Bahía de Cádiz
The millenarian Bahía de Cádiz lies at the most southern tip of Europe, to the west of the province of Cadiz. It is bathed in waters from the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by an incomparable bright sunlight. It enjoys a privileged climate, with a yearly average temperature of 18º C, and over 3,000 hours of daylight per year. CADIZ, SAN FERNANDO, CHICLANA DE LA FRONTERA, PUERTO REAL AND PUERTO DE SANTA MARIA open onto the sea through their beaches and cliffs, while further inland, although still carrying a scent of sea, JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA stands amongst extensive vineyards.
Jerez airport and the port of Cadiz, both holding international status, in addition to a modern road and railway network provide the province with optimum communications with the rest of the world.
With beaches stretching for 45 km and over 220,000 hectares of protected natural spaces (in particular, the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park), in addition to its history and important cultural heritage, gastronomy, celebrations and traditions (in which Flamenco heads the list), as well as the ever-present trilogy horse-bullwine make this land a well-established tourist destination.
An open door to Culture
Its strategic location, acting as a bridge between Europe and Africa and as the only route communicating the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean, is probably the reason for the existence of ancient settlements on this land dating as far back as 10,000 years. A claim well substantiated by the archaeological remains of Aculadero in Puerto de Santa Maria
and Mesas de Asta in Jerez. Tartesian and Phoenician traders first landed in the area about 3,000 years ago, thus defining a clear reference point between before and after in its vast history. The Phoenicians would found Gadir (1,100 BC), making it the oldest city in the western world, and their culture would leave behind ancient vestiges such as those found at the Doña Blanca Castle archaeological site (Puerto de Santa Maria); one of most important from said period culture found in the Peninsula, or the Phoenician sarcophagus exhibited in the Museum of Cadiz.
Carthaginians and Romans would turn Cadiz into the scene of their battles, from which the prevailing Empire would start the swift Romanization of the area and bring a long period of splendour. After the Visigoth period, the Muslims took control of the region in 711 AD. They would maintain their dominance until the mid-13th century, when Alphonse X conquered and integrated the region into the Kingdom of Castile.
The Christians would leave a clear mark of their victory by constructing numerous temples, convents and monasteries according to new artistic styles. Cadiz and Puerto de Santa Maria were to play an important role in Christopher Columbus’ American adventure, not just throughout the voyages of discovery but also during the commercial relationships later established with the New World. The Bahía de Cádiz would allow Seville to stand out as the main Port of the Indies, later becoming a looting target for Turkish, English and Portuguese pirates.
It is during that period that fortifications for coastal defence are extensively built, among them the fortified walls of Cadiz. This financial boom, which took place between the 17th and 18th century, resulted in the construction of the best samples of religious architecture ever to be present in the region (Cadiz Cathedral, Jerez Cathedral and Carthusian monastery), in addition to many palaces and manor houses.
La Bahía played an important role in the resistance against the French, as the guerrilla warfare being staged often managed to confuse the French army. Cadiz and San Fernando especially stood out for their heroic resistance. Once the invaders were expelled, the Cortes of Cadiz (parliament) was established in 1812 and the first Spanish Constitution known as "La Pepa" was drafted on the 19th March (St. Joseph’s day) that very same year.
Costa de la Luz
One of the main tourist attractions of the Bahía de Cádiz is its 45 km of golden sand and crystalline water beaches, which stand among the finest of the Andalusian coastline. Its mild climate makes it possible to enjoy swimming and sunbathing until late in the year (sometimes even until October or November), and also to practice water activities such as fishing, diving, sailing, and windsurf. In addition, the beaches draw particular attention due to their diversity (ranging from unspoilt landscapes to tourist resorts) and the quality of their facilities and infrastructure. Indeed, every year the Bahía de Cádiz sees its effort rewarded with the European Community Blue Flag award for quality and cleanliness.
Nature lovers and those looking for quiet landscapes can choose from or hidden and empty coves or beaches, away from the tourist resorts such as that of Levante (Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park) in Puerto de Santa Maria, or El Castillo and Camposoto in San Fernando. Those preferring to enjoy the beach with the family without renouncing the amenities found in the large tourist resorts would benefit from a wide selection of places to choose from within the region. Puerto de Santa Maria accommodates the lively beaches of Valdelagrana, La Muralla and La Puntilla.
