Aside from its rich culture and history, the white houses of Cadiz are one of the most interesting aspects of the Andalusia region. These houses are a part of the Andalusian experience which is a mix of many cultures that ruled the peninsula for more than thousands of years.
Cadiz has a population of nearly 120,000 people. It is one of the oldest cities in Spain and Europe with a history dating back to the 7th century BC. The city has been home to many different groups, religions, and cultures since its establishment. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, and Spanish settled in Cadiz and left significant legacies.
One of the ever-present remnants of these legacies is the white houses of Cadiz. Originally, Los Pueblos Blancos, this is actually the name of the trail that goes along for 145 kilometers consisting of 19 towns. There are specific tours that visit each town in order to experience the beauty of the white houses in their entirety.
Since the region has had many occupants, it is not entirely possible to pinpoint the exact time when the white-washed house tradition started. Some sources believe that it was the Romans who painted their houses first and that the other groups continued their tradition. Why the white paint, one might question, and it has a simple reason which is that Cadiz is one of the hottest places in Europe.
Cadiz is a perfect example of the Mediterranean experience as the summers are hot and humid. In order to reflect the sunlight and keep the houses cool, the people of the region preferred white paint and red or brown roofs. Moreover, some sources attribute the white houses to the Moors who ruled the region for more than 700 years.
The Moors were coming to the end of their time in Andalusia in the 15th century. Until that time, the Moors and the Catholics of Spain fought for control of the region’s various parts. During this time, some of the Moors moved to the hills and built towns. These towns had white houses and forts in order to easily detect enemies and defend the settlements.
Among the most popular white villages of Cadiz are Arcos de la Frontera and Olvera. Arcos de la Frontera is an example of the hilltop villages that the Moors built. In addition, it is the first town on the trail that leads to the other 19 white villages. The 11th-century Moorish castle is one of the highlights of the town.
Behind the white houses, there are mosques, churches, and castles that belonged to very different people in very different times, existing together in harmony. The white houses of Cadiz are not only a result of a convenient design choice to battle heat. Rather, it is a combination of each culture that lived and left its mark in Cadiz.