18 Jul, 2009 @ 00:00
2 mins read

Mesmerised by the light

Take a ride to Andalucia’s most alluring, unspoilt coastline the Costa de la Luz, says Wilma Crowther-Bellas

IF you have never taken a ride to the shores on the other side of the Rock of Gibraltar you are in for a surprise.

From Tarifa in the south to Chiclana in the north there are literally miles and miles of mesmerising and largely unspoilt white, soft and sandy beaches.

Known as the Costa de la Luz or the Coast of Light, there are so many marvellous sites to see, from the famous Trafalgar lighthouse to the historic fishing village of Sancti Petri.

“Ideal for families, the wide open beaches are backed with a series of fine fish restaurants”

And then there are the hidden gems, like Roche – where Madrid’s captains of industry take their holidays – and El Palmar with the best surfing waves in Andalucia.

And don’t forget Canos de Meca – the fun capital of the region – nor Zahara de los Atunes, the sleepy fishing village, which is fast garnering a reputation for its food.

And even then you are missing out on the two main gems of the coastline, the historic fortress town of Tarifa, a Mecca for windsurfers from around the world, and hip, alluring Vejer de la Frontera, where cabinet ministers and celebrities rub shoulders.

I usually make for El Palmar or Canos de Meca, the most laid-back spots on the coast.

Ideal for families, the wide open beaches are backed with a series of fine fish restaurants, where you will rarely pay more than around 20 euros a head for lunch, including wine.

In particular head for El Palmar, where you will find Saboy Mar, a restaurant that specialises in fish from the Bahia, BBQs and Iberian meats. It stands out for its cool green grass and shady thatched sun umbrellas.

Nearby is the trendy La Chanca, while a great laid-back place to stay is La Gallega hostal, just set back from the beach.

For snacks and drinks head towards Mangueta (in Zahora), near Canos de Meca, where Bar Saboy plays host to live flamenco dancing every Friday and Saturday night.

As well as its fabulous BBQs there are some beautiful low-rise bungalows to rent.

If surfing is your thing, then there are a number of places to rent boards and wetsuits.

The best known is Kotadalu, where French owner Vincent gives many useful tips and information on the area.

He sells all surfing paraphernalia from t-shirts to flip flops and offers surf lessons in groups of less than four, so you are bound to pick it up.

After a lesson sit down in his restaurant and enjoy the international menu with Mexican-style wraps, wok-fried prawns and a popular kiddies’ menu.

Further inland in Vejer you will find many excellent places to stay, none better than Hotel Sindhura, sitting high in the hills with breathtaking views of the coastline.

For those of you looking for action, a great place for dads and children is pretending to be a Formula 1 driver at Chiclana´s Circuito de Kart.

“Further inland in Vejer you will find many excellent places to stay”

Here you can race around in circles until your heart’s content!

Also for children is the charming Granja de Verano, a farm in Novo Sancti-Petri set in a pine forest packed with activities for the kids.

If it´s horses you are into, book a session with Jibbah in Zahara de los Atunes. You can buy vouchers for year-long use or just take a morning’s spectacular ride along the shore or visit nearby Roman ruins on horseback.

Naturally, being surrounded by such unspoilt beauty you might want to consider accommodation that respects the environment.

One of the best in Andalucia is Casas Karen in Canos de Meca. Set up by Karen Abrahams over a decade ago, the place has grown in a charming piecemeal way ever since.

A true figurehead for the coastline, Karen has an extremely low water use garden, and low key sustainable thatched rustic ‘chozas’, alongside more typical cortijo-style rooms.

If there are no rooms here then make sure to try nearby Madreselva in the heart of the village, a charming option with comfortable rooms and just a minute’s walk to a spectacular beach.

Wherever you go or whatever you do, you will undoubtedly leave the Costa de la Luz with wonderful memories. In fact you will probably want to stay.

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

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