Paying a long farewell to our Andalusian paradise.. still here after 4 days on the road.. just can’t get enough of it! Setenil de las Bodegas (we were drawn here by the “de las bodegas” and yes the wine is excellent ). Proud of the kiddos who survived a sightseeing tour in the heat of the Andalusian sun (bribed with ice cream and coca cola). As a curiosity, it has been proven that Setenil was inhabited already 25,000 years ago by people! Apparently, they came up with utilizing the natural features of the area characteristics–the caves in the rocks–as shelters. Now the only way to survive the summer living in this place is finding a safe haven in the very same caves.
Found a wonderful camping ground at @nogalejo very close to the town. At camp, kids met some Argentinian buddies and had a blast at the swimming pool. Worth a visit!!! And to think that it is only day 4 of 22 on the road up to Poland!???! Big Smile!
If you need more info, text follows at the end of the pictures below. Enjoy!
what to do near Setenil de las Bodegas?
Apart from visiting the old town, with its whitewashed houses tucked under the cliffside rocks, on the rocks and even in the rocks, topped with an Arab fortress, what else can you see or do in Setenil de las Bodegas? If you have a few more days, check out one or all of the following:
- Acinipo–the remnants of a Roman town turned into an ongoing archaelogical site. The site was founded by retired soldiers who chose this location for its defensive features, located about 10 kilometers southwest of Setenil, accessible via a narrow but paved country road.
- About 11 kilometers is a village called Torre Alháquime with a Moorish castle and cemetery.
- Alcalá del Valle–7 kilometers north of Setenil is the last village, supposedly, along te Route of the White Villages and serving as a bridge between the provinces of Cadiz and Malaga and their respective Costa de la Luz and Costa del Sol.
- Algodonales–a sleepy little town with all the charm that a sleepy little city tucked in the sierras that’s well worth it a visit. For you flamenco guitarists/tocaores, there’s an artisan guitar maker here named Benny where you can get top of the line, one of a kind flamenco guitars. Located about half-an-hour (or 26-kilometer) drive west into the area where eagles soar and people paraglide.
ROAD RAMBLINGS (notes from the road): Setenil de las Bodegas
9:10 This day is for Sentinel de las bodegas. Apparently the Romans called this town Seth. Seth nil. Like seven of nothing. It’s a little white town, still in the province of Cadiz. You might have seen it in the postcards of Spain, depicting whitewashed houses, more like caves, tucked underneath an overhanging rock on the side of a cliff. That’s it. And it’s a big-ass heavy looking rock, that has been there for, according to what we’ve read, at least 25,000 years with evidence of prehistoric settlements, like the discovery of some kind of stone sculpture (La Dalamita) honoring the goddess Venus some dolomites. You know, those thingys in the Old Times where they buried their dead under stones or underneath, or they put stones around the dead, or something like that.
The original settlers did not really dig caves into the into the rocks. They just put walls around their property around the naturally formed caves. Quite impressive, that prehistoric man! Later, the Romans discovered it and founded their settlement at this strategic point in the sierranitas of (now) Spain.
Against our instincts, from where we found parking we went downhill. It would have been better to see and visit things at the top while you are already there and then walk down to the white painted, cave houses underneath the rocks. Saves the time and energy of walking back up to visit there.
The picturesque houses under the rocky cliff actually follow the path of the one-time river which, when we visited, looked more like a stream. It’s actually a gorge. I guess at some point a big river or waterway cut through and divided this rock mountain. And so goes the formation of the two famous spots here; the streets (calle) called–Cuevas del Sol and Cuevas de la Sombra. Simply put: streets of caves in the sun or in the shade. It’s impressive to see these cave houses that looked like as if they were (except for the white paint and contemporary facade) in the old ages.
Setenil was re-conquered by the Catholic monarchs of Spain on 21 September 1484, after 800-something years of Muslim rule..
