What to know about the town that’s literally living under a rock



Setenil de las Bodegas is a town that has adapted beautifully to its natural surroundings.

Imagine living in a town where the roofs of your houses are massive slabs of rock. This is the reality for the residents of Setenil de las Bodegas, a small town in southern Spain.

Setenil de las Bodegas is unique because many of its buildings are built into and under large rock overhangs. This setup gives the town a picturesque appearance, making it a fascinating place to visit.

But how did this town come to be, and what makes it so special? Let’s explore the history and the charm of this remarkable place.

Setenil de las Bodegas started as a fortified Moorish town during the Islamic period in Spain. The town’s name is believed to come from the Latin phrase “septem nihil,” which means “seven times nothing.” This refers to the Christian armies’ seven failed attempts to conquer the town before finally succeeding in 1484 during the Reconquista.

After the Christian conquest, new settlers introduced vineyards along with the existing olive and almond groves. The town became known for its wine production until the phylloxera insect infestation in the 19th century destroyed many of Europe’s vineyards, including those in Setenil de las Bodegas​​.

What makes Setenil de las Bodegas truly unique is its architecture. The town is built along the narrow gorge of the Trejo River, where many houses are constructed directly into the rock. The residents utilised natural caves and extended them by adding façades, turning them into homes and businesses​​.

Two of the most famous streets in the town are “Calle Cuevas del Sol” (Caves of the Sun) and “Calle Cuevas de la Sombra” (Caves of the Shade).

These names accurately describe the conditions of these streets, where one is usually sunny and the other is in constant shade due to the overhanging rock formations​.

The reasons for building under rocks were both practical and defensive. The natural caves provides insulation, keeping the houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Additionally, the rock overhangs offered protection from the elements and invaders, making the town a stronghold during its early years​​.

Setenil de las Bodegas is not just a historical curiosity but a vibrant community with plenty to offer visitors. Walking through the town, you can enjoy its architecture and charming narrow streets. Be sure to visit the Moorish castle, Castillo de Setenil, which stands as a reminder of the town’s strategic importance in the past​.

The town is also known for its culinary delights. You can savour local specialities like chorizo, olive oil, jam, honey, and Andalusian wines in one of the many cave restaurants and bars. Popular dishes include “sopa cortijera,” a traditional soup made with bread, eggs, asparagus, and olive oil​​.

The best times to visit Setenil de las Bodegas are from mid-March to early July and early September to late November, when the weather is most pleasant. If you prefer dry, hot weather, then summer, especially June through August, is ideal​.