Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the most unique pueblos blancos (white villages) in Andalusia. Most of these photogenic Moorish towns began with defensive fortifications built atop high hills to make the danger easier to see coming and easier to defend when it arrived. Although maybe “easier” isn’t the right choice of words to describe facing an angry horde of Christian soldiers in the throes of righteous fury.
Either way, fascinating Setenil de las Bodegas is the complete opposite. Built mostly into caves and under rocks, it is fairly nondescript from a distance and only unveils its odd architecture upon closer inspection.
Further adding to its appeal, most of the old town is found along a scenic gorge created by the small River Trejo that splits the town in two. There are a pair of pleasant promenades along the river and several impressive Roman bridges connecting the two sides.
Most of the caves themselves have been inhabited since the Stone Age (12,000 years ago) but it was only when the Moors arrived in the 8th century that a larger town really took off around them (along with the obligatory hilltop castle – although in this case the hill is much small than usual). And, of course, the caves made perfect sense (and still do) because the thick rock keeps the heat out in summer, the cold out in winter and not much work was needed to fully enclose the space.
Is Setenil de las Bodegas Worth Visiting
Yes, as it is one of the most unique and memorable pueblos blancos in Spain. Even though all the white villages of Andalusia have interesting features worth seeing (and almost always fabulous viewpoints), the bizarre rock buildings and cave houses of Setenil de las Bodegas are among the most fascinating attractions in Cadiz.
Setenil de las Bodegas Map
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Things to Do in Setenil de las Bodegas
Unlike some of the more expansive, above-ground white villages, there is a rather limited list of things to do in Setenil de las Bodegas. With most of the best Setenil de las Bodegas attractions contained within the confines of the steep cliffs and picturesque overhangs of the Rio Trejo gorge, it is possible to see the main highlights in far less time than usual.
Wander the Streets
Full of narrow, atmospheric streets lined with white houses built into the rock face and shops located inside small caves, all decorated with colourful flowers and flowerpots, Setenil de las Bodegas is a joy to explore.
The white paint was a further measure designed to reflect the summer sun and keep the buildings cool, and the wide variety of occupiers throughout history have each left their own decorative mark. From the Romans to the Moors to the Christians, Setenil de las Bodegas architecture is a wonderful mix of styles and patterns.
If you get lost (and you probably will), keep an eye out for the signs with camera icons providing information and directions.
Go Tapas hopping along Calle Cuevas del Sol (Sun Street)
Calle Cuevas del Sol, or Cave Street of Sun, is the busiest and most important street in Setenil de las Bodegas and the best place to go for traditional Andalusian tapas. With several lovely restaurants to choose from, grab a prime seat along the river and enjoy the terrific views of the rock overhangs and the gorge while the parade of visitors passes by along the narrow street.
Bar Francisco is great starting point and as you make your way along Calle Cuevas del Sol you can try a wide variety of tapas from pork and cold meats to sweet potatoes, veggie snacks and many more.
Be Awed by Calle Cuevas de la Sombra (Shade Street)
Not surprisingly, you’ll find the extraordinary Calle Cuevas de la Sombra (Cave Street of Shade) directly across the river from Calle Cuevas del Sol. There are a series of nice little bridges where you can cross back and forth to compare and contrast the two most famous cave streets of Setenil de las Bodegas.
While Calle Cuevas del Sol is impressive and bright, for my money Calle Cuevas de la Sombra is actually the more intriguing of the two. Darker (obviously), but also more enclosed and, let’s say, cave-like, the main section of the street is practically a tunnel. Narrow and often crowded, you really do feel the effects of the overhanging rocks. Not that any of this stops people from trying to drive down here, slowly scattering the scowling crowd.
While most of the restaurants are on the sunny side, there are many shops on shade street selling local food products, handicrafts and art.
Walk Down Calle Jabonería (Soap Dish Street)
On the north side of the main old town section around the sharp bend in the Rio Trejo, Calle Jaboneria is a more open, scenic walking street. As you stroll along the gorge you can enjoy fantastic views across the river to the cathedral and castle.
The street used to house a soap factory and market, which explains the name, although some also believe the name stuck around because this was the route women used to reach the main washing area of Setenil de las Bodegas.
Visit A Cave House
It is all well and good to see all the odd cave houses from the outside but to truly get a feel for what it would be like to live in one you’ll need to go inside. Sure, the shops along Calle Cueva de la Sombra give you the general idea and feel for these unique dwellings but it is also possible to tour an actual cave house if you are interested in a deeper dive.
Innately practical – warm in winter, cool in summer, only one extra wall to build – and fun to explore, you can stop in at the Tourist Centre to find out which homes are currently open to visitors.
