Description

The aerea of La Janda is located in the southern-most corner of Europe in the Andalusian province of Cadiz in southern Spain. It includes the municipalities of Alcalá de los Gazules, Barbate, Benalup - Casas Viejas, Conil de la Frontera, Medina Sidonia, Paterna de la Rivera, San José del Valle and Vejer de la Frontera.

The nearby airport at Jerez de la Frontera and the extensive road network communicating La Janda with the rest of the country makes it easy to reach.

Ensconced between the natural parks of La Breña y Marismas de Barbate and los Alcornocales, La Janda also basks by the sea. Its beautiful coastline is enhanced by the charming "Ruta del Toro" (Bulls Route) which runs through the local towns.

The area boasts may tourist attractions, ranging from beach tourism or mor ruralbased tourism inland, which is more peaceful and ideal for pursuing all tiypes of sports. Mention must also be made of its magnificent ancestral culture, privileged natural environment, valuable heritage, exquisite cuisine and colourful festivities.

A Coastal Sentinel 

The district was a stop-off point and settlement area for different cultures since remote antiquity and conserves many archaeological riches. The first settlers came from North Africa. Initially they were gatherers but later embraced new techniques developed during the Neolithic period and from Megalithic Culture.

La Janda has many shallow caves withpaintings, making it one of the most important sites in terms of late Neolithic schematic rock art in Western Europe. Valuable cave paintings can be seen at Tajo de las Figuras (Benalup), which is open for visits. The cave contains striking representations of birds, quadrupeds and anthropomorphs.

Later the Phoenicians and Carthaginians came to trade with the local indigenous population and founded colonies such as those at Asido (Medina Sidonia) or Lascuta (Alcalá de los Gazules). These established deep-rooted t raditions such as Almadraba, an age- old technique of catching tuna by setting nets in a maze formation, and the fish salting industry. With the arrival of the Romans, the number of settlements multiplied and the salting industry enjoyed its period of greatest splendour. 

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths occupied the entire Iberian Peninsua and also left their mark, as evidenced by the ornamental remains unearthed in the area or numerous hermitages such as the Los Mártires hermitage in Medina Sidonia, the oldest hermitage in Medina Sidonia, the oldest hermitage in Andalusia. The long period of Moorish occupation also left a profound mark on local culture and idiosyncrasies.

The Andalusi heritage can be seen when strolling through the villages and admiring their arquitecture, winding and labyrinthine streets, whitewashed facades, patios and arches... Many Muslim fortresses and walled enclosures can be found throughout the territory, such as those at Medina Sidonia, Alcalá de los Gazules or Vejer de la Frontera, as well as others built by the Christians to defend reconquered lands.

Gothic and Mudejar architecture flourished between the 14th and 16th Centuries. Fine examples include the beautiful churches dotted around the area, as well as convents built by religious orders that settle in the area.

The triumph or Baroque style led to the construction of lavishly furnished churches and chapels containing a bewildering wealth of sacred treasures, magnificent palaces and stately homes. Neoclassicism and all subsequent artistic styles are also represented in La Janda.

Costa de la Luz

La Janda´s coastline has 39 km of beaches belonging to the towns of Conil de la Frontera, Barbate, and Vejer de la Frontera, which are now important tourist spots.

This hugely diverse coastline boasts sprawling beaches and paradisiacal virgin coves of limpid waters and white sand (there are some nudist beaches) next to urban beaches or others located in tourist complexes with all the services and facilities families need to enjoy their holidays.

Barbate has several excellent beaches for sunbathing and swimming. These include the Playa del Carmen beach, which is in the town and has a full range of facilities, and the beach at Caños de Meca, which is particulary beautiful due to its natural caves and fresh water springs that gush from the cliffs overlooking the sea. When there is a strong south easterly wind, windsurfers flock to these waters to pursue their favourite sport.

The Playa de la Yerbabuena beach is wild and peaceful, with its dune formations, pine groves and cliffs that lead up to the Torre Vigía del Tajo (look-out tower). The endless beach of Zahara de los Atunes is situated in this beautiful municipal district of Barbate, together with de Playa de Atlanterra beach which is protected by beautiful mountains. 

 

The sea conditions on the beaches in Conil de la Frontera are ideal for surfing. The Playa de los Bateles beach, a hot sport for windsurfers , is in the town and offers beautiful panoramic views of this coastal village.

Roche is a peaceful residential area situated in a beautiful pine forest. La Fuente del Gallo is perched on an abrupt cliff. La Fontanilla is famous for its excellent tourist services.

