El Puerto de Santa Maria is ideally located not just for learning Spanish but also for loads of great day trips and also for weekends away. Being a town rather than a city allows for an easier getaway by train, bus, rented car or even by bike. These are some of our favourites that you shouldn’t miss.
Ferry to Cadiz
El Puerto is situated right across the bay from the historic city of Cádiz. The most enjoyable way to Cádiz is taking the old Vaporcito (Steamferry) across the sea which is a journey that is sure to make you value the wonders of being in Southern Spain. Once in Cádiz, you can sroll along the kilometers of beach promenade or explore the narrow bohemian centre. There are many historical sites to visit like the beautiful sandstone cathedral. Cadiz is perfect for a weekend day out and is also perfectly doable for a “Spanish” night out if you are prepared to get the first morning train back at 7 am!
Los pueblos blancos
Cadiz province is home to the idyllic “white villages” that are unique to this area of Andalucia. Influenced by the Moorish culture, the villages have an Arabic feel with it’s narrow streets but also an unmistakable Andalusian presence. You are sure to see Spanish life at its purest and don’t be surprised to see some blasts from the past, like horse drawn plows, little seen in other parts of western Europe. The easiest to get to is Arcos de la Frontera and the walk up the hill to the church to see the marvelous panoramic views more than justifies a visit. Ronda, in the nearby province of Malaga, is probably the most renowned with it’s famous Roman bridge and being the town where Ernest Hemmingway wrote many of his novels. Our personal favourites are El Bosque and Grazalema in the nearby Sierra de Grazalema (which has a micro climate that makes it the wettest part of Spain) which are great places for hiking, rock-climbing, cycling and/or just spending a day or weekend with friends and exploring the beautiful surroundings.
The Costa de la Luz stands out in comparison to the Costa del Sol because of how little of it is built up. Coastal fishing villages still exist in Cadiz and haven’t turned into Torremolinos-like hotels and apartment complexes which plaque the Malaga coastline. There are so many to go to for day trips or camping weekends away. One of the most well known is the village of Tarifa which is a bit more accustomed to tourism than some of the other beaches as it is one of Europe’s top spots for windsurfing and kite surfing. Tarifa also offers the incredible experience of Whale watching to see whales and dolphins on their migration trips to warmer areas. The sunset there is extraordinary as you have the unique pleasure of seeing the coast of Africa while swimming where the Atlantic Ocean is said to meet the Mediterranean Sea.
Other great nearby trips from El Puerto (you can cycle the 20 km if you’re a keen cyclist) include Chipiona’s ‘Playa de las tres Piedras’ which offers a fun day out which can be finished off with a great ‘dorada a la sal’ in the Caribbean themed bar ‘el Aljedrez’. Conil, el Palmar and Bolonia also offer fantastic beach experiences in little fishing towns but our personal favourite is a visit to “la playa de los Alemanes” (so called as adventurous German tourists are said to appreciate its wonders) at Zahara de los Atunes. Make your way to the far end of the town and then climb up to the little lighthouse and then down the other side and you will find a gorgeous secluded beach which generally offers great waves for boogey boarding or just beautiful golden sand for relaxing and enjoying the day.
Day trip to the marvelous city of Seville
Seville is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the capital of Andalucia is only 1 hour 15 minutes train journey away from El Puerto de Santa Maria and a day or weekend trip there is a must. Explore the beautiful city centre and take in its magnificent sites, be that the magnificent Giralda and Cathedral, the Plaza de España, chilling out in the parque Maria Luisa, walking around the gardens of the Alcazar – the old royal palace – or getting lost in Santa Cruz amidst the many mozaik shops. There is something to be done by everyone and its close proximity to El Puerto makes it feasible for day shopping trips, nights out or a weekend away. If you go to Sevilla one thing you certainly shouldn’t miss is stopping for a bocadillo in the beautiful ‘El Patio’ just off Plaza Nueva.
A visit to Jerez, one of the three cities along with El Puerto de Santa Maria that make sherry (a corrupted version of the city’s name) and flamenco. Jerez has a beautiful city centre and a nice relaxing feel and more than pays off the 15 mins it takes to get there by train. Jerez is also Spain’s most famous city for horse riding and is home of the “Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre” where shows with dancing (literally) horses are a big hit with tourists from all over the world. The 2002 Equestrian World Championships were held in this venue and a visit to the famous equestrian museum is a must for any horse lover.
For us, Granada is a fabulous place, with its bohemian feeling and smaller size offering an alternative to Seville. Chilling out in the Alameda, going to one of the Arabic baths or visiting one of the many Moroccan shops are all great experiences and makes for a fantastic long weekend away. Nearby Sierra Nevada (with the tallest mountain in mainland Spain) offers great skiing opportunities for up to 6 months a year.
Of course you are not here to visit a part of Britain but a day trip to the rock of Gibraltar just 1 hour 30 minutes away is a fascinating experience. With its dual language society and its incredible history it should definately be on the “to do” list.
- Always wanted to go to Africa? Make your way to Morocco from Tarifa or Algeciras and spend your weekend amidst the colours, smells and food of this amazing and spectacular country! Day trips to Tangier from Tarifa are also possible and worth it if you don’t have time to spend longer.