into town from the west, this was our favourite lookout point in Casares. Mainly because it afforded us awesome views of Casares itself, not just the surroundings.
It is known mainly as a top spot to see eagles and vultures but if you continue scrambling over the rocks and shrubs to the end of the promontory you’ll be rewarded with the best possible views of the town.
Mirador del Tajo de la Planá
Next to the Iglesia de la Encarnacion and Centro Cultural Blas Infante, this is another good bet if you’re hoping to see Griffon vultures as they nest very close to here. This is also where you can start (or finish) the main Casares via ferrata (climbing route of cables and ladders).
Mirador de Casares
Simple name, simple purpose, stunning views back over the village (and a cross to work into photos if you’re feeling artsy).
Even if you don’t make it as far a Mirador de Casares, there are some excellent city vistas just past the main parking areas on the highway. Close to Restaurante Sarmiento (hence the name, which we just made up), the vantage point looking down over the jumble of buildings is outstanding. Especially at sunset if you happen to be spending the night.
Mirador del castillo
Right before entering the castle be sure to turn back for one of the best looks out over the cluster of white houses that so famously gives the area its reputation.
Baths de la Hedionda
Blending a fascinating story with old ruins and an unfortunate modern incarnation, the Roman Sulfur Baths of Hedionda are a polarizing mix of new and old. The baths date back over 2,000 years to the time of Julius Caesar, who allegedly used these baths to help treat a skin condition. Apparently even famous conquerors aren’t immune to bacne.
Today, only 4 chambers remain of what was clearly a much more extensive structure but the arches, tunnels and overwhelming smell of rotten eggs (sulfur baths have both pros and cons, of course) are still much like they were in Caesar’s day. The modern concrete roof? Not so much. But it does provide important protection from the elements.
Many Casares families visit the baths and picnic in the surrounding area on Sundays but if you visit early or late on a weekday there is a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself.
Where to Stay: Best Casares Hotels
Hotel Rural Casares
We stayed at Hotel Rural Casares and enjoyed the small balcony with views over the town and a pretty sunrise.
Our room included breakfast – very Spanish with a toasted bun with jams and honey, plus coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The only downside was that the wifi was only available in the entry and there was nowhere to sit. The location is great and everything to see and do is just a short walk away.
Casares Village Bed and Breakfast
At the Casares Village B&B you get a room with private bathroom, an excellent breakfast in the garden and access to a pool. The B&B is positioned to take full advantage of the amazing sunsets. The terrace is a gorgeous space with colourful potted plants and comfy patio furniture perfect to relax with a drink and watch the sun set after a busy day exploring.
La Casita del Arrabel
If you want to rent a whole two-bedroom house right in Casares then La Casita del Arrabel is a great choice. It has a traditional feel while still being bright and airy. The view from the terrace is worth it all on its own.
Where to Eat: Casares Restaurants
Casares is known for its aptly named Casarena soup, as well as local rabbit dishes. The soup is good but, unfortunately, we neither tried the rabbit nor saw any rabbits. We heard good things, though.
We found the hardest part about eating in Casares was finding a restaurant that would serve us before 8:30 pm, a situation that was getting desperate after a long day of road tripping, hiking and castle exploring. If you do find your stomach grumbling before the Spanish dinner hour (which is inconveniently similar to Laynni’s bedtime hour) there are some good shops near the main square where you can pick up bread, meat, cheese and junk food.
If you are there for lunch or can hold out for the restaurants, however, here are a couple we can recommend:
Sarmiento is located above the village on the road where most visitors park. The location means the restaurant has a beautiful view of the mountains and the white buildings of Casares. It is a little more expensive than most of the restaurants in town but the view and delicious food make it worth while.
Antiguo Bar Nuevo
If you are looking for a place right on the town square there are a couple of choices. The Antiguo Bar Nuevo has great food and handy people-watching facilities.
