Tag Archives: Spain

eBook preview: What You Should Know About Teaching English in Spain

While I haven’t done much recently, teaching English in Spain is something I’ll go out on a limb for and say I know a fair bit about. Five years is – relatively speaking – quite a long English teaching career. Most teachers are young and recently graduated from Uni, but rarely stick at the job for longer than a couple of years.

In my case, I stuck with it more for the love of Spain than for the love of teaching, but that’s not to say I didn’t like the job. In fact, I’d often look forward to most classes, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some that made me want to scream or throw a chair out the window from time to time.

If you’re considering teaching English in Spain there are naturally a few things you should know to help get the ball rolling and prepare you for a world of fun, games and occasional dismay…

1) You’ll need a qualification to get the best paid jobs

While it’s possible to find work as an unqualified English teacher in Spain – such is the current demand – the best (and highest paying) schools tend only to take on teachers who have completed CELTA or TESOL courses, since these are undoubtedly the most complete TEFL courses available and have become a prerequisite in most cases. They are pricey, costing anywhere between £1,000 and £1,200 (depending on where you choose to do it), and either last 4 weeks (intensive) or 6 months (part-time).

For more information on getting qualified in Spain, check out my post on everything you need to know about teaching English in Granada.

2) Finding work is easy

With the ever-increasing demand for exam preparation courses among young Spaniards, English academies are popping up left, right and centre in Spain – some of them offering a high standard of teaching, others not so much – but finding work is very rarely a problem for newbie English teachers. The most effective way to secure a job teaching English in Spain is to home in on every academy when you get to Spain. However, it won’t do you any harm to begin by seeking academies out in the city (or cities) you’d like to live in online and sending a CV and cover letter by email. Once you arrive in Spain, visit each academy in person armed with yet more CVs and try your best to meet with the DOS (director of studies) who is usually responsible for hiring new teachers.

That being said, I found my first teaching job in Spain through tefl.com, a great service which I strongly recommend.

3) Nerves don’t last long

Once you’ve landed your first job, it’s time to start thinking about actually teaching. Teaching as in standing in front of a dozen people who are expecting to learn something worthwhile from you – you the expert – within the next 90 minutes. At first this is a daunting experience, one you’ll probably already have been through during your CELTA or TESOL course. But once you get to know your students and establish a rapport, the nerves and any apparent sense of overwhelming responsibility quickly vanish. You’ll soon come to realise that your students are keen to help you help them, especially adults and higher-level teens. Kids take a bit more getting used to and hell of a lot more patience. However…

4) Spanish kids are (generally) adorable and bring out the kid in you!

I’ll never forget the first 5 minutes of my first class teaching 8 year-olds. I stood nervously at the front of the room with a lesson plan that in theory would work, but in reality meant nothing. It was terrifying. They whispered, giggled and then one kid made a fart noise with his hand armpit which finally broke the ice.

Since that moment I have (mostly) enjoyed every minute of teaching kids English. They are, for the most part, totally adorable and keen to learn – not at all like the little shits you can recall from your own school days. There is the occasional bad egg that scuppers your lesson plan or corrupts the others, but you learn how to control these guys pretty quickly. The best way to prevent making an enemy of an 8 year-old, I find, is to behave like a kid yourself (while still maintaining a hidden degree of teacher awareness and responsibility). If you make them laugh, they like you. If they like you, they listen to you. Simple!

5) The better you become at teaching English, the better you become at learning Spanish.

You don’t necessarily have to have a decent grasp of your own language’s grammar rules but it does help rather a lot. As a newbie English teacher, you’ll often find that you have to research and properly learn English grammar rules yourself before you attempt to teach them. But the more you do this, the better you can relate to learning Spanish grammar. Being able to compare and contrast with English helps Spanish stick; not just grammar, but certain vocabulary and pronunciation patterns too. You students will also benefit in the same way. There is a mutual interest which creates a more positive and effective learning environment.

Check out my post on learning Spanish s best you can before moving to Spain for more tips!

6) B1 and B2: Bane of your life

In the last few years, exam prep classes have become the real money-spinners in just about any English academy in Spain. The pressure young Spanish students find themselves under is so immense that sitting official, Cambridge CEF (Common European Framework) English exams has become a necessary step in order to graduate from University (although not in all cases) or find a job.

As a result, most academies have had to cater to the demand, so don’t be surprised if you are given either a B1 (pre-intermediate level English) or B2 (intermediate level Engish) exam prep class at the beginning of the year. These classes are usually a drag, since there is only one goal: pass the exam. It’s less about fun and games and more about completing as much of the textbook as possible before the exam date. However, if and when your students pass the exam, you get a real sense of pride and achievement unlike in regular classes, and that makes it all worth the effort. Kind of.

