In southern Spain, I often find myself visiting what I’ve deemed “ugly-pretty” cities. They are places that aren’t manicured, where there are old decaying buildings and broken sidewalks. I absolutely love these cities and had begun to think that the truly picture perfect pueblo blanco of the tourism brochures didn’t even exist.
Then I visited Vejer de la Frontera.
Perfectly manicured and downright gorgeous, I realized that there can be just as much charm in a “pretty-pretty” city too! Vejer is located on the top of a steep hill, and driving up the windy path to the top makes you wonder if it’s all worthwhile– I had to remind myself not to look down as the locals sped around the tight curves. But upon parking in the first public garage available, you walk out to a spectacular view that makes you loose your breath for a moment.
And it doesn’t stop there. As you continue to loose yourself in the maze of Vejer’s twisty cobblestone streets, once surrounded completely by the old city walls, you’ll see remnants of the town fortress, glimpses of locals’ hidden patios, and no shortage of outstanding views. As a city that was under Moorish rule for five centuries, you definitely notice the influence, especially in the architecture of the houses. Vejer’s sister city is Chefchaouen in Morocco, and I must say they both have the same magical feel to them.
Yet although Vejer was pretty as can be (surely groomed for summer tourism, its main moneymaker), it didn’t feel at all false as some other places do. While we sipped a cool amontillado sherry in a local bar, we witnessed about half the town walk by– talking, laughing, and shouting. I thought it must have been some type of festival, and we asked a passerby to confirm. It turns out it was a funeral, a local man had passed away, and apparently everyone knew him. It was the first time I’ve seen such a cheerful funeral procession– no one was dressed in black, and it all seemed so natural.
After walking around, battling the hot afternoon sun for an hour or so, we took the advice of our friend Anne Mason, who runs the popular Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen (a local cooking school), and we headed to the rooftop of the town’s popular Moroccan restaurant and hotel, Califa, for a tea and baklava. It wasn’t the best I’ve had, but the view more than made up for it and I’d return anytime to stay in their incredible rooms!
As we left Vejer I felt a bit sad, I would have loved to have seen the city by night– I’m sure it would’ve been even more magical. But I know we’ll be back sometime soon, it’s only a short drive from Ale’s hometown after all. If you are looking for a beautiful summer or fall destination, Vejer de la Frontera (and the entire region of Cadiz) make for an amazing option. Cheap tapas, free beaches, and inexpensive lodging make the area the perfect choice for a budget friendly getaway, and if you look enough you can find some great last minute deals.
Have you ever visited a picture perfect town?
I love Vejer and recently bought a holiday home there. Casa Colina Blanca is now a place you can book and has some even better views than those in the excellent blog, I promise!
Pictures are beautiful.I would love to travel Vejer with my family.I found Vejer so magnificent.Love reading your post.Thanks for the post.Keep sharing.
Vejer is wonderful. If readers are visiting my place is worth a look. Great views from the terrace. https://www.casacolinablanca.co.uk/
Fabulous blog. Having traveled to Spain (Madrid, Barcelona and Puerta Banus) three times I love your insightful blog I have searched high and low and have found no magazines in the US focused on Spain and all it has to offer. Americans do not have Spain high on their travel lists and I feels it’s because they are not aware of its rich culture, history, food and of course people. Would love to get your opinion on why this is and if your interested in developing something that could help
Cat of Sunshine and Siestas
I found Vejer to be so, so gorgeous. And it’s by great beaches, too!
Great photos and a part of Spain I dont get to often nowadays… would love to revisit all that SW corner and go to the places we dont know such as Vejer…thanks for telling us all about it Louise
Lovely photos! We were only passing by and slept 1 night there but enjoyed it very much. The town center with the square is so beautiful! Loved it!
Love your photos, especially those medieval grey stone walls against the brilliant white ones and blue sky. It’s a very beautiful town, with amazing restaurants, but I’ve never managed to explore it properly as always with family, whose patience is limited. Need to go on my own, without kids, and indulge in the full historic and gastronomic experience. My favourite ugly-pretty city (great term – isn’t there one in French?) is Cadiz.
Shhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell everybody about the lovely secret Vejer
I live in Vejer and wrote a history of the town. (Vejer de la Frontera: A History.) I promise you that Vejer is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer.
In 1773, an earthquake destroyed about half the buildings in Vejer and its present character dates from the 18th century, though as you observed, the walls go back to the medieval and early modern periods. Lots of people look for a Moorish influence in the town, but the square, flat roofed buildings you noticed are in the new part and date from the 1980s. You can see similar ones in parts of Mexico. In the old part, the traditional style of construction included a terracotta-tiled pitched roof, though these were often removed later, because in a place with no gardens and very crowded patios, you need somewhere to dry the washing!
Good luck with the blog!
I’ll bet it’s just as beautiful– most of Andalusia has an excellent winter, especially in December and January. I look forward to returning soon! Thanks for the information about the earthquake– have you thought of updating the English version of Wikipedia for Vejer? It isn’t very detailed as is!
Oh wow, it’s towns like this that remind me why Andalucía really is my first love in Spain. Thanks for this simply yet beautiful portrait of an Andalucían village. 🙂
Love Vejer de la Frontera! It was definitely my little escape that was close enough to make a day trip but felt worlds away. Thanks for taking me on a trip down memory lane!
Ah. Andalucia is just so beautiful. This little town reminds me of my visit to Granada with the winding stone steps and white houses in the hills.
Granada is amazing too!
Great blog! Thanks for visiting mine and I have posted you on my Spain Exposed site. Enjoy the summer!
Thanks Rob, you too!