If you are a keen consumer of reality television then I will completely understand if you believe that ‘The Only Way is Marbs’. However, if you bypass the exotic accents spoken through perma-white teeth, there is so much to explore in Southern Spain, and I wanted to draw your attention to two excellent, yet very different, destinations that sit within the region of Andalusia.
First up is Tarifa; a surfer’s paradise of sorts. It is the warmer, sunnier, European-equivalent of Newquay. Now I’m not exactly doing it justice in drawing this comparison, but the high winds and even higher waves make it the perfect destination for anyone who prefers to have a board between their feet and the sea. The beaches at Pedro Valiente are almost endless, with the sandy flats punctuated only by high-rising sand dunes that dominate the landscape surrounding them. If you feel brave and can make the ascent, the cliffs are a treasure trove of skin-enhancing clay pits. As you stare out onto the horizon, your eyes will narrowly miss the African city of Tangier and are instead greeted with the vast swathe of blue that is the Atlantic Ocean.
Step inland, and you’ll find the experience a bit more cosy; a charming town in a twisting maze that fuses together stunning architecture with a distinct cafe culture. Tarifa embodies everything there is to love about Spain. Lunch in the cool shadows, over a glass of local wine and a table full of of tapas, provides respite from the blazing sun, and conversations can be overheard in almost every foreign language. The individuality of it’s permanent and temporary residents are echoed in the landscape; no two buildings are the same and there is a real sense of intrigue as you turn a corner.
If you prefer to survey your surroundings from a higher vantage point and want swap sand and stone for flora and fauna, then Castillo de Castellar is your destination of choice. It is simply amazing how green the interior of Spain is; thick canopies of jungle-like plants reach high into the sky and fields of agriculture blanket the surrounding land. Overlooking the scenery below, the Castillo (or castle) is accessible by a single-track road. Traffic flows both ways and so caution is advised; the alternative is to pray to each and every god that nothing decides to make the trip downhill as you approach each blind corner.
The castle itself is stunning. Housed inside it’s walls, along with the impressive Hotel Castillo de Castellar de la Fronter, is a residential complex made up of white walls and quaint coloured doors. Flowers in every colour under the sun grow unhindered across the narrow cobbled streets and there is a real sense of community among the people that live there. It goes without saying that the views out over trees below and the Strait of Gibraltar are simply breathtaking. On the drive back down, if your confidence is up, be sure to be on the lookout for swallows as they dart across the blue sky. If you really want to get up close and personal with some wildlife though, the nearby Castellar Zoo should also be on you itinerary.