Check out the Ruined Moorish castle
Yes, Setenil de las Bodegas and its cave houses may be quite different from all the other pueblos blancos but there are still a few features of these old Moorish towns that were non-negotiable. Hilltop castles, for instance.
The Setenil de las Bodegas castle was built in the 12th century under the Almohad Caliphate. This Nazari castle enjoys a tremendous location overlooking the town and a sharp bend in the Trejo River. In its heyday it boasted 40 towers, only one of which remains today, although it is still well worth climbing to the top for the magnificent views.
There isn’t a whole lot else left these days, just a section of wall, an ancient cistern and a bit of a second tower. However, it is still possible to picture how difficult it must have been to attack in those days when it repelled six consecutive Christian sieges in the 15th century (before finally succumbing on the seventh try).
Climb Up Calle Herreria
Making your way up to the castle, you’ll follow one of the most interesting and oldest streets in Setenil de las Bodegas. On Calle Herreria (Blacksmith Street), the houses are built under the rock, just like elsewhere, but the slope of the street forced them to be even more creative in their designs.
Many of them are former blacksmith shops, one of them houses a basic private museum and there are a few other homes that offer tours.
Relax on the Plaza de Andalucía
Located at one end of notable Calle Herrería is the pleasant Plaza de Andalucía, one of the best places to go in Setenil de las Bodegas to grab a bite or drink on a pleasant terrace overlooking the square.
Stop by the Churches
As in any old Spanish town, there are plenty of outstanding religious buildings to visit.
Church of Our Lady of the Encarnación
Right next to the castle you’ll find the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, the most important church in Setenil de las Bodegas.
Entrance is free to this Gothic/Renaissance/Mudejar classic built on the remains of an ancient mosque, the interior is entirely white (in fitting with the general style of the town) and there is a compelling 17th century crucifixion statue above the altar.
Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Carmen
Another nice church, this 18th century gem features one of the best viewpoints in Setenil de las Bodegas.
Hermitage of Saint Sebastián
Located at the high point of town, Saint Sebastian Church was built in the 15th century and provides a great look down at the most dramatic bend of the Rio Trejo.
Hermitage of Saint Benito
The origins of this small church are a bit vague but it was also built on the ruins of an old mosque, is located right in the centre of Setenil de las Bodegas and was extensively renovated throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Go Shopping for Local Specialties
Andalusia as a whole is known for its cured meats and Setenil de las Bodegas is particularly famous for its chorizo (sausage), wine, cheese, marmalade and pastries. The pork for the chorizo comes from local pigs and there are many vineyards (wine) and orange groves (marmalade) in the hills around Setenil de las Bodegas.
La Cueva del Iberico is one of the best places to find samples of these great local specialties, although you can find several more good shops along Calle Cueva de la Sombra.
Check out the Setenil de las Bodegas Tourism Office
Even the Tourist Centre in Setenil de las Bodegas is located in a gorgeous old building with Moorish architecture and an extraordinary wooden ceiling decorated in fascinating patterns.
Find Your Favourite Viewpoint
Even without the dramatic hills of some of the other pueblos blancos, Setenil de las Bodegas still offers its fair share of excellent viewpoints.
Calle Ventosilla Alta
Not so much an official viewpoint as a narrow street with exceptional views of everything from the castle, church and houses to the river and even the olive groves around town. There aren’t really any places to park (barely enough room to drive, really) so you are best walking up the hill on foot (or having someone drop you off, then walking down).
Mirador on Calle San Sebastian
This is the most popular and accessible viewpoint in Setenil de las Bodegas. It isn’t quite as high as Calle Ventosilla Alta but there are actually some places to park, or you can just make a short stop on your way out of town (this road eventually joins up with the highway to Olvera).
Mirador del Carmen
Directly above Calle Cuevas del Sol and the main part of town, this expansive viewpoint next to Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Carmen is probably the best in town. You can gaze down upon the river and cave houses, as well as across to the castle and most dramatic section of cliffs, but only if you’re up to tackling the steep set of stairs.
Where to Stay: Setenil de las Bodegas Hotels
With far more accommodation options, many people choose to stay in nearby Ronda and just visit Setenil de las Bodegas on a day trip. We have put together a list of The 15 Best Hotels in Ronda to help you choose the best one if you go that route.
However, seeing Setenil de las Bodegas after the day trippers have gone (and again before they arrive) can be pretty special as well. So, if you have the time to spend a night or two, here are the best Setenil de las Bodegas hotels.
Hotel Villa de Setenil
Hotel Villa de Setenil is a great choice with modern rooms, each with a private balcony with views of the cave houses below.
The amenities include an excellent restaurant that features locally produced food and wines that can be enjoyed with the same views.
