Although strictly speaking Seville is outside our region it is only one hour's drive away along the main motorway from the Portuguese border. Seville is one of the great cities of Spain and indeed Europe. Although the origins of the city are buried in the mists of time there is clear evidence of Roman settlement and the Moors left their mark in the architecture and indeed the local dialect.
From the 15 century, after the building of the magnificent cathedral, the city enjoyed great wealth because of its access to the sea along the Guadalquivir River. Its position was strategic for the exploitation of the emerging trade with the Americas and its population grew to more than 150,000 making it one of the largest in Europe. Various factors contributed to a decline in importance during the 18th century but then the city was "rediscovered" in the 19th century and today it is the worthy centre of Andalucia.
You could spend days exploring the many magnificent buildings and remnants of the past. In addition it is the birthplace of the famous tapas. There is no question that Seville has the best tapas of the region and many would say of all of Spain. The whole town comes alive in the evening with throngs of people wandering from bar to bar. The atmosphere is terrific and not to be missed. Don't forget to take in some flamenco at one of the many specialist establishments. All the night life of a major city is on hand for those who need it.
Finally, if you are in need of some shopping therapy, Seville is a must. Everything including the latest designer fashions, antiques, books, pottery, and much more can be found. Seville is a world-class city. Tear yourself away from the beach and give it some time. You won't regret it.
Huelva is the capital of the province and does not present its best side as you approach it with its industrial sprawl. However the centre, which is on a peninsula between the Odiel and Tinot river estuaries, comes as a pleasant surprise. There are large pedestrian areas, elegant squares and museums to explore.
Huelva is most famous for being the place from which Christopher Columbus first left on his voyages to the new world. Columbus himself lived for many years in and around Huelva and there are many places and artefacts to be found around the town. If you are interested buy one of the many guides on the subject.
The best bet for food is to head for the tapas bars and there is a lively nightclub scene for those with enough energy.
Moguer is a beautiful whitewashed town where many of Columbus's crew were recruited. There is plenty to see for the Columbus enthusiast and it also was the birthplace of Juan Ramon Jimenez, the Nobel Prize winning poet.
El Rocio is a very pretty village of white cottages, sandy streets, and a stockaded church. It is the place where the most famous pilgrimage of the south occurs every Pentecost. There is a wild west feel to the town as farmers in cowboy hats ride around and eventually tie their horses to rails outside their cabins just like the in the films. As it is from this area that the original colonisers of the New World came, whose to say that this lifestyle did not originate from this tiny town. Today it is a useful base from which to explore the Doñana National Park.
Lepe is a small regional market town and is the strawberry capital of Spain. It has a good variety of "practical" shops (furniture, lamps, etc.) for the property owner and there are also a few restaurants and bars to rest in afterwards. Lepe's claim to fame as far as the British are concerned is that the town is mentioned by Chaucer (who's father was a vintner) in the Pardoner's Tale. He says that the potent white wine of Lepe "creepeth subtilly that whan a man hath drunken draughtes three, and weneth he be at hoom in Chepe, He is in Spaigne, right at the toune of Lepe". The residents of Lepe are the butt of jokes by the rest of Spain along the lines of Irish jokes in Britain. The town has tried to capitalise on this and holds an annual jokes festival during the last week of May.
Ayamonte is the gateway town to the Spanish Algarve and is a thriving fishing town with more than 18,000 inhabitants. In addition, more recently, it has become an important tourist centre for the area and is expanding rapidly. There are a few shops for souvenirs and local specialities and it is worth exploring the narrow streets of the old town.
Isla Cristina is a fishing town adjacent to Ayamonte as the crow flies but a 16km dogleg detour by road around the marasmas (salt marshes). It was once an island surrounded by the marasmas but infilling has made it part of the mainland now. The main area of interest is around the port where there are the narrow streets of the old town to explore. Also there is the town's fine European blue flag sandy beach.
Punta del Moral
Punta del Moral is a small fishing village on Isla Canela and is reached by driving through the salt marshes from Ayamonte. However, a completely new beach resort is being developed around it with hotels, low-rise apartments and houses right on the beach. As like almost everywhere in the area, the beaches and dunes here are among the most beautiful in Spain.
Playa de Antilla
Playa de Antilla is a low-key beach resort with a blue flag beach and some good bars and restaurants.
La Islantilla is a modern beach resort adjacent to Antilla. It is centred on a 27-hole championship golf course with extensive holiday home and boutique shopping developments all around. During the summer it is thriving with shops, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. The atmosphere remains sophisticated and 'very Spanish' however and is definitely not 'Blackpool in the sun'. Most of the holidaymakers are Spanish people from Seville.
There is a magnificent sandy beach with dunes that runs for miles in each direction. As to the future there are plans to build an upmarket casino and yacht marina as well as another 18-hole golf course next to and of similar quality to the existing one.
El Rompido is a charming little resort that was once famous for its oysters. The coast here is lined with fine sandy beaches backed by dunes, pinewoods and a unique juniper grove and the sea is sheltered by a sandy spit just offshore. There is a new complex here with marina and a challenging 18 hole course.
El Portil is the beach town of Cartaya (a small market town) with the usual gorgeous beach and dunes. Ajacent is the new golf development of Nuevo Portil.
Punta Umbria is a large resort, which was originally discovered in the 1880's by the English management staff of the Rio Tinto Mining Company. They build elegant colonial style houses that unfortunately are gone now. They have been replaced by ugly tower block development which sprung up in the 1970's and is very similar to much of the Spanish Mediterranean coast where get rich developers left their indelible mark. The difference is the magnificent blue flag beaches. On the whole a place to avoid however.