7) Private Classes are Worth Doing on The Side

The average monthly wage for teaching English in Spain is around €1,000/month. This may seem low – it is – but it’s enough to get by on, go/eat out a couple of nights a week and have yourself the occasional holiday. If you want to actually save money though, you’ll need another regular income. The easiest way to secure this is by teaching English privately on the side.

Sites like tusclasesparticulares.com are great resources for bringing teachers and students together. What you charge per hour depends on what the student expects from you. Conversation classes don’t require much preparation whereas exam preparation  classes do. As a general rule, don’t work for less than €15/hour. Certified teachers are worth more than or at the very least equal to that amount, and to work for less would be undercutting other teachers – bad for the industry!

I hope you found these tips useful. They are just several taken from my forthcoming eBook, ’50 Things You Should Know About Teaching English in Spain’, which I hope to publish this summer!

24 Hours in Salamanca

Weekend breaks in Spain usually take place in cities like Barcelona, Malaga or Granada. Safe bets; places where you know you’ll have a great time. But Spain, in truth, is a country so richly steeped in history and culture that there are many other beautiful cities which often get overlooked by anyone looking for that ideal short break in Spain.

One such example is Salamanca, a University-important, UNESCO Heritage-declared city about 120 miles west of Madrid. It is also the place where guest writer Sarah Samuel spent her first year in Spain teaching English. In this post, she shares with us how she spent first 24 hours in Salamanca…

“First impressions are everything and they are almost always wrong”, my mother once told me at eleven years old, when Mark Pritchard laughed at me for being fat.

It was September, and I had taken a flight from Bristol airport to Madrid, a two-hour journey on the Avanza bus straight from the terminal gates, and had arrived in Salamanca in the early hours of the morning.

“It’s small”. My travelling companion, a fellow English teacher, warned me when I first arrived. “It’s small and there are lots of students”. It was early in the morning and in less than one hour we had managed to circle the entire city centre on foot and settle in the coffee shop under my apartment block. We were tired but determined to change my first impressions of this old, Spanish city that had been set by a rundown bus station on the outskirts.

“I don’t want to walk too far. I’m hot and lazy and I don’t want to sweat through my nice new shirt”, I told my friend while we were mapping our city tour.

“I want to eat too”, I said, counting the euros that I had found under my desk. “For free”.

“You can eat the entire city in an hour”, she told me.

What to do in Salamanca: Morning

salamanca cathedral, catedral, puuerta, door
Salamanca Cathedral (Source: FlickrCC paullew)

We crossed the Plaza Mayor, a picturesque square decorated with the faces of famous historical figures. It was such a warm and welcoming site that it was impossible to imagine that the square was once used for something so violent as bullfighting. However, even in such a seemingly peaceful place, controversy can still be found in the form of Franco’s stone likeness, which hangs above one of the archways and is a magnet for vandalism.

We started at the old University, on the small Plaza Patio de Escuelas Menores, at La Puerta de Salamanca, a fantastic stone façade around five hundred years old. It’s a small area where tourists go to stand and squint, and if you squint hard enough, you may be able to find the frog. If you find the frog amidst the intricate carvings, you will supposedly have good luck. We stood there for over twenty minutes until I heard a Spanish tour guide leak its secret location. I translated for a group of American tourists. “Of course, it took me a mere five minutes to locate”, I lied.

We turned the corner onto the Plaza Anaya, and were instantly met with La Catedral Vieja, a beautiful and imposing structure in the centre of the city. It was surrounded by small squares of grass and a trim of flowers at the base of a large, spiked fence. The walls were etched with similar carvings to the University, and feature a later addition of an astronaut and a lion, eating an ice cream, which was created during a restoration project in the early nineties.

spaceman, salamanca cathedral
Spaceman on the door of La Cateral Vieja (Source: FlickrCC zoidberg72)

“Maybe the bishop watched a lot of MTV”, my friend remarked on the stone steps, dangling a frog on a keychain that she had bought from a vender in the doorway.

Inside, we walked around the grounds, saw old coffins, paintings and small golden statues, and there was an eerie silence broken only by a battery powered tour guide that hung around our necks.

Despite a desperate fear of heights, we climbed the ancient steps to the top of the tower and were rewarded with a breath-taking view of Salamanca’s wet ceramic rooftops and bustling cobbled streets.

salamanca view, salamanca vista
La Vista de Salamanca (Source: FlickrCC mariusz kluzniak)

The Old Cathedral is open from 10-7.30 April – September, and 10 -5.30, October – March. Ticket prices are €4,75 and include access to the tower.

