Spain’s premier “pueblo blanco”, Arcos de la Frontera is absolutely spectacular, perched seemingly precariously on top of a massive sandstone ridge which rises up as though from nowhere. Views from the top are staggering.
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, churches and history at every turn.
It’s a lively place too with a wealth of bar and night life and some excellent street “espectáculos” in summer, flamenco shows and the like.
Hemingway’s favourite town in all Spain, Ronda, its extraordinary gorge dividing the old and new quarters, is just over an hour away. With its mansion houses, quaint narrow streets, museums and art galleries and Spain’s oldest bullring, it is well worth visiting.
In daylight, we certainly recommend the route via El Bosque which will take you up and over the Grazalema mountain range, passing through pretty Grazalema village on your way.
It’s one of the most beautiful tracks of mountain anywhere in Europe. Jagged peaks, gorges, chasms, faults and caves, underground rivers and deep canyons are interspersed, here and there, by some of the prettiest villages in Spain – the famous “pueblos blancos”.
Houses are meticulously whitewashed to a state of pristine splendour, a dazzling contrast to the brightly coloured flowers which fill the streets and the ochres of their rocky mountain perches.
Beautiful villages which demand you to slow down a pace or two.
For something completely different, Sevilla takes 1½ hours. It is impossible not to be captivated by its exuberant atmosphere: stylish, confident, ancient and proud, yet also convivial, intimate and fun-loving. If you don’t know what alegría means, Sevilla is the place to learn!
Spain’s unique sherry wine region (Jerez and Sanlúcar), is well worth a visit, enhanced no doubt by stopping at one or two of the famous bodegas along the way! Jerez de la Frontera which has also re-invented itself as the birthplace of flamenco is a little more than an hour away.
Cádiz (1¼ hours) continues to evoke the romance, intrigue and mystery of centuries of trade (some legal, some not so) between Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Beyond lie mile upon mile of magnificent white beaches on Spain’s Atlantic coast, La Costa de la Luz. Just inland from the beaches, Vejer de la Frontera is another, beautiful and immaculately kept “pueblo”.
Córdoba and Granada are further afield, 2¼ hours and 2½ hours drive from here.
Arcos de la Frontera now boasts a fabulous golf course. It’s very smart indeed!
There are also wine bodegas to visit, horse riding, walking and bird watching, water sports on its nearby lake and flamenco peñas in or around town.
There are few better places in Europe than the Sierra de Grazalema to enjoy walking and hiking. You can obtain information on walking routes at the park’s visitor’s centre, which is in El Bosque. The wonderful terrain is equally facinating for twitchers, especially for spotting the big raptors.
The adventurous may want to try their hand at hang gliding or paragliding from Sierra de Lijar, at Algodonales, 30 minutes away from here. The village is home to a number of paragliding schools with courses for beginners as well as tandem flights.