The White Villages in Andalusia offer a delightful shore excursion when cruising the Mediterranean.
A series of white towns and villages (Pueblos Blancos) dot the hillsides in Andalusia (Andalucia, in Spanish), the southwestern portion of Spain that has the distinction of having coastlines on both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
When we had to choose from the extensive list of complimentary shore excursions offered on our Mediterranean voyage on Regent Seven Seas Mariner, we opted for the tour that would bring us to two of these villages, Medina Sidonia and Arcos de La Frontera.
Our group met our English-speaking guide, Carolina, not far from the dock in the city of Cadiz (located in the province of the same name) for the one-hour motor coach drive.
Carolina told us she had relocated here from the Netherlands because she fell in love with Cuba and to her, this area closely resembled Havana. (In fact, Cadiz was the backdrop for a James Bond movie Die Another Day that was set in Havana).
Of course, one of the best things about any Mediterranean cruise in summer is the almost predictable weather. One of the crew aboard our ship joked:
“If it isn’t sunny on the Med, the captain
has taken a wrong turn.”
Andalucía is reputed to be one of the warmest and sunniest places in Europe, however, where summer temperatures can hover in the mid-90s as late as midnight. We were fortunate that although the sun was shining, the weather was fairly temperate with a cool breeze on the mid-August day we visited.
Because relentless sun can be punishing, all the buildings in both towns were built close together to maximize shade. Thus, visitors find themselves meandering on cobblestones through a maze of streets and alleys with steep inclines, some so narrow that cars can’t pass through.
Many of the doors to residences are open, covered with rejas (decorative iron screens). It’s tempting for the visitor walking past to peek in to see the lovely interior courtyards with flowering plants shared by several families.
The towns are visually dramatic because most of the dwellings are whitewashed, their whiteness only punctuated with deep pink and purple bougainvillea vines cascading along the walls or hanging from pots. The walls, castles, and architectural design of the churches and public buildings reflect Arab and Roman influences from centuries past.
At one small square in Medina Sidonia, we stopped at the Gothic-style Santa Maria La Coronada Church (completed in 1615) before we proceeded to the larger market square with its town hall on a larger square.
In Arcos de la Frontera, which sits atop a limestone ridge, we were dazzled by the views of the Guadelete Valley beneath and visited the Parroquia de San Pedro Church.
When you see these villages perched atop the hillsides, they seem to be illuminated by the sun. When you’re at the top, they offer dramatic panoramic views of the agricultural valleys below with an abundance of olive and orange groves.
During the mid-day siesta time (usually between 1:30-5PM), when most of the shops are closed and people are indoors, the towns seem as if they fell asleep centuries ago—until you reach the small bars in their centers where locals congregate for wine, tapas, conversation and laughter.
By the time we had finished walking, we had clocked more than three miles on my Fitbit but barely scraped the surface these two small villages.
Before departing for the bus back to the port, we stopped briefly for a glass of wine in the Hotel Parador de Arcos, which looked tempting enough to return to overnight some time to learn more the food and culture of the region.
N.B. There are also several white villages in Malaga.
IF YOU GO
Previously on More Time To Travel
The visit was reminiscent of our visit to Ostuni, Italy, a white city on the Adriatic. At the time of that visit, we were passengers on a cruise ship that docked in Brindisi.
Disclosure: We were hosted guests on Regent Seven Seas Mariner but all opinions expressed in this post are our own. Most shore excursions, like this one, were offered at no extra charge to passengers on the ship.