Tip for Visiting Setenil de las Bodegas
Start Your Visit from the Top of the Hill
What is there to see in this town? If you need to go to the tourist center, it is located on top of the hill, about a quarter-kilometer from the Torreon del Homenaje–the hilltop Arab fortress with an impressive view overlooking the town and the countryside from the tower. The tourist info center is right behind the the city hall–the one with the flags. There you can get a map that will show all the tourist spots that you can do/see in one day. Armed with that knowledge you can efficiently walk the narrow winding up-and-down-hill streets and check out the things that you like, one by one.
There’s one in particular for lovers’ must-stop-and-kiss spot called Bésame En Este Rincón (kiss me in this corner). We have seen something similar in a few places in Spain. Still it’s nice to have this little chicky-chicky spot for the romantics at heart. Also, it takes you to the winding streets whose houses are characteristic of the town, downhill, following the flow of the river.
In the same hilltop neighborhood is the Casa de la Damita de Setenil–that does not have much to offer except the image of that precious little lady taken from the excavation that was supposed to symbolize Mother Venus. You can have some rest and solitude at the church (Iglesia N. S. Encarnación) next to the tower.
From this area, you can just simply work your way down, ending up in the number one spot–the cave houses under the rock on the streets of Sun and Shade (Cuevas del Sol and Cuevas de la Sombra during the time of siesta when there’s fewer people. That’s pretty much what to see in Setenil in a day or few hours.
Other areas worth checking out Nearby is a museum that exhibits the cultural and natural history of the town (Centro de Interpretación Medioambiental del Olivar). Go up the 93 steps that joins two neighborhoods together, from at Mirador del Carmen to Mirador Compania Mar Oceano with an awesome view across the tower and church and the whitewashed houses on that side of town. Walk about some of the oldest streets of town like Soap Market street or Blacksmith street.
On your visit, do arrive early. Early meaning right around 10 o’clock at the latest so you can get a choice of your parking and preferably not in the weekend. That’s pretty much standard for a lot of tourist places. But here specially because the streets in the old historic center are narrow. So you don’t necessarily want to be negotiating the local traffic along with picture-taking pedestrians, that’s usually made worse by tourist traffic, especially those big SUVs once in a while.
What you’d wanna do is park just at the entrance to the center of town where the tourist spots are. There were paid public parking there on both sides of the river, if you get there early enough. At the entrance to Calle Cuevas dl Sol is a parking garage. It looked like it was free parking but there was someone hanging around like an attendant. If they ask for payment, don’t argue, unless it’s really expensive. Usually you won’t have to, because it’s like a donation of 2 to 3 euros. But get there early, if you want to do that.
We didn’t park there in the end because there was no space left. But we got lucky. We drove up and around the hill towards the the tower on top and the church which also brought us closer to the places to visit. FREE public, side-street parking and you walk down to the main caves under the rocks.
Another benefit of coming early is that it can get really hot in in the summer Andalucia. By walking up and down the hills of Setenil in the morning hours, you’ll be ready to eat and chill when the sun hits its peak.
Best Time to Visit Setenil
The downside of visiting Setenil is that as there’s a lot of cars, pedestrians and visitors from a mix of locals, residents and tourists. So, here’s tip number two to make your visit more pleasant. There would usually be more tourists in the must-go-to streets than residents. In fact, it’s pretty much just tourists snapping pictures and restaurants. You really cannot get a clean photo shot because there are many people either walking around or chilling in the outdoor seating areas of the cave houses-turned-into-pricier-restaurants.
Visit Setenil on a weekday and around siesta time–between two and five in the afternoon when, at the very least, a majority of the residents and locals would have cleared the streets and gone home to eat and nap. But, and a BIG BUTt at that, both the tower and the La Damita house are only open at 11–1400; 17-20:00 from Monday to Sunday: NO SIESTA!
Visit Setenil in the winter, or at least between October and March when there’s fewer tourists (except for holidays) and the temperatire is NOT scorching. And if you come early enough, you can enjoy visiting with fewer people and in near silence, sort of and get that, you know, what-the f*@k-happened-with-humanity, kind of feeling if you visit in the winter. But if you can only come in the summer come early, because the parking can also be a pain-in-the-you-know-what, right? So wake up before the Spaniards wake up! In and out with plenty of time.
