Considered by many to be Spain's premier "pueblo blanco" there is no doubt that Arcos has a situation which is truly spectacular …
50 to 195 metres
Nuestra Sra. de las Nieves
The Fiesta Patronal, in honour of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows), on 5th August.
In the last week of September, the Feria de San Miguel.
Holy Week processions have been declared of national importance
Considered by many to be Spain's premier "pueblo blanco" there is no doubt that its situation is absolutely spectacular. It perches on top of an impressive sandstone ridge, Peña Nueva, overlooking the meandering Rio Guadelete which flows around it on three sides.
The view from the Plaza del Cabildo at the very top of town is staggering, across the broad, fertile river valley far, far below, celebrated in ancient ballads for its horses. To the other side, the ridge overlooks the Lago de Arcos.
Historically an impregnable fortress town, its location is enhanced by its low white houses and fine sandstone churches, giving the town a similar feel and appearance to Ronda - although Arcos is a little less affluent and less visited.
The old town is at the highest point on the ridge. A labyrinth of narrow streets lead up to the Plaza Cabildo, overlooked by the Gothic Church of Santa María, the old castle (castillo) and by one of Spain's better Paradores.
The north side of the plaza is open and this is the place to take in the view, over the golden cliffs and out across the river plain.
Legend has it that Arcos de la Frontera was founded around the time of the Great Biblical Flood, some 2,000 years BC. Be that as it may, it has certainly been inhabited since the earliest of times, witnessed by the honeycomb of ancient cave dwellings in the ridge itself.
The Romans gave it the name of Arcobriga and it later became a Moorish stronghold under the Caliphate of Córdoba. It fell to the Catholic Kings in 1264.
The landscape all around is predominantly open, fertile countryside bedecked with olive and citrus groves, vineyards and fields of sunflowers.
It is an area which is highly regarded for its herds of bullfighting stock and beautiful horses. The low-lying terrain ensures that it enjoys a truly Mediterranean climate, although, be warned, it can be very hot in mid-summer.
The old part of town is a fascinating mix of Moorish and Renaissance, a maze of steep narrow streets (which in places are little more than two metres wide) and there are arches in abundance.
There is a plethora of churches here. Apart from Santa Maria perhaps the most interesting is San Pedro Chapel set right on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Guadalete river valley. The unsurpassed Holy Week celebrations in Arcos have been declared of national tourist interest.
Here and there the shady streets open into small squares where there's usually a tapas bar or two: no frills, just authentic 'Andaluz'-style hospitality.
You will also find some excellent craft shops (painted ceramics are the speciality), a busy farmers market and good-value restaurants.
Easily accessible, Arcos is less than an hour's drive from Sevilla, Cádiz and Ronda as well as both the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. So, it's well worth a visit if you are in this part of Andalucía.
When you set off for home, take some of the excellent biscuits made by the nuns at the Convent of Mercedarias Descalzas with you.