The white villages of Spain: breathtaking, stunning, charming, or simply beautiful are just some of the adjectives used in vain to try to capture the essence of these magical towns. A visit is what is needed to truly understand their draw and there is nowhere better place to start than in the province of Cádiz – in a town called Vejer de la Frontera.
Vejer sits proudly atop its hill high above the River Barbate gorge, allowing views of the Atlantic Ocean as it leads to the Strait of Gibraltar.
Although the Moors left centuries ago, their spirit is still felt through the city’s design and architecture. A curiosity, often falsely attributed to their presence from years ago, is the cobijada – a veiled outfit unique to the area and worn by women for centuries. A cloth covering draped across the face and body resembling a burka, the cobijada actually came to the region in the 16th century, hundreds of years after the Moors’ departure. Still spotted on some older generations up into the 20th century, it is now used only ceremonially, but this historic garment is immortalized in the cobijada-wearing statue in the old Jewish quarter.
As you wander the small, cobblestone streets, you will no doubt notice a scent that looms large over this village: emanating from the endless orange groves, this natural fragrance combines with the aesthetic merits of Vejer creating a trip to appeal to all one’s senses. After all that exploring and sensory stimulation, you’re most likely thinking about one of the most important senses: taste. If you’re hungry – and you will be – you’re in for a treat. Many may be surprised to learn that a town as small as Vejer is becoming a world-class culinary destination.
Aside from the traditional – and highly recommended – restaurants which line the streets serving Spanish classics, a wave of newer restaurants have opened in recent years drawing on Moroccan influences or even on the avant-garde. Locals and visitors alike scramble for reservations (a must) at many of these eateries and not only enjoy world-class cuisine, but are also able to soak in the ambiance of small town life in beautifully restored, historic buildings or relax in a candle-lit patio hidden away behind fortressed walls.
So how is it that this small town with its population of around 13,000, has become a foodie destination? To use a cliché from the real estate business: location, location, location. Although Vejer finds itself high upon a hill, the sea is still just a stone’s throw away, and the bounty that sea provides finds its way into a myriad of delicious dishes. Bluefin tuna is a specialty which you may have the chance to try in a jerky-like delicacy called Mojama, in a traditional fish stew, or even in a more modern-day ceviche. If you lean more toward the turf on a surf and turf menu, you’re in luck. The excellent pork and beef from the area are world renowned.
An excellent location not only means access to excellent products, but also access to the adventurous and discriminating travelers who visit the province of Cádiz on the Costa de la Luz. Often looking for something different and less traveled, visitors find their way to Vejer de la Frontera’s foodie scene for that gourmet experience that no one back home seems to know about. The town can give many a larger city a run for its money when it comes to culinary wealth and offers an experience away from the crowds that descend on Spain’s southern coast.
Want to see for yourself? It’s an easy trip from the cities of Cádiz, Seville, or even Gibraltar. And If you’re looking for something truly special, consider joining us on our New Year’s Eve trip to Cádiz where we explore the delicacies of Vejer through an exquisite New Year’s Eve dinner at the lovely Casa de Califa.