The actual city of Cadiz conceals the wonderful Victoria beach (its sandy ground par excellence) with a seafront promenade bursting with life, and La Caleta, located right in the city centre. Other quieter although equally equipped with services beaches are La Calita and Fuentebravía in Puerto de Santa Maria, or that of Santa María del Mar in Cadiz. Following a spectacular redevelopment over the last few decades, Chiclana de la Frontera can easily show off about its heavenly beaches framed between pine forests and cliffs (El Puerco and Punta de Piedra), or sandy grounds such as La Barrosa, which is equipped with the best available facilities. The housing estate of Novo de Sancti Petri, surrounded by golf courses and luxurious hotel and sport complex, enjoys a wonderful and lively atmosphere, especially in the summer.
The Bahía de Cádiz benefits from over 220,000 hectares of natural parks, reserves and landscapes, thus making it one of the areas with the largest proportion of protected environmental land of all the country. The most significant zone is the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park, with a total surface of 10,000 hectares and located on a wide sea estuary. Its geographic location, between the Doñana National Park and the Strait of Gibraltar, makes it a spot of special relevance in the routes of the many migratory birds flying between the European and the African continent.
Being a contact point between marine and freshwater species, and with the advantage of a constant supply of flowing water (originating among others from the San Pedro River and the Trocadero or Sancti Petri streams), plenty of sunlight and abundant nutrients, the area provides an ideal spot for a diversity of shellfish, crustaceans, fish and aquatic birds to settle in.
The coexistence of heterogeneous ecosystems, such as cliffs, beaches, dunes,lagoons, mud flats, coastal pine forests, salt marshes and firths, invite the visitor both to contemplate the landscape and its associated rich fauna, mainly made up of birds. There are still a few preserved spots with virtually unspoilt natural salt marshes: Marismas de los Toruños (Puerto de Santa Maria), Marismas de Sancti Petri and those located in the Trocadero Island (Puerto Real). The forest crop of the park, in which pine and understory vegetation of broomsedge, mastic, kermes oak and savin juniper shrubs are the predominant species, spreads between the Algaida in Puerto Real, the plant stands of the Toruños and the Isleta game reserve in Puerto de Santa Maria. This is the habitat for a wide variety of species of aquatic birds, reptiles such as protected chameleon, and small mammals.
The Natural Reserves of the Endorreicos Complexes at Puerto de Santa Maria, Puerto Real and Chiclana have an important ecological value for the preservation of native bird species, some of which are in danger of becoming extinct. The Lagoon of Medina (also within the Natural Reserve area) is the largest in the province of Cadiz and the second in size in Andalusia. Located near Jerez, it represents a spot of recognised international importance for aquatic birds (white-headed ducks, crested coots and marbled ducks)
Thanks to its mild climate, the Bahía de Cádiz coastline provides fans of nautical sports with a whole range of possibilities throughout the year. An offer enhanced with first-class services and facilities. The cleanliness of its waters and the wealth of the seabed are an important asset for those fond of diving, which is especially attractive in the beaches of La Caleta in Cadiz (with remains of cannons and pottery dating from the 18th-century), La Calita and Fuentebravía in Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sancti-Petri in Chiclana de la Frontera. Windsurf, surf or kitesurf boards plough through the waves of its coast, thanks to the convenience of east and west winds. The meeting points for these sportsmen are Chiclana de la Frontera, Santa María del Mar beach (Cadiz), where many surf competitions are held, and Cortadura also in Cadiz, where those showing preference for kitesurfing usually meet Sailing is highly popular in the Bahía de Cádiz as demonstrated by the large number of competitions being held there. The most prominent are the International Nautical Week, which qualifies for the Spanish Championship and Juan de la Cosa Regatta, both held at Puerto de Santa Maria. In 2000, Cadiz was host to the prestigious
Tall Ships race. Cycle tourism through forest tracks inside the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park or along some pre-established trails is a healthy way to practise sport and become familiar with the landscapes and municipalities within the region.
In addition, for lovers of high-risk sports, there is nothing like surfing the skies on a paraglider, while enjoying a privileged andspectacular view of the Bahía de Cádiz and associated beaches
The ideal local climate is once more the perfect setting to practise golf throughout the year around the Bahía de Cádiz . This sport has lately experienced a huge boom that has materialized in a spectacular surge of high-level golf courses all over the region. The municipality of Chiclana de la Frontera has acquired special relevance to this sense, while its luxurious housing estate known as Novo de Sancti Petri has become a real paradise for the followers of this sport. Jerez, Puerto de Santa Maria and Puerto Real also feature modern golf courses that will be a real hit among golfers.
