As much as we have enjoyed ourselves immensely in the Algarve, we couldn’t hide our relief wen we finally drove to Spain. Algarve is so beautiful; there are still lots of places waiting for us to be explored; but since Time was not on our side anymore, we had to go to Spain already. And so we did.
From Vila Real de San Antonio in Portugal, we crossed the long bridge that hangs over the Guadiana River and connects Portugal to Spain. In no time, we were in Spain – specifically in Ayamonte. Ayamonte lies in the province of Huelva, in Andalucian region. It was the starting point of our further adventure in the country.
1. AYAMONTE : ITS CHURCHES AND CHARMING PLAZA
It was Wednesday, January 18, when we arrived in Ayamonte. We drove to Isla Canela hoping to park there. But the place is a bit far from the town center and it was like a ghost village with nothing but modern buildings and very few people; so we drove back to town and were able to park along the long boulevard Avenida Vila Real De San Antonio. We stayed here for a day.
We were welcomed in Spain by a freezing cold temperature which went down as low as 7 degress C. There was even a bit of snow that fell in the next morning. The day started very cold and cloudy, but fortunately it cleared up a bit at the end of the day.
Ayamonte, located at the mouth of Guadiana river, is a charming lively town. There are quite a number of shops in the old town and we were able to buy pairs of shoes for both of us. A couple of charming plazas or squares with beautifully tiled benches are found at Plaza dela Laguna and Plaza dela Coronacion. We visited two of the town’s major religious buildings : Church of las Angustias and Temple of Las Mercedes.
2. ISLA CRISTINA AND THE FISH VEILING
The next town we visited in Huelva was Isla Cristina, which is situated about 20 kilometers from Ayamonte. Again, we first drove to Playa Central and Playa del Hojo(opposite Camping Guadiana). We didn’t like the place , so we drove back to the town center and after driving around, we found a good spot at Punta del Caiman. We stayed here for one night. Isla Cristina, located on the western coast of the province of Huelva, has 12 kilometres of fine sandy beach. One of these is Playa Punta del Caiman, which can be accessed by walking on a long wooden bridge! It is the perfect spot to watch the sunset and the coming and going of fishing boats and of course, take long stroll on the beach and collect some beautiful shells.
Aside from its beaches, Isla Cristina is also home to the most important and biggest fishing port in Andalucia. We visited this port in the afternoon, just in time to witness the fish auction that was going on. Fishermen brought in their catch which were then put on a rolling band and weighed and the businessmen punched in their automatic controllers to do their bidding. Our senses were fully satiated by watching the whole process! Sounds from the people’s constant chatter and the electronic bidding devices were deafening! Our eyes had a feast just by looking at the crates full of different kinds of fish and seashells being transported inside the fish market. It was truly an event not to be missed in Isla Cristina.
3. HUELVA – THE LIGHT
After having a bit of sightseeing in Isla Cristina, we drove further to Punta Umbria. But the place was a complete disappointment to us! It was another one of those ghost villages which come alive only in the summer season. We didn’t want to stay here so we drove up to Huelva which was just 20 kilometers away. Finding a good overnight parking in the city is always tricky. After driving to CC Y Ocio, we drove further to find a better spot. We found it in Plaza El Estadio, which was just 2 killometers from the city center. We stayed here for one night. The next day, we took the bus (Line 8) to go to the city center (fare was 1.10- euro per person) and we alighted out at Public Market. Huelva, the capital city of the province Huelva is located in southwestern Spain. It was called as the City of Light as it was the departure point of Columbus’ expeditions. Huelva is a lively city, there are lots of shops which were having their season sale when we were there! The layout of the city was however not ideal for sightseeing as the tourist sites are really far from each other. And the plazas (squares) where two important religious buildings (the Cathedral and Church of St. Peter) are situated, are not so comely at all and totally lacking in ambience. We did however enjoyed going from one shop to another, searching for a good buy, which happily I did! We walked around the public market which offered a wide variety of fish , but most of them were a bit expensive. After our city tour, we drove 15 kilometers down to get to La Rabida, the place where Christopher Columbus started his journey to the New World in 1492. The replicas of the 3 ships at Caravel Wharf were unluckily not open for visit because of restoration works. So we just drove to the nearby Monastery of Santa Maria dela Rabida, home to the monks who supported and prayed for Columbus during his ventures.
4. MAZAGON AND THE PINO CENTENARIO
After our daytrip to Huelva, we drove down to the coast again, this time to Mazagon. We parked at the beach parking of Playa Las Dunas which was about 500 meters from the village center. We had a rest day here, recharging our batteries from the last three hectic days we had. We did nothing but walk on to the beach and the marina, and yes, catching up with our siesta and reading. The next day, Monday, before heading further to Matalascanas, we made a stop over at Parador de Mazagon. There was a good parking, better than at Las Dunas. There we saw the oldest and most unique pine tree we have ever seen – the Pino Centenario – a 400-year old pine tree which is listed as a National Monument in Spain, It was really a unique site and amazing Pine Tree.
5. MATALASCANAS AND THE DOÑANA PARK
Another example of a ghost village is the village of Matalascanas, in the municipality of Almonte. It has a beautiful beach promenade, but the modern villas found along it were all empty! In fact, most of the houses were empty and restaurants and shops were closed! There are 2 supermarkets in the village, El Jamon and Dia, but both have few supplies or items on offer. Anyway, Hans and I did a long leisurely walk on the promenade, watching some local fishermen trying to harvest some coquinas.
Matalascanas also gave us a initial taste of Doñana National Park as the park itself is situated right next to it, separated only with wooden barriers on the beach. I had the stupid idea that we could walk up to the end of the Doñana beach and see Sanlucar de Barrameda on the other side. But I was so wrong! We have already walked I think about 3 kilometers and still no promise that we were near the end. We saw only endless sandy beach, some abandoned fishermen’s huts, a few jeepneys having their park safari tour, and other walkers. We decided to just come back.
- Ayamonte (January 18, 2017)
Avenida Villareal de San Antonio 2
Ayamonte, Spain 21400
Coordinates : N : 37.21070 W : 7.40912
2. Isla Cristina (January 19-20, 2017)
Playa dela Gaviola, Avenida del Atlantico
21410 Isla Cristina , Spain
Coordinates : N : 37.19425 W : 7.32404
Near El Jamon Supermercado and Sede de Proteccion Civil
3. Huelva (January 20-21, 2017)
Plaza del Estadio
Avenida Alcalde Federico Molina and Avenida Munoz de Vargas
Coordinates : N : 37.25838 W : 6.93650
Big free public parking, 2 kilometers from the city center. Bus numbers 3, 6, and 8 ride to the city center, 1.10 per person. Bus stop is opposite El Jamon supermarket.
4. Mazagon (January 21-22, 2017)
Playa las Dunas
Avenida conquistadores, Mazagon
Coordinates : N : 37.13149 W : 6.82615
5. Matalascanas (January 23, 2017)
Small parking area at matalascanas beach, on the border of Doñana Natl Park.
OUR PICTURES TOGETHER
Isla Cristina, Spain
Mazagon (Pino Centenario) and Matalascanas