Never heard of it? You’re not alone. The town is very small, in a valley between the mountains of the Sierras de Cádiz. You probably wouldn’t know it was there until you were actually in the town, under the famous rock that gives this place a name in tourism. This is what makes Setenil unique; while most of the small villages in Andalucía were built within walled fortresses on top of mountains, Setenil grew out of the caves and tunnels of the mountains. Some of the houses and bars actually have rock as part of their roofs or walls!
Setenil is in the northeast corner of the province of Cádiz, about an hour and a half from Málaga, Sevilla, and Cádiz capital cities and about 30 minutes north of the breathtaking town of Ronda. It is one of the famous pueblos blancos (white villages) of Cádiz, so tour buses do go through on the white village route. Regular buses go through about three times a day, but have been known to skip the small town. Setenil does have a train stop, however it’s very far outside the city and will cost about 15 euros for a cab into the village (make sure your phone works to call a cab, the train stop is very isolated with no people around!)
By car, head south from Olvera through a small, windy, narrow road with no guard rails between you and the edge of the mountain (personally, I get very carsick on this road). From Ronda, head north via an easier road. Locals have also been known to bicycle to Ronda, however I wouldn’t recommend that for safety reasons!
There are about 2,400 people living in Setenil. There are two schools: a primary school and a high school. The main reason I know about Setenil and have visited as often as I have is that my boyfriend, James, is the language auxiliar in the primary school of Setenil. Talk about living in a fairy tale! His school is located just a short walk from the popular rock overhang, and he often grabs lunch with his coworkers in a bar with rock walls after school. As is popular in Spain, there are plenty of bars to pass the time in this small village. As is typical in Spain, these bars serve lunch until about 3pm, then close down for siesta (although sometimes they will stay open for drinks only).
Must Do’s in Setenil
If you’re hungry (or thirsty), go down to the cave bars built into the mountain. La Escueva is an excellent choice. In warmer days, there is outside seating and the rock walls surrounding the valley keep it warm most of the year, acting as a greenhouse effect when the sun beats down. Bar Frasquito is also built into the rock and tends to be in the sun a little longer than the others. The small inside of the bar looks like a tavern you would see in medieval times or Game of Thrones. The tapas are more expensive than you would find in other small villages because they are very large, meant for 4-5 people. Don’t be put off by the prices! And try the chorizo.
Visit the cave houses. Some of the original cave houses still exist and if you preschedule a visit, it’s possible to visit them. If not, you can still see the houses built into caves and see the simulated cave bars.
Be a tourist and take pictures! You’ll never see a sight like this again. A lot of people rave about the natural beauty of other, bigger cities, but personally, Setenil and Ronda are two of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever seen. Take those pictures!
Where to Stay in Setenil
You can do Setenil in a day trip, but if you want to stay and soak in the culture and beauty, make sure you do it right. The hotel Casa Rural La Roca De Setenil is under a mountain overpass – that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s built under the mountain! Nearby this hotel are great little coffee shops, ice cream shops, and restaurants. Another option is to stay in the bigger city of Ronda and drive to Setenil to explore for a few hours.