My husband and I are touring Spain (on our own) for five weeks in September/October. As part of the trip, we will be in Seville for seven nights and Ronda for two nights. Since we are seeing Ronda, would it be worth it to take a day from Seville to see Arcos de la Frontera as a day trip? If so, any recommendations regarding the best way to do so? Looks like the bus or train/bus option would be around 3 hours each way, so that isn't appealing. Rent a car for the day? Any recommended guide/organization that offers a day trip from Seville?
Please share the rest of your Andalucia itinerary.
If you rented a car, an hour is within my preferred day trip range, but consider what else you could do with that day.
Arcos de la Frontera is very pleasant, however my vote would be for Jerez, I saw the Andalusian Horse show when I was there, which was beautiful. Also the sherry bodegas and sampling was educational and delicious. I discovered that I liked some specific sherry.
Arcos is lovely. But it's popular as a day trip, and often becomes quite crowded during the daytime hours (at least in high season, might be less of an issue in October?). Its streets are tiny. If there's a bus tour or two at the same time you're there, you'll be squeezed (sometimes literally). There's not much to see there other than the charming town itself, with jaw-dropping views out over the landscape.
Rather than do it as a day trip, arrive in the afternoon and spend the night. You will need your own car. Park in one of the lots at the base of the town's hill (don't even think of driving up there!), take a taxi up to your hotel, check in, enjoy the lovely town as the tourists all drain away before dusk. Late in the day, and early the next morning, it's all yours, with no other tourists, just a few locals. Savor the views, the air, the birds, the solitude. Check out of your hotel, taxi down to your car, and be on your way by mid-morning, as the day-tripper tour buses show up and disgorge their large groups of passengers.
The Andalusian portion of our trip
October 7-13: Overnights in Seville
Train to Cordoba
October 14-15: Overnights in Cordoba
Train to Ronda
October 16-17: Overnights in Ronda
Train to Granada
October 18-20 Overnights in Granada
Train to Toledo
I thought there might be an opportunity to overnight at Arcos en route between some other places, as someone suggested, but I am not seeing it from your list.
Based upon this feedback, I think we will do a day trip to Jerez de la Frontera for some sight seeing and sherry tasting, especially since it is easier to access. Thanks to all for the input.
We found the dressage exhibition missable, and Jerez unattractive, with a car. Without a car, consider Carmona and Italica. Both excellent visits. Consider food in Carmona.
Edit: With a car, we stopped at Arcos enroute to Ronda and enjoyed a short visit, with Rick's "Bogus Traffic Warden" watching our car.
We enjoyed Arcos, but our last visit there was a short one to view the overlook, and recreate a few photos we took back in 1979 when we lived near there. If you had a car it would be easy to visit Arcos en route to Ronda. If you’re not into horses or sherry, there’s little reason to visit Jerez. If you do go there, its Alcázar is worth visiting for an hour or so, but there are nicer ones elsewhere.
Photos from that trip, including Sevilla, the White Towns, Córdoba, Ronda, and Jerez, and the comparison photos from 1979/80 and 2011 are on my website.
You've had two comments about Jerez de la Frontera, one positive and one negative, and I'm just here to support the positive one. I know people acquainted with the spiffier "must-see" destinations may consider it "unattractive," as mentioned above, but I just found it authentic -- what the more heavily touristed cities would probably look like, if they weren't being spiffed-up for tourists. I'm not fond of tourist-cliches, but I'll admit that those inclined to see the "real Spain," as distinct from "tourist Spain" -- and you many not be one of them -- will want to think more seriously about Jerez.
I should add that if sherry tasting is one of your goals -- and a worthy goal it is, whether in the bodegas or in the humble, traditional tabancos, or sherry bars -- you may want seriously to consider the train, rather than a rented car, for a day trip. (Or rent a car, and stay for at least a couple of nights -- you might even get a chance to hear some real flamenco in one of those tabancos.)
I liked the horse show in Jerez and I'm not a fan of horses. Consider spending a night or two in Jerez. You can day trip by train to Cadiz and by bus to Arcos, either in under an hour. I wouldn't rate Jerez particularly high, but it's nicely situated for those day trips, a shrry bodega tour or two can be fun, it's the flamenco capital of the world so there are shops selling dresses and materials and accessories and there's a flamenco museum.
Thank you, Fadeus, for the Jerez de la Frontera endorsement. This is our first trip, so we will be hitting a lot of the typical must-see destinations; Jerez sounds like it will be a nice change of pace. I wish we had the space in the itinerary to allocate more than a day trip, but hopefully there will be return trip and more time will be spent in places like Jerez. For a variety of reasons, we are not interested in the horses, so the focus will be on learning about sherry and the town itself. Traveling via train, as you and others have suggested. Looking forward to it. :-)
Fadeus and Chani (and others)--As a first-time traveler to Spain, do you think it is worth cutting off two or three nights out of our current seven in Seville to focus on the Jerez/Cadiz/Arcos areas?
I haven't yet seen Seville despite having made several trips to Spain (I'll see it one of these days), so I'm not really qualified to recommend that you shorten your proposed Seville visit -- but I'll do so anyway! There's a widely-held belief out there -- and I suppose it makes sense in some ways -- that you visit the Famous and Fabulous Must-Sees on your first trip to a country, and then get off the tourist trail, if you wish to, on subsequent trips. I rejected that principle many years ago, and have never regretted it. From my first visit to a country, I go to places that interest me, whether those places are on the tourist trail (rarely) or off (more often). Though it may not conform to commonly-held beliefs, what I can say is that bagging some Seville nights in favor of Arcos, Jerez or Cadiz, is what I would do.
After I posted, it occurred to me that it might be complicated to get to Jerez from wherever you'll be or to get to Ronda from Jerez.
Would you consider renting a car for a few days? Then I would change the itinerary thusly:
2N Jerez, see horses and Cadiz, rent a car for 3 days, drive to:
2N Ronda, stopping in Arcos for at least 1/2 day, maybe one more hill town. Use your full day to see Ronda, then see 1-2 more hill towns on the way to Granada and drop the car. Then train to Cordoba, then Toledo. Or you could stay in Cadiz and day trip to Jerez.
So yes, I think it would be worth it to switch 2N to Jerez. My reasons are  it gives you more variety and  you are very likely to return to Spain and spend more time in Sevilla. There is definitely enough to enjoy in Sevilla for a week, should you decide to skip Jerez.
I vote for a day or two in Jerez, too. I'm biased though, I have family there and I've spent quite a bit of time in the area. It's a small (200K people) city that still feels very 'authentic' compared to the bigger tourist destinations closer by. Don't get me wrong, Sevilla is very nice and I really enjoy exploring it, but it gets busy during the tourist season.
You could rent a car in Sevilla, take the hour drive down to Jerez (now with no tolls!) and marvel at just how...empty (in a good way) non-big city Spain is.
Heck, if you feel like a beach day you can drive down to El Puerto and hang out there for a bit.
I do like the itinerary that Chani has suggested.