Back a few years, during an Erasmus semester I spent in Barcelona, one of my big plans was to take all the money I had left after those 6 months, grab my suitcase and go traveling around Spain, with Andalusia as my main destination. That plan didn’t really happen due to some unexpected robberies and too many cocktails in the Catalan capital. But second chances do come along sometimes and when I was recently offered to go on a trip to the province of Cadíz, south of Sevilla, I just could not resist.
The invitation had been extended by the Barceló Sancti Petri, a five star spa resort directly at Barossa Beach, for me to test it to the bones. Food, wellness, lifestyle – the whole shebang. As the cab that had picked me up from the airport rolled along the streets of the province of Cadiz, past beautiful white houses backed up by a panorama of cloudless blue skies I was instantly smitten. Continuing on to the resort I suddenly found myself in a sea of palm trees and in the midst of 5 large swimming pools and natural lakes as the warm breeze and oh so familiar smell of the sea nearby came through.
The resort’s architecture has an appealing charme due to its many oriental influences which melt in wonderfully with the surrounding landscape. A huge tropical garden creates lots of hidden and shadowy spots so that it never feels crowded, even if fully booked. Especially couples will find a lot of hidden retreats for spontaneous make-out sessions and romantic moments. There are 3 outdoor pools with waterfalls and different temperatures, such as a natural lake and a children’s pool close to the beach.
Although the area is really famous for its red tuna, in one of the 3 hotel’s own restaurants you’ll also find the typical Mediterranean cuisine with all kinds of fresh seafood, paella and yummy Andalusian steaks. This was also the moment I realised just how great a real tomato tastes, that hasn’t been exported from Spain all the way to Germany before ripening.
Apart from 191 really cozy avant-garde rooms, fully equipped with a large bathroom, sea view balconies, TV, Wifi and a remote that lets you open the window blinds (very handy in the mornings) the hotel has 3 theme-suites and a presidential suite. When booking the suites you’ll have the luxury of your own whirl pool, perfect for sun-downer drinks on your own terrace.
The Barceló Spa is the region’s largest and the only one offering a hydrotherapy circuit, a number of pools with different temperatures, currents and experiences like stones on the bottom of the pool, an ice grotto or a tropic rain. As I’ve never been the sporty kind of girl this circuit was a fun and relaxing way to do something nice for your body and that ice cave is quite an experience for itself. And don’t worry, you can make up for the cold right after at the Finnish sauna, the Turkish hammam or the Roman thermal bath or in one of the numerous treatments like massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Especially interesting for female spa visitors: the 4 day bikini body treatment including anti cellulite massages, body wraps, Ayurveda massages, ginger skin smoother and peelings.
With its long long stretch and fine sand Barossa Beach isn’t just only attractive to tourists, many locals also like to come here on the weekend to spend time with friends and family. You can walk for miles and collect shells, jump in the waves for a bit of surfing or you might just spend some time working on your tan or your sandcastle construction skills. Just about a mile from the hotel along the beach lies the abandoned fishermen’s village Sancti Petri, which is scheduled to become a recreation water sports area by the beginning of next year.
When not spending the day by the pool, spa or beach the area offers a lot of things to encounter. I recommend to rent a car to go for a visit to the nearby cities of Jeréz, Cadíz or even Sevilla.
When visiting Jeréz, walking the small alleyways, plazas, passing by cafés, bodegas and a wedding you could really feel the Andalusian fire burning. Not only because we happened to see a protest by some young Spaniards in front of the city hall…
The moment we sat down in one of the cozy restaurants, next to long tables with whole families celebrating life, we heard them singing alongside a Spanish guitar the oh so well known lullabies and flamenco tunes. As a visitor you just blend in and maybe end up at one of the tables, drinking Tinto de verano (similar to Sangria, Vine, lemonade and sometimes Martini Rosso), sharing your stories over a plate of fresh Serrano.
The wild beaches
One of my favourite encounters during the trip was a wild beach south of Barbate. The whole region is full of conservation areas, where you can hardly find hotels and tourists. A small sandy road leads to a place, where only a handful of locals spend their afternoon next to a lighthouse, some fishing boats and two houses. The wild beaches are definitely worth to track down…
… and maybe you happen to meet some handsome divers, presenting their skills in fishing and trying to make you their catch of the day.
The white villages
About 50 km south east of Cadíz lies Vejer de la Frontera, one of the famous white villages of Andalusia. Lying on a plateau, surrounded by orchards and orange groves, the city’s characteristic whitewashed buildings can be seen from miles away.
There are various reasons why the houses have been white since the middle ages, including a linkage to the appearance of chalk in the area which is said to be antibacterial. However, I got a feeling that the white colour has an enormous effect on the temperatures within the town. Situated on top of a mountain range the white villages have to bear hotter temperatures than those in the valley or in coastal towns. Until this day all the buildings are whitened in an annual painting process and under strict rules.
The narrow, winding streets have a distinct, Arabic feel to them that recalls the period of Moorish rule from 711 to 1248. I could have walked in those streets endlessly, watching people, taking pictures of the buildings creating amazing patterns just with their shadows. There are about 20 of those villages in the northern part of the provinces of Cadíz and Málaga, mostly within the Sierra de Grazalema.
On the last day of my trip I had the opportunity to attend a real Andalusian feria, which is a traditional fiesta that could be compared to the Spanish version of the German Oktoberfest. All dressed up in traditional clothes, including the famous red flowers in the hair, Flamenco dancing shoes (even for the little girls) and Andalusian horsemen outfits and hats, people gather at a fun fair ground that was built especially for the week.
At every corner you can buy Churros, a fried sweet dough pastry, and watch riders show off their skills next to roller coasters and bull riding. We sat down in a huge tent on one of the long tables to have another tinto de verrano (summer wine) and watch dance competitions and carriages passing by. It was the type of event you have to see with your own eyes to really feel every aspect of it – from watching little girls with a ton of make-up to the proud riders sitting straight on their beautiful Andalusian horses and old ladies hiding behind their pretty fan.
When coming to Andalusia I highly recommend you check if there is a feria around. The popular Feria de San Antonio in Chiclana, which I went to, is every year in the middle of June.
This trip really made up for missing the opportunity to visit Andalusia earlier. After seeing the wild beaches, white villages and having one or the other tinto de verano, I cannot wait to go back and see more of it.
She has an eye for beauty and even finds it in ugly apartment blogs. Her weekly photo chronicle “My week in pictures” has already become a classic among urban Berliners. Find out more at smaracuja.de.