Things to do in Salamanca: Afternoon

casa lis, salamanca, stained glass
Casa Lis, Salamanca (Source: FlickrCC darioalvarez)

There is no shortage of tapas options in Salamanca and the majority of bars and cafés offer two tapas and a coffee for around 2€. We stopped several times to eat and drink beers in the sun, and were always just a few feet from our next destination.

We headed to Casa de Lis, a stained glass house built on the old city wall, which at the time was an architectural breakthrough. Even now, there is nothing quite as modern as this house, which could just as easily be overlooked and overshadowed by the great sand coloured buildings that surround it. Inside, the house serves as a monument to 1920’s and the shelves are filled with shiny trinkets and tiny silver cats playing billiards. It is a must for anyone who wants to glimpse this fashionable past for a small entrance fee.

Casa de Lis is located on Calle Gibraltar. Tickets are €4 adults, half price concessionary tickets are available to students, groups and children. Opening times: Mon – Fri, 11-2, 4-8pm. Weekends, 11-8pm. Alternative hours during the Christmas period.

What to do in Salamanca: At Night

Plaza Mayor,at Night, Salamanca (Source: FlickrCC martius
Plaza Mayor,at Night, Salamanca (Source: FlickrCC martius)

After spending too long in the fantastic vegetarian-friendly Café Atelier on Calle Serranos, we set out to explore Salamanca at night.

Turning a corner towards La Catedral Nueva, we found ourselves wandering down a narrow side street, Calle Arcediano, where we stumbled upon a perfect viewpoint and a well-hidden, medieval garden, Huerto de Calixto y Melibea . From the top of the old city wall we watched the sun set from behind the cathedral. The sky glowed orange and the street lights illuminated the beautiful rose bushes, as I felt my first impressions begin to fade into memory. We made our way through the garden, past a well covered in padlocks, and a small fountain where couples were holding hands.

huerto calixto y melibea, salamanca
Huerto Calixto y Melibea (Source: FlickrCC pfctdayelise)

Huerto de Calixto y Melibea is free to enter, and is open from 10am until sunset every day.

Salamanca stays alive throughout the night, with many bars staying open until the early hours. Despite how exhausted we were, we were powerless to resist the city’s electric allure, and bar-hop to our hearts’ content.

If you’re considering a holiday to Spain, then check out these guides, but rest assured that, although small and obscure when compared with the likes of Granada and Barcelona, Salamanca is the perfect weekend city. Its beauty is immediate. Its attractions are plentiful. Salamanca offers something for everyone, and 24 hours is almost irrelevant in a city whose  relaxed pace eliminates all concern for time.

Getting There

Easyjet provide flights to Madrid from the majority of major British airports. Returns from Bristol airport start at close to £50. A return journey to Salamanca, can be booked from just €17 from the Avanza bus company website. The bus station is located fifteen minutes from the city centre and everything else is within walking distance.

Salamanca doesn’t have a metro system because it doesn’t need one. There are local bus services that run across the city from €1,50, within 10-15 minutes of each other. Alternatively a bus pass can be obtained for €5 from the bus station, and taxi services are also very reasonably priced.

sarah samuelby Sarah Sameuel. Sarah is a twenty-five year old English language teacher from sunny South Wales. I studied all things Spanish and have been lucky enough to live in both Madrid and Salamanca. Now I’d like to share the ups and downs of life abroad!

Walking with Imaginary Dinosaurs in El Caminito del Rey, El Chorro.

As we neared the end of our bendy ascent through the tiny town of El Chorro into the Guadalhorce Valley, I actually saw a chicken cross the road. Sensing the danger of the oncoming vehicle, its pace quickened from a composed srut to a panicked dash in a bid  to avoid certain death. The punchline was still unclear, but the chicken had made it safely to the other side, and we could breathe a sigh of relief.

Before the grand re-opening of El Chorro’s El Caminito del Rey earlier this year, such an event could quite plausibly have been the most exciting thing to have ever happened in the town, which is home to roughly 250 inhabitants.

Since its revival, El Caminito del Rey has probably been written about by every blogger and independent news publcation in all of Andalucía.

It’s kind of a big deal, though to describe it as ‘big’ would be quite the understatement; when I finally visited a few weeks ago, I was genuinely astounded. From the moment we ducked into the 80m-long tunnel at the start of a scenic pre-amble, to the imposing drawbridge at the route’s climax, a list of superlative adjectives almost as bottomless as the 105m chasm itself could quite easily have escaped my lips.

It really is awesome – as in, you will actually be in awe when you see it. And by ‘it’, I mean all 7.7km of paths, boardwalks and forest walkways; the whole thing is stupefying from start to finish. See, there I go again.

