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Guide to the Costa de la Luz

The Costa de la Luz is one of the best kept secrets of the entire Spanish coastline. Mass tourism has failed to spread its tendrils as far as this south west corner of Spain though Spanish visitors have been enjoying the diverse delights of the 'Coast of Light' for many years.

This particular stretch of coast is best avoided if you're seeking a 24-hour holiday resort geared to the demands of foreign tourists . It's more of a destination for those seeking something a bit different from their Spanish holiday - the kind of travellers who never leave home without their Lonely Planet guide!

What makes the Costa de la Luz so special?

The special charm of this particular 'Costa' lies in its virgin, windswept beaches, untainted towns and villages, dramatic sunsets and huge nature reserves. You may not find an all-night foam party but you can dance on the beach till dawn, sample the locally made Sherries and savour some of the best seafood in Spain.

The Costa de la Luz takes its name from the clarity of the light which gives a luminous quality to this area of coastal pain stretching from the Portuguese border in the north down to Tarifa in the south (where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Straits of Gibraltar).

At the northern end of the costa there's the provincial capital of Cadiz - largely overlooked by foreign visitors and yet a fascinating place to visit for history and culture buffs. It was from here that the great explorer Christopher Columbus set sail on two of his voyages of discovery to the New World.

Places of interest in the Costa de la Luz

Canos de Meca

All along the coast you'll find charming pine-fringed coves, dune-backed beaches and rugged cliffs interspersed by traditional villages which are still relatively unspoilt. Canos de Meca, 55 kilometres south of Cadiz, is one of the prettiest resorts to visit with its 100 metre waterfalls cascading out of the sandstone cliffs onto the sandy beach.

San Lucar de Barrameda

If you're visiting the region in August, don't miss the spectacular horse racing on the beach at San Lucar de Barrameda at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. It's a unique event, dating back to 1845, with some mega prize money which attracts big name jockeys from all over Europe.

Donana National Park

Nature lovers will want to pay a visit to the Donana National Park, Spain's largest protected Wildlife Park which is home to various reptiles, fallow deer, wild boar, flamingoes and many endangered species including Lynx and Imperial Eagles. This fragile ecosystem also provides some of the best free bird watching in all of Europe.

Tarifa

Wind and kite surfers will want to base themselves at Tarifa, the windsurfing capital of Europe which overlooks North Africa. From here you can step back in time with a 35-minute ferry hop over to Morocco where a visit to the Kasbah and Mosque is a must.

Scuba diving, sailing, whale and dolphin watching are among the many other attractions on offer along this little known coastline.

Note from Spanish Living:

In 2008 we were lucky enough to be invited on a boat trip out onto the straits - a pre-wedding celebration. There we hoped to witness Dolphins and Whales swimming. Although we were warned by the staff that usually Dolphins were aplenty but the Whales much harder to come by. In fact the opposite turned out to be true. After half an hour or so out on the sea we ran into a large school of Sperm Whales sheperding their young through the straits. Some of the adults were immense in size and an awesome spectacle to witness, especially when the tails came out of the water and landed with a huge splash. The young (which were still as big as the boat we were in holding 200 people!) swam alongside their parents for protection. And the icing on the cake was a large school of Bottlenose Dolphins that also swam alongside to play along. If you get the chance we thoroughly recomemend this excursion. You wont forget it. The boats / excursions can be found in the harbour at Tarifa.