The Campo de Gibraltar is located within the southernmost area part of the Iberian Peninsula and the Andalusian region, southeast of the province of Cadiz. Its role as natural border between two continents (Europe and Africa), and the fact of being located between two seas (Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea) in addition to the presence of the British colony of  Gibraltar, make the region one of the most strategic areas in Europe. The municipalities of ALGECIRAS, CASTELLAR DE LA FRONTERA, JIMENA DE LA FRONTERA, LÍNEA DE LA CONCEPCIÓN, LOS BARRIOS, SAN ROQUE and TARIFA make up the geographical map of the region.

The area is very well communicated with the rest of the world, being possible to reach the region via the international airports of Jerez de la Frontera, Gibraltar and Malaga. In addition, the seaports of Algeciras and Cadiz make it possible to reach of the area by sea. The communication network is completed further by excellent major roads (including several
motorways) and a railway line.

With a territory spanning between the Natural Parks of Alcornocales (cork oak grove) and the Estrecho (strait) and as part of the Paraje Natural de las Marismas de Palmones (Salt marshes), the ecological diversity found in the area is paramount. Its valuable historical and monument heritage, its mild, climate, beaches and potential for leisure activities, make this popular tourist destination highly appealing to visitors.

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Major Avenue to the World

The region’s history is clearly marked by its strategic location as key to the Strait, thus being from ancient times a place were people of different cultures settled.

The evidence of human presence dating back to the Palaeolithic age is well supported by the discovery in Gibraltar in 1848 of a Homo Calpensis skull, later renamed Neanderthal Man. In addition, a significant number of cave paintings have been found around the Campo de Gibraltar area. The best examples are Bacinete Caves in Los Barrios, or those of Laja Alta in Jimena.

Numerous civilisations such as Phoenicians and Carthaginians travelled through this area of the Strait known as the “Major Avenue to the World” leaving behind a valuable legacy in terms of skills and trade such as tuna trap fishing and the salted fish industry, both being techniques still practised today.

The Romans brought a long period of splendour to the region that is reflected in the large number of cities being founded, e.g. Oba, Ximena or Iulia Traducta, as well as the ruins of Carteia (San Roque) or Baelo Claudia (Tarifa) and other Roman
settlements such as Caetaria, Berbésula or Mellaria, among others. Worth noting for its importance is Baelo Claudia (2nd century BC), built in the creek of Bolonia. The economic power of the city was driven by the industrialisation and commercialisation of salted fish and sauces made from the latter (garum). Among the remains of the city stand out several sections of its original wall, slab-paved streets, houses, facilities for preparing salted fish, basilica, theatre (with ruins of Paleochristian burials) and the forum (33 m wide), which is the unique of its kind in Andalusia due to the state of  preservation of its slab flooring and to the fact that it is an open-air construction.

After Byzantines and Visigoths, the Muslims would arrive in the region, becoming the culture that would leave the deepest imprint of this land and its people. Leading his armies, Tarik ben Ziyad would land in 711 at the spot known then as Calpe Mount, thus beginning an Islamic dominance that would last eight centuries.

Always thinking ahead, the Arabs took care to build beacon towers and fortifications for the defence of the conquered territory, and made of Algeciras (Al-Yazira-al Hadra) and Tarifa (Al-Yacirah Tarif), two of the most important cities in the western Arab kingdom. Many of these strongholds (Castles of Jimena and Castellar) would be reused later by the victorious  Christians, becoming also the focal point for the settlement striving later under its protection. In addition, pirate incursions such as the raid and looting of Gibraltar by Barbarossa called for the construction of numerous watchtowers during the 15th and 16th century.
After the Reconquest, many examples of religious architecture would flourish, and the region would see the construction of beautiful Gothic and Renaissance style churches. The Baroque period would reach up to the region with such intensity that temples with opulent sculptures and paintings, in addition to splendid palaces and manor houses would proliferate virtually in every corner of its geography.

Costa de la Luz

In addition to being the point where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet, the coastline around the Campo de Gibraltar feature vast beaches of great beauty and quality. Often lashed by Eastern winds, they have become a paradise for nautical sports enthusiasts.

They stand out for their diversity. It is possible for the visitor to choose from virgin beaches and small empty coves framed in the wilderness of nature, to beaches fully equipped with a high level of infrastructure and facilities, ideal for those who prefer to spend their holidays in good company and close to all the amenities.

