There is a place I come back to over and over again: the nature reserve that stretches between the small gaditano coastal towns of Barbate and Los Caños de Meca. There are a few hiking trails that lead through the pine forest to an old watch tower on top of the cliffs midway between the two towns. The tower is situated at about 100 metres above sea level so the views from here are simply stunning. I could stand there all day contemplating the turquouise-coloured sea and listen to the levante (the strong winds forming in the strait of Gibraltar). Add the refreshing smell of the pines blended with rosemary and lavender and this place is pure heaven.
Barbate is surrounded by beautiful scenery declared of natural interest and preserve, the La Breña y Marismas del Barbate natural park, the second largest coastal reserve in Andalucía (however, the smallest of the 22 Andalucian natural reserves as a whole). The marismas are located around the mouth of the river Barbate and consist of wetlands. The breña is located to the west and above the city, consisting of sand dunes, pine forests and rocky cliffs. The cliffs aresome of the tallest in Southern Europe. Heaps of umbrella shaped pine trees have been planted to prevent the sandy ground from eroding.
One trekking path departs from the Hierbabuena beach next to the busy fishing port of Barbate, and follows the coastline towards Los Caños. This is the one I usually take. If you arrive by car, there is plenty of parking here.
The entire walk is about 10 km long and it will take you about 2 hours before arriving at Los Caños. There are no steep climbs so the walk is suited for most people, expect only a gradual increase in height as you reach the old watch tower some 4.5 km into the walk. I’ve done it with my kids (they were 5 and 8 at the time), and they managed quite OK. Here you’ll find the 16th century watch tower La Torre del Tajo at approximately 100 metres above sea level. The tower was ordered built by the Spanish king Felipe II as a defense against Berber attacks departing mainly from Tétouan (Morocco) and Algiers (Algerie).
The pine trees are the natural habitat of the chameleon, an endangered species in southern Spain. Its existence here is in part the reason the area was declared a nature reserve. Due to the low density of these animals they are not easily spotted. I happened to come across one by accident climbing up a tree. I had my phone/camera in my rug sack, and by the time I had the phone out for a shot, the animal had almost disappeared, leaving me with a pretty blurred picture.
Barbate is a small coastal town in the province of Cádiz mostly known for its tuna-fishing, the Almadraba, a tradition that dates back to Phoenician times. The Phoenicians, as fishermen still do today, employed fishing nets in a maze to capture migrating tunas passing through the straits of Gibraltar between the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic ocean. There’s a lot of tuna on the menu in local restaurants, and one in particular, is considered a delicatessen of national interest, the Campero.