By Tina Nielsen
This story originally appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of Elite Traveler.
Once you have had your fill of Andalucía’s majestic cities, monuments and rich culture, head west to the much less visited Costa de la Luz. Where the Costa del Sol is busy with hotels, restaurants and nightlife, much of the Atlantic coast is quiet and serene, the vast beaches providing a stunning setting for a few days’ rest. Base yourself in one of the historic towns, such as the picture-perfect hilltop pueblo blanco Vejer de la Frontera, 623 feet above sea level, for easy access to the beaches as well as key cities in the Cadiz region, central to this coastline.
At the southern end of the coast, you’ll find windswept Tarifa, which is popular with surfers and offers gorgeous views over the narrow stretch of sea to Africa; while in the northern part you can lose yourself in the lush Doñana National Park.
While it is much calmer and quieter than other parts of Andalucía, the Costa de la Luz is just as rich in food, drink and natural wonders. For a taste of the region, try the excellent Spanish sherry at Bodegas Lustau in Jerez and seek out the world-famous Jabugo ham in Huelva.
Catch a quick boat journey to El Puerto de Santa María for an authentic experience of a beautiful Cádiz town, and while you are there, visit Aponiente, the restaurant run by Ángel León, the self-styled ‘chef of the sea’. His inventive menu features rarely used bounty from the sea, and Aponiente was only the second restaurant in Andalucía to be awarded two stars in the current Michelin Guide.
Zahara de los Atunes, a small town popular with Spanish visitors, is famous for its Atlantic bluefin tuna – head here for the tuna festival in May. Further down visit Baelo Claudia, the ruins of a Roman town near the tiny hamlet of Bolonia.
No matter the length of the trip, this is a part of Andalucía that will satisfy most travelers’ desire for new experiences, great food and beautiful scenery.