The beaches around Tarifa lie in a spot were the waters of the ocean and the sea meet, and thus, extensive and wild sandy grounds are formed. Atlanterra (extending just beyond Zahara de los Atunes beach) is the first of many beaches to be located within the Natural Park of the Strait, which stretches up to Algeciras. At the foot of the beach of Bolonia lie the remains of the remarkable Roman city of Baelo Claudia. Nearby, Punta Paloma and the cove of Valdevaqueros form a wonderful dune field and wild nature landscapes where Windsurfing and Kitesurfing enthusiasts have found their particular
haven. From this spot stands out the immensity of the Lances beach with Tarifa in From Tarifa to Algeciras, wild nature offers a beautiful scene of beaches framed between cliffs, with wonderful views of the Strait of Gibraltar and the African shoreline. The Bay of Algeciras features several beaches that are sheltered from the currents of the Strait, e.g. El Rinconcillo, Getares, or San García and Cala Arenas. Just passing Gibraltar, already in broad Mediterranean Sea, family beaches follow one another alternating with luxurious residential estates.

On one hand, Línea de la Concepción features beaches such as Alcaidesa (with residential estate and golf course), La  Hacienda, El Burgo, Torrenueva, La Atunara, La Atunara de Levante, Levante or Santa Barbara and Poniente. On the other hand, San Roque features the beaches of Cabrero-Cala Taraje, Torreguadiaro and Sotogrande (with its exclusive housing estate with Marina and golf course), Guadalquitón, Torrecarbonera-El Balneario, Campamento-Puente Mayorga and Guadarranque.

Culture and Traditions

The extraordinary cultural legacy of the Campo de Gibraltar is exhibited in many museums and heritage archives with important archaeological, historical and art galleries such as the Municipal Museum of Algeciras and the Natural History Museum of Los Barrios. Other institutions show the deeprooted traditions of its inhabitants, mainly focusing on the bullfighting world or the tools and gear used for the different crafts.

Throughout the year, countless cultural exhibitions and events (poetry and narrative work contests, painters and sculptors seminars, painting competitions, history and archaeology workshops...) take place, in which music is always well represented. To summer concerts, chorales and “rondallas” (serenaders) one must add Flamenco, an important artistic expression that, as everywhere else in the province, attracts many followers.

The bullfighting Culture is deeply rooted in the Campo de Gibraltar. The Campo de Gibraltar towns of Los Barrios, Castellar de la Frontera, Jimena de la Frontera, San Roque and Tarifa are part of the highly popular Ruta del Toro (route of the bull). In their vast meadows, it is possible to admire this brave animal in the wild, and watch the different tasks involved in its   breeding such as the pursuit and knocking down of the bull, or mock bullfighting. the background

The cork industry has always been and still is one of the bases supporting the economy of many of its towns. The large amount of cork oak trees existing in the area has fostered the bark-stripping trade that takes place every 9 or 10 years. In addition, the forest has given away another tradition, the task of harvesting mushrooms.

Due to the climate, the harvesting season spans from October to March. The local handicraft work stands out for the quality of its products that results from the wide selection of raw materials that are available, as well as from the great care placed into the actual work being carried out. Many of the products are manufactured with materials that always have been at hand, notwithstanding of course cork, with which beautiful utensils and even furniture are made. Also important are pottery and woodcrafts, wall tile work, leatherwork, or hand-painted shawls.

Practise your swing

The Campo de Gibraltar has become a favourite destination for golfers. The region features some of the best golf courses in Europe, with excellent facilities and following a design that preserves the natural beauty of the surrounding. Fascinating views of the sea and the Rock of Gibraltar are guaranteed

Windsurfers’ realm

Surfing is always a good reason to visit the Campo de Gibraltar, since modern sport facilities are virtually available throughout the area, either close to the exclusive natural surroundings or near its splendid beaches. In addition to the number of existing hotels and rural accommodation guaranteeing visitors a comfortable stay, active tourism operators provide all that is needed for practising their favourite sports.

The characteristic topography of the area makes a real pleasure of climbing, descending chimneys, potholing in caves and pits, and, for enthusiasts of high-risk sports, hand gliding or paragliding provides the best views of the Strait of Gibraltar and its natural surroundings.

Aquatic sport enthusiasts will find in beaches along Tarifa such as Valdevaqueros cove and Los Lances one of the main spots in Europe where to practise this sport. The mildness of the climate, its fantastic waves and the eastern wind attract multitudes of surfers all year round. In addition to windsurfers, the area also attracts those preferring sports such as surfing or other new modalities such as kitesurfing, bodyboarding, flysurfing or blokarting (sliding on the sand).

