The Fishing Town Barbate
Many people say that one of the most attractive sides of Barbate is that you don't find many tourists there. Barbate has the rough charm of an authentic fishing town. Only in July and August is there is a strong influx from mainly Andalusian tourists.
The fishing harbour is impressively large and even today the fishing industry represents one of the main sources of income. The tuna, which is caught by the "Almadraba" method, is very in demand in Japan. In many restaurants you can find pictures of the Almadraba, which give you a good impression of this century-old fishing technique. However, industrial overfishing has almost made the red tuna extinct and the quotes allowed for the Almadraba have dropped dramatically.
Due to the fact that the fishing industry has been in trouble for many years, and now the building industry as well, unemployment is a major problem, especially among the young people. Smuggling of hashish and illegal immigrants has lead to the fact that Barbate’s reputation in the (inter)national media is worse than it’s friendly inhabitants actually deserve.
Barbate has missed out on participating in the tourism development during the last decades and now it seems that the government of Barbate wants to catch up with plans for large hotel complexes in Caños and Zahora. We can only hope that that the voices for gentle and sustainable growth of tourism have a chance to be heard against the financial power of the hoteliers and building promoters.
For those who want to get an impression of the "real" Barbate and its anarchic but nevertheless lovely inhabitants, we recommend to you the comedy "Atun y chocolate" ("Tuna and chocolate"), which was in cinemas in 2004.
The Area around Barbate
Zahara de los Atunes
This picturesque village has got it’s name because of the tuna fishing, for which it has been famous throughout the world since before Roman times. The wonderful, endless long beach with fine sand attracts a growing number of summer tourists every year. Zahara has become a popular meeting place for the Spanish VIPs of film-, music- and TV-business. On the other end of the large beach is Atlanterra, where until 2004 you could see an enourmous concret sceleton, a hotel project from the 80s. Now, mor e or less in the same place, this has been substituted by no less tremendous apartment blocks which are massivly crowded in summer but empty during the rest of the year, ghost town like.
Our recommendation: the next cave behind the urbanisation of Atlanterra, you simply follow the street up the hill through an amazing part of posh villas until you reach the Playa de los Alemanes (Beach of the Germans), where you can walk up to the light-house at the furthest point of the road and admire the views extending from Tarifa to Cape Trafalgar.
Los Caños de Meca
Formerly a paradise for hippies and travelers, nowadays a quiet holiday spot, this is Los Caños de Meca. The village spreads between the high cliffs below the natural park “La Breña” and Cape Trafalgar. During summertime you can find a good party atmosphere with a bohemian twist.
If you seek peace and tranquility also during the high season, Zahora is your place. The village is situated between the most secluded beaches of the region: “Cala Isabel” between the lighthouse of Trafalgar and the Sajorami restaurant and “Mangueta” between Zahora and El Palmar. The beach of Zahora is protected by a reef and during low tide it becomes an ideal pool for children, without any waves and very shallow so that the water heats up quickly. Zahora is a mix of villas and cottages with lush gardens, fields, pastures, orchards, pine and eucalyptus trees. There are several restaurants at the beach and along the highway and a supermarkt at the camp site for your daily shopping.
The Natural Park La Breña and the Marshes of Barbate
This natural park is situated between Los Caños de Meca and Barbate. It houses a surprisingly high variety of landscape: cliffs, white sand beaches and pine woods. You will be astonished to know that La Breña is an artificial park, which was created aprox. 150 years ago with the purpose to hold back the drifting dunes from the fields. The marsches (marismas) of Barbate have great importance for migrating birds and a unique flora and fauna adapted to the tidesand the mix of fresh and salt water.
In La Breña you can find a lot of non-marked ways for hiking which combine Vejer, San Ambrosio, Barbate, Caños and Zahora. One of the highlights is certainly a visit to the “Palomar de la Breña” , a hacienda of the 17th century, transformed into a rural hotel with restaurant and an enormous dove cote. See also day trips.