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Barbate: the town with the wildest beaches

The town of Barbate in Cádiz province boasts attractions that span its whole municipal area, so you’d better not get too comfortable on your sun lounger and make sure you cover it all. The thing that best sums up the town is discretion; in comparison to other coastal towns that are used to being in the spotlight, it doesn’t seem to stand out at first view, but without even noticing, you’ll discover truly unique spots. Few know that it is actually home to the popular Zahara de los Atunes, as well as Caños de Meca and Trafalgar Lighthouse, or that most of La Breña y Marismas del Barbate Natural Park falls within its municipal boundaries. Are you ready to discover the real Barbate?

What to do in Barbate

Barbate is a town replete with whitewashed houses and a simple way of life, with links to the sea since time immemorial. Back in the day, fishing was its main industry, but these days tourism is one of Barbate’s main sources of income. Begin your trip with a stroll through the historic quarter, the best place to get a feel for the town, visiting its food market and watching the people go by from a terrace on the seaside promenade. Next to the boardwalk is the Playa del Carmen urban beach, which is perfect for a dip and caters towards swimmers’ every need.

Below are some of Barbate’s main places of interest:

Barbate Tuna Museum

A useful place to visit if you want to understand how vital the trap net tuna fishing technique was for Barbate. This small museum is privately owned and situated in El Olivar industrial estate, next to the shop La Chanca.

At the museum you’ll learn the basics of this old fishing art, all the different species of tuna that exist, the way they are cut up, and the name for the different parts of a tuna fish. Take advantage of your visit to see one of the canneries also situated on the industrial estate; a guided tour here includes ronqueo (a live demonstration of how a tuna fish is cut up) and, afterwards, the opportunity to buy a gastronomic souvenir.

 

 

Marinas and fishing ports of Barbate

In a traditional town like this it’s almost obligatory to have a wander around the port. Even though the fishing fleet is smaller than it was some decades ago and a bit run-down, it’s a pleasure nonetheless to walk along the dock to see the boats with their endearing names and patched-up nets. In the marina, meanwhile, there’s a completely different, livelier feel to things. It has room for more than 300 moorings and boat owners are allowed to sleep on the boats.

La Breña y Marismas del Barbate Natural Park

This is the smallest protected area in Andalusia, and, at the same time, the one with the most unique environment, made up of land, marshland and marine ecosystems. Due to this, you’ll be able to see cliffs, dunes and mountains on your way through the park. Its flora is dominated by pine trees, and, what’s more, it’s the second most important juniper wood in Europe, after Doñana National Park. Getting there is very easy: if travelling by car, take the main road from the port, which will take you straight to the natural park.

The trail of Barbate cliffs to Tajo tower

A great way to enjoy La Breña y Marismas del Barbate Natural Park is to follow one of its trails. Barbate’s cliffs path allows you to admire sheer walls that ascend to a height of more than 100 metres. In some sections, like that in which Tajo tower is located, there are viewpoints where you can stop for a snack while marvelling at the incredible views. The beacon is one of the symbols of Barbate, given that you can see it from pretty much any part of the town.

San Ambrosio hermitage and La Breña pigeon house

In half a day you can combine a trip to La Breña pigeon house, an unusual building dating from the eighteenth century and now part of a hotel, with a visit to the San Ambrosio hermitage. Although they don’t get that busy, they are fascinating places nonetheless.

Leave your car in the second car park in El Jarillo recreational area and continue along the route by foot. Bear in mind that both attractions are situated in opposite directions so you’ll have to pass by your car on your way back from your first visit. Unfortunately, the San Ambrosio hermitage is in a state of semi abandon, despite having been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and being one of the few Palaeochristian basilicas in Andalusia.

The best beaches in Barbate

Barbate’s coastal strip is as unspoilt as you might hope for a seaside paradise. As previously mentioned, the most urban cove is Playa del Carmen beach, but further along from the port in the natural park you will also find La Yerbabuena beach. It’s a real gem in the form of a half moon with beautiful green water, and usually less busy than the previous one. Special mention should also go to other beaches located further away from the historic quarter, many of which are among the best beaches in Cádiz. Bear these in mind for a perfect day trip:

Zahara de los Atunes beaches

This neighbourhood of Barbate with around 100 residents has all of a sudden become a favourite summer destination for Spaniards, Germans and other northern Europeans. Dozens of hotels and other types of accommodation are a huge plus, and, of course, its long beaches are magnificent.

Castillejo or Caños de Meca beach

Here you’ll find unspoilt coves with pine trees that jut out over the dunes. It’s one of those spots that never lose their magic, like sunsets seen from Trafalgar Lighthouse, which you can reach easily from the beach.

Zahora beach

Quieter and calmer than the previous beaches, it also boasts some lively beach bars and a section reserved for nudists.

Restaurants where to eat in Barbate

As a tuna fishing community, the star ingredient in Barbate is bluefin tuna and its derivatives such as mojama, a salt-cured cut of tuna loin, which even has its own Protected Geographical Indication.

Barbate boasts plenty of bars serving raciones—larger portions of tapas—at very reasonable prices, such as Taberna Abelardo (Cabo Diego Pérez, 67), Bar Paquete (in front of the fishing port) and Peña El Atún (Calle Ancha, 39). However, there are more elegant options too if you want to treat yourself.

One of the most renowned restaurants in the town is El Campero (Avenida de la Constitución, local 5C), whose head chef is an expert in preparing tuna, so there’s no better place to go if you want to pay homage to this delicacy. If you can’t get a table, try La Taberna del Campero in Zahara de los Atunes, where you’ll be able to make a reservation or sample their delicious tapas. In Caños de Meca, another place that comes highly recommended is La Breña (Avenida Trafalgar, 4), which boasts sea views and has a great flair for raw ingredients.

 

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