The coastline of the Bahía de Cádiz offers to sailing enthusiasts an impressive facility infrastructure. Its marinas (Sancti Petri and Puerto America in Cadiz, as well as Puerto Sherry in Puerto de Santa Maria) combine the excellent climate conditions to their strategic location near the Straits of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean, making it possible for boats to sail or moor all year round. Yacht Clubs and traditional harbours blend with newly built mooring berths, all of which are equipped with modern facilities and an array of services ranging from accommodation to leisure activities. From any of the harbours around the region it is possible to explore the Bay as the distance between them is relatively short, thus making it ideal for a short cruise either on motorboat or sailing and enjoying the magnificent views.
Culture and Flamenco
Culture, Flamenco and Traditions prevail in the Bahía de Cádiz as a close-related trilogy. Being a land of distinguished writers of the calibre of Rafael Alberti (Puerto de Santa Maria) and Jose Manuel Caballero Bonald (Jerez de la Frontera), fine musicians such as Manuel de Falla (Cadiz), and great flamenco artists such as Camarón de la Isla (San Fernando), Jose Mercé and Lola Flores (both from Jerez), it is not surprising for the region to feature a busy cultural agenda with many prestigious events. Among the most traditional venues, the Falla theatre in Cadiz and the Villamarta equivalent in Jerez stand out. Of special relevance is the Comedy Theatre Festival (Puerto de Santa Maria) organized during the summer by the Pedro Muñoz Seca foundation, and the Atlantic Film Festival “Alcances” taking place in the city of Cadiz. Held for 37 years (up to September 2006), the latter is one of the oldest cultural events in Andalusia and enjoys a high reputation
in the national cinematographic panorama, coming just in fourth place behind the film festivals of San Sebastián, Valladolid and Gijón. Flamenco holds par excellence a privileged place in the Bay’s cultural life. Rhythm styles such as
Peteneras, tanguillos, alegrías and bulerías rise to acquire art status in San Fernando, Cadiz, Puerto Real, Puerto de Santa Maria and Jerez de la Frontera, the latter being home to the Andalusian Centre for Flamenco Art and the Chair of Flamencology. Like in on other region, here the true enthusiast of the “Arte jondo” (traditional flamenco singing) would enjoy what it is considered to be as the maximum artistic expression of the Andalusian people.
This will be available throughout the year at its fairs and festivals such as the prestigious Festival de Flamenco de Jerez (celebrated at the beginning of year) and the Fiesta de la Bulería, also in Jerez, or celebrations such as Easter and Christmas, as well as in its flamenco shows and clubs that fill the atmosphere with their rhythms and tunes. The Carnival at the Bay has become a tradition and it is considered as the most popular in Spain. In the city of Cadiz, where the carnival has been declared of International Tourist Interest, the first carnival events already took place centuries ago. Traders from Genoa, Venice or France bringing with them masks and fancy dresses used to attend balls added to the rhythms of guajiras, habaneras and guarachas originating from Cuba and played by ship crews through the streets of Cadiz. This would be the origin of what today is known as carnival. The first groups and “comparsas” (troupes of musicians) date from 1850, and after being banned for several years, the celebration, as we know it today, was restored in 1977 with its usual irony, joy and spark.
The cities around the Bahía de Cádiz can all be proud of their unique appearance and character. The cosmopolitan atmosphere of Cadiz has always left an imprint on the city, and its eternal views onto the sea have given to it a very distinctive urban development style. Its narrow streets and tenements, so peculiar and typical from Cadiz, are the result of its continuous battle against the ocean that has always prevented its territorial expansion. The bastions and the urban development complex concealed within the city are a reminder of its colonial architecture. Cadiz and Havana, ever so far apart and yet so united.
For many generations, the importance of the wine industry has left in Jerez de la Frontera a special imprint reflected in its wine cellars, known as the "cathedrals of wine". With the later arrival of British and French sommeliers, the city acquires an aristocratic flair that is mirrored in its palaces and houses. Something similar takes place in Puerto de Santa Maria where its important sommelier tradition is translated into luxurious buildings and typical wine cellars. The city acquired great relevance in the 16th and 17th centuries as naval base for the Royal Galleons and headquarters for the Captaincy General of the Sea and Ocean Fleet, hence chosen as main residence by many rich traders.
The traditional shallow fishing and seafood fishing activities going on in the Bay have provided localities such as Chiclana, San Fernando or Puerto Real with a particular flair and seafaring charm. In the countryside, the usual tasks thathave occupied mankind since ancient times also attract the visitor to the popular architecture of the region. Around the salt marshes, its landscape is livened up with traditional buildings such as the salt houses and tidal mills, driven by the flow of the incoming and receding tides. The whitened and majestic local farmhouses surrounded by humble harvest sheds scattered all over the fields break the wavy monotony of the endless rows of vineyards.
