In the northeastern reaches of Cádiz province lie a string of classic pueblos blancos (white towns) rooted in turbulent border history. Most centre on beautiful, fortified old cores, a testament to the fact that these towns once stood on the contentious Moorish-Christian border for more than two centuries, between the 1248 Christian conquest of Seville and the 1492 fall of Moorish Granada. Today, they're a delight to explore, with moody streets twisting past whitewashed houses to crumbling castles and imposing churches. The most spectacular of all is Arcos de la Frontera, to the east and northeast of which are Zahara de la Sierra, Grazalema, Olvera and Setenil de las Bodegas.
Zahara and Grazalema are also the launch pads for exploring the adventure- and activity-packed Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema, which is traversed by bucolic walking trails and rises to 1648m from the plains east of Arcos.