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  • Krista the Explorer

Unique Places To Visit On the Costa de la Luz

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

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The Costa de la Luz is one of the most beautiful coastlines in Spain, with its unspoiled beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, and the odd historical landmark or two. After all, this coastline has been inhabited for more than 3000 years, so you can expect to see quite a few Roman ruins and a lot of Moorish architecture in the area. It’s not just its coastal villages and beaches that draw in the crowds though. The Costa de la Luz has many beautiful inland white villages to discover which are only a short drive from the coast. There’s no shortage of unique places to visit on the Costa de la Luz.


Many people fly into Málaga to stay along the Costa del Sol, but these beaches are predominantly man made and very built up. If you’re planning a road trip around Andalucía and would rather be surrounded by virgin beaches with soft, golden sand and a more chilled atmosphere, the Costa de la Luz will be perfect for you. Situated just beyond Gibraltar, this section of the Province of Cádiz is one of my favourite parts of southern Spain to visit, and is ideal during the off season in terms of temperature and lack of tourists. Here are some unique places to visit on the Costa de la Luz that you simply can’t miss:

Tarifa

A medieval church at the end of a street lined with white buildings and restaurants.
Iglesia de San Mateo Apóstol

The first stop you should make if you’re driving from Málaga to the Costa de la Luz is Tarifa. This white coastal village is famous for being the kitesurfing capital of Europe thanks to its constant high winds, and it’s also the southernmost tip of Europe. Due to its close proximity to Africa, this area has been heavily influenced by the Moors, which you can still see today with its narrow streets and Arab archways. If kitesurfing isn’t your thing, and you’re not interested in being blown away on the beaches here, I’d recommend visiting Tarifa’s old town and seeing some of Tarifa’s main historical attractions such as Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno and Iglesia de San Mateo Apóstol. One day in Tarifa may not be enough, but it’s certainly a very unique place to visit on the Costa de la Luz.


Vejer de la Frontera

A white village with a tall castle tower on one side and trees lining the street.
Vejer de la Frontera

Vejer de la Frontera is one of the most beautiful white villages in Spain, and despite its small size, is very popular with food lovers. Driving to Vejer is one of the best things to do on the Costa de la Luz as it’s only a short distance from the coast and can easily be visited in a few hours if you’re on a tight schedule. This white village was built around a medieval castle and still has strong links to its Moorish past. You can follow the 15th century castle walls around the village, passing through narrow winding streets and archways, until you finally come out at Plaza de España, which is considered to be one of the most picturesque plazas in the province. Vejer de la Frontera is one of my favourite white villages in Andalucía and I always go back whenever I’m in the area.


Playa de Bolonia

A large roman archaeological site right next to a sandy beach.
Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site

Out of all of the Costa de la Luz beaches (and there are a lot), the best one to visit is Playa de Bolonia. It’s only a short drive from Tarifa, and is famous for its enormous sand dunes surrounded by pine trees, which has been declared a protected natural site. If you don’t mind a 45 minute walk along the beach, you can also find some natural pools to swim in that are known for their mud which people use as a natural beauty treatment. Not only that, but Bolonia is home to one of the top archaeological sites in southern Spain, dating back to the 2nd century - Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site. As you can tell, this is one of the most unique places to visit on the Costa de la Luz, but get here early if you want to find a parking spot during peak season!


Playa de los Alemanes

View of a sandy beach and clear water from the top of a stone staircase.
Playa de los Alemanes

Another of the most popular beaches in Cádiz is Playa de los Alemanes. It’s located near Zahara de los Atunes and is known for its dramatic cliffside steps leading down to the beach, its clear water, and the wartime bunker at the far end of it. Its name translates to the German Beach, as the area was said to have Nazi ties to it following the war. There are no parking lots near this beach, so unless you get here very early in the morning you’re going to struggle to find a spot along the road. The wind here can also be ferocious, so make sure you check the weather at Playa de los Alemanes before driving here. It’s one of the best beaches in Cádiz to visit, and is a personal favourite of mine.


