At only a 70km drive from Faro airport,the stylish resort of Islantilla can be found on Spain’s ‘Coast of Light’, often referred to as the ‘Spanish Algarve’ or ‘Spain’s Best Kept Secret’. Its beautiful sandy beaches stretch for miles and its lack of over-development means that it has retained its natural beauty with its backdrop of sand-dunes and pine trees between the sea and the promenade.We found beautiful star fish and walked past a lagoon to a deserted beach.
I particularly liked the small fisherman’s village with its little white chapel. At night after a hearty meal we would walk about along the promenade and see their little lights bobbing out at sea. In the morning we went and bought fresh fish straight from their nets and saw how they pulled their boats in and mended their nets. Islantilla is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a lovely scenery in a very stylish and beautiful Spanish town. There are many shops and restaurants, some cocktails bars but no night clubs. In the summer half of Madrid and Sevilla escape the hot sun and come down for a couple of weeks to play golf, tennis and eat some of Spain’s best sea food. Make sure you can speak Spanish or don’t mind giving it a go, as there are not many foreign tourists here and lots of people can’t speak English.
Here are my recommendations of where to stay in Islantilla:
A lovely two bedroom house in one of the most exclusive urbanisations of Islantilla, ‘Mirador del Golf’, 5 minutes walk from Islantilla Golf Club- rated Top 100 Best Courses in Europe by Golf Digest, and 8 minutes from the beach. It is a peaceful & securely gated complex with a stunning pool, sea views and own parking. It was really clean and had been newly refurbished to a great standard. The pool was beautiful and the kitchen was really well equipped. We enjoyed using the DVD player and watching the wide screen TV. This is a really cheap but good quality alternative to a hotel as prices start at £350 per week and the house sleeps 6!
Another wonderful place that I have stayed in is the 5* Islantilla Golf Resort, which is 3 minute walk from the house Mirador del Golf. It is very large and its grounds are really impressive. With both indoor and outdoor pool, a beautiful and world famous golf course right in front, this is the place to go for all golf lovers. It is around 10 minutes from the beach, but a little train goes passed every half and hour and it is free for guests. An additional perk of staying here is the ability to use the Beach Club which is a luxurious pool and lounge area right on the sea front reserved for members and guests of the hotel. The golf coaches are great and when we went they offered a free lesson to anyone who came every Saturday morning. The rooms were large and had great views. The only slight downside would be that it was a little empty and thus the services normally on offer at a 5* resort were slightly absent.
I would say that Huelva’s countryside is the biggest attraction and most beautiful thing it has to offer. Drive away from the lagoons and the industrial port and get transported back in time and taken on an incredible journey.
The road is long and winds. The roads are dry and the fields seem void of color. But then, further into the mountains we go and here the browns turn to ochre and the yellows turn to gold. Old oak trees twist, their branches knarled by time and by work. The faces of the workers toiling in the fields are tanned and leathery, their eyes are light against their faces. The sun catches and glares off the little, humble white washed houses which dot the countryside. The road veers up and now we can see everwhere, the whole world it seems. Tiny enclaves of people, little structures and in the middle their faith, large against the sky. The air is scented by the eucalyptus trees and the orange blossom. We need to be careful, deer hide and then come ridding madly down the bank. They are hard to see, they are the color of the Earth.
Our journey has gone on forever. We must be higher up, as the trees have turned to pine and water now appears on either side of the car. A gash of red, an opening into hell. These are the mines, the mines of Rio Tinto. Machinery rusts on the side of the road. This is the age of iron, man and fire.
A hearty meal of large olives and wine corked with bark from the bare trees outside in the garden. We sit on dark wooden chairs and at dark wooden tables. The meat is succulent and melts in my mouth. I would make this journey again just for these few simple pleasures. It is hot and we venture into dark caves. They are nice but really I am impatient to get back, back into this lovely world which now seems such an age away.
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For such a small place, Huelva has played a large part in the world’s history. It is home to the oldest football and tennis club in Spain but most importantly, in a little Monastery overlooking the sea, Christopher Columbus planned his first voyage. He would set sail from here, with ships maned by locals, whose families still fish and live in the area. It would be Seville’s poorer, run down cousin who would ultimately fill their towers full of gold and bring the country international dominance.
Life here is a little bit slower, a little bit more enjoyed. The food is cheap, fresh and locally caught. I had a great time going to the Cup of the King, a big tennis tournament, going to a Joaquin Sabina concert, eating gambas and partying in outdoor clubs and bars. Las Colombinas was on, a huge outdoor fair which has little white houses which do great food and where locals go with their families to see the lights and go to the free concerts on offer.
Flowers bloom and grow in the lovely gardens of the white washed walls of La Rabida. This is a wonderful little part of Andalucia. Close by an enormous towering statue of Columbus and a Christian cross look out over the calm waters the sea.
We went to where he set sail and walked around the tiny delicate replicas of the ships which discovered the Americas.
All I can say is that I can’t wait to go back 😉