Tarifa is nowadays a small international centre, in which English is widely spoken and where fans of these aquatic activities show off their tanned bodies, muscle power and skills. There are many shops exclusively dedicated to these sports, almost all of them run by the foreign colony.

Sportfishing is becoming an increasingly popular activity in the area, whether practised on boats or angling at the beach. It is worth noting the town of Línea de la Concepción as the place where many regional and national championships are usually held. In addition, the confluence of the Strait waters confers to this area a unique bright light, transparency and tide range that has fostered its ecological wealth, and thus encourages the practice of diving and underwater fishing, with the attractive of many native species.

The entire Bay of Algeciras represents a natural spot ideal to practice any modality of Sailing such as speed, slalom or wave. Firstclass facilities are available in many places such as in the Reales Clubs Náuticos de

Algeciras or Línea de la Concepción (yachting clubs), or at the modern Port of Sotogrande, in which many sailing competitions for any category and speciality are held every year. Canoeing in the Guadarranque River and reservoir, as well as in the Palmones River and Charco Redondo reservoir, or hunting at the Alcornocales Natural Park (a real hunting paradise) complete the extensive list of activities available in the region.

Nature in its purest form

Due to its climatic and ecological diversity, the Campo de Gibraltar has a unique natural and zoological wealth. It benefits from two first-class natural spots (the Alcornocales Natural Park (cork oak grove) and Natural Park of the Strait) in addition to the natural grounds of the Palmones River Salt Marshes,

Los Lances beach and the Natural Monument represented by the Dune of Bolonia. The Alcornocales Natural Park, with its over 170,000 hectares and better known as the "European primary forest", includes the Campo de Gibraltar municipalities of Algeciras, Los Barrios, Jimena de la Frontera and Tarifa.

Its characteristic microclimate encourages dense vegetation with impressive groves of cork oak, Mediterranean oak and wild olive trees. In addition, it is home to outstanding wild thickets located in areas called "canutos”, the latter being deep and narrow valleys excavated by rivers and streams. Worth noting is the Garganta or Canuto de la Miel (honey gorge) in Algeciras. The fauna present in these streams is mainly made up of water blackbirds, kingfishers, bank swallows; in addition to the many game species existing in the park (red deer, roe deer, mouflon, fallow deer...) and up to 18 different of bird of prey species. The main traditional activities taking place in the Park are bark-stripping, breeding of bullfighting and Retinto cattle, hunting, beekeeping, and the harvesting of mushrooms.

The Natural Park of the Strait (9,000 hectares) is located in the coastline between the municipalities of Algeciras and Tarifa, and is the southernmost protected land found in the continent. It is home to the Archaeological Complex of Baelo Claudia  and the Los Lances Beach Natural Area in Tarifa.

As a key point in the migratory routes of birds travelling between the European and African continents, it features underwater Karst formations, the giants’ kettles of Punta Camarinal, quaternary dunes and coastal beaches.

Due to the location of the Strait of Gibraltar and to its complex wind and sea current systems, an important underwater  archaeological heritage can be found in terms of the many different types of wrecks (hulks) present in the area. It is also a privileged place for bird and whale watching.

The Palmones River Natural Salt Marshes (Los Barrios) has an outstanding value as staging area for thousands of birds during the migration periods. It is also important for the presence of flora taxa and of interest for the so-called “Habitat 1110” (sand banks permanently covered by shallow seawater). Furthermore, it is a spawning zone for a large number of crustacean species and it features an ornithological observatory.

Ornithological sanctuary

Without any doubt, the Campo de Gibraltar is one of the main European locations for bird watching. Said statement is strongly backed by the many professional or amateur ornithologists who visit the area year after year during the migration period in order to enjoy from this spectacular view.

Its proximity to the African continent (which is only 14 km away), the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, as well as the important habitat diversity encouraged by its climate, make the area a decisive stopping place for the millions of birds that fly to Africa looking for better climate conditions.

In addition, the region features other protected natural spaces of great ornithological interest such as the Alcornocales Natural Park and the Palmones River Natural Salt Marshes, in which many bird colonies usually concentrate.

Should the visitor want to observe storks and birds of prey (both gliding birds), then the best months are August and September, because it is during that period when the largest concentrations occur, although the actual migration takes place between the end of July and beginning of October. The skies are populated by black kites, short-toed eagles, booted eagles, Egyptian vultures, honey buzzards, or white and black storks. These birds can be watched from the observatories of Cazalla or Tráfico in Tarifa or from that of Algarrobo in Algeciras.

