Casares: Gateway Between the Costa Del Sol and Pueblos Blancos

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The closest of celebrated hilltop “Pueblos Blancos” (white villages) of Andalusia, Spain, Casares is a popular day trip for people staying on the Costa del Sol. 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.

White buildings and red roofs in Casares Spain
The white buildings in Casares Spain

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.

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.

Casares plaza de Espana with old fountain in middle

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.

Narrow street bordered by white building and crossed by a bridge in Casares Spain

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.

Castle ruins in Casares Spain

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.

Older woman walking with cane

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.

Two people walking on far side of arch
Dean and Chris walking through the Arrabal Arch

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.

Old Church

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).

White church in Casares Spain

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.

Mirador Ornitologico

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.

White buildings perched on cliff in Casares Spain

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.

Twp people hiking to viewpoint
Heading back on the ‘path’ to the viewpoint

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).

Viewpoint on edge of cliff in Casares Spain
Mirador del Tajo de la Planá
Metal steps in cliffside
The metal steps fixed up the cliff’s edge on the Via Ferrata

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).

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 Hedioda

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.

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.

Narrow street that ends in a blue door
Blue door on a house in Casares

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.

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:

Restaurante Sarmiento

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.

Sun setting over white village
View over Casares at sunset

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.

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.

Sunrise view over white village and green hills from Casares hotel
Sunrise view from our balcony

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.

Click here for Hotel Rural Casares rates

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.

Click here for Casares Village B&B rates

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.

Click here for La Casita del Arrabel rates

How to Get to Casares

If you have a car, Casares is easy to reach on a day trip from any of the big centres in Andalusia – Málaga, Ronda, Cadiz, Gibraltar or even Seville. All of these places have airports as well.

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.

Gibraltar to Casares: 50 km / 50 min

Ronda to Casares: 60 km / 70 min

Malaga to Casares: 100 km / 1.5 hrs

Cadiz to Casares: 150 km / 1.75 hrs

Seville to Casares: 225 km / 2.5 hrs

Marbella to Casares: 45 km/ 45 min

Check out our guide to the Best Things to do In Seville

How far is Casares from the beach?

The closest beaches to Casares are Playas Chica, Sabanillas and Piedras de la Paloma. They are just 14 kilometres downhill from Casares on the Costa del Sol and it only takes 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.

old blue door
Blue door along one of Casares streets

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.

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.

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.

Green hills in to the distance
Perfect weather in October to wander white villages

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:

12 Spectacular Pueblos Blancos: A White Villages Road Trip

Map of the Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia

Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)

Zahara de la Sierra features an impressive Moorish castle on top of a huge, rocky hill spectacularly 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).

View of the New Bridge in Ronda Spain

Check out The 24 Best Viewpoints in Ronda

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.

Check out Grazalema: A Guide to Spain’s Hiking Pueblo

Olvera has a stunning church and fortress perched side by side above the town.

Church and castle towering over white town of Olvera Spain
Fairytale views of Olvera

Check out Olvera: A Guide to the Pueblo with the Best Viewpoints

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.

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.

Other Posts You Might be Interested In:

The 15 Best Places to Stay in Ronda

Hiking the GR7 in the Sierra Nevada

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