Los Caños de Meca

A wooden boardwalk reaching into a sandy beach at sunset.
Los Caños de Meca

Los Caños de Meca is another popular coastal village in Cádiz to visit, and is a very unique place on the Costa de la Luz as well. There’s not much to see here in terms of historical attractions, but there are quite a few pristine beaches in this area to choose from, and the weather is warm all year round so you can visit whenever you want (the water is freezing though). I’ve visited Los Caños de Meca a few times and love its laid back vibes and quirky beach huts dotted around which are a mixture of bars, restaurants, and clothing shops. If you’re travelling around Spain in a campervan this is an ideal stop to make.


Faro de Trafalgar

An old blue wooden boat on a sandy beach with sand dunes and a lighthouse in the background.
Faro de Trafalgar

Directly next to Los Caños de Meca is the famous Faro de Trafalgar. This lighthouse is one of the key landmarks along the Costa de la Luz, and was the site of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 where the British became the world’s largest sea power for the next century. There’s a road leading directly through the sand dunes up to the lighthouse which is for pedestrians only, and if you continue past the lighthouse you’ll find yourself at Playa del Faro de Trafalgar, another unspoiled virgin beach. It’s one of the most unique places on the Costa de la Luz to visit, especially if you enjoy history. From Faro de Trafalgar, you’re only a short drive from Conil de la Frontera, a well known white village in Cádiz.


Cádiz

A large stone cathedral with white towers and palm trees in front.
Catedral de Cádiz

You can’t really drive along the Costa de la Luz without stopping in the city of Cádiz itself. There are plenty of things to do here, whether you’re spending one day in Cádiz or only have a few hours to spare. It’s considered to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in all of Europe, so it has an immense amount of history to explore. One of the most visited places in Cádiz is El Malecón which has been duplicated in Cuba so you may recognize it. The Catedral de Cádiz and Torre Tavira are also two attractions in Cádiz that you won’t want to miss. It’s one of my favourite cities in southern Spain and definitely needs to be at the top of your list.


El Puerto de Santa María

A straight street lined with white buildings on a sunny day.
El Puerto de Santa María

Heading north along the Costa de la Luz, the next coastal city that you’ll come across is El Puerto de Santa María. This is one of the best day trips from Cádiz you can go on, because not only does it have beautiful beaches and a stunning old town to explore, but it’s also the port from which Christopher Columbus set sail with his ship: the Santa María. El Puerto de Santa María is one of three cities that make up the famous Sherry Triangle, so if you’re interested in wine as well as history, I’d recommend visiting Castillo de San Marcos which also doubles as a winery. It’s one of the most unique places on the Costa de la Luz to visit, and is a nice change of scenery from the busier parts of the coastline.


Sanlúcar de Barrameda

A reconstructed stone church set on a road.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda

A less popular, but still an interesting place to visit on the Costa de la Luz is Sanlúcar de Barrameda. One of the best things to do in Sanlúcar de Barrameda is to go on a tour of Bodegas Barbadillo which is famous for making manzilla - a white sherry. The town also has a 15th century castle to explore, plenty of historical churches, and a main plaza which is surrounded by cafes and restaurants. If you’re interested in wildlife, the Doñana Natural Park has a number of rare bird species in it and is a popular area to visit by car. Sanlucar is a great white village near Cádiz to visit!


Not far from Cádiz is an inland city which I would highly recommend visiting if you have time: Jerez de la Frontera. It’s one of the most important cities in the province, and completes the Sherry Triangle. There are many more unique places on the Costa de la Luz to visit, and I can’t wait to get back to this part of southern Spain and explore it more. Whether you’re on the hunt for the best beaches near Cádiz or want to explore the history of the Costa de la Luz, you’ll have more than enough places to choose from.


Thinking of heading to this part of Andalucía? If you have any concerns or questions, I’d be happy to help! Please drop me an email or leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also keep up to date with my travels on Instagram!


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