Conil also boasts a number of small virgin coves with cliffs and clear waters, making them ideal spots for snorkelling and scuba diving. It has some outstanding coves, such as Cala del Tío Juan, Cala Melchor, Cala Quinto, Camacho and Cala del Aceite.

Natural Landscapes

La Janda has an extremely rich and varied natural heritage, including two natural parks of incalculable environmental value. The La Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park (3,797 ha) is situated between Barbate and Vejer de la Frontera. Its most representative ecosystems are its marine systems, cliffs, pine groves, marshlands and small dune formations.

The Hierbabuena Cliffs reach heights of up to 100 m and are home to a huge variety of birds which build their nests on the steep cliff faces, such as the cattle egret and the yellow-footed  gull. The pine forest of Barbate runs along the edge of the cliffs and forms the largest mass of umbrella pines in the province. The beauty of this forest is enhanced by the fresh water springs on the beach.

The marine ecosystem includes a rocky seabed containing abundant species of algae and molluscs. The marshlands at  the mouth or the River Barbate are used by many migratory birds as a resting area.

The Los Alcornocales Natural Park covers an area of more than 170,000 ha. The La Janda municipalities of Alcalá de los Gazules, Benalup- Casas Viejas, Medina Sidonia and San José del Valle are located within its perimeter. 

The constant temperature all year round and the high rainfall, accentuated by a summer fog popularity know as "Barbas de Levante", create an almost tropical microclimate inside the park that fosters the proliferation of thick vegetation. It is know as "Europe´s virgin forest".

There are also gall- oak , Andalousian oak and wild olive forests and an area know as "Los Canutos", in reference to a series of deep valley rivers and streams that water the vegetation in this area , some of which dates from the Tertiary Era, with species such as alders, rhododentrons or laurel.

The large thousand-year-old cork oaks after which the Park is named have also been a means of living for local inhabitants, who, since time inmmemorial, have extracted cork from these trees (every nine or ten years).

This is an obligatory stop- off point for birds migrating to Africa and therefore an ideal spot for ornithologists to watch these interesting migratory flows. 

The district has abundant water resources at its large reservoirs (Guadalcacín, Celemín and Los Hurones) and at the Laguna de Medina Nature Reserve, the largest nature reserve in the province of Cadiz and the second largest in Andausia. This is an area of recognised international importance for its aquatic birds  (e.g. white-headed duck, giant coot, marbled teal). A

World of possibilities

The natural setting of this district in Cadiz allows visitors to enjoy a wide range of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, bicycle tourism, canyoning, rock climbing, horse riding or open-country camping.

In the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, visitors can practise all these sports in the park´s thick forest and observe different animal species such as roe deer, deer or foxes. In the La Breña y Marismas del Barbate Natural Park, different routes weave through pine groves and along steep cliffs, offering magnificente views of the beaches and opportunities for bird watching.

The beautiful landscapes around the rivers and reservoirs in La Janda are the ideal location for a wide rante of activities always in contact with nature. There are also artificial beaches for surfing , rowing, kayaking or saling. Fishing is another option in this rich water paradise.

Its thick forests are a real delight for hunting lovers. The wealth of hunting options allow hunters to enjoy big game, like roe deer or deer, and small game, like rabbits, partridges and pheasants.

For adrenaline lovers, there is nothing better than a bit of hang-gliding or paragliding. The hilltop where Vejer de la Frontera is perched is used as a launch pad by paraglidign lovers.

Culture and traditions

The museums and exhibition halls in the district offer visitors a closer insight into  the history and traditions of each of its municipalities. In addition to the archaeological and artistic museums (Vejer Museum of Historical- Cultural Heritage, Medina Sidonia Municipal Museum), there are other museums devoted to the customs and ways of life of local inhabitants, such as the "Museo de Raíces Conileñas" (Conil Heritage Museum) or different museums in Barbate dedicated to the art of fishing.

Numerous cultural events are held throughout the year: poetry competitions, conferences, concerts, trade fairs, theatre circuits or street theatre, painting exhibitions. Music is also an intrinsic and characteristic part of life in these towns, particulary during the summer season when numerous festivals liven up the atmosphere.

Flamenco occupies a privileged place in this regard, so much so that Benalup- Casas Viejas has its own songs and dances such as the chacarrá. There are many flamenco peñas (clubs) and important flamenco festivals are also held where audiences can enjoy live flamenco. The Flamenco Night at Arco de la Segur in Vejer de la Frontera takes place in August and has been declared a Festivity of National Tourist Interest. 