Even before we get past ticket inspection we are dumbfounded (and again) by the strange, Jurassic-like rock formations across the river Guadalhorce. Once the helmets and hair nets are on (which, by the way, I absolutely rock), we are left to stroll through at our own pace.

caminito del rey, el chorro, jurassic rock
It even looks like a dinosaur.

Inevitably there is an instant blockade of camera-wielding tourists (myself included) within the first 30 yards, but you can hardly blame them (us) – the scenery is already magnificent and on the other side of the gorge, a tiny, signposted section – more like a ledge actually – of the old Caminito is just about still intact.

caminito del rey, el chorro, broken path
The previous starting point of El Caminito del Rey

caminito del rey, el chorro, long way down, steps
Feeling Dizzy?

Beneath the refurbished, entirely secure boardwalk, the old caminito – a hole-ridden, stone walkway held together by rusting steel beams – is still in place. It’s a wonder how anyone ever had the courage to walk along it, and even more amazing that people would still consider doing it in the 21st century, since until last year when the route closed for refurbishment, this is exactly what harebrained adrenaline-junkies, like Matthew from expertvagabond.com, were able to do (seriously worth reading; great post complete with hair-raising video!)

I revel in adventure and adrenaline-pumping sports but frankly, I wouldn’t have attempted the hike in its old state even if there were a life-time supply of yolk-glazed palmeras waiting for me at the other end. And believe me when I tell you I am THE number one fan of yolk-glazed palmeras (as in typical Spanish pastries; not an egg-related sexual fetish).

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Part of the Old Caminito. Would you dare?

caminito del rey, el chorro, old path, bridge

Beyond the first gorge, the unspoiled, prehistoric-like beauty of the scenery that unfurls below is such that we half expect a pterodactyl to come swooping down and spear a helpless Jurassic fish, or a herd of velociraptors to emerge on the horizon as a ruffle of leaves in a nearby tree reveals the head of a curious Diplodocus.

Well, perhaps only I imagine that, but there is definitely a sense of death in the air, quite literally, as the vultures circle above us patiently. Later we pass a plaque commemorating the only three people to have ever died hiking the caminito (since records began), but there is no mention of whether or not this had anything to do with hungry vultures or indeed a fortuitous velociraptor.

caminito del rey, el chorro, jurassic
Can you spot the t-rex?

caminito del rey, el chorro, vultures, spain


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The highlights of the trail are the glass balcony and the drawbridge, which definitely gives you that ‘Indiana Jones rope-bridge’ sort of feeling, although this one, thankfully, does not snap as easily as the one in Temple of Doom, and there are no man-eating crocodiles idly waiting with their jaws open in the river 105m below. Still, it’s pretty damn scary. I nervously manage a selfie but don’t have the balls to attatch my phone to my, ahem, coughselfie stickcough, to get that ‘holy-jesus-look-where-the-fuck-I-am’ type shot. Never mind. Life goes on. Without selfies.

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The Drawbridge at El Caminito del Rey

caminito del rey, el chorro, bridge, drawbridge

On the bridge, it’s hard to imagine a better view in Spain, or anywhere for that matter. The water is so still and turquoise it looks fake. In fact, the scenery in general is so deep in colour it looks digitally enhanced. #nofilternecessary.

caminito del rey, el chorro, view from the bridge
View from the Bridge

The rest of the trail, heading in the Álora direction, follows the river until eventually we arrive at the enormous hydroelectric power station, which, although not as unsightly as you might think, kind of spells an end to the whimsical reverie that’s been going on in my head for the last two hours.

There’s just enough time for a round or two of tapas at the local bar before we are whisked back by bus to the car park at the Ardales end of the trail. By this time the fantasy is most definitely dead, but my appetite for Andalucían adventure is truly alive!

caminito del rey, el chorro, lake
More Jurassic Park-type Scenes
caminito del rey, el chorro, lake, hydroelectric power station
The Hydroelectric Dam Station in El Chorro.

Need to Know

Unbelievably, the Caminito del Rey is free to visit, but it won’t be for much longer. Originally it was going to remain free for the first six months following the re-opening but this was extended to March of next year, from which point the fee to enter will be 6 euros.

However, you must reserve your tickets online well in advance of your visit. Usually, visitors have to wait between four and six weeks for an available date, so it’s important to think very far ahead! You can reserve tickets on the El Caminito del Rey website.

