If you want to beat the crowds then look no further than the idyllic beaches of Isla Canela in the Costa de la Luz. Even in July and August you'll find plenty of room to spread a towel or hire a lounger, and the rest of the year you could find yourself almost alone. Want to swim? The sparkling blue sea is safe for swimming, due to a long sloping sweep out to a sandbar and warm enough from May to the end of October. Fancy a drink? Dotted along the dunes are a number of beach bars, such as La Cabra or La Sonrisa, all offering a range of beer, wine and cocktails or food from the BBQ. Looking for something more active? Learn to water ski from CanelaXtreme or hire canoes or bicycles from Bicilandia and cycle along the long promenade. And all of this with five unbroken miles of glorious, fine, golden sand that's cleaned daily. This year more money has been allocated to maintain the pristine condition of the beach, with a special emphasis on making all amenities accessible to people with reduced mobility.
Google map: bit.ly/Y4EE48
Looking for wide, golden beaches and safe bathing? Great food and friendly bars? Head for Ayamonte on the western edge of the Costa de la Luz and less than an hour from the airport at Faro. Nestling at the mouth of the estuary between Spain and Portugal, Ayamonte offers gleaming white Andalucian buildings, cobbled streets, palm-fringed squares, an elegant marina and open-air bars and restaurants. Try the superb tapas in La Puerta Ancha in Plaza de la Laguna, or eat from the barbecue in La Sonrisa on the fabulous Isla Canela beach. In Summer grab the little open-air train that runs from one end of the beach to the other, or learn to windsurf from one of the surf schools located on the beach. Ten minutes from Ayamonte, or a short walk from Isla Canela, is the little fishing village of Punta del Moral, where you’ll be spoiled for choice in the fish restaurants. An hour’s drive to the east is the famous Coto Donana, where you can take a jeep safari through Europe’s biggest wetland, spotting flamingos, lynx and, if you’re lucky, the Spanish Imperial eagle.
Google map: bit.ly/J7ucUC
A family-run chiringuito (beach-side bar). It is so hidden away it’s even pretty unknown to the locals too. From the slope on the way down, you wouldn’t imagine that it is an eating establishment: there’s nothing to indicate its restaurant status, no bells or whistles, like signs. It doesn't even have electricity, running on a generator. It simply is what it is, but it serves the freshest fish you can imagine and has a never-ending view of blue skies and sea. They do offer a menu with the dishes that are always served, for example, tomates aliñados (tomatoes with garlic, drenched in vinegar and olive oil), chips, fried eggs and green peppers. However, it’s always best to ask the owners what is available on the day, since it depends what the fisherman, father of the family, managed to bag in his net and bring back that morning. Be sure to try the choco (cuttlefish) – I can guarantee that it will be the biggest that you have ever set your eyes on. The coquinas (small clams) are yum too. And don't forget sardinas when they are in season (any month without "r" in Spanish).
It's a little tricky to get to. Either park up near the Playa Rocío campsite and trek down the sandy slope, or walk approx 2 km along the beach from Matalascañas. Open from April through summer.
Google map: bit.ly/ql4E39
If you have already explored the beaches and Moorish antiquities of Andalucia, why not go inland and rural.
In the west of Andalucia in the province of Huelva is the area of the Minas de Rio Tinto - lunar geography, deserted old railway-line walks, dolmens and Roman remains: great walking territory.
We would particularly recommend the walks along the Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel, full of archaeological interest and natural beauty.
Best of all stay in a village such as Zalamea La Real, friendly, pretty and hardly a tourist in sight. For three years we have stayed in a Casa Rural, el Cortijo Zalamea, in fact the fully modernised barns of an old farm with orange groves. It is run by Marta and Mario who speak good English and are very helpful.
Furthermore, National Parks (Las Marismas in the South and Aracena in the North) are within easy driving distance. Buy a locally cured Jamon at El Villar before returning home.
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