Bare Naked Beaches on the Costa de la Luz

My Andalusian adventure continued down to the coast. If you missed the previous episodes, you can check out Seville and Granada by clicking the links.

We detoured back west again — around the mountains and down past Jerez — to the Costa de la Luz. It’s that bit of Spanish coast to the west of Gibraltar. It’s on the Atlantic rather than the Mediterranean, so I thought it might be colder. But there was nothing to worry about. It does get a lot of wind, but that keeps the windsurfers happy. And you can always find a nice sheltered cove no matter which direction it’s blowing from.

I went because I heard about the area from friends. I wanted to find a stretch of coast that’s free of the ugly overdevelopment of places like the Costa del Sol or Costa Blanca, and free of the blight of out of control package tourism.

The Costa de la Luz sees a huge influx of Spanish tourists from cities like Madrid in the August high season. But it’s otherwise pretty quiet. And it’s light years away from the British and German tourist scourge that makes those other stretches of coast one ugly beer-stinking fish and chip shop hell.

I was initially interested in Los Canos de Meca as a base. But upon further research, it felt like the small town’s hippy vibe might have too much of a party atmosphere for my taste.

I was looking for a quiet place where I could completely unwind. A place where I could sleep late, work for a couple hours in the morning, and spend the afternoon relaxing on a sparsely populated naked beach or exploring some hill town. Late afternoon would signal the time for an aperitif at a beach bar and a nice seafood dinner. And then reading and maybe a little more writing after dark.

We decided to base in the small town of Conil de la Frontera. And it was the perfect choice.

We’d be staying a week, so we found an apartment on HomeAway.com so we could self-cater for breakfast and a few other meals.

Casas de Conil is run by an Austrian expat called Lisa Wengbauer who has lived in the area for over a decade. I highly recommend their apartments if you’re ever in the area. The furnished one bedroom we rented was on the outskirts of town, with a view of the sea as well as broad rolling hills with wind turbines in the distance.

It was quiet. It had a nice terrace and those electric metal shutters that turn your room into a crypt — heaven if you like to sleep late like me. The place was also kitted out with satellite TV, a DVD player, and every kitchen gadget and appliance you could possibly need.

My goal for this part of the trip was to poke around the neighbouring towns and get a feel for this stretch of coast. I’m researching my next base for “life after Malta”, and Spain is a strong contender. I’ll tell you more about how I do it in the next blog.

So yeah, the Costa de la Luz. What can I say? It was a small slice of paradise.

We spent some time exploring medieval “white towns” like the hilltop Vejer de la Frontera. We drove over to Bolonia to see the ruins of a Roman city right next to the sea. We feasted each night on fine Rioja wines, Iberico jam, and tuna sashimi fresh off the boat. We made a really cool side trip to the rock of Gibraltar. And we patiently mapped miles and miles of deserted beaches and coves, where swimsuits were as rare as an honest politician.

Here are a few photographic highlights of the trip and the region:

Taking a slow morning with The Economist at our rental apartment for the week...

Taking a slow morning with The Economist at our rental apartment for the week…

The beach of El Palmar offers tempting stretches of empty sand… right outside my door...

The beach of El Palmar offers tempting stretches of empty sand… right outside my door…

Cala Camacho — the perfect deserted cove, just around the corner from a crowded public beach...

Cala Camacho — the perfect deserted cove, just around the corner from a crowded public beach…

You won't find any tan lines at the peaceful little cove of Cala Camacho...

You won’t find any tan lines at the peaceful little cove of Cala Camacho…

Indulging in an assortment of tuna sashimi, right off the boat...

Indulging in an assortment of tuna sashimi, right off the boat…

Exploring the hilltop "white town" of Vejer de la Frontera...

Exploring the hilltop “white town” of Vejer de la Frontera…

An old man stops for a noontime glass of Fino Sherry at a corner bar in Vejer de la Frontera...

An old man stops for a noontime glass of Fino Sherry at a corner bar in Vejer de la Frontera…

Villas ooze wealth across the hillside near Zahara des los Atunes...

Villas ooze wealth across the hillside near Zahara des los Atunes…

Feasting on fine Rioja wines and Iberico ham...

Feasting on fine Rioja wines and Iberico ham…

The Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia — a major fish paste exporter — right on the beach at Bolonia...

The Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia — a major fish paste exporter — right on the beach at Bolonia…

…but sadly it had closed early for the day… "Why…? Why did you lock me out…?"

…but sadly it had closed early for the day… “Why…? Why did you lock me out…?”

Another deserted beach awaits… Playa Arroyo del Canuelo near the village of Zahara de los Atunes...

Another deserted beach awaits… Playa Arroyo del Canuelo near the village of Zahara de los Atunes…

The broad empty sands of El Palmar beach, where swimsuits were as rare as an honest politician…. Hey there! You with the camera! That's far enough!

The broad empty sands of El Palmar beach, where swimsuits were as rare as an honest politician…. Hey there! You with the camera! That’s far enough!

Tuna sashimi again? The best tuna belly I've ever eaten. It melts in the mouth like butter.

Tuna sashimi again? The best tuna belly I’ve ever eaten. It melts in the mouth like butter.

Do me a favour, okay? Don’t tell anyone about this place. I’d hate to see it overrun. It’s so great the way it is.

And speaking of relocating…

I’ve had a few requests from folks who want to know how I go about choosing my next base. What sort of things I look for. How I do my research before changing countries. And what I’ve learned along the way.

We’ll talk about that in the next blog. Don’t miss it!

 

Photos ©Tomoko Goto 2013

 

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Comments

  1. Enjoyed reading your blog. What is the longest time you have stayed in one country? When do you know it’s time to move on?

    Sandra

    • Ryan Murdock says

      Thanks Sandra. Been in Malta nearly 3 years, that’s probably the longest. Was in Japan for 2 years as well. When it comes to traveling and constant movement, I’ve found 6 months on the road was a bit too long. I started to fall into habits and patterns so I knew it was time to go back for a settled period of reading, etc (just as I sometimes set off on the road to break the sedentary habits of home). 3 months seemed just about ideal in that case – not long enough to fall into patterns or get stagnant, and short enough that you still feel like continuing just a little bit further.

      When it comes to changing bases, I guess I just start to feel restless and bored. There’s nothing wrong with that place necessarily. It just feels like I can’t grow any more there, and that I need to go someplace new to keep pushing my comfort zones.

  2. There is a quality to life in Spain that we appreciate. The Iberico ham was our favorite when we spent weeks living in Barcelona.

    One time Mayra asked the butcher to cut from the least fatty part of the leg. He turned and exclaimed: the fat is the reason for eating this Iberico ham! If you don’t like the Iberico fat, eat Serrano! jejeje

    We laughed, but he never let it go. Everyday, he would tease us again: hello my friends, no fat on your Iberico? Where do I cut? Here? Then he would always give us extra ham for free. 😉

    • Ryan Murdock says

      Those poor butchers must have to put up with so many uncouth requests from Spanish speakers fresh off the boat from the New World hinterlands… ;P Thanks very much for recommending the Costa de la Luz area. I started checking it out after you planted the seed. And Adam said he’d spent time there too, in Terifa, many years ago. I really love Spain, the lifestyle, the people, the landscapes, and more. Looking forward to the next trip. So far it’s the top contender for Life After Malta. Will be here another year or two I think, but planning to spend 4 to 5 months abroad each year.

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