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
- Regent Seven Seas Celestial Sojourn from Lisbon to Rome
- Andalucia Tourism
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.
Julie Dawn FoxAugust 31, 2015 at 3:22 pm
Ahh, takes me back to days spent exploring the villages of Andalucia in the Serra Nevada. We did the sensible thing and took the bus to one of the higher villages and walked downhill to catch a bus back to Granada.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 2, 2015 at 3:08 am
Certainly better to walk downhill:-)
Betsy Wuebker | PassingThruSeptember 1, 2015 at 12:36 am
It’s a marvelous combination: the white walls and the vivid bougainvillea. So intense it almost hurts in the unique light in this part of the world. I’m glad I’m not the only voyeur who likes to peek in windows and open doors. 🙂
Irene S. LevineSeptember 2, 2015 at 3:09 am
Our guide said that an open door is an invitation to peek inside:-)
Donna JankeSeptember 1, 2015 at 10:42 am
I love the look of the white buildings against the blue sky (and the sea). I would love to visit Andalusia Some day.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 2, 2015 at 3:10 am
What’s also amazing is to see the cluster of buildings together from a distance.
Karen WarrenSeptember 1, 2015 at 1:23 pm
I went round some of those white villages a few years ago. Both the villages and the surrounding countryside were stunning. Thanks for reminding me of them.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 4, 2015 at 5:56 am
I would love to return again to do more exploring~
Anita @ No Particular Place To GoSeptember 1, 2015 at 3:12 pm
Absolutely gorgeous with the white buildings contrasted against the vibrant blue sky and the colors that seem to POP! I love the narrow streets open only for pedestrian traffic that seem to beckon you on to explore and peek into other lives. Can’t wait to visit this area!
Irene S. LevineSeptember 4, 2015 at 5:01 pm
There are so many beautiful places to visit!
Judy FreedmanSeptember 1, 2015 at 3:36 pm
I just went on my first river cruise and now I’m hooked on cruising. Your pics look so beautiful. Another add for my life after 50 “travel bucket list.”
Irene S. LevineSeptember 4, 2015 at 5:58 am
Both ocean and river cruising, though different, offer wonderful experiences to see small towns and large cities.
Carole Terwilliger MeyersSeptember 1, 2015 at 7:57 pm
I’ve been to a few of the white towns in Andalusia, too, and loved them. Most notably Ronda, which involved an incredible trek to get to. Next time I’d like to visit on a tour, as you did.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 2, 2015 at 3:11 am
Good guides can make traveling much more efficient and provide perspectives that may elude wanderers.
JoSeptember 1, 2015 at 9:12 pm
I love peaking into little alleyways, open windows and open doors too! You never know what secrets might be a-lurking! The colours of Andalucia are so vivid, and the light is amazing – you’ve captured it so well and made me want to return.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 2, 2015 at 3:20 am
Alleyways seem to be made for curious tourists:-)
Denis GagnonSeptember 1, 2015 at 10:56 pm
White and blue, the best colors of the Mediterranean. The white seems whiter when set against the blue. Thanks for a wonderful article.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 4, 2015 at 6:03 am
In that respect, this part of Spain looks like Greece. Doesn’t it?
AnitaSeptember 3, 2015 at 2:49 am
Andalusia has been on my list for a very long time…the prospect of exploring its white villages moves the destination up a big notch! Can’t wait to be a voyeur there someday soon.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 3, 2015 at 6:44 pm
Those open doors sure are catchy:-)
Muza-chanSeptember 3, 2015 at 3:06 am
[email protected]September 4, 2015 at 2:03 am
The white villages of Andalusia have always fascinated me but I am yet to wander these fascinating alleyways and peer, as you mention into open doorways. Friends have been to Arcos de la Frontera and mentioned it to us as one to visit!
Suzanne FluhrSeptember 4, 2015 at 12:05 pm
We are planning a trip to Cordoba and Cadiz as an add on to a work trip for my husband to Madrid in early December. It is a part of Spain I have never been too. I didn’t realize we would be so close to some white villages. Those just got added to our itinerary thanks to this post!
Irene S. LevineSeptember 4, 2015 at 12:25 pm
Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
alison abbottSeptember 7, 2015 at 10:43 am
Good point about the church. That is a tip to remember when traveling in older cities.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 7, 2015 at 5:05 pm
The Dutch countrysideSeptember 4, 2015 at 3:28 pm
I’m going to Sevilla in about a week and I’m looking at going for a day trip to Cadiz, it looks stunning.
alison abbottSeptember 6, 2015 at 2:16 pm
I’m a big fan of just about anywhere I can fine blooming bougainvillea. Seeing it against the gorgeous blue sky and whitewashed buildings is just such a winning combination. I would love to get lost wandering around this area.
Irene S. LevineSeptember 6, 2015 at 4:07 pm
Seems like these alleys and narrow streets were made for getting lost~
But you can’t get too lost because the church is usually at the top!
Patti MorrowSeptember 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm
The white buildings juxtaposed against the periwinkle blue sky in Andalusia is a stunning sight! I would love to explore the narrow alleys!
Irene S. LevineSeptember 6, 2015 at 4:17 pm
Hope you have the chance!
Lois Alter MarkSeptember 7, 2015 at 4:42 pm
I love villages like these where you can just walk leisurely and see so much. Great place for the FItbit, for sure!
Irene S. LevineSeptember 7, 2015 at 5:05 pm
Yes, you pile on steps effortlessly!