Other Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) in Andalusia
There are so many great options in the area, you really are spoiled for choice. We have brief descriptions of some of the best ones below or you can check out our full summary:
Zahara de la Sierra features an impressive Moorish castle on top of a huge, rocky hill located next to a beautiful blue lake.
Setenil de las Bodegas is famously built under a massive rock, making it extremely unique among all these hilltop fortress and soaring views.
Ronda is both the largest town in the region and the crown jewel of the pueblos blancos with its stunning El Tajo gorge and fabulous Puente Nuevo (New Bridge).
Grazalema is a lovely little whitewashed village tucked beneath the Peñon Grande mountain that serves as the most popular base for visits to the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema.
Olvera has a stunning church and fortress perched side by side above the town.
Arcos de la Frontera is all about the arches, many obvious and others hidden in the least likely spots.
Vejer de la Frontera was one of our favourite pueblos blancos for its relaxed vibe, great town square and little surprises around every corner.
Medina-Sidonia is the oldest pueblo blanco in the area, features impressive ocean views and is just a short drive out of Cadiz.
Andalusian Cities Near Ronda
As great as the white villages are, don’t forget to set aside time for a few of the most beautiful cities in Spain, many of which are just a short drive from Ronda.
A somewhat bizarre bit of Britain dropped right on the edge of Spain, Gibraltar has some pretty compelling sites (i.e. Rock of Gibraltar) and historic WWII attractions. The border crossing is straightforward and Gibraltar is easily visited on a day trip, although the sites are pretty spread out so if you want to see everything it wouldn’t hurt to stay a couple of nights.
Malaga has a lot of international flights and is a common entrance point to Andalusia. Mainly known as a transport hub and beach/party town, we found Malaga to be a pleasant surprise. It has some nice old streets, good pedestrian areas and the Alcazaba, a phenomenal ancient medieval Moorish fortress that is comparable to the big attractions in Seville, Granada and Córdoba.
Although it lacks the one big, incredible site of the other major Andalusian cities, Cádiz was among our favourite cities in Andalusia for its beaches, atmosphere and old town ambience. With balmy weather (even by Andalusian standards) and perfect for wandering, Cádiz is the kind of place where the days slide by and you’ll always wish you could stay a bit longer.
Have a look at the 15 Best Things to Do in Cádiz
Comparing Granada and Seville is like comparing apples and oranges (both excellent but could probably use a wash first). Granada’s central area isn’t quite as perfect as the one in Seville, or compact as Córdoba, but it has some fascinatingly gritty neighbourhoods and a long list of awesome viewpoints. And, of course, the Alhambra, which just might be the coolest historic site I’ve ever visited.
Click here for The 17 Best Things to Do in Granada
Classic Seville is one of the gems of Spain, with a beautifully walkable old town, many amazing churches and, of course, the world-famous Real Alcazar. Hopeless romantics will also love the street and balcony that inspired Romeo and Juliet.
Check out our guide to the Best Things to Do in Seville
Much smaller and more manageable than Madrid, Barcelona or Seville, cute Córdoba has the world-famous mosque-cathedral, La Mezquita, which is definitely worth the visit alone. There is also a fascinating Jewish quarter, vibrant old town and impressive bridge (that also featured in Game of Thrones). It is less than 2 hours from Seville by car, roughly 2.5 hours by bus and just 40 minutes by high-speed train.
How to Get to Casares
Casares is easily accessible from Seville, Cádiz, Malaga, Gibraltar, Córdoba and Granada, each of which have international airports. With so many great towns and villages in the area we highly recommend renting a car for at least a few days to cover more ground and set your own schedule. We find Discover Cars usually have the best deals in the area.
It is also possible to join tours from each of these locations and there are occasional public buses, although none are direct so if you go this route it may be better to spend at least one night.