Marine birds are harder to observe, because they spend most of the year in the open sea. October and November are the best months for spotting among other species the Cory's or Balearic Shearwater, Northern gannet, Atlantic puffin or the Audouin’s gull. A particularity of the Strait is the convergence in a common spot of Atlantic and Mediterranean species that can be observed in the Island of Tarifa, Los Lances beach and at the observatory of Guadalmesí.

The migration of birds belonging to the passeridae family (sparrows and relatives) is also very remarkable in the Strait, although less flamboyant due to their smaller size and to the nocturnal migratory character of some of them. Los Lances beach or the Island of Tarifa are the best places to observe swallows, swifts or goldfinches.

Whale watching

The spectacular passage of marine mammals across the Strait of Gibraltar is favoured by the exchange of Atlantic and Mediterranean waters that provides suitable oceanographic conditions for this phenomenon to happen. As a popular area for bird migration and feeding grounds for large sperm and killer whales, in addition to being a compulsory crossing point for many of these marine mammal species, it has also become their permanent habitat.

It is an unforgettable scene to be able to sail between two continents and admire pods of these beautiful and charismatic animals in their natural habitat, the large females cleaving the waters with their calf and stalking the fishing boats in an attempt to get hold of part of the tuna catch. There are times when they come so close to the boats that it is eerie, but they  are never a real danger and it is impressive observing them from such a small distance.

Among the cetaceans that can watched in the Strait stand out the different species of dolphins. The bottlenose dolphin is very The long-fin pilot whale (known locally as Calderón) has a large round head and can often be spotted in large pods dominated by a male. Sperm whales usually cross the Strait in spring. Killer whales (voracious marine predators that feed on dolphins or seals) gather in groups to hunt. In the Strait, they are particularly on the lookout for large tuna.

Finally, it is also possible to watch the common fin whale, toothless and close relative of the blue whale. The large water spray they expel and the long dives that they can take when they feel threatened are something spectacular. They usually  cross the Strait alone or in small pods.

A taste of its own

El Campo de Gibraltar features an exquisite and varied gastronomy cooked from top quality raw materials of diverse origins. It is possible to distinguish between coastal and inland cooking although without becoming fully individualised, since sometimes they complement each other.

Fish and seafood are the undeniable protagonists of the coastal gastronomy. Sea bream, red mullet, dogfish, megrim, small cuttlefish, red band bream and pandora can be tasted grilled, barbecued, fried or in rich coastal dishes such as Ray in a yellow sauce, “abajá” (prepared with several types of fish), stuffed calamari, and meagre with peas just to mention a few.

There are two specialties that the visitor must try i.e. the famous “Sardinas al espeto”, which are sardines skewed on a stick prepared in the beach on a charcoal fire, and “ortiguillas” (deep fried sea anemones in batter). Among seafood dishes stand out tiger prawns, crabs, “burgaos” (local sea snail), shrimps (very nice in omelette), grilled Atlantic jack-knife clam, coquinas (local clams), clams... that will be used as basic ingredients for dishes such as seafood soups, rice with clams, rice with tiger prawns, clams a la marinera or in a garlic sauce.

The gastronomy further inland is based on wild countryside products such as golden thistle, asparagus, snails or brown snails, with which succulent garlic or asparagus soups, or golden thistle dishes are made. Notwithstanding the above, the undeniable star of this menu is large and small game meat, e.g. roe deer, red deer, rabbit and partridge are cooked in stews or with rice.

The tasteful Retinto meat, Iberian pork, goat meat, or slaughtered pork products encourage new culinary possibilities, with exquisite cured pork meat, salamis and recipes such as the loin in butter or “chicharrones” (pork cracklings). They are used as basic ingredients for tasteful traditional stews such as the pork leg stew, prepared with vegetables, cured pork meat and pork leg.

In addition, the coastal gastronomy features traditional dishes using products from the orchard and slaughtered pork, such as gazpacho (cold tomato and cucumber soup), tomato soup, “olla carbonera” (meat hot pot cooked on charcoal), stew, scrambled vegetables, salads and “piriñaca” (finely cut tomatoes, green peppers, onions…). adaptable and intelligent and moves in small pods or large schools.

The common dolphin swims in very large schools and it mates towards the end of spring and beginning of summer. The striped dolphin (very similar to the latter) can reach speeds of up to 50 km/h.

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