Paterna de la Rivera is the cradle of the cante por peteneras (flamenco song style) and every year it hosts the National Peteneras Song Competition. It is also the birthplace of two of flamenco´s greatest singres, El Perro de Paterna and, of course, Dolores la Petenera.

Horses are a traditional element of the district. There are famous stock farms and a century-old tradition is kept alive at the Paterna de la Rivera Doma Vaquera (Andalusian Dressage) Championship, with competitions at national and international level. This magnificent animal is also the star attraction at local pilgrimages and fairs.

The craftwork tradition in La Janda combines a veriety of raw materials with exquisite craftsmanship. Materials such as wicker, palm, leaves, esparto grass, cane and cat´s-tail , are used to produce rural objects. Other noteworhy items include ornamental products such as crochet or macramé produced with beautifully coloured plant fibres and leather strips. The area is also famous for its traditional country boots, wooden sculptures and some of the finest ceramics in the province. The craft of making fishing nets has produced decorative objects such as curtains or cloths.

The Bull Route

The municipalities of San José del Valle, Paterna de la Rivera, Medina Sidonia, Alcalá de los Gazules and Benalup Casas-Viejas in La Janda art part of  what has become know as the "Ruta del Toro" or Bulls Route, due to the large number of stock farms that breed fighting bulls in these municipalities.

The Bull Route invites visitors to discover more about this beautiful and noble animal in its natural habitat and the techniques that have been used to select and maintain fighting bulls, their breed and t her bravery since ancestral times. Visitors can lose their gaze in the green meadows as the admire  the herds of fighting bulls and enjoy the beautiful spectracle of these animals grazing in complete freedom.

Most of the route passes through the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, a beautiful area of thick cork oak and holm oak forests and numerous farms. Many farms have opened up to tourism, offering visits and the chance for visitors to see first-hand all the work that goes into looking after these animals , as well as the branding of bulls.

Many of these towns also maintain deeplyrooted traditions in which fighting bulls are the main attraction. These include the encierros (bull runs in the streets) which take place on very special dates. Fascinating bull runs include the "toros embolaos" (bull with balls on ther horns), celebrated in Vejer de la Frontera on Easter Sunday, the "Aleluya in Paterna de la Rivera" bull run on Easter Sunday too, and the "toros enmaromados" (masked bull run) in Alcalá de los Gazules to celebrate Saint George´s Day.

There are also prestigious farms in the district where fighting bulls are bred to fight in Spain´s finest bullrings. The main stock farms breeding fighting bulls are Torrealta, Torrestrella, Cebada Gago, Mari Carmen Camacho, Marques de Domecq, Martelilla, Jandilla, Marcos Núñez and Fuente Ymbro.

The flavour of the land

Local cuisine is characterised by two clearly differentiated gastronomic styles: inland cuisine and coastal gastronomy. However, both share common characteristics, namely the quality of their raw materials, the exquisite preparation and the culinary traditions inherited from the different cultures that have settled in the area.

The coast is famous for its exquisite fish and shellfish dishes. Sole, sea-bram , red mullet and red band bream are served cold, grilled or oven-baked. Succulent stews such as rice with large red prawns, rice with fish and shellfish , dogfish with tomatoes, stuffed squid or cuttlefish with potatoes, will make the mouths of the best gourmets water. 

Other famous delicacies include almadraba tuna, which is caught using a thousand-year-old fishing technique and cooked in lard, with onions or grilled, and salted tuna, dried salted tuna, cured reo or "ahijá" tuna in oil.

Famous vegetable gardens and orchards line the coast and their excellent produce is used to produce rich traditional stews such as cabbage stew, rice with Spanish oyster-plants, artichokes with peas or "patatas aliñás" (seasoned potatoes)

Visitors ara also spoilt for choice at the wide range of delicious meats, particularly the local pork and famous Retinto beef which are the main ingredients in various sumptuous dishes. Special mention must also be made of the local game meat dishes, which include deer, roe deer and boar stews, rabbit with rice and partridge stuffed with ham or pine nuts.

Pig slaughtering is an ingrained tradition in this area. The pork is used to make sumptuous sausages, blood sausages , black puddings , famous pork scratching or loin in lard.

What better way to relax than to stop off at one of the many establishments scattered around the district. There are all kinds of alternatives, from prestigious restaurants serving exquisitely- prepared dishes, to coastal establishments where guests can sample delicious products overlooking the sea, or more traditional , homemade cooking at one of the many typical local roadside restaurants.

General information

Web: www.comarcalajanda.org