Make sure you take plenty of snacks and water, appropriate hiking shoes, sunglasses, clothes suited to the weather (so check the weather forecast daily during the week before you go!), a camera and pterodactyl repellent.

caminito del rey, el chorro, gorge


The original Caminito del Rey was built to allow workers from nearby communities ‘easy’ access to the large hydroelectric dam when it was being constructed at the beginning of the 20th century. The pathway started where the train station is now located and flanked the gorge all the way to the dam. In 1921, King Alfonso XIII visited El Chorro to inaugurate the dam but to get there he had to walk along the path first. Thus, the precarious pathway became known as El Caminito del Rey – ‘The King’s Little Pathway’.

Between then and some time last year, anybody was able to use the path, at their own peril!

Getting There

By Car

If coming from Málaga, you’ll need to take the A-357 motorway and come off at Ardales (MA-5403). Keep following this  until you reach El Chorro and from here the attraction is well signposted.

If coming from or via Antequera, there are two ways you can come. The first is by the A-384 motorway which leads directly to El Chorro, taking just under an hour. The second is by the A-343 and then the MA-226 to El Chorro, which, although takes just 45 minutes, is not a particularly well-maintained road, so there may be a few bumps along the way.

By Train

There is a train service from Seville to El Chorro that takes roughly two hours and costs 32 euros for a return ticket.

There is a train service from Málaga to El Chorro that takes roughly 45 minutes and costs 10 euros for a return ticket.

See the ‘Plan Your Visit‘ page of the Caminito del Rey website for train timetable information and more info on getting to El Caminito del Rey.

caminito del rey, el chorro, lake, spain
Guadalhorce Lake

Interested in any more hiking or extreme activities in Spain? Head over to my 5 Adrenaline-Pumping Activities post for more ideas…

How to blend in on the beach in Spain

Do you enjoy your beach holidays in Spain but feel like you’re doing too many touristy things and missing out on genuine Spanish culture? With this simple list of items to take to the Spanish coasts you will blend in on the beach in Spain seamlessly, and look like a local expert who’s been coming for years!

DISCLAIMER: I’m from the south-west of Spain and therefore I’ve spent most of my holidays on Costa de la Luz. As the content of this post is based on my personal experience here, it’s possible that some facts do not apply on some other Spanish coasts!

Item #1: A Branded Parasol

Source: FlickrCC Rusty Clark)
Branded beach umbrellas keep you extra dry. Apparently. (Source: FlickrCC Rusty Clark)

The first step is of course getting some shelter from the sun with a large parasol, but it shouldn’t just be any parasol; it has to advertise a drink – preferably a brand of beer. Depending on the coast (and consequently region) you are in, some brands will be more suitable than others. Cruzcampo is a safe bet in Andalusia (unless you’re in Granada territory where the local’s favourite is quite rightly Alhambra Especial), but any brand of the CocaCola Company also works!

Item #2: An Ocean Blue Cool-box

spanish cool box, nevera azul, what to take to the beach in spain
Classic Spanish Cool-box. Remember: it has to be blue.

This is paramount because it implies you’re taking your own food to the beach and not planning to get your meals and drinks at the chiringuito (beach bar for tourists with expensive prices). The colour is very important –it has to be ocean blue, like the one pictured.

Item #3: Plastic Containers With Homemade Meals

spanish beach snack, what to take to the beach in spain
Get your Tupperware out. You’re gonna need it. (Source)

This one is very closely related to item #2. Even if you have made yourself some nice sandwiches, you’ll need some back-up  supplies in case anyone joins you. Pasta salads, croquetas, crisps, some fruit etc…

WARNING: You must not go swimming straight after eating because, according to Spanish parents, doing so may cause severe hypothermia (don’t make me say I told you so). In the meantime you can either sunbathe or entertain yourselves with item #4.

Item #4: Spanish Playing Cards

spanish cards, cartas, baraja española
Spanish Playing Cards are so weird. Credit: Mauricio Porte Santos Alonso (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
With few exceptions, Spaniards are not big fans of a normal card deck. Why would we need them when we have our own wonderful version? Even though there are many to choose from, we always end up playing the same old 3 or 4 games: cuatrola, burro, culo and cinquillo. If while taking a walk on the beach you ask every group of Spaniards playing cards which game they’re playing, chances are it’ll be one of those.

 Item #5: Pipas (sunflower seeds)

spanish beach snack, what to take to the beach in spain
Pipas are the mother of all Spanish beach snacks (Source)

Pipas are our official snack. Beach, park, botellón… it doesn’t matter where; they’ll be our salty companion. There’s a special technique to eating them properly but, as they’re so addictive, mastering that technique shouldn’t be a difficult task!

Now you know all the secrets to going incognito on the wonderful Spanish coasts, but there is one last thing: always remember to take strong sun cream with you or your sunburn will give you away and ruin the whole mission!

