Cádiz is a wonderful province rich in natural beauty. Along its eastern border runs the immense ‘Alcornocales Natural Park’. This is one of world’s largest cork oak forests, with thousands of ancient trees creating habitat for a host of flora and fauna. As well as a source of world-class cork, this game hunting reserve is also a magnet for hikers, nature lovers and adventure sports enthusiasts.
The coast of Cádiz is also one of the most important in Europe for its kilometres of unspoilt undeveloped beaches and shoreline that includes the coastal town of Tarifa, a Mecca for water sport athletes. The topology of the Strait of Gibraltar funnels the wind, creating conditions ideally suited to kite surfing, wind surfing and sailing. If something more tranquil appeals, the area has some charming simple hotels offering barefoot simplicity, and the opportunity to walk directly from the hotel room onto the beach, and look out across to the Rif Mountains of North Africa.
A little further east is the exclusive enclave of Sotogrande, an internationally renowned private residential estate offering up market living for the European and international elite. Polo, sailing and golf define an elegant, privileged outdoors lifestyle unique in Europe.
Although Cádiz city is the provincial capital, its neighbour Jerez de la Frontera is the economically and logistically more advanced. With a prestigious heritage in wine making, as well as equestrian sport, one of the best times to visit is during May, when Jerez celebrates its annual ‘feria’.
At this traditional Horse Fair one sees the a seductive mix of the city’s culture, with beautifully groomed, elegant horses on parade; bustling bars serving the region’s finest sherries and sweet wines; and the flamboyant, colourful energy of flamenco.
Horses probably define the culture of Jerez more than the ubiquitous fortified wines made from Moscatel, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez grapes that flourish in the chalky soils that surround the town. Home to the world famous Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, Jerez remains one of Spain’s, if not Europe’s, leading centres for the breeding, training and trading of thoroughbred horses.
The annual Jerez Feria, with a history of almost half a millennia, is very popular. The party is a spectacular celebration of the local culture, both old and new, and provides the perfect backdrop for a superb day or more of drinking, eating and having a great time with friends.
To gain a real insight into the production of sherry, take a tour of one of the many bodegas that fill the town. Many of the names are familiar, as after all this is a city where for over 300 years the British influence has been felt in the making and exporting of fortified wines.
Cádiz city by contrast echoes its South American ties, built through trade and exploration. Walking the streets of the old town, the buildings are sometimes reminiscent of Latin America, with their shuttered windows, wrought iron window rejas and colonial architecture. Like the Latin Americans, the people of Cádiz love to celebrate ‘Carnival’.
Each February, the city is transformed into one huge, vocal street party, the biggest in Spain. In addition to the crazy costumes, painted faces and loud music, Cádiz defines its Carnival through witty performances. Singing groups, known as ‘chirigotas’ perform well crafted, satirical songs, most with a current theme. Even if one visits at other times of year, the chances are one will catch a rehearsal in one of the streets!
The city has a remarkable history of revolution and war, and was the seat of Parliament during the nineteenth century Peninsula War and the place where Spain’s new Constitution was declared in 1812. Its success and fate was always linked to the sea and its port.
A walk through the old city built on a distinctive sandspit, reveals an architectural legacy that has remained almost unchanged for centuries. Punctuating the skyline, many of the original lookout towers remain, once essential for merchants looking out for incoming ships bringing trade and wealth. The tallest remaining watch tower is Tavira, which houses a camera obscura. This is a truly original and fascinating way to see the city’s panorama, perfectly reflected onto a concave dish.
Understandably seafood here is amongst the best in Spain, and for an authentic experience, head across bay to El Puerto de Santa Maria and make a beeline for ‘El Romerijo’. This is an unfussy restaurant and fish seller, but the produce is superb. As well as the huge take away section for fresh fish and seafood, there is a bar, café and sit down restaurant where you can order all manner of fruits of the sea. The style is informal and quite direct, but the reward is some of the tastiest, best value seafood in Andalucía.
For additional information and my blog entries on Cadiz Province click on the category in the list in the blog’s sidebar or click here
Below I list a few of my favourite hotels in the province. I update this list from time to time. Also, you can read my reviews of some properties on this blog and also on TripAdvisor, where I am a Senior Contributor – (AndyInAndalucia).
El Escondrijo – Vejer de la Frontera
Casa la Siesta – Vejer de la Fronter
La Casa del Califa – Vejer de la Frontera
El Escondito del Viento