Everything you've ever dreamed a pueblo blanco (white town) could be miraculously materialises in Arcos de la Frontera (33km east of Jerez): a thrilling strategic clifftop location, a swanky parador, a volatile frontier history and a soporific old town full of mystery, with whitewashed arches soaring above a web of slender, twisting alleys. The odd tour bus and foreign-owned guesthouse do little to dampen the drama.

For a brief period during the 11th century, Arcos was an independent Berber-ruled taifa (small kingdom). In 1255 it was claimed by Christian king Alfonso X El Sabio for Seville and it remained literally de la frontera (on the frontier) until the fall of Granada in 1492.