Local Villages and Towns
The Costa de la Luz is full of wonderful towns and villages just waiting for you to discover. We have outlined a handful below:
Vejer de la Frontera
Nestled between the Sierras and the sea, this beautiful “pueblo blanco” (white village) stands at 190 metres above sea level, giving exceptional views across the old county of La Janda, the Atlantic Ocean and the distant mountains of North Africa.
The town dates back to pre-Roman times and counted Phoenicians and Carthaginians among its past residents before Moorish forces took it by storm in 711. The distinctly Moorish character of the place endures in its solid walls, majestic arches, steep narrow streets and white-washed, flat-roofed houses.
During the five centuries of Islamic rule the town was known as Bekkeh and until the 1960s, many of the women continued to wear the cobija (a black, floor-length veil that covered everything but the eyes). Vejer was finally reconquered for the Christians by King Alfonso X the Wise in 1264.
Main sights: you can easily lose a morning or afternoon exploring Vejer, taking in the Iglesia del Divino Salvador, the castle, the Jewish Quarter and the Plaza de España.
Eating and drinking: Vejer is probably the foodiest town in the area with lots of different options for eating and drinking, much of it Moorish influence.
Beaches: El Palmar is the nearest beach to Vejer with low lying dunes and a handful of decent chiringuitos (beach bars), chill out lounges and restaurants.
Conil de la Frontera
Once seen Conil is rarely forgotten thanks to a pair of storks who nest on the ancient lookout towers in the town. It is a quiet, sleepy kind of place off-season, though it can get very busy in the summer. It’s a beautiful place to wander the beaches of Roche, which are distinguished by their red cliffs.
Ceramics: Conil is a great place to buy local handmade products – especially ceramics. For a wide range of local Andalucian pottery, head to El Colorado, in the outskirts of town. Look for the “Ceramica - Viveros” on both sides of the main N340 road , about 3km from Conil, heading in the direction of Cadiz.
Zahara de los Atunes
Zahara has fine white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue seas with excellent breakers if you like to frolic in the surf. Its name means ‘blossom of the tunas’ because of the sheer number of fish that used to pass through here.
It later became a prison, nicknamed ‘El Palacio’ by locals, where the Spanish writer Cervantes (he who penned Don Quixote) was said to be imprisoned. His novel ‘La Fregona Ilustre’ (the Illustrious Map) inspired many of the names of the bars and streets in the village. Piracy through the seventeenth and eighteenth century pretty much finished the fishing business, which moved to less exposed Barbate.
Today, this pleasingly local feeling Spanish town has bags of atmosphere and is a great place for a day on the beach.
Walks: From the Camarinal lighthouse you get superb 180º views extending from Tarifa to Cape Trafalgar and across the water to North Africa and Morocco’s Rif mountains. From here you can walk on to Bolonia (the site of the impressively preserved Baelo Claudia roman ruins). It takes about one hour through the pine forest and 2.5 hours along the coast.
If you’re looking for a taste of the old Costa de la Luz, head to the little fishing village of Barbate. It was an important port even back in Roman times and continues to be very important for blue fin tuna today, much of which is exported to Japan. Aficionados can visit the fish auction in the harbour early each morning, while the Mercado de Abastos, in the centre of town is considered the best in the area for fresh fish and seafood, fruit and vegetables. The town is also famous for its salazones (salt cured fish).
Beaches: The main beach in the town is the Playa del Carmen, which has a lively promenade to stop for an ice-cream. The Playa de la Hierbabuena (meaning mint) is on the other side of the harbour and has natural springs and fabulous cliffs full of nesting birds.