Setenil de las Bodegas: Spain’s Cave Village


Discover the natural beauty of Setenil de las Bodegas Image: Shutterstock/ Lyd Photography

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NESTLED in the picturesque province of Andalusia, Setenil de las Bodegas is a quaint village that captivates visitors with its unique charm and stunning natural surroundings. Renowned for its intriguing architecture, the village is famous for being built into the cliffs, with houses and streets carved directly into the rock. This article explores the rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural allure that make Setenil de las Bodegas a must-visit destination for travellers seeking an unforgettable experience.

A Historical Journey

Setenil de las Bodegas has a long past that dates back to prehistoric times. The region was initially inhabited by ancient peoples who took advantage of the natural caves for shelter and protection. The strategic location, between the Ronda Mountains and the Guadalporcún River, made it an ideal settlement site for various civilizations over the centuries.

Throughout history, Setenil de las Bodegas witnessed numerous civilizations, including the Romans, Moors, and Christians, all of whom left their mark on the village. Today, the blend of architectural styles and cultural influences from these different eras can still be seen.

Unique Cave Houses

What sets Setenil de las Bodegas apart from any other village in the world is its extraordinary cave houses. The homes were carved into the cliffs to create natural roofs and walls, providing shelter from the elements while ingeniously utilising the rugged terrain to ensure thermal insulation. Walking through the narrow streets, visitors can’t help but marvel at the seamless integration of architecture and nature.

Over time, these cave dwellings have evolved into cozy cafes, boutique shops, and charming restaurants, where visitors can enjoy local delicacies and immerse themselves in the warmth of Andalusian hospitality. The interplay of light and shadow creates a magical atmosphere, making Setenil de las Bodegas a photographer’s dream.

Local Gastronomy

Beyond its enchanting scenery, Setenil de las Bodegas is a haven for food enthusiasts. The village is celebrated for its vibrant culinary scene, with several traditional eateries offering mouthwatering Andalusian dishes. One cannot miss the local specialty, ‘Tapa de Setenil,’ which is named after the village itself. This tapa typically consists of a slice of bread topped with a variety of delicious ingredients, such as cured meats, cheeses, olives, and roasted vegetables, providing a delightful burst of flavours. Visitors can also savour excellent local wines in the numerous bodegas (wine cellars) scattered throughout the village, showcasing the region’s rich winemaking heritage.

Natural Beauty and Outdoor Adventures

Setenil de las Bodegas is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The nearby Grazalema Natural Park offers numerous hiking trails, each leading to stunning viewpoints and waterfalls. The more adventurous can indulge in activities such as rock climbing and canyoning, with experienced local guides available to accompany them on these thrilling adventures.

Aerial View of Setenil de las Bodegas. Image: Shutterstock/Jon Chica

Top Ten Things to See and Do in Setenil de las Bodegas

Cuevas del Sol Street

Begin your exploration of Setenil de las Bodegas on Calle Cuevas del Sol, situated in the lower part of the village. This bustling street is renowned for its cave houses built under large rocks, providing shade throughout the day. Enjoy the numerous terraces of bars and restaurants, such as the recommended Bar Frasquito.

Calle Cuevas de la Sombra

Located on the other side of the Trejo River, Calle Cuevas de la Sombra features a large rock suspended between two rows of houses, casting a permanent shadow. Wander along this photogenic street, browse souvenir shops, and don’t miss the delightful tapas at the Sol y Sombra restaurant.

Viewpoint of El Carmen

Ascend narrow stairs from Calle Cuevas del Sol to the Mirador del Carmen for breathtaking panoramic views of the village. Admire the whitewashed houses dotting the hillside, the Torre del Homenaje, the Muralla, and the Church of La Encarnación. The Hermitage of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, an 18th-century temple, can also be explored from this vantage point.

Streets of Setenil de las Bodegas

Take a scenic stroll through some of the most beautiful streets in Setenil. Start at Calle Jabonería and finish at Plaza Andalucía, passing through charming alleys like Calle Herrería, known for the romantic sign ‘Bésame en este rincón’ (Kiss me in this corner), and Calle Calcetas, which features several cave houses.

Andalusia Square

Visit Plaza de Andalucía, the heart of the upper part of the village. Reach the square via the stairs on Calle Herrería and relax at one of the terraces while enjoying the surrounding whitewashed buildings, including the Town Hall and the Tourist Office.

El Lizón Viewpoint

Situated at the foot of the Torre del Homenaje, the Mirador del Lizón offers a different perspective of the village. Admire the houses and streets at various levels from this privileged position and soak in the stunning vistas.

Tower (Torreón)

Explore the Torreón, located at the highest point of the village, next to the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación. This medieval fortress was once used to face the reconquest by Christian troops and features beautiful floral and geometric motifs.

Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación

Dating back to the 15th and 17th centuries, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación stands atop the old main mosque of the medieval town. This late Gothic temple with Renaissance elements and Mudejar-style remnants is home to a stunning altarpiece from the late 15th century.

Excursions from Setenil de las Bodegas

Consider taking an excursion to nearby wonders such as the enchanting city of Ronda or the spectacular Caminito del Rey. If you’re a hiking enthusiast, explore routes like the Ruta de los Bandoleros, Escarpes del Río Trejo, or the Molinos.

Visit the Ermita de San Benito

Take a stroll down Calle Vílchez and continue along Calle de San Benito to reach the Ermita de San Benito. This simple yet elegant church houses the revered carving of Padre Jesús Nazareno, adding to the town’s rich religious heritage.

Setenil de las Bodegas offers plenty of captivating experiences, from exploring the unique cave houses along picturesque streets to enjoying the local cuisine and soaking in stunning viewpoints. Its rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and warm Andalusian hospitality make it an unforgettable destination for travellers seeking an authentic Spanish adventure.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!