The white villages of Andalusia
Most of the Andalusian villages shine in a perfect white. The houses painted in white colour, the narrow romantic alleyways and many arquitectonical interesting churches are a special point of attraction for tourists.
In the southwest of Andalusia, embedded in a beautiful mountain and hill-scape, there are specially many of these villages that are additionally also in a picturesque situation at a hillside or on a mountain peak or even risky "glued" to the rocks. This is the reason why no village abstains from recommending the "Route of the white villages", although this route commonly does not exist . There are several routes leading through this area and at which one can find this places with this beautiful landscape and with its shiny white houses. The term of the white villages is also not correct due to the reason that some of these places are since long time no villages anymore but grown to a city.
We want to recomend everybody to visit at least some of these white villages. Surely, during a normal long tour the time is not enough to view even only half of these romantical places. But also the side trip to only a few white villages will surely be an unforgettable experience. During our journey, we would have wished to stay much longer time in this area but what was not possible during our first tour will be surely some time later.
Ronda, the city of Carmen
We were really enthusiastic of Ronda, one of the most famous white villages of Andalusia. At least after we got into the place, as also here, the parking places are very scarce in the labirynthine and narrow alleyways. In any case, it does make sense to leave the car as far as possible from the centre and preferrably walk for 10 or 15 minutes.
But this small effort is worthwhile, as the place has many things to offer. On one hand, it is the fantastic location that enables a wide view to the surroundings. Also in its history, Ronda has amazing things to offer. It was founded ages ago by the Iberians who were followed by the Carthaginians and the Romans. The Moors lived here for almost 800 years until they were expulsed in the year 1485 by the catholic Kings. After a long period of heydays, Napoleon destroyed it in big parts. After that, some muggers and smugglers settled down there and did not contribute to a good reputation. But thereby, Ronda became indirectly famous, as Carmen, the hot blooded Spanish woman from the narration of Prosper Merimée and the opera from Bizet, is supposed to have made the men crazy in exactly this place, Ronda.
Last but not least, Ronda has also some places that should be viewed in any case. The apparently most famous building of the old town is the Puente Nuevo, an arch bridge of a length of 70 m and a height of approximately 150 m that was built between the years 1751 and 1793 and spans over the canyon of the river Rio Guadalevin; No matter if one is standing on the bridge or if one looks up to it from the canyon, the view is simply breathtaking; We almost forgot the time here and had to hurry up later in order to continue driving in time. From the bridge, one has an impressive view to the houses and terraces at the front. After a short march down to the canyon one can see the bridge from below and only now it is possible to appreciate the colossal building that has been created here. The way back can be taken over the terraces and through the narrow alleyways and repeatedely have some breaks, as the view is simply great.
La Ciudad, the old town, has of course some museums to offer. The biggest collection of Spain with timepieces, popular culture, weapons and arqueological findings can be admired in the Museo Lara. It is located close to the Puente Nuevo and opens every day from 11.00 a.m. to 07.00 p.m.
Those who like the excitement are right in the Museo del Bandolero. Here, one can find out eveything about the robbery in Ronda and surroundings. There are some profiles of some notorious bandits, weapons and life reports to see. In the right proximity there is the Museo de Caza, the hunting museum.
The church Santa María Mayor that was originally built as a mosque reminds on the past of Ronda. Still today, four Moorish cupolas are witness of this and on the basic walls of the minaret the tower bell of the church was built. From the church, one has a view to the city hall, a very beautiful building with arcades.
Otherwise there are some really beautiful Palacios to gaze at, for example the Palacio de Mondragón. Its noblesse prooves the fact that the Catholic Monarchs resided in it. But also the other buildings in the labyrinthine alleyways, the terrace gardens and some smaller churches are surely worthwhile to visit Ronda. By the way, Ronda is considered as the cradle of the bullfight in the way it is accomplished today.
In the Mercadillo, the new town, there is the oldest bullring of Spain. In the arena built in the year 1785 that still today works, a bullfight museum can be viewed that opens in the summer time from 10.00 a.m. up to 08.00 p.m. and in the winter time from 10.00 a.m. to 06.00 p.m.. Surely, many times, we germans do not understand the hype and the cult regarding the bullfighting. This slaughter in the arena should be really questioned. But the building is interesting and worthwhile to visit.
Arcos de la Frontera
As Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera is also one of the white villages attractively located on a mountain and offering a great view. The best view to the place is a little outside and at the east of Arcos de la Frontera. From there, one sees the steep rocks that rise in a height of 160 m over the river Rio Guadalete and on which peaks the white houses and some churches are standing.
Also the history of Arco de la Frontera is similar to the one of Ronda; Already during the times of the Catheningians and the Romans there was a settlement and later on, there was a Moorish capital at this place, Medina Arkosch. But contrary to many large parts of Andalusia, this place was not dominated by the Moors for a long time. Approximately in the year 1250, the place came to the Christian kingdom of Ferdinands the III., but he left the Moorish population unmolested. After a revolution in the year 1264, the King of that time, Alfons X, expulsed the Moorish and the city became fully Spanish. Also the name Arkosch was changed to Arcos.
As it is the case of many Andalusian places and cities, the old town that is based on a Moorish ground plan, is the worthwhile seeing part of Arcos de la Frontera. Also here it does make sense to leave the car a little outside. The steeply and labirynthine alleayways are worthwhile to walk, but it is hopeless to find here some parking places.
Practically at each corner there is something to discover. Several aristocratic residences are witness of the significant past of the city and also some houses with their patios, portals and claddings are constructional master pieces.
The two most significant churches of the city, San Pedro and Santa Maria de la Asunción, are built on the rests of a Moorish building. San Pedro has an impressive interior that is from the late Gothic times. The illustrations of the Saint Ignatius, Hieronymus, Petrus and the Virgin Maria that are masterfully represented are also notable.
What is apparently more imposing is the Basilica Santa Maria de la Asunción. It rises all over the other buildings as this square church tower is the highest building of the place. It was originated in the Baroque, but the church nave is from the 16th century. But here a church already stood once that was replaced by the current building. This former church was built on the fundaments of a mosque. Thus, Santa Maria de la Asunción has a really eventful past.
The Basilica stands on the Plaza del Cabildo, the plaza that forms the centre of Arcos de la Fronteras and where also the city hall is located. The viewing terrace on the plaza from which one has a great view from the peak of the mountain to the surrounding land is specially impressive.
Back to the index Andalusia
Author: Michael Nitzschke; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz