Right down in the southern most tip of Spain, east of Cadiz, is Sancti Pectri, an old tuna fishing community that sits on the edge of the marismas. Separated from a long spit of sand, with its protected marina in between, it looks out towards an island castle sitting on the horizon, giving this beautiful place a unique historical situation.
This stretch of coast isn’t called the Costa de la Luz for nothing. The light here really is extraordinary, with wide sweeping vistas and the exotic blues of sky and ocean blending into one another, in the intense heat that bears down in summer. This is the Atlantic Ocean and the waters are pure, rich in nutrients and fish, with a refreshing edge.
Here, in the heart of Andalucia, the people here are moulded by their landscape and the sea, which impacts on everything in daily life. They’re warm, friendly and passionate, and above all, love where they live and come from. For them, the grass isn’t greener anywhere else; this is paradise. Behind Sancti Pectri, is the small town of Chiclana, a traditional town, with narrow streets of white painted houses, nestled close together, with a thriving town centre, at the heart of which is the fish market.
The azures and turquoises of the sea, interspersed with dark blue, look tropical, so you could be mistaken for thinking you were in the Caribbean, except the overall atmosphere is very much its own, with its unique combination of sea, salt marshes, long sandy beaches and rolling surf, and the omnipresence of wide open space.
Not surprisingly, tourism is important for the local economy, and this a popular holiday destination for wealthy Spaniards from Madrid, many owning second homes in the nearby modern compound developments that have sprung up, with swimming pools and golf courses. Being only an hour and a half from Seville and an hour from Jerez de la Frontera, this coast is a fantastic place to chill out and enjoy the delights of sand and sea. But there’s also a plethora of fantastic things to sight see, both along the coast in either direction and inland.
There’s the ancient walled city of Cadiz, one of the most historic cities in Spain, constructed and occupied over past centuries by Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Moors. It was as important as Seville in sending out and receiving the galleons that ploughed the Atlantic, bringing back riches from the New World.
Half an hour west, is the beautiful hill-top village of Vejer de la Frontera, a traditional Pueblo Blanco, perched high, with commanding views in every direction, as far as the eye can see. Further down the coast still, heading towards Tarifa, is Zahara de los Antunes, a stunning piece of coastline, where sand and sea blend in tropical colours and one can sit on an idyllic white sandy beach, looking across at Africa.
North of Cadiz, Puerta de Santa Maria, with its renowned fish and mariscos restaurants and sherry bodegas, is well worth a visit, as is Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlucar de Barrameda, with their sherry bodegas and vineyards, owned by the likes of Domecq, Osborne, Gonzalez Byass and Sandeman.
Lying west of Sanlucar, across the estuary, is the world famous Donana National Park: 543 square kilometres of nature reserve, where the Guadalquivir river delta meets the ocean, bridging Seville and Huelva provinces. It has amazing biodiversity and rare wildlife, including lynx, mongooses, red deer, imperial eagles and wild boar. Special safari tours can be booked in advance and are highly recommended.
After a relaxing day at the beach, there’s nothing better than to head up to one of the many restaurants or chiringuitos along the sea front, and sample some of the best food and drink you can find anywhere, frankly. What could be better than drinking ice-cold Cruz Campo, the local beer of Seville, and snacking on plates of fresh squid and fried whitebait or anchovies, or perhaps Dorada a la Plancha con Patatas Fritas? And to cap it all, more often than not, there’ll be a world class sunset to watch every night that will take your breath away.