Horse and Bull
The Bahía de Cádiz is one of the areas in Andalusia in which the equestrian tradition has been carefully preserved and shows its stronger presence. Although references to this magnificent animal date back to the Tartesian period (3,000 years ago), it is not until the establishment of the Carthusian monastery in Jerez de la Frontera during the 15th century that a true milestone in the history of the Cadiz horse is set.
For centuries, the monks bred horses using magnificent stallions that grazed in the Alto Cielo meadows, and due to this careful selection, the famous Carthusian-Bred horses were born. The Herd of Carthusian Mares “Hierro del Bocado”, located in a distinctive landscape in the Dehesa de la Fuente meadow very close to La Cartuja Monastery, is the largest and main reserve of Carthusian horses in the world. Jerez de la Frontera could rise to the status of Spanish capital of the horse due to the numerous owners of horse ranches and herds of mares enthused in horse breeding and pure race selection, as well as to the many celebrations in which the horse has an undeniable leadingrole, i.e. the Feria del Caballo, declared of International Tourist Interest, the Main Equestrian Parade and the Ancades International Equestrian Jump contest held with the occasion of the Fiestas de Otoño (Autumn celebrations). Its equestrian tradition and experience in organising all type of equestrian events was the main reason for it to be selected to host the 2002 World Equestrian Games.
Another way for the visitor to approach the universe of the horse is contemplating these animals in their natural habitat or participating in the stables and bullfighting test shows taking place in the many farmhouses and rural estates existing around La Bahía. Since ancient times, the bull has had a special and deep meaning in the region. In the countryside, beautiful specimens of fighting bulls belonging to famous cattle ranches graze freely in meadows that stretch as far as the eye can see. Its presence in the most representative celebrations is guaranteed, especially at the fairs.
Among the most prestigious bullfighting rings, whether for its architecture or for its tradition and cultural status stands that of Puerto de Santa Maria (where the famous Feria Taurina is held during the summer), or that of Jerez de la Frontera, which features an important schedule of events during the Feria del Caballo.
A taste of La Bahía
The cooking raw materials provided by the Bahía de Cádiz have no match. Fish and seafood from the Coast combine with fruits and vegetables from the countryside. Second to none is the excellent game, Retinto beef, cheese, cured pork, oil from the nearby highlands, and last but not least, its famous wines. All of these are ingredients of recognized quality, as stated by the many Denominations of Origin found in the region, e.g. Jerez Brandy, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry and Jerez Vinegar.
The wine industry in Jerez de la Frontera is still its main source of wealth thanks to its exceptional geographic location, proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, white limestone soil known as “Albariza” where the vines grow, combined with the “Palomino" grape variety and careful ageing of musts in the wine cellars, being the latter true cathedrals where the wines are born and age in silence.
At present, it is possible to visit some wine cellars around Jerez (González & Byass, Pedro Domecq, Williams & Humbert, Sanchez Romate...) and Puerto de Santa Maria. With ancient traditional recipes and inherited techniques from cultures such as the Phoenician (salted fish) and the Muslims, cooks from La Bahía prepare dishes as full of flavour, such as the local Cadiz stew, Jerez cabbage, bull tail, artichokes with white beans, potatoes with codfish, golden thistle with scrambled egg and shredded meat in a savoury sauce.
The variety of fish existing in La Bahía makes it an ideal spot to taste exquisite seafood dishes and rice, as well as its traditional "fried fish”. The popular area known as the Ribera del Marisco in Puerto de Santa Maria will definitely please the most demanding gourmet.
Pastry and cake making with Andalusí origins has its best example in convent-made desserts. Tocino de cielo (caramelrich custard), marzipan or Cadiz nougat are some of the main specialties.
General informationWeb: www.bahiadecadiz.es
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Interesting web pages with more information on this place:http://www.turismo.cadiz.es/
Official Web of Cadiz http://www.turismochiclana.es/
Official Web of Chiclana de la Frontera http://www.turismoelpuerto.com/
Official Web of the city council of El Puerto de Santa María http://www.laisladelsur.com/
Web of Tourist Information about San Fernando http://www.aytopuertoreal.es/
Official Web of the city council of Puerto Real http://www.turismojerez.com/
Web of Tourist Information about Jerez http://www.sanfernando.es/
Official Web of the city council of San Fernando http://www.andalucia.org/espacios-naturales/parque-natural/bahia-de-cadiz/
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