Travelling and Camping on Costa de la Luz

Spain’s ‘Coast of The Light’ – la costa de la luz – is teeming with pristine, white, sandy beaches, which both Spaniards and tourists flock to in the summer months. In truth, there is perhaps no better place to be if slow-paced travelling, relentless sunbathing and sleeping under the stars is your idea of a holiday.

Thanks to development restrictions, many of la luz’s beach pueblos have avoided the multitude of hotels and high-rises that other parts of the south coast have been tarnished with. There are a number of hotels and hostels to choose from if you’d rather have a proper bed for the night but availability is often a problem, so the best option for accommodation on the costa de la luz is camping in one of its many clean and friendly campsites.

I recently spent 10 days bussing and hoofing my way along this beautiful Spanish coastline with all my camping gear on my back and a shoestring budget to live off.

It was brilliant, and, despite having only the bare essentials to help me rest, probably the most relaxing holiday of my life!

Where is the Costa de la Luz?

The coastline stretches from Huelva, in the far west of the region, to Tarifa, the surfer’s paradise of Spain and southernmost tip of the continent.

Where can you go camping on Costa de la Luz?

Although Huelva, Cádiz and several towns in between like Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María have plenty of wonderful beaches to offer weary travellers, these areas tend to be much busier and more built-up. The most idyllic spots are between Cádiz and Tarifa, where it is quieter and less populated.

Conil de la Frontera

Conil is a small, bustling beach town to the south of Cádiz, and not far from inland Vejer de la Frontera. I had to bypass it on this trip as time was short. However I’ve been before and the place is always buzzing in the evening, with a good stock of tasty tapas and cocktail bars to take advantage of.

It’s beaches are beautiful and very well-maintained, and there are various campsites to choose from, including Camping Rosaleda, Camping Eucaliptos and Camping Fuente del Gallo. All three are within walking distance of a beach and have swimming pools, bars and restaurants.

El Palmar

costa de la luz, spanish south coast, south coast of spain, el palmar beach
El Palmar Beach. Best I’ve visited in Spain.

El Palmar is a tiny settlement with a handful of bars, restaurants and hostels, though these are nearly always fully booked. The beach is easily one of the best beaches in Andalucía. The sand is smooth, there are no rocks, not too many people and and you can walk out to sea for about 80m before the water passes above knee-height. It really doesn’t get much better.

costa de la luz, spanish south coast, south coast of spain, el palmar beach, playa
El Palmar Beach

El Palmar has one campsite – Camping El Palmar – which is very well-equipped (bar, restaurant, supermarket, large swimming pool, excellent bathrooms) and found about 900m away from the beach, down a long, dusty road. Signs for the campsite are easy to spot along the main thoroughfare.

If you’re in the party mood, there are several beachside cocktail bars/open air clubs that stay open until late, Buena Vida being the pick of the bunch for its comfy sofas, minty mojitos and impressive music selection.

Los Caños de Meca

Rather than hitching or waiting for the absurdly late-leaving local bus (18.00), you can just walk from El Palmar to Los Caños de Meca. This is what I did, stopping in Zahora for lunch at El Chiringuito de Juan on the way.

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Zahora Beach
costa de la luz, spanish south coast, south coast of spain, zahora
Chiringuito de Juan, Zahora

The beach stretches from El Palmar all the way to El Faro de Trafalgar, the lighthouse where the famous battle was fought between France-Spain and Britain on October 21st, 1805. Bizarrely locals still celebrate the passing of this date even though Spain lost; any excuse for a fiesta en España…

Walking with the wet sand between my toes along a deserted, golden beach for 3km was the highlight of the trip, despite the blazing sun and 10k of camping equipment I was carrying!

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Taken at Trafalgar Lighthouse
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The road from El Palmar to Los Caños…

From the lighthouse it’s just another half hour on foot to the far right of Los Caños. Conveniently, Los Caños’ best campsite – Camping Camaleón – is found at this end of the village too.

There is lots of room at Camaleón, and unlike most other campsites, you may pitch your tent wherever you like. The facilities are very good, with a bar and restaurant that serves barbecued steaks and clay oven baked pizzas, modernised bathrooms and a mini supermarket. They even put on live bands at the weekends for guests to enjoy as they dine.

camping camaleon, los caños de meca, camping spain
Camping Camaleón, Los Caños de Meca

However, it’s the welcoming and hard-working staff that make Camaleón stand out from the pack. I was lucky enough to meet and get to know several of them during my stay. Everyone was very chatty, helpful and particularly understanding when I realised I was unable to withdraw any money (there are no ATMs in Los Caños!) Thankfully I was able to pay for everything by card at the end of each day. Cheers guys!

