In the province of Cádiz, near Ronda, there is a unique town in Spain: Setenil de las Bodegas. Of course, you will have heard of many unique towns, but this one truly is. Do you want to know why? Then, I will give you a hint: Setenil de las Bodegas, a town nestled in rocks…
There is a street called "Caves in the sun" and another called "Caves in the shade". These are the iconic streets of Setenil de las Bodegas. And yes, these names portray these streets exactly: huge caves formed by the rocks and filled in with houses. One is always in the sun, and the other in the shade. The whole town has been awarded as one of Spain's most beautiful cities, and here is why.
Setenil de las Bodegas was built around the Guadalporcun. For thousands of years, this river excavated a canal through pure bedrock, which the locals later used to build their houses. All they had to do was to close the front part, and there you go. You have a place that will last forever! In Setenil de las Bodegas, it has been this way for thousands of years. As proof, a figurine was found in its caves, a 5,000-year-old Venus known as the “little lady of Setenil”. You can see it at the “house of the little lady” along with other local findings. It is a cute little idol with breasts.
Setenil de las Bodegas was key to conquering the Granada territory, the last Muslim Kingdom in Spain. It was the last fortress before entering the kingdom, located at a very strategic spot. And this is the very origin of its name, “septem nihil”, seven times nothing: the number of times Christians tried to take over this impregnable fortress and failed.
Even Elizabeth, the Catholic Queen, was here to support her army and was said to have given birth here a baby that died within hours, called Sebastian, and that is why the first church was dedicated to St. Sebastian. There are many sad legends about dead babies in this town. Another one is about a single mother in her 40s who could not bear it and tossed her bastard baby on the river. Since then, you can hear a baby crying at night.
Setenil de las Bodegas was impregnable due to its strong Moorish castle. It was built in the 13th century, at the top of the hill, with all the typical Moorish assets: medina, baths, mosques… It was protected by over 500 metres of the city wall and watched over by 40 towers. This impressive fortress is one of the few Moorish castles to have preserved its medieval features, so even if it is a very steep way from the houses (and the bars) under the rocks, you cannot miss it!
On the way, you can visit the many viewpoints of Setenil de las Bodegas. The best one is at the foot of the main tower of the castle, Mirador el Lizón. Another good one is Mirador del Carmen. And, of course, do not forget the churches. Most of them were immediately built over the existing mosques!
Speaking of bars, you must try the “sopa cortijera”, cooked with bread, eggs, asparagus and olive oil while you are here. And, of course, if you are a wine enthusiast, you can honour the name of Setenil by doing a wine tour. “Bodegas” means “wine caves”, and while there are not any in the town, there are many nearby that you can visit.
If you have time, do not leave just yet. There is plenty to do near Setenil de las Bodegas! For instance, you can hike one of its many, many routes. My favourite one is the “Bandits’ route”. This one will lead you to an ancient Roman city, Acinipo, with a beautiful (and huge) theatre, one of the oldest in Spain. The city was built at the top of a hill, and the view from here is breathtaking.
To sum up, Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the most beautiful towns in Spain, plus it has good food and wine and astonishing views while hiking. Therefore, you cannot hesitate to put on your bucket list Setenil de las Bodegas, a town nestled in rocks!
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