When coming to Andalusia, I knew it was a region with loads of awesome stuff to check out during my stay here. From mesmerizing architecture, culture, and local way of life in the cities, to the various nature parks, rivers, mountains, and, of course, beaches that are often said to be among the most beautiful ones in the world. Visiting the cities in my own arrangement is not much of a problem, I figured, but discovering the natural beauties without the help of the locals might be a little trickier.
Luckily for me, I met a great guy Juan, who works as a tourist guide for his own private company, established under the name of Fun Taste Spain. He introduced me to other locals and expats here in Jerez, and also offered his own arrangements to see some attractions in southern Spain that I might have otherwise missed out on. As the name itself says, Fun Taste Spain offers a different, entertaining way to explore and understand Andalusia, its culture and nature. Given all that, plus the very affordable prices of their excursions, I decided to join one of them a few weeks ago. It was a one day long road trip in a minivan that took us through four different destinations that would have otherwise required more time and lots of fuss regarding transportation from one place to another. I enjoyed the excursion to the fullest, so here’s one of many ways on how you, too, can make the most of a single day in Andalusia.
1) Wander the Streets of Vejer de la Frontera
Vejer de la Frontera is one of the white towns (pueblos blancos) of Andalusia, officially declared as one of the Historical Artistic Monuments of National Importance. It is built on the hilltop on the right bank of the river Barbate, many of its houses still displaying the influence of the Moorish rule in southern Spain. It is one of the places where the running of the bulls is held every year, and the bulls are bred right in the neighborhood.
We got there just after 10 in the morning and were taken aback by the wonderful view of the valley from Vejer. We took a calm walk through the quiet, charming streets surrounded by plain white walls, dazzling in the warm sunlight. If you visit this place, the first thing that will catch your eye it the small Plaza de España, surprisingly colorful compared to the rest of the town’s pure whiteness, and indeed one of the prettiest I’ve seen. It displays a fountain with ceramic tiles and frogs, surrounded by tall palm trees.
Strolling around the rest of the town, make sure to notice the walls and arches, the Church of El Divino Salvador, and take a peek into the gardens inside of the houses if you get a chance.
There are many bars where you can try excellent food, but as we didn’t have time to visit them all, I can recommend having a drink or tasting a dish at El Jardín del Califa restaurant. Explore the spaces of the restaurant that are open to public, and admire the view from its lovely terrace.
2) Explore Old Roman Ruins in Bolonia
Bolonia is a small village on the Costa de la Luz (“Coast of the Light”) of the Atlantic shore. It is situated next to a long, sandy beach paradise, near the archeological excavations of the Roman town of Baelo Claudia, which you can visit and explore for free! The wind in March on the Bolonia Beach is strong, the waves high, and the ocean water cold, but the energy of the endless blue horizon is priceless even in this early time of the year. It’s definitely worth visiting in summer months, leaving footprints along the large sandy shore, and throwing yourself right into those refreshing waves!
3) Take a Glimpse of the African Continent from Tarifa
Tarifa is yet another small town located on the Costa de la Luz. It is the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the southernmost point of both Spain and the entire continental Europe. If the weather is clear enough, you can actually see Morocco from there, just 14 km away.
If you wish to spend more time in the town, you can go check out the Castle of Guzmán el Bueno, the Church of San Mateo, remains of the medieval walls, and charming little squares.
This small fishing town, influenced by Arabian culture, is a well-known tourist destination. With its two kinds of wind, Poniente and Levante, Tarifa is a very windy place, and it is said that this strong, constant wind drives people crazy. Just imagine having the strong wind blow into your face every time you step outside your house – it is bound to give you a headache eventually, make you feel a little weak and dizzy, or even slightly high. If you are, however, “wind-proof” and also into windsurfing or kitesurfing, this is the perfect place for you. If you want to enjoy your time for free, the possible activities include basking in the special sun of the Costa de la Luz in one of Tarifa’s sandy beaches, whale and dolphin watching, and observing the birds’ migration during spring and fall across the Straits of Gibraltar.
4) Strike a Pose with the Apes of the Gibraltar Rock
At the end of our trip we were headed to Gibraltar. Make sure to take your ID or a passport with you, since this is a British Overseas Territory and they will certainly check your documentation at the border. The town itself offers nothing splendid, especially compared to other Spanish towns and cities, but the Gibraltar Rock is really worth the visit.
For most of the way, we got up there with our van, and climbed another piece of the road on foot. If you don’t want to do the long climb of foot, it is possible to take a cable car, a van ride, or a mini bus. The Rock’s upper area is a nature reserve, where we were welcomed by the Barbary Macaques, the apes of Gibraltar – the only wild apes or monkeys in Europe. The species is, however endangered, and there is a superstition among the Spanish, according to which the British will leave the Gibraltar area only if the apes ever leave or become extinct.
If you get there before 6 or 7 pm, you can catch the apes while they are still out in the open. It is fun to observe them, but be careful not to carry any food or wave around with funny objects near them, as they might snatch it away! It is forbidden to give them food, actually, and there is even a fine if the authorities catch you feeding them, although many badly informed tourists do it. But their diet is balanced by the experts who aim to preserve the species’ well-being, and the additional food given to them by tourists actually just causes them to develop unnecessary fat bad for their health. You can notice how they get angry and argue among them, but they are not dangerous for people, as long as you don’t upset and provoke them. Some of the baby apes will even come close to you and touch you, or climb up your shoulder or head, if you let them. However, it is not advisable to try to touch them if they don’t come to you themselves, as they can become very protective and aggressive if in a bad mood.
The day of our road trip slowly came to its end as we observed the sunset from the heights of the Gibraltar Rock, and then strolled for a while the streets of the town before heading back to Jerez. Overall, it was an amazing day with Fun Taste Spain, full of new places and interesting facts.
P.S. Big thanks to Juan and his efforts to make our stay in Jerez and Andalusia ever so pleasurable!