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Los Caños de Meca Beach
costa de la luz, spanish south coast, south coast of spain, los caños de meca, sunset, puesta del sol
Playa de Los Caños de Meca y La Jaima detrás

Los Caños de Meca is a fairly small beach but large enough to fit a couple of chiringuitos and a large bar/club going by the name of La Jaima, which makes up the second part of the Camaleón empire. Here you can relax on the Moroccan-style sofas on the third floor with a cocktail in your hand as you watch the sun set over the Atlantic. It’s the perfect end to a day of laborious sunbathing.


The next town along the Costa de la Luz is Barbate. More people dwell here, and if coming from Los Caños de Meca it can feel a bit like re-entering civilisation. For instance there are ATMs in Barbate, for which I was most grateful when I visited. Unfortunately I hadn’t the time to stay long, but there are no nearby campsites anyway, so I’d have had nowhere to sleep. However there are plenty of lovely beaches so if you have a car then it would be worthwhile visiting for the afternoon.

Zahara de los Atunes

Next is Zahara de los Atunes, another gorgeous drag of white sand complete with fabulous fish restaurants (tuna being the speciality of course) and stylish chiringuitos – lazy by day, loud by night.

There is a campsite right in the centre of town, Camping Bahía de la Plata, which is less than a five minute walk from the beach. Again, I skipped this one as there was no time but I’d definitely go and check it out. It is within walking distance of Barbate.


kitesurfing in tarifa, kite surf tarifa
Kite Surfing in Tarifa

Tarifa is the last stop on the Costa de la Luz and the southernmost tip of the entire European continent. The jagged mountains of Morocco loom in the distance – merely the tip of another giant slab of earth!

The meeting of the poniente and levante winds make for perfect surfing conditions. Thousands of surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers flock here as though the last day on earth is upon us, often to stay for the whole summer. It’s no surprise then that the number of surf apparel stores and kite schools in the centre is staggering. Some schools don’t even have shops or shacks; just a meeting point on the beach!

I arranged a 2-day introductory kitesurfing course with Addict Kite School, run by the multilingual and incredibly enthusiastic Romain and his girlfriend Marine. The first day went well enough; we learnt how to fly the kite and got to know some basic rules. However, due to there being absolutely no wind on the second day the course had to be cancelled (this was most upsetting), but hopefully I’ll be back to finish what I started later this this summer!

addict kite school, tarifa kite schools, kitesurfing tarifa
Flying kites with Addict Kite School

There are several campsites dotted along the section of highway between Tarifa town centre and the curve in the land about 12km to the left. The closest to Tarifa – and where I stayed – is Camping Rio Jara, which backs on to Playa de Los Lances where many kitesurfing lessons take place daily, including Addict Kite School’s. The facilities here were adequate, with clean bathrooms, showers, supermarket, a small bar and breakfast area.

Getting There & Around

The E-5 / N-340 highway links Cádiz and Vejer de la Frontera. From here you must join the tiny and often quite bumpy A-roads which lead to the coast. Both El Palmar and Los Caños are reachable by bus from Cádiz and Conil three times a day, although buses from Cádiz to Vejer de la Frontera depart more regularly and sometimes it’s necessary to go here first and wait for a connecting bus.

It would take weeks to walk the entire costa de la luz, so if without your own vehicle you will at some point have to take a bus or – like I did – hitch a ride to your next destination. Having said that, I’d recommend you walk along the coast whenever possible, since the views are too good to pass up and the distance between each settlement isn’t usually too far.

hitchhiking from tarifa to malaga, hitchhike in tarifa, autostop tarifa
Hitchhiking to Málaga. Made it after 4 hours!

Comes runs a bus from Cádiz to Málaga, which stops in Tarifa and Algeciras, but you probably wouldn’t want to hang around in Algeciras for long. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say that even la Costa de la Luz has its dark side.

Have you ever camped under the stars and enjoyed the fine beaches on the Costa de la Luz? Where did you stay? Where else did you visit?

Granada’s Music Scene

Musicians from all over the world are drawn to Granada because of its unique and bubbling music scene. Spanish, African, Northern European, Asian, American, Latin American – all these backgrounds combine to create an eclectic musical culture in Granada.

Why this city and not the next? Well, the general message of this blog should answer that, but Granada’s status as a musical kingpin in Spain can more or less be attributed to two reasons.

Firstly, there is generally a simple and positive approach to life here that complements the uncluttered and laid-back environment a musician needs to be creative. People want to be happy and make other people happy; making music and performing it for all to hear is the perfect way of doing this.

