top of page
Search

Setenil de las Bodegas: Life “Under a Rock”


There are around 20 “Pueblos Blancos”, or White Villages, scattered about the hilltops in southern Spain. These towns were settled by the Moors during the late Middle Ages and are typically located at a high elevation so they could defend themselves against the conquering Christian Kings from the northern regions. These villages were painted white with lime wash both as an act of solidarity along the borderland, and as a way – they believed – to prevent the spread of plague and cholera. (Studies have actually found that slaked lime does kill bacteria that cause cholera, and the traditional production of this whitewash was given UNESCO status in 2011).


Today, these White Villages are quite popular with tourists. We were unable to visit them all,

but we did see a few and one of the more unusual and fascinating villages was Setenil de las Bodegas. The homes are white, like the other White Villages, but that’s where the similarities end. In Setenil, many of the original homes are literally built into the overhanging cliff faces, with just a front facade as an entryway and the rest of the house being actual rock. The town today has approximately 3,000 inhabitants and it’s fair to say that quite literally, they are “living under a rock”.



While the town and its dwellings are quite unusual, what I found most heartening about Setenil is that it is a beautiful – and very simple - reminder of how we can work in harmony with the natural world. Today, we often “do battle” with nature when it comes to building our homes… we clear the land, remove the trees, and rework the terrain… all to make it more suitable for our own architectural vision rather than working with nature and using the existing landscape and its trees and peculiarities as our starting point. We then tend to build larger homes that can further separate us from nature rather than dwellings and neighborhoods that encourage us to feel like we’re still a part of and connected to the natural world.



While living under outcroppings is obviously not really feasible in today’s world . . . do we really need 6,000+ square foot homes with bathrooms larger than most dwellings in the town of Setenil? Our visit to this little White Village reminds us that there is elegance and wisdom found in simplicity and that we may need it now more than ever. We cannot solve our climate crisis from the comfort of homes that keep us disconnected from the natural world. If we want to truly address the problem of climate change (one of the greatest challenges facing humankind right now) . . . we need to live with the natural world and feel a sense of respect and reverence for her beauty, magnificence, and wisdom.


189 views16 comments

Recent Posts

See All

16 Comments


Lynne Jaffe
Lynne Jaffe
Nov 16, 2022

I gotta say "Heavy heavy hang over my head"! I would worry a bit about earthquakes or slides! Otherwise...Enchanting!

Like
Lynne Jaffe
Lynne Jaffe
Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

I will take it from here! I have a big smile on my face so you know that I am receiving your hug!

Like

Elle Taylor
Elle Taylor
Nov 15, 2022

🤎Appreciate incorporating natural world into our dwellings if it lessens damage, etc.

Had to look up more about the Moors...hope you don't mind me adding this link: https://blackhistorystudies.com/resources/resources/15-facts-on-the-moors-in-spain/

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

Hi Elle, and appreciate that you wanted a deeper insight into the Moorish culture. We have learned so much about them from being here and appreciate (amongst other things) their amazing architectural and engineering expertise. It's remarkable how even as they were expelled from Spain, so much of how they impacted this country still endures. Thank you for sharing the link.

Like

jnebhut
jnebhut
Nov 15, 2022

Delightfully different and so inviting.

Love learning about whitewash!

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Judy. It was such a fascinating (and almost surreal) place to see. And the Whitewash villages can be seen from afar as you travel about southern Spain, and even from a distance they look beautiful.

Like

Simcha
Simcha
Nov 15, 2022

Hi Debbie - and thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you appreciate and enjoy our documentation of our travels. Your travels 30 years ago sound like quite an adventure. It's never too late to do it again . . . and I bet your son will have a fantastic time at age 38. And I will make sure Carla sees your lovely compliment. I couldn't agree more - she is indeed beautiful.

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

So nice to hear that for your son, the journey continues. And I agree, we definitely need to experience the impact of other countries and especially those that are not on par with our standard of living. It is enlightening and as you write . . .. it creates a more grateful attitude. Thanks Debbie.

Like

Your adventure and pictures are beautifully documented. In my lifetime I split and went traveling for 6 months...with my son..at the time was 8...now 38. Keep the postings coming. By the way, your wife is beautiful.

Like
Carla Beach
Carla Beach
Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

Thank you Debbie!

Like
bottom of page