The first time we visited Conil de la Frontera I remember swimming in the sea and looking back to the coast thinking there was something wrong. On the contrary, there was something very right. Having become so conditioned to seeing the visual destruction of much of the Spanish coastline in the name of development it was fabulous to lie in the waters off Conil looking at a white village rising in the distance without a high rise apartment or hotel in sight.
The region of Cadiz is the last attractive part of southern Spain to be developed (Almeria isn’t really attractive) and the regional government has sensibly placed strict regulations on property development. As a result this part of the coast maintains its beauty and refuses to sell out to the property developers whilst catering for an ever growing tourism market.
Playa de los Bateles is the main beach of Conil which stretches the whole length of the Paseo Maritimo and beyond. The Hotel Fuerte Conil is a good choice as a place to stay if you don’t mind a short minute walk along the seafront. It’s also near Playa de la Fontanilla where you’ll find some very nice fish restaurants right on the beach. In fact, you can take a table that’s actually on the beach and enjoy the feeling of sand between your toes as you dine in the moonlight.
The old centre of Conil is quite a small area with plenty tapas type bars and fish restaurants as well as pizzerias and even a Chinese (try the prawns). Once you’ve walked up Avda. de la Playa from the seafront heading into Plaza Santa Catalina you’ll see a variety of places offering local specialities including atun encebollado (tuna cooked in onion) and chocos con patatas (cuttlefish with potatoes). Tuna is in fact a delicacy of this area as it is caught in the Atlantic waters off Cadiz. A great time to visit is in June when they celebrate ‘Tuna Week’ and restaurants serve up superb tuna dishes at subsidised prices.
The fine white sand of Conil extends for many kilometres in both directions. A particular favourite is Playa de El Palmar just a few kilometres south where you can enjoy the days on one of Spain’s finest uncrowded beaches and dine there at night in one of the fine fish restaurants. There’s plenty more to discover as you continue south to Los Caños de Meca, Barbate and Zahara de Los Atunes including Cabo de Trafalgar where the famous sea battle of Trafalgar was fought.
A restaurant worth a special mention in Zahara de los Atunes is Restaurante El Sal (Urb. Atlanterra Playa) where you can enjoy traditional local cuisine with a touch of the east.
Even further south are the fabulous Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia at Bolonia. Nearer to Conil following the main N340 road south is the beautiful white village of Vejer de la Frontera whilst inland you’ll find various interesting drives that take you through the land where some of Spain’s finest fighting bulls are bred.
Conil is a fine place to base yourself as a quaint resort in its own right or as a place from which to discover this coastline. There are enough hotels in Conil to meet overall annual demand but the place tends to be packed in August when many Spanish tourists, particularly from Cadiz city, head down there. There’s a reasonable selection of apartments available and plenty hostels. A number of campsites exist but be warned that some attract most of the young people of Cadiz city who tend to travel with their music and loudspeakers. Highly recommended is Camping Rosaleda which is a well organised site just on the outskirts of town with a fine pool and good dining area.
The words ‘de la Frontera’ at the end of town names in the Cadiz region dates back to the Reconquest when the Christians were fighting with the Moors to regain the territory they had lost. The border between the two forces was constantly changing hence the words ‘of the Frontier’ was attached to the name of towns where the line between the two armies stood at the time. Along the coast of Conil you’ll see four watchtowers which were there to protect the town and to watch over the nets which had been placed in the sea to catch tuna.
Useful Conil de La Frontera Links
www.conil.org – the official website of the Conil de la Frontera town council which, at the time of writing, is only in Spanish.