Secondly, Granada has a long history of musical accomplishment, and has attracted huge talents over the years. The most notable of these would be the late and now legendary Joe Strummer, of The Clash. During the 70s Strummer would often just turn up in Granada, usually alone, and write music. There was a growing punk scene in Granada at the time and Strummer soon became something of a local hero. The hit ‘Spanish Bombs’, which referred to Granada as his corazon, basically immortalised him, and three years ago a square in el Realejo bario was re-named after him, to honour his influence on Granadino culture.

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Placeta ‘Joe Strummer’, Granada

Out on the streets; up in the hills; in musty, timeworn Flamenco bars; even in the darkest and dingiest of grunge bars – musical creativity thrives everywhere here, and is an asset to the city that ought to be celebrated.

Out on the Street

Granada’s city centre is awash with buskers and street performers, from acoustic guitarists and full-on brass bands to Flamenco dancers and spaced-out nomads lightly tapping on an instrument that resembles the lid of a large wok.

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Musicians in Plaza Nueva (Source: FlickrCC Eleazar)

Anyone who wants to perform any kind of act publicly must get proper permission down at the Ayuntamiento building first (free, and just a stamped piece of paper, apparently), or else they risk facing a hefty fine if approached by police. Even if you play the guitar like Hendrix there’s no excuse for not having the proper permission unfortunately.

Carrera del Darro, the long, cobbled street that runs parallel to the river beyond Plaza Nueva, is the most popular (and scenic) place to go and busk to your heart’s content. Many musicians set up by the Cathedral too, where crowds of tourists are likely to build up.

Public Parties

As spring turns from wet to warm, the outdoor party season is set in motion. Word-of-mouth raves often take place up in the hills beyond San Miguel Alto, attracting a few hundred revellers throughout the day. The sound system that is dragged all the way up there is solar-powered and thus energy efficient (true Granadino hippy style). The police don’t get involved, since the location is out of the way and the music inaudible to the nearest residents in the higher part of the Albaícin.

hippie hippy granada andalucia san miguel alto tropical perdiz
Perdiz Tropical, San Miguel Alto

At the start of spring, Dragon Festival is held close to the nearby town of Santa Fe, but this is much bigger and lasts for a week. Although the land is privately owned there have been a few run-ins with the police recently (and more than a few when it was in its original home of Órgiva).

dragon festival granada, spain
24 hour rave at Dragon, Santa Fe

Gigs and Concerts

Although there aren’t too many big-name bands and musicians that come to showcase their talents in Granada (Bob Dylan, playing at Palacio de los Deportes in July is a notable exception), the city does have a good stock of its own, homegrown talents and venues that frequently host lesser-known, but highly talented Spanish bands and artists.

Plantabaja, one of my favourite clubs in town, has gigs going on every weekend. A regular act is Nirvana tribute band The Buzz Lovers, who have nailed it so perfectly that it’s basically impossible to tell the difference. Other great venues are Booga Club, where the regular Jam Sessions on Thursdays and Sundays (live reggae, dancehall and funk) never fail to please, and Sala El Tren, where bigger reggae, hip-hop and indie bands from Spain and international DJs come and rock the place through its impressive sound system.

booga club granada spain
Live Music at BoogaClub, Granada


There are various venues in and around the city that host traditional Flamenco nights. Some are very well-known and get a lot of mentions in popular guidebooks like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides; others receive less attention but invariably offer the same high standards.

Personally, I am not a Flamenco aficionado but occasionally like to be reminded of its deep-seated role in cultura Granadina. The best and most authentic Flamenco bars can be found in the old and white-washed Sacromonte barrio. Here, generations of gitanos (gypsies) have kept up the tradition in its original and purest form. There are no gimmicks, no tourist traps, no obnoxious halfwits to spoil the show. There is a fee to pay on the door, but that goes directly back into the community, which pulls together to make such shows possible.

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A Splash of Colour in Granada’s Sacromonte bario


We’ve already heard about the springtime Dragon Festival, but that arguably falls into the ‘free rave’ category of live events. Considering there is no commerical aspect or sponsorship involved (which is a good thing), there is definitely an anarchic element in there which some people may not enjoy.

Alternatively, there is Granada Sound festival, formerly known as ‘Alhambra Sound’, which is held every September in Granada city centre. This is a small festival by comparison to other similar events but nonetheless features relatively big acts on the roster. This year’s event will see The KooksSupersubmarina and Dorian headline the main stage (there is only one other).


Music doesn’t have to be played in the street, in a bar, or at a festival for it to be considered representative of a place. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that. Music played from peoples’ homes – audible from the street or sometimes your bedroom as you’re waking up in the morning – is arguably the most definitive example of musical culture. At least here it is anyway.

In Granada, alternative rock, reggae, jungle and Latin alternative (think Manu Chao) get the most airtime, but anything goes really, so long as it’s got soul…