It is close to the charming Plaza de Andalucía and the staff were very friendly when we visited and happy to show us around.
Tugasa Hotel El Almendral
If you are looking for a hotel with a pool to cool down on those hot Andalusian summer days, then Tugasa Hotel El Almendral is a great choice. It is located on the edge of town where you can enjoy their beautiful gardens while taking a break from seeing the Setenil de las Bodegas attractions.
Casa Cueva La Tosca
Among the most unique Setenil de las Bodegas sights are the cave houses so why not actually stay in one? Casa Cueva La Tosca is the perfect mix of old and new with its rock walls serenaded by the sound of the nearby river. The cave house comes with a full kitchen if you want to have some of your meals in.
Things to Do Near Sentenil de las Bodegas
Visit the Acinipo Roman ruins
This set of wild, mostly unrestored Roman remains boasts historical importance, interesting ruins and terrific views. Also known as “Old Ronda”, it is just 20 km northwest of Ronda and is good stop on your way to visit some of the terrific white villages in the area.
Enjoy the Drive Between Olvera and Sentenil de las Bodegas
It is convenient that two of our favourite white villages are located just 15 kilometres apart. And, as terrific as Olvera and Setenil de las Bodegas are themselves, the road between them is possibly even more spectacular.
Quiet and winding, it follows the river through an awesome canyon, emerging on either side among hills covered in olive groves.
Hike in Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema
The entire Sierra de Grazalema Nature Reserve has been classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1977 and was named the first natural park in Andalusia in 1984. The main Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema Visitor Centre is located in El Bosque and there is a smaller information point in Zahara de la Sierra, as well.
The park has an excellent network of well-marked and maintained trails offering a the whole range of options from short and easy walks to strenuous all-day undertakings. El Torreon, El Pinsapar, La Garganta Verde and Llanos de Rabel require “permisos” from the El Bosque office, although it is sometimes possible to acquire them by email up to a month in advance.
History of Setenil de las Bodegas, Cadiz
Strangely, there does not appear to be any real consensus on the origins of the name, Setenil de las Bodegas. Everyone seems to agree that “setenil” comes from “septem nihil”, meaning “seven times no”, which refers to the fact it took seven attempts for the Christian forces to finally retake the town from the Muslims.
But as to the second part of the name, “bodegas” has multiple meanings in Spanish. Roughly half the historical sources claim that in this case it refers to “warehouses”, alluding to the fact these cool, protected caves spent centuries being used to store food and other goods. This is the explanation that makes the most sense to me.
The other theory is that in this context “bodegas” refers to “wineries”, which also have a rich history in the area. True or not, this certainly fits better today as Andalusian wine continues to increase in popularity (among connoisseurs and casual vacation alcoholics alike).
Festivals and Events in Setenil de las Bodegas Spain
The biggest Setenil de las Bodegas festival takes place in January and is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the town’s patron saint.
Setenil de las Bodegas also celebrates Carnival in February or March with the usual boisterous music, dancing and street parades.
Like everywhere in Spain, the Easter celebrations for Semana Santa (Holy Week) are taken quite seriously, with plenty of religious processions, some of which have been turned into competitions.
If you visit in August you might get a chance to enjoy the several days of concerts, flamenco dancing and horseback riding competitions of the Fería de Setenil de las Bodegas.
Finally, olive-lovers should look into the annual Fiesta del Aceite, featuring local products, a market, displays and tastings. The Olive Festival took place in November in 2021 but it changes every year so you’ll need to do some research to find out if your visit will coincide.
Other Pueblos Blancos (White Villages)
As great as Setenil de las Bodegas is, you will definitely want to set aside time to explore some of the other fantastic pueblos blancos in the area.
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).
Olvera has some of the best viewpoints in the area from its impressive castle.
Algodonales boasts an impressive location next to the Sierra de Lijar mountains and is famous for a) having the largest hang-gliding school in Andalusia and b) making great guitars. I kid you not.
Grazalema is known for its many amazing hiking areas.
Zahara de la Sierra features an impressive Moorish castle on top of a huge, rocky hill located next to a beautiful blue lake.
Villamartín is another relatively large white town that is spread out across both sides of a tall hill. It has the obligatory whitewashed buildings and some architectural highlights including Topete Mansion and Matrera Castle.
Tiny Villaluenga del Rosario has an awesome little bull ring and fantastic cheese.
Arcos de la Frontera is all about the arches, many obvious and others hidden in the least likely spots.
Pretty Casares is close to the Costa del Sol and is considered the gateway to the white villages. It also features a photogenic castle atop a rocky outcropping, a griffon vulture colony and a fun via ferrata.
