Stumbling on the villages along the Costa de la Luz, between Algeciras and Cádiz, is like entering a new land after the dreadfulness of the Costa del Sol. The journey west from Algeciras seems in itself a relief, the road climbing almost immediately into rolling green hills, offering fantastic views down to Gibraltar and across the Strait to the just-discernible white houses and tapering minarets of Moroccan villages. Beyond, the Rif mountains hover mysteriously in the background, and on a clear day, as you approach Tarifa, you can distinguish Tangier on the edge of its crescent-shaped bay. Beyond Tarifa lies a string of excellent golden-sand beaches washed by Atlantic breakers and backed by a clutch of low-key resorts such as Conil. Inland, the haunting Moorish hill town of Vejer de la Frontera beckons, while set back from the sea at Bolonia is the ancient Roman settlement of Baelo Claudia.

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