If you want to get away from Spain’s big-name resorts, consider a holiday to the Costa de la Luz. This part of the country is all about sleepy villages and beaches without the frills.
The Costa de la Luz couldn’t be more different from its Costa cousins. Facing the Atlantic on Spain’s most south-westerly stretch of coast, it’s Spain without its make-up – a place where the scenery and traditional way of life hold sway over high rises and holiday crowds. Thomson Airways operates two different flights to the Costa de la Luz – one to Jerez and one to Faro – so you can pick and choose depending on what you’re after.
Chiclana de la Frontera
Fly into Jerez airport, and you’ll stay in the up-and-coming resort of Chiclana de la Frontera. The jewel in its crown is Barossa Beach, a 6-kilometre sweep of sand that’s been left to its own devices in parts. Even the more commercial section, complete with shops, restaurants and a promenade, is a world away from some of the bigger Spanish beach resorts. The city of Jerez itself, meanwhile, puts you within easy reach of Moorish buildings and flamenco bars.
Fly into Faro airport, and you’ll stay in the resort of Isla Canela, close to the Portuguese border. The little island is connected to the mainland by a bridge, and its main highlights include a huge sandy beach and an 18-hole golf course. You’re also within easy reach of the Donana National Park here.
Things to See and Do in Costa de la Luz
The Costa de la Luz lines up the beaches. There’s more than 200 kilometres of coastline in this part of Spain and it’s outfitted with long sandy stretches and quieter coves. This section of shoreline is also daubed with Blue Flag status. At least 30 of Costa de la Luz’s beaches have been awarded this coveted accolade.
The secret beach
The ratio of sand to people is low on Los Enebrales Beach, an hour’s drive east from Isla Canela. You reach the sand via a wooden walkway surrounded by juniper trees and sand dunes. When you get there, the beach is completely unadorned. It’s just powdery biscuit-coloured sand and the sea.
If you’re serious about spending, head for the streets of Seville. You’ll find the best choice of goods along the Calle Sierpes avenue, where there are countless Spanish fashion boutiques and designer stores. There’s also a string of smart pavement cafés and patisseries for when you need a little break from retail therapy.
El Corte Inglés is Spain's flagship department store – think Debenhams but slightly more upmarket. You'll find it in the town of Cadiz, and it's packed with shops including home favourites like Mango, Zara and Benetton. Fashion stores in Chiclana de la Frontera are a little less mainstream, but worth a browse. Head to Novo Center and Calle Fierro 1 to find pieces you won’t get back home.
If you’re staying on Isla Canela, cross the bridge over the Guadiana River to the mainland on a Saturday. The fishing village of Ayamonte holds an open-air market right by the river, and it’s the best place to pick up local produce, crafts and jewellery. There’s also a weekly flea market in Seville on a Sunday. The stalls on Charco de la Pava carry everything from wooden masks to olive oil.
El Rompido, just along the coast from Isla Canela, is a good choice for a chilled-out evening. When the sun goes down, the locals head for the medley of cosy tapas bars down by the waterfront. And this sets the tone for the rest of the evening – think good food, lots of wine and local musicians strumming on guitars. It’s a similar scene in Isla Canela itself, plus the resort also boasts an 18-hole golf course, so you can get a round in before the sun goes down.
The after-sun scene in Chiclana de la Frontera is none too shabby. Calle La Gaviota, Calle San Antonio and Carretera de la Barrosa are the names to watch out for. The bars in these areas put on live music and happy hours, and stay open pretty late. For a real taste of Spanish nightlife, though, you’ll want to head into Seville.
If you fancy a change from tapas, order this time-honoured dish as a starter. A thick, creamy tomato-based soup that’s served chilled, it’s garnished with the likes of parsley, diced eggs and ham. On a hot day, you might find some restaurants serving it with ice-cubes.
If you’re really hungry, try this belly-warmer. It’s a rich bean stew made with white beans, meat and chorizo, and it’s sprinkled with saffron to give it extra flavour. Make like the locals and tuck in at lunchtime – their largest meal of the day – accompanied by crusty bread and a glass of red wine.
Rabo de toro
If you like oxtail soup, you’ll enjoy this local classic. Rabo de toro is a popular dish that consists of the tail of a bull. The tail is braised with onions and tomatoes and, as a finishing touch, the chef will add a splash of the region-produced sherry.
This dry, cured ham comes from the Spanish town of Jabugo, and it’s made from the acorn-eating pigs that roam the forest on the border of Portugal. It’s said that the diet and exercise of the pigs give the ham its sweet, nutty taste.
Sherry is the tipple of choice for Costa de la Luz locals. In fact, the stuff has been produced in the region since Phoenician times. Grapes are harvested at the start of September, and there’s even a festival to mark the occasion. Choose from dry and sweet varieties, and sip yours with a creamy dessert for the ultimate holiday indulgence.
Places To Stay In Costa De La Luz View all places to stay »
Islantilla is one of the newest resorts on the Costa de la Luz, but it stakes a claim for being the most laid-back and peaceful of the lot. Its standout feature is a huge sweep of sand, which comes with a coveted Blue Flag tick to its name. You’ll find the café-lined Paseo Maritimo over its shoulder, plus a mix of authentic Spanish villas and neatly-kept parks.
Chiclana de la Frontera
A favourite with Spanish holidaymakers, Chiclana de la Frontera is as authentically Andalusian as they come. The old town centre is a mesh of cobbled streets, flowery courtyards, tapas bars and sherry bodegas – and round here, flamenco dancing is a serious sport. As for the beach, you’ll be sharing the sandy stretch with the very friendly locals.
Isla Canela is a peaceful island separated from Spain’s southwest coast by a narrow canal. The north is covered by the Guadiana wetlands, while a 6-kilometre stretch of sand lines the southern coast, taking in the rustic eateries of Isla Canela town and the sophisticated nightlife at Punta del Moral marina. It’s a mazy and beautiful place, with a road bridge getting you to Ayamonte on the mainland in 15 minutes.