Nearby pueblos blancos:
Ronda to Casares: 60 km / 1.25 hrs
Medina-Sidonia to Casares: 115 km / 1.25 hrs
Setenil de las Bodegas to Casares: 75 km / 1.5 hrs
Vejer de la Frontera to Casares: 115 km / 1.5 hrs
Jerez de la Frontera to Casares: 140 km / 1.5 hrs
Grazalema to Casares: 80 km / 1.75 hrs
Algodonales to Casares: 85 km / 1.75 hrs
Zahara de la Sierra to Casares: 85 km / 1.75 hrs
Villaluenga del Rosario: 85 km / 1.75 hrs
Olvera to Casares: 90 km / 1.75 hrs
Arcos de la Frontera to Casares: 170 km / 1.75 hrs
Villamartín to Casares: 110 km / 2 hrs
Nearby main centres:
Gibraltar to Casares: 50 km / 50 min
Malaga to Casares: 100 km / 1.5 hrs
Cadiz to Casares: 150 km / 1.75 hrs
Granada to Casares: 220 km / 2.5 hrs
Seville to Casares: 225 km / 2.5 hrs
Cordoba to Casares: 260 km / 2.75 hrs
Where to Park in Casares
There is free parking anywhere along the main road passing through above the main part of the town. And, while it is technically possible to drive down into the village, the streets are narrow and, frankly, absurd, and that’s just talking about the that actually allow cars (which aren’t many). I would definitely recommend parking up top and walking down.
How far is Casares from the beach?
The closest beach to Casares is Casares Playa, followed closely by Playas Chica, Sabanillas and Piedras de la Paloma. They are all around 14 kilometres downhill from Casares on the Costa del Sol and only take about 20 minutes to drive there if you have a car.
Of course, once you’ve reached the coast there is an endless string of beaches in both directions, most of which are exceptionally comfortable, clean and well-equipped.
How high is Casares?
The highest point within the town is 430 metres above sea level, although hiking trails in the area climb as high as 700 metres. Not high enough to feel the altitute but definitely high enough for spectacular views down to the coast.
History of Casares Spain
Legend has it that Caesar had the village built after discovering the healing properties of the sulfur baths and it is named after him. Much, much later, in the 12th century, the Moors built the castle that present-day Casares is formed around.
In the 14th century, Peter I of Castile signed the Pact of Casares, ensuring it remained part of the Nasrid dynasty (unlike so many other villages in the area). Then, in 1485, Ronda fell to the Catholics and Casares came under the rule of the Duke of Cadiz, Rodrigo Ponce de Leon.
More tug of war ensued over the following centuries, involving Moriscos (rebel Moors who had converted to Christianity), Napoleon (they held tough) and, eventually, the Spanish Civil War.
Festivals and Events in Casares
An important flamenco festival takes place on the last Saturday in May, while the main Feria de Casares occurs the first weekend of August.
The first week of September, Casares celebrates the Day of the Virgen del Rosario, patron saint. A little bit later that same month is the Feria del Cristo.
Marbella to Casares: 45 km/ 45 min
Weather in Casares
Andalusia gets very hot in summer, which is good for beaches and water sports but may be a bit warm for hiking or sightseeing. At least it almost never rains. July and August are the hottest (35C+) but June and September also regularly see 30C+ temperatures.
Winters are relatively mild with daily high and low averages ranging from about 4C to 15C but there is a lot more rain at this time, starting in November and continuing right into April.
The best times to visit Casares are in spring and fall, with May and October both boasting perfect 20-25C daytime highs and much less rain than the winter months.
Casares, Spain Summary
Casares wasn’t necessarily our favourite Andalusian white village but it is by far the easiest to reach from the Costa del Sol. And “favourite” is pretty relative among these fantastic pueblos blancos. Casares is still phenomenally photogenic, features an impressive castle, fabulous views and an endlessly compelling history. Throw in a Griffon vulture nesting area and an extremely social central square and you have yourself the makings of a terrific introduction to the white villages.
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