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White towns advice incl. Driving vs Buses

Hello, I’d love some feedback and advice. My boyfriend and I are traveling through Andalucia for a short trip next month and trying to figure out the best way to visit the Pueblos Blancos. We plan to check out of our hotel in Sevilla Tuesday and need to check into our hotel in Grenada Thursday- everything in between is still TBD.
My plan:
Tuesday- Sevilla to Arcos de la Frontera
Wednesday- Arcos to Ronda
- Zahara
- Grazalema
Thursday- Ronda to Grenada

I’d love advice about how to best do this: transportation- rent a car in Sevilla and return it in Grenada, BlaBla car, bus?; places to stay in Ronda and Arcos; Things to see- en route to Arcos, in Arcos, other cities, Ronda, en route to Grenada; (most importantly) things to eat!

Thank you in advance

Posted by
5407 posts

We did this exact route, with the specific towns you list. We loved it.

By far, this area is best done by rental car. Unless you have oodles of time to burn (and who does?), I honestly don't see any other reasonable way of doing these places efficiently. The driving is easy and care-free -- as long as you stay out of the old centers! Fer cryin' out loud, do not attempt to drive up to the upper town at Arcos! (they have a car parking lot at the base of the hill, park there, take your bags, and get a cab to drive you up to your hotel.) By all means, do spend the night -- these towns are magnets for day-trippers, at night they are empty and magical. It's worth paying to spend the night in the old centers. You will love it.

Posted by
20843 posts

I agree with David. I'm sure you would not be able to pull off your entire itinerary by train and bus with the limited time you have. Based on Internet research (my experiences last April may not be predictive of transportation options next month), these public-transportation options might exist for you:

Seville to Arcos: This is doable. You would take a train or bus to Jerez de la Frontera and then a bus to Arcos. Or you might possibly find a direct bus with a stop in Jerez but no transfer. It's not even a terribly long trip.

Arcos to Ronda: Although Rome2Rio.com says TG Comes buses run this route, I can't find a schedule and suspect this may be a high-season-only bus. A good bit of the transportation into Ronda is by train, and of course Arcos doesn't have a train station. That could result in a gap.

Zahara de la Sierra: In theory TG Comes buses go from Arcos to Algodonales, which is a 7-mile taxi ride from Zahara. Unfortunately, the taxi company mentioned on the Rome2Rio website has "Ronda" in its name; now that's a $cary thought. However, as with Arcos-Ronda, I cannot confirm current service to Algodonales online. Also in theory, TG Comes runs a bus from Zahara de la Sierra on to Ronda, but I can't find information about it online, either.

Grazalema: As further evidence that Rome2Rio.com is not to be trusted, it doesn't indicate the existence of any public transportation between Ronda and Grazalema, but I've found two Comes buses on that route. The first departs at 1 PM, which is sort of late for a day-trip. The bus takes 50 minutes. The return departs at 4:10, which would allow for only a very short visit. I think there are more buses later in the year; I made a day-trip from Ronda to Grazalema last April and don't remember having only 2 hours in Grazalema.

Ronda to Granada: There are a couple of 2-1/2 hour trains daily, departing at 1:15 PM and 5:14 PM. There are also buses, but you might have to change in Malaga, making the bus trip take much longer than the train. If interested in the bus options here, drill down on Rome2Rio.com to get links for the multiple bus companies involved.

As of April there was at least one company offering a one-day bus tour from Seville that included Ronda and I believe two of the smaller towns, one probably being Arcos. I opted not to do that, because I wanted more time in Ronda and planned to spend at least two nights there. If there had been a bus tour only to the small villages, I would have been happy to take that.

I think there are too many moving parts in your plan to make BlaBlaCar a good idea here. One driver who changed his mind could leave you stranded.

In all cases the schedules could be highly day-of-week sensitive. I checked a random weekday.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the feedback. I think renting a car makes the most sense, though we could bus to Arcos and bus/train to Grenada from Ronda and then only need a car for a day. I just know that many of these places aren’t car friendly.

Posted by
14784 posts

Keep it simple. Rent a car at the Sevilla train station, drive to Arcos and spend a few hours. I don't think there's much of anything on the way. Then continue on. David's right about parking in the lot at the base (that's where the bus stops too). You can walk up the steep road or wait for the free shuttle (minibus). I used the RS walking tour. In February you won't find crowds there, but you may find that one or two sights have limited hours. From there you have El Bosque, Ubrique and Grazalema. Maybe stay a night in Grazalema. Next day, Zahara, Olvera, and Sentenil, overnight in Ronda. Try to get to Ronda early enough to settle in and view the bridge/gorge in the late afternoon sunlight. Use a few hours to see Ronda's sights, then it's a pretty easy drive to Granada. You may want to stop just outside Antequera to visit the prehistoric dolmens.

GPS will help you get out of Sevilla, in and out of Ronda, and into Granada. Take into account that you may get some poor weather. The drives are more scenic in sunshine, and I've had some fog in the hills once. The towns are still worth exploring, but you'll need to be flexible.

Posted by
14784 posts

PS. Some of the villages are difficult to drive in, many are okay. They are all off the main road so you always have the option of just driving past. If you want to explore and the streets look steep, just park and walk or turn around and get back on the main road for the next one. BTW there are pullouts along the main roads where you can stop to admire the view and take photos. I don't think I tried to drive into Sentenil or Olvera, but on the road to Olvera there is a gem of a church and a small parking lot, Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. You just never know what you're going to find.

Posted by
5407 posts

Agree with Chani about keeping things simple. Don't futz around trying to take a bus to a hill town and hoping to get a rental car there. You will almost certainly have an easier (and cheaper) rental getting it in a larger city. These towns are small, and there may simply be no rental agencies there at all (I suspect not in most of them, maybe in Ronda, as it's hooked more tightly to the larger tourism industry. Even if you can find an agency there, I wouldn't not expect competitive prices and options. Remember, time in Europe is your most constrained commodity, use it wisely. Burning time to save a few bucks is not smart.

I'd add that we overnighted in Arcos and it was one of the highlights of our trip. The high town was wonderfully empty, authentic and utterly charming at night. Arcos and Ronda made good overnight stops for us. Also agree about getting to the viewpoint for Ronda's bridge in time to catch the golden light of the afternoon/setting sun - glorious.