Anyone who has followed my Andalucia blog over the years will know that Andalucía’s unspoilt Atlantic coast holds a special place in my heart. It was here, almost 10 years ago, that events conspired to change my life – I fell in love, moved to Andalucia and started a journey of exploration that has taken me (and continues to take me) across southern Spain.
So after 3 months in Latin America, the first thing I did when I got back in a few weeks ago was head over to the beaches west to Tarifa and dive into the sea. With the sunny winter that we are enjoying R and I went back to Bolonia beach yesterday, enjoyed a picnic and went skinny dipping in the ciy cold Atlantic waters.
As soon as the road out of Algerciras curves up and around the headline, and the enormous wind turbines dominate the landscape, I know I am close. The strait here is 14 kilometres, making Morocco easy to make out on the other side. Once past Tarifa the first beach is a broad expanse of sand, with a view back to Tarifa’s port and Morocco’s Rif mountains behind. This scene is inspirational and has been captured by a friend of mine in many of her works.
(Painting by Victoria Orr Ewing)
If you are unfamiliar with this part of Andalucia, a break in Cadiz ad Huelva provinces is a rewarding and relaxing experience. Click on the hyperlinks in this post to see related entries and photos – and discover Andalucía’s Atlantic coast! (links to archive posts on this blog).
A decade ago only a few adventurous international visitors, surfers, and pioneering foreign nationals knew this corner of Spain – the Andalusians had managed to keep to themselves. When I used to post pictures on my blog of weekends in Tarifa, Cadiz or Huelva, expats on the Costa del Sol used to think it was a distant destination, and possibly a scary one as there were no full English breakfasts, SKY sports or fancy beach clubs.
The strong winds that often funnel between Europe and Africa make it unattractive to the typical sun, sea and sangria holiday brigade – so luckily it was largely escaped the attention of corrupt developers. Instead the area attracts kite and board surfers, walkers, and those enamoured by the broad sandy beaches, pine clad coast and simple white towns and villages.
Of course things change, and after years of media coverage and travel features in Northern Europe and beyond the area has become more international. Local towns like Vejer de la Frontera are now well on the way to becoming anglicised and gentrified: and the once beat-up camper vans and vintage Renault cars that would be parked by the shore are now kept company by over-sized 4x4s, and shiny German marques. Yet, somehow the coast west of Tarifa still keeps its magic.
My favourite beach is La Bolonia, and it is always the one place that is guaranteed to recharge my batteries, and help me let go of distractions and cares. to the west are the beautiful and enigmatic Roman ruins.
If you’re unfamiliar with Cadiz and Huelva provinces, then a vacation here can be a rewarding and relaxing choice.
From Tarifa, a small port that offers a regualt catamaran service to Tangiers (they say 35 minutes, but it’s longer due to loading and unloading but still swift), continue west and you can discover some of the magical escapes along the coast. Caños de Mecas is an uninspiring looking place at first but has a fantastic beach and relaxed, and still quite bohemian vibe. As you go further along the beach it becomes nudist and then gay – a relaxed and chilled vibe that is physically and metaphorically ‘miles’ from the costa del sol beach experience.
Zahara de Atunes is the favoured weekend and summer retreat for the ‘Sevilla set’ – posh Andalusian families that have upscale villas in the hills – in spring there is a lot of cashmere in town!
From here to Cadiz capital are a number of large hotel resorts, but most thankfully are low rise and there are still plenty of interesting and untouched places to find – Trafalgar for example! Or Sanluca de Barrameda.
Cadiz capital has been badly affected by thoughtless tower bloc development, but make it into the old town, especially at this time of year, Carnival, and you are in for a real treat – the port was strategic in colonial times when it was the link with Cuba and Colombia and other Spanish colonies, for the import of silver, gold, emeralds and more – so the architecture has a strong colonial, Latino feel – Spain’s very own Havana!
Huelva is probably one of favourite’s provinces in Andalucia – vast expanses of Mediterranean pines, and exceptional beaches. This home to the remarkable Romeria de Rocio, rich in gypsy and flamenco culture – and of course the amazing La Donana wetlands and protected national park.
From here next stop is Portugal!