Monday, August 13, 2012

The White Hill Town of Arcos de la Frontera

Arcos de la Frontera, Spain, above and below.

Just the words "White Hill Towns of Andalusia" conjure up romantic images of charming little whitewashed villages with flowering terra cotta pots and brightly colored bougainvillea.  I was intrigued by them and determined to visit several white hill towns while traveling through southern Spain last month.  

These villages in Spain's Cadiz Sierra range are painted bright white to reflect the hot summer sun, and were built on the edges of cliffs and hillsides as a natural defense against invaders.  Most ancient white hill towns are also surrounded by fortified defensive walls.  Needless to say, these cities are a photographer's dream.  

Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most frequently visited of the Andalusian white hill towns because of its dramatic perch atop a sheer limestone cliff face and its stunning views of the Guadalete Valley below.  We drove there in our rental car and thought it a good idea to park below the city in a parking garage rather than try to maneuver through the tangled web of narrow one-way streets up in town.  The weather was very hot, but we enjoyed the stroll up through the twisting alleyways (with a stop for an ice cream, of course).

View of the Guadalete Valley below Arcos de la Frontera.

We walked to the centrally located Plaza del Cabildo, a square that long ago was used as a bullring, with a terrific lookout over the river plain below.  The 7th century Church of Santa María lost the top of its single bell tower in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and sits unfinished in the plaza.

Arches bridging between homes and buildings in Arcos add architectural beauty as well as earthquake support today.

We visited several other white hill towns in southern Spain:  Ronda, Grazalema, Zahara, Vejer, and Jerez de la Frontera.  Towns with the extension de la Frontera were ones that stood on the 13th century "frontier" between the Christians and the North African Moors.  They played an important role in the centuries-long fight of the Spaniards to reconquer Spain from the Muslims (Moors).  Arcos' castle was built by the Moors in the 11 century.  It is privately owned and not open to the public.

The historical white hill town of Arcos de la Frontera is a peaceful village with an authentic Andalusian ambiance, definitely worth visiting.  We did not sleep in Arcos, but rather in nearby Ronda.  Transportation to Arcos is only via bus from Seville (about 90 miles) or by car.


  1. Your right, a photographers dream! Great photos, just looks like one of those places I could wander around and soak in the sights.

  2. Beautiful pictures! I love all the architecture and all the white walls and terra cotta pots. You are showing so many parts of Spain I missed and would love to visit. it looks like you guys had the town to yourselves.


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