It’s hard to contain my enthusiasm for one of the most beautiful sites in southern Spain: the string of white villages (or white pueblos in Spanish) which goes from the province of Malaga in the east to the province of Cadiz in the west. Glued to the rugged mountains in the background, the villages follow the Mediterranean coastline but are located several kilometers inland. Looking at them from a distance, one sometimes wonders how these whitewashed houses with their red tiled roofs and colorful door and window frames manage to stay upright rather than sliding down the mountainside. But they do, often for a century and more, lining equally steep cobbled streets and smothered in flowerpots and trailing bougainvillea, geraniums and hibiscus.
Spain has been under Arab rule for 700 years, and the influence of Arab art and architecture is clearly visible in the white villages, adding to their unique charm. There are castles or ruins of castles, arches and the distinctive Arabic decorations of southern Spain known as the Mudéjar style. In addition, in Vejer there is a medieval wall, several churches and convents, pretty viewpoints, a beach and even windmills. In short, everything conceived as typical of Andalusia is accumulated in a rather small village, which is why Vejer should be high on the agenda of white villages to visit. Vejer also has no shortage of fabulous restaurants and hotels, so a weekend of luxury is guaranteed.
Vejer, full name Vejer de la Frontera, is located between the cities of Cadiz and Algeciras on the southern coast of Spain. It is only 53 miles from Cadiz, half of Algeciras. You might want to consider a luxury weekend in this charming village, after making Cadiz your base for your stay in Andalucia.
Things To Do In Vejer
To familiarize yourself with the layout and beauty of Vejer, considered one of the most beautiful white villages in Spain (it won the first national beautification award in 1978), stroll through the winding streets and let -surprise yourself with what you discover. The village is located on the right bank of the Barbate river — a very pleasant sight. However, what I like the most are the whitewashed houses, which almost all have open patios full of flowers and are left open for anyone passing by to enjoy and admire them. Vejer has avoided chain stores, and instead you’ll find countless little arts and crafts shops where you can browse ceramics, Moroccan clothing, paintings, embroidery and other trinkets that will delight any souvenir hunter.
The centerpiece is the Plaza de España, which dates from the 15and century and, in the past, even served as an arena. In the middle stands a beautiful fountain decorated with hand-painted Seville tiles and four frogs spitting water. The town hall stands on one side of the square, where many cafes invite you to have breakfast.
Leave Plaza de España and walk up Calle Costanello to reach one of Vejer’s sights. La Cobijada is a monument to women that shows the curious habit of the women of Vejer to cover their body and face with a black veil, leaving only the left eye uncovered. And no, it has nothing to do with burkas or the Arab past! It is a tradition that people are proud of. Just take note. Next to the bronze statue of a woman dressed in that way so typical of Vejer is one of the best views of the village, the streets and the white houses.
Arch of Las Monjas
Of course, we’re on the lookout not only for the sights but also for the most photogenic part of this pretty village, and one of the most stunning is Arco de Las Monjas. It is a series of arches formed by a narrow street at the entrance to the old Jewish quarter, framing the panorama behind like a precious tableau.
We mentioned earlier that some white villages also have castles, and Vejer is no exception. It will now be late afternoon, and considering that it can get quite hot in Vejer, this is the perfect time to visit the castle. It is, for strategic reasons, located at the highest point of the village and requires a fairly steep climb. The castle, still almost intact, is open to the public from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. except on Sundays. This is another opportunity to learn more about the history and to contemplate Vejer. The castle dates from the 10th to 11th centuries and has three rectangular towers. It was declared a national monument in 1931.
El Palmar – Beach
Believe it or not, one of the prettiest white mountain villages also has the best beach in the area! Why not start the second day of your luxurious weekend with a refreshing bath and swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean? Take your car or a taxi from your hotel and drive the 15 km to El Palmar. If you wish, you can go windsurfing or just swim and laze on the fine white sand and work on your tan. The morning hours are the best to do this, as you won’t run the risk of getting burned. The beach facilities are rather basic, but there are a few straw huts, say chiringuitoswhere you can get refreshments.
Now that you are back in town and have seen the castle the day before, it is now time to visit the medieval wall over two miles long interrupted by three towers which Vejer has managed to preserve through wars and centuries. You might not be in the mood to walk the full length, but a small section will give you a good idea of just how thick these massive walls are.
You simply cannot leave Vejer without a look or a short drive to the three windmills that stand behind the historic quarter on a hill. They are symbols of Vejer just like the castle or the mysterious covered left eye.
When you get hungry from your first day of exploring Vejer, you might want to end the evening with a nice dinner in a restaurant with a typical Andalusian atmosphere and excellent local cuisine. Go to La Juderia (closed on Sundays). You can’t go wrong here, especially if you like fish and want to enjoy their specialty, bluefin tuna. You can also have meat and other fish dishes.
Pro tip: You might want to try the Spanish rice dish paella. Be aware that Spanish families eat paella on Sunday lunch and never in the evening. So don’t do that either unless you really want to look like a tourist who is new to Spain. Another thing to consider is that meals in Spain are eaten late – lunch around 3pm and dinner rarely starts being served before 9pm or later. If you get hungry in between, get served the ubiquitous tapas (snacks) at any bar at any time.
Merado De San Francisco
If you want to capture the life and atmosphere of a Spanish village, there’s no better place to go than a market where the locals shop. Mercado de San Francisco is such a place. In this small covered market in a white building, you will find clothes and trinkets, but mostly food stalls serving Spanish and even Asian cuisine if that’s what you like. It has an authentic atmosphere and very reasonable prices.
If you want to enjoy a more elegant sit-down meal of excellent Spanish cuisine before you go, Corredera 55 is your place. The elegant and sophisticated restaurant is located in Plaza de España, so you will have no difficulty finding it.
Hotels in Vejer
As this is a luxury weekend, you don’t want to skimp on hotel accommodation and you can’t do better than the chic boutique Hotel V, located in a 17th century building with a rooftop terrace, bar and hot tub. The spacious rooms have extra long beds and feature antique Portuguese furniture. The roof terrace offers a view of the beach and the sea which you can enjoy in comfortable deckchairs while sipping a cold drink from the bar.
Another alternative is Casa la Siesta. This is suitable for visitors who love the real rural Andalucia, in a luxurious 7 bedroom country hotel which is not lacking in modern facilities. It’s primarily adults-only and features a heated saltwater pool, outdoor bar, and romantic alfresco dining under the stars. It is of course not in the center of Vejer but it is very quiet and relaxing, surrounded by herb gardens and olive trees. Simply travel the 3 miles to downtown by taxi.
There are cheaper accommodations available in Vejer, such as Hostal El Mirador or Hostal Buena Vista.
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