Eat at off-the-beaten path places
The prices in this area are a bit more expensive. About 3 euros for a glass of beer, for example, that would cost half that outside of this tourist zone. This one particular restaurant we were in (nothing fancy) did not have tapas (snacks) which is typically available in Andalusia. So, you are forced to order a racion (full dish) at 12 euros a piece. They didn’t even have coffee. So, we had to get the heck outta that tourist trap.
We found it better to actually go around, walk about and find little bars/restaurants/food places that are slightly off-the-beaten path, where locals would go. We discovered a couple of such cool spots. Right around the corner, on the the side of “Cali Soul” [aside: that’s a cool name, generated by AI for calle Sol] there’s a wine bar that specializes in food and wines of Cadiz (La Cueva del Iberico). Sure enough they have wines (or more specifically SHERRY from Jerez de la Frontera that you can take straight out of the cask in plastic bottles by the liter. Naturally it cost twice as much as in the Cooperative Vitivinicolas from where we buy our fino, oloroso, amontilldo, palo cortado or Pedro Ximenez. A liter of Palo Cortado was a mere €16.50; Oloroso was about €5.30 per liter, and so on and so forth. So, if you can’t get to Jerez, it’s good to know that you can get these essential souvenirs from the faraway land of sherry… well, here!
There’s an outpost of a bar/restaurant, also under a rocky cliff, called “El Bandolero” in the outskirt of town that’s worth going to in order to enjoy looking up to the tower and church from the valley in the backside of the old quarters. It’s about two-thirds of a kilometer walk downhill from the tower. Nearby is a museum that exhibits the cultural and natural history of the town (Centro de Interpretación Medioambiental del Olivar).
Another good place to eat or have refreshment is Cueva Alta on the other (southwestern) side of town. A good stop for snacks, coffee, and beer in a cave. So you get a chance to see what a cave house might look like. Obviously this was modernized and turned into a store. But yeah, you can still see what it looks like from the inside and it’s FREE. It’s a good place to actually buy local artisan crafts for souvenirs, vino de Setenil (local wines) and queso de Payayo (the famous cheese from Payayo–). There’s this little bowl or like a ceramic glass or tube that you can put in the freezer for serving your beer, ice cold.
where to Camp in Setenil de las Bodegas?
Super-clean modern WC/bathrrom with all the blings, camping in near isolation under the shade of old olive trees–these are what we like about this camping in Setenil de las Bodega. Check out our full review of family CampingEl Nogalejo with pictures.
Next Stop: Retired Roman Ruins of Acinipo
Obviously there’s a lot more to see here than mentioned. Don’t forget to just slow down and chill. You can’t see them all anyway without working (or walking) yourself and your loved ones to exhaustion, liek a Bataan death march. Best to leave some for for the next time around.
Next on our list is the Roman ruins of Acinipo–a settlement founded by retired SPQR-tatooed, Roman soldiers. Boo-YA! We didn’t get a chance to do it yesterday because it was a lot of walking for the kids and their short-legged dad. Big Smile! #fefR4
Onwards, upwards. . . . to Andorra! Here’s the first half of our family camping road trip. . . number FOUR! 1,617-something kilometers from Jerez de la Frontera, detour to Bolonia, then Setenil de las Bodegas, the white villages of the Alpujarras, the caves of Guadix, Baeza, Ubeda, Ossa de Montiel, the hanging houses of Cuenca, Lake Caspe and finally the little country of Andorra. . . at least for the first half of this trip!
Last stOP: on The Road Again
In Pictures: Sand Dune of Bolonia, Playa Valdevaqueros, Spain + Family Camping Road Trip Day 2. Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in the sand dune of Bolonia and one of the most beautiful beaches of Andalucia.
This fourth European roadtrip of ours will definitely be a bitter-sweet experience… saying goodbye to our Andalusian paradise (for now) and being excited about our new Polish adventure at the same time. Ready or not, here we GO! Road Trip In Pictures, Day 1: On the Road Again From Bolonia to Polonia + Review of Camping Paloma Near Tarifa, Spain
Thanks for checking us out!