Jerez de la Frontera is the sherry and flamenco capital of Andalusia. So if those are things you are into, Jerez is a must-see. If not, well, it’s still a very beautiful place (and much larger than most other towns on this list).
Medina-Sidonia is the oldest pueblo blanco and features an understated elegance perched atop a hill not far from Cádiz.
Of all the amazing white villages we visited, Vejer de la Frontera was our favourite. Great vibe, beautiful place and the nicest main square in Andalusia.
For an overview of our white villages road trip, check out 12 Spectacular Pueblos Blancos in Andalusia
Andalusian Cities Near Setenil de las Bodegas Cadiz
Of course, Andalusia also boasts some of the most beautiful cities in Spain, many of which are just a short drive from Setenil de las Bodegas in Cadiz.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
How Much Time do You Need for Setenil de las Bodegas?
Setenil de las Bodegas is not a big place so it is certainly possible to wander the most interesting streets, visit the castle and enjoy the views from the best viewpoints in 2 hours or so.
However, if you want to dig a little deeper into the cave houses (so to speak), do some shopping on Calle Cuevas de la Sombra, enjoy some tapas along Calle Cuevas del Sol and check out the castle, then you’ll want to give yourself at least 4 hours.
However long you plan to stay, it is best to come early as Setenil de las Bodegas is a popular tour bus stop so the restaurants are often packed by 11 am.
How to Get to Setenil de las Bodegas Village
Most people visit the Setenil de las Bodegas village by car, either their own or a rental. 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.
Nearby Main Centres by Car:
Malaga to Setenil de las Bodegas: 95 km / 1.25 hrs
Seville to Setenil de las Bodegas: 115 km / 1.5 hrs
Cádiz to Setenil de las Bodegas: 135 km / 1.75 hrs
Córdoba to Setenil de las Bodegas: 150 km / 2 hrs
Granada to Setenil de las Bodegas: 165 km / 2 hrs
Gibraltar to Setenil de las Bodegas: 125 km / 2 hrs
Nearby pueblos blancos:
Ronda to Setenil de las Bodegas: 15 km / 25 min
Olvera to Setenil de las Bodegas: 15 km / 25 min
Algodonales to Setenil de las Bodegas: 25 km / 30 min
Grazalema to Setenil de las Bodegas: 30 km / 45 min
Zahara de la Sierra to Setenil de las Bodegas: 35 km / 45 min
Villamartín to Setenil de las Bodegas: 55 km / 50 min
Villaluenga del Rosario: 45 km / 1 hr
Arcos de la Frontera to Setenil de las Bodegas: 75 km / 1 hr
Casares to Setenil de las Bodegas: 75 km / 1.5 hrs
Jerez de la Frontera to Setenil de las Bodegas: 100 km / 1.5 hrs
Medina-Sidonia to Setenil de las Bodegas: 135 km / 1.75 hrs
Vejer de la Frontera to Setenil de las Bodegas: 170 km / 2 hrs
Parking in Setenil de las Bodegas
As you might expect in a town of caves, parking in Setenil de las Bodegas can be tricky. Your ideal spot would be along Calle San Sebastian, where you can find a handful of spots overlooking the best part of town.
If those are already full (which they probably are unless you are very early or very lucky) you have two other convenient choices. Parking Virgen del Carmen is a big dirt parking lot on the eastern side of town. From here it is about a 10-minute walk to the cave streets but at least you won’t have to worry about driving on the busy, narrow streets.
On the other side of town (closer to Olvera) you’ll find Parking Los Caños, a large underground pay parking lot that offers the benefit of keeping your car nice and cool for when it’s time to leave.
There are a few Avanza buses that stop in Setenil de las Bodegas, with the schedule occasionally changing throughout the year.
When to Visit: Setenil de las Bodegas Weather
While the Costa del Sol gets very hot in summer but it stays a bit cooler in the cave houses of Setenil de las Bodegas, which makes it a good place to visit on hot days. It almost never rains in July and August but this is also when the town sees the most tourists.
Winters are relatively mild with daily high and low averages ranging from about 5C to 14C but there is a bit more rain at this time, starting in November and continuing right into April. However, it can still be quite pleasant and almost all the other tourists are gone.
The best times to visit Setenil de las Bodegas are in spring and fall, with May and October both boasting perfect 20-25C daytime highs and much less rain than the winter months.
Setenil de las Bodegas Summary
If you have loved all the amazing white villages of Andalusia so far but are craving something a little different, well, Setenil de las Bodegas certainly fits the bill. With its bizarre cave houses, fascinating Moorish history and bevy of tremendous shops and restaurants, it is the perfect diversion to add to your pueblo blanco road trip.
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