Just inland from the Atlantic coast this sleepy seaside town from where Columbus sailed (see his travels in ‘The Ice House museum’), comes to life in the summer months. Horse racing on the sands, trips across the short stretch of water to seek out the elusive Iberian Lynx in the beautiful Coto Doñana National park (day trip Eu35 per adult).
And the most fabulous fish dishes at the quay side restaurants, washed down with the famous ‘Manzanilla’, a fine, dry local sherry. What more could you ask?
From Cadiz city to Tarifa you will find miles of white sandy beaches with beautiful turquoise ocean backed by pine forests and dotted with laid back fishing villages where you can find bars with the freshest seafood accompanied by chilled sherry from Jerez. Places to check out are Tarifa - the windsurfing capital and gateway to Africa; Bolongia which is a well preserved roman city; Canos de Meca - a hippy hangout since the sixties where little has changed; and Conil a tuna fishing village and summer holiday destination for northern Spanish. Finally you should see the capital Cadiz - old Spain with Spanish colonial vibes. You could be in Havana! It's old Andalucia at its best!
Google map: bit.ly/kvR1cC
This small beach effectively splits Cadiz in two. Stand on the sandy beach looking at Cadiz with the waves behind you, the old town with its small, wiggly, mazelike streets past the looming cathedral to the left and the new town with its endless rows of high-rise apartments to the right. If the sun is shining you will always find small groups of locals and language students taking in the sun, playing beach football or throwing a Frisbee around. More importantly for some is the surf. The beach has very reliable surf for kids on their sponges (bodyboarders) and of course the very protective local surfers. I learnt to bodysurf here and will return to do it again! Surf tech speak: Exposed beach break, favour lefts, quite reliable surf (tending to flat in summer). Local refreshments are provided by friendly beach sellers, Mickey from Argentina is there all year round, he will even join in with any football, volleyball and even throws a mean Frisbee. Playa Victoria stretches off along the new town, 3+km, and in summer everyone in Spain seems to be here! Finding any spot is nigh on impossible. So I suggest, ‘avoid!’ Visit Cadiz in February for the Carnival or Easter and try not to get stuck there as I did!
Google map: bit.ly/f5Qmdj
I am almost reluctant to share this secret gem, as its charm lies in its unspoiled nature and totally undeveloped facilities. El Palmar is a deserted stretch of sandy, wind-blasted beach that goes on as far as the eye can see. There are no high rise concrete hotel blocks, no fancy restaurants, no lager louts demanding full English breakfasts. There are a few chiringuitos (shanty-like bars) serving tinto de verano, a refreshing red wine and soda mix, boquerones (delicious deep-fried anchovies) and other tasty snacks. Almost everyone in the bar is a local: either a crusty old fisherman taking a break from putting out the nets to discuss the tide and have a cold beer, surfer dudes or youngsters who come to watch the sunset while listening to local rock bands. It's always very, very windy here and there is little shade from the intense sun, except in the bar!
Located about half-way from Tarifa to Cadiz on the Atlantic coast.
Only reached by car on route A-48 (autovia de la Costa de la Luz)
This is a small fishermen village, famous for the ancient fishing method called "almadraba" (net), which offers stunning beaches, natural surroundings and world-class gastronomy. If you fancy a laid-back, off the beaten track place, chosen mostly by locals, this is where to go. The beach is wide, clean and endless. You can stroll the seaside up to Atlanterra, a more developed holiday spot. It's suitable for families and young people alike. Away from the village you can even find nudist beaches. I recommend staying at Camping Bahia de la Plata, a camping site just one km from town, where you can rent wooden bungalows or parcels for the caravan/tent, overlooking the sea. The place is very clean, offers a supermarket, hot water showers, laundry service and it has a nice restaurant where you can get budget breakfasts and enjoy a superb "mojama" (salt-cured tuna) with a chilled beer after a day in the beach. Or if you prefer, just relax in one of the many rustic "chiringuitos" on the beach.
Zahara is half way from Cadiz to Tarifa. The easiest way to reach it is taking a bus to Barbate from Cadiz (www.tgcomes.es) which stops in all the small coastal beaches. You can also reach the place from Jerez de la Frontera, Seville and Gibraltar. For budget accommodation www.campingbahiadelaplata.com/servicios.htm.
La Caleta, Cádiz, Spain
If it’s wide expanses of sand you want, don’t come to La Caleta. Wandering through Cádiz and its shaded, narrow streets of faded splendour , you emerge suddenly into the startling light of the Atlantic, the multi-coloured fishing boats and a small sheltered sandy bay that’s on the very edge of Europe. The gaditanos are rightly renowned for partying (try Carnaval in February) and once you tire of people watching, you can stroll across to one of the bars in the nearby Barrio de La Viña and enjoy a tapa of shrimp fritters (tortillitas), from the catch brought in at La Caleta, washed down with a glass of sherry. No wonder this, Europe’s oldest city, is still going strong.
La Caleta, nearest station Cadiz
Google map: tinyurl.com/2uftbf2
Costa de la Luz is a beautiful, as yet unspoilt part of Spain on the Portuguese border. If you go off-peak you can still find hidden, deserted beaches, traditional fishing villages, and unlike the Costa del Sol, Spanish people!
Costa de la Luz stretches from Huelva in the west to just short of Algeciras in the south.
Nearest airports are Seville or Faro.
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