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Discover the delights of Huelva

Lorna Cowan / 13 September 2018

Once you’ve visited the intriguing province on Spain’s southwest corner, you’ll be tempted to return again and again.

Aldea del Rocío in Huelva, Spain

You may not have considered a holiday in Huelva before, but once you’ve visited the intriguing province on Spain’s southwest corner, you’ll be tempted to return again and again. The lesser-known Costa de la Luz – the Coast of Light – has a 75-mile coastline with endless beautiful beaches, traditional fishing villages, a UNESCO National Park and a capital city with a rich nautical history.

What’s more, this unspoilt gem is easy to travel to from Seville and also Faro in neighbouring Portugal, which means more flight options from your regional UK airport.

A paradise for birdwatchers

Huelva is the perfect destination for twitchers keen to catch a few rare sightings. Doñana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe’s most important wetland reserves, is a major stop-off point for thousands of migratory birds, as well as the breeding home for an estimated 30,000 water birds. Heron, ibis and egret share the marshy space with flamingos, avocets and ducks – even the elusive marbled teal sometimes puts in an appearance. Hides and sightseeing platforms near Acebuche Lake is one of the best places to view birds in their natural surroundings. Don’t forget your binoculars.

Fans of waders and water birds should also check out Marismas del Odiel wetland reserve, home to 200 bird species, including the loon and black-necked grebe. It’s also home to Europe’s most important colony of spoonbills.

Travel inland and not only can you appreciate the Andalusian countryside, full of massive wheat fields, if you keep your eyes peeled you might be rewarded with a glimpse of a black-winged kite. More birds of prey can be found in Sierra Pelada, a remote and diverse woodland located at the foothills of the Sierra Morena. A Special Protection Area, it’s best known for its black vulture colony, one of the largest in Iberia.

For a taste of Costa de la Luz explore fascinating Huelva's habitats, history and beautiful beaches. Find out more here

A joy for city sightseers

While perhaps not as pretty as Seville or Barcelona, the city of Huelva has an impressive history. It’s been occupied by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Moors, it has strong links to an ancient mining tradition, and Huelva is famous for its Christopher Columbus connection. Indeed, you could say the city played a role in the discovery of America!

Make sure your itinerary includes a visit to the Cathedral of La Merced, a colonial-style church that was once part of a 17th-century convent. It has been reconstructed over the years – following several earthquakes during the 18th century and another in 1969 – but the pink cathedral is one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Huelva province. The Church of San Pedro, the city’s oldest church, is a designated Site of Cultural Interest, built in Gothic-Mudéjar style. For the best panoramic views of Huelva, go to El Conquero. The hill is also home to the beautiful sanctuary of Nuestra Senora de la Cinta.

On a walkabout, take in the art nouveau Clinica Sanz de Frutos, the Gran Teatro with its magnificent neo-classical façade, and the 20th-century English-style houses in the Reina Victoria district. The neo-Moorish Plaza de Toros is worth a look too.

The ‘Coast of Light’ will dazzle you with rich history, natural beauty, and fiery Andalusian culture. Find out more here

A treasure trove for Columbus fans

In 1492, Christopher Columbus (or Cristóbal Colón as he’s known in Spain) first set sail across uncharted waters from Huelva’s port of Palos de la Frontera. The nearby monastery of La Rábida was home for Columbus prior to his voyages, and without the help of two Franciscan friars who lived there, the Italian explorer’s adventures may never have happened.

Friar Juan Pérez and Friar Antonio de Marchena introduced Columbus to local rich sailors and also arranged a meeting with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who agreed to help him financially in return for dominion over any new lands. A 37-metre Cubist statue, Fe Descubridora, located at Punto Sebo was built in 1929 in commemoration of the friars.

Moguer, a town located further north on the banks of the Rio Tinto river, also has a Columbus connection. It was here, in the convent of Santa Clara, that he pledged his oath of allegiance to the Catholic monarchs. Columbus also prayed at the church on the night of 16 March 1493, when he returned from America.

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A tranquil idyll for walkers

With plenty of walking trails and hiking routes, to suit all abilities, Huelva is also a haven for those wishing to explore the area on foot. From shady forests to wild beaches, grassy scrubland to mountainous dunes, wherever you trek one thing becomes the norm – stunning unspoilt scenery.

As the coastal area is dominated by Doñana National Park, a walk there is inevitable. Stroll to Lake Jaral and through the forest dunes of Asperillo, enjoying the scent of fresh pine and juniper in the air. Or simply walk in the wild side of Doñana – you may spy a rare Spanish lynx on the prowl.

For those up for a challenge, and a few ascents and descents, head to the quaint village of Almonaster la Real. A hiking trail leads up some steep slopes to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, the second highest point in Huelva province. Views across the surrounding hills are breathtaking.

For a taste of Costa de la Luz explore fascinating Huelva's habitats, history and beautiful beaches. Find out more here

A snap-happy location for photographers

Photo opportunities abound in the charming whitewashed villages of Huelva, and over the border in Portugal too. The picturesque town of Cacela Velha, on the Algarve’s east coast, is under an hour’s drive away from the city of Huelva. Perched on a low cliff overlooking an estuary, it’s a peaceful place to soak up the vistas. Neighbouring Tavira, with its castle ruins, Gothic bell towers and red-tiled rooftops, is also fantastically photogenic.

More colourful compositions worth capturing on camera can be found at the Rio Tinto Mining Park, the home of Europe’s largest open cast mine. Often described as Mars on Earth, the spectacular lunar-like landscape is made up of vibrant shades of red, ochre, orange and brown.

And don’t miss a trip to El Rocío, a town that looks as if it’s straight out of a Wild West movie. Here you’ll find wooden rails to tie your horse to, sandy streets full of hoof prints and the impressive Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Rocío, a church which houses a carved wooden statue of the Virgin and Child. Although small, the statue has great importance and every year at Whitsun around a million people turn up to partake in the Romería del Rocío, an extraordinary pilgrimage. If you don’t want anyone photobombing your holiday snaps, visit at another time.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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