Travel, culture, food & photography - with Ben Holbrook
Things to Do, See & Eat in Chipiona, Spain ~ The Andalusian Beach Paradise You’ve Never Heard Of
Published August 23, 2018 By
Last updated on April 2, 2020
Chipiona is one of few gems that the Spanish have managed to keep secret for themselves – a ridiculously pretty coastal town tucked away in the sun-drenched province of Cádiz, southern Spain.
Chipiona is famous among the Spanish for its idyllic beaches, but this versatile destination offers plenty more for culturally curious travellers and the gastronomically inclined.
From its wealth of history, which dates back to Roman times, and vibrant food & wine scene to its diverse natural beauty and inviting locals, Chipiona really does have it all.
A Brief Introduction
If you’ve ever wondered where the Spanish go for their holidays…
Andalusia is arguably one of Spain’s best-known regions. It is after all home to iconic destinations like Sevilla, Málaga, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Ronda, Jerez and, but of course, Marbella.
So when I was invited on a blog-trip to the little seaside town of Chipiona, which I had never heard of, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. It seemed silly to go all the way to Andalusia and not visit the “famous” and “must-see” places that I’d dreamed of for so long.
But I really can’t express how happy I am that I said yes, for I discovered what I can honestly say is one of the most charming, beautiful and welcoming places I have ever experienced in Spain.
In fact, I’ve never felt more at home in Spain, even after living in Barcelona for over 5 years!
The ‘Luz’ in ‘Andaluz’
I spent every moment in a state of bliss.
It was like travelling as a child again, with heightened senses and boundless energy. I can still recall the smell of sweet pines and sunbaked soil as we cycled along the trails – from cultural centre to restaurant, from beach to bar. The salty sea breeze and sweet moscatel vino.
And the light!
I’m not surprised the locals are so happy. It’s true what they say, there really is something magical about the quality and clarity of the light in Andalusia.
I have been putting off writing this post for weeks and months, paralysed by a weighty sense of responsibility to do the place justice. But I’ll do my best!
This is my personal travel guide with tips on things to do and see in Chipiona, as well as advice on what and where to eat, how to get around, and where to sleep.
Things to Do and See in Chipiona, Cádiz (Andalusia)
Rent Some Wheels to Get Around
I’m always waffling on about how I believe cycling is the best way to explore a new destination.
It’s cheap, it’s fun, you get to see and experience more and, most importantly of all, it’s sustainable and kind to the environment.
Chipiona’s compact scale, award-winning ‘vias verdes’ (green ways/paths) and beachfront boardwalks make it perfect for exploring on two wheels.
Where to rent your bike in Chipiona: We rented our bikes from the fantastically helpful team at Valdés bicycles – a local family run operation.
On our very first outing, having already embarrassed myself countless times in front of my fellow bloggers with my poor Spanish skills, I managed to get a puncture.
I’m afraid I’m just one of those people. But a quick phone call later, they arrived in their van to save the day, replacing my bike entirely so we could ride off into the sunset.
Find Peace at the Iconic Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Regla (Monastery)
A symbol of Chipiona, this waterfront monastery began life as a fortress belonging to the Ponce de León family and dates back to the 14th century.
But the story really became interesting with the arrival of Franciscans monks, who came to Chipiona from Morocco over 150 years ago.
With the support of the town and a team of dedicated friars, Father Lechundi transformed the ancient fortress into a monastery and training ground for missionaries wanting to carry out religious work around the world.
Today you can enjoy tours of the beautiful space, exploring the collection of treasures that were gifted to the monastery by visitors over the years, and lose yourself in the Harry Potter-esque library.
Friar Juanjo, our tour guide for the visit, was my first contact with the people of Chipiona and I was greatly impressed by the warmth and sincerity with which he received us.
His genuine passion for the monastery and its history was contagious. He even shared a glass of muscatel with us in the banana patio.
Climb the Faro de Chipiona – Spain’s Tallest Lighthouse
Chipiona’s emblematic icon is the tallest lighthouse in Spain. It’s also the 3rd tallest lighthouse in Europe and the 5th in the world (though I should add that I’ve read much to contradict this). The main point to walk away with here is that this is an extremely old and large lighthouse.
To be fair, it doesn’t look all that tall as you stand at its base, but you can physically feel its magnitude as you start climbing up the 350 spiralling steps.
The panoramic views from the top are quite literally breathtaking, allowing you to see the scale of the town’s famous fishing corals (more on this below) and the sun-kissed coastline. I took at least 100 photos of it all, but somehow managed to delete them all. Argh, what I can say…
Wade Chipiona’s Historic Fishing Corals
Chipiona is a maritime town and its ancient tradition of coral fishing dates back to Roman times.
The famous ‘corrales’ are manmade walls of rock, or ‘corals’, that trap fish and crustaceans as the tide ebbs and flows.
A strict code of conduct ensures that fishing the ‘corrales de Chipiona’ remains sustainable and reserved for only a handful of registered fishermen, or ‘catchers’.
Our guide Andrés, equipped with a trident, a long rusty old sword and a bucket, showed us around the fishing pens and earned himself quite a catch.
Meeting Andrés was one of the highlights of my time in Chipiona.
I was fascinated by his somewhat bemused expression – it was if he couldn’t quite understand how something that was so ‘normal’ to him was so novel and ‘different’ to us.
A true insight into a different world, to a time when fishing didn’t require raping the seas.
Speak to the Chipiona tourist office to arrange your experience – Calle Castillo, 5, 11550 Chipiona / 956 92 90 65 / firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Sip the Sweet Stuff at the Muscatel Museum
Muscatel, or muscat, is a sweet wine made from the muscat grape. You’ll find it all over Andalusia, but Chipiona’s is among the very best.
It seemed to me that any time of day was a good time to drink muscatel in Chipiona. Whether it was morning, lunch or dinner, pre-meal or post-meal, there was always a glass in my hand to say ‘salud!’ with.
It seemed to me that any time of day was a good time to drink muscatel in Chipiona.
Again, every bar or restaurant will stock it, but for a truly insightful introduction I suggest visiting Chipiona’s Museo del Moscatel.
Here we learned about the wine’s history and how it’s made, and of course had more than a few tasters along the way.
Cruise Chipiona’s Beach Boardwalk on Your Bike
The Paseo Costa de la Luz (‘passageway of the coast of light’) is a sandy, palm-fringed beach boardwalk that hugs the entirety of Chipiona’s coastline and pristine beaches.
It reminded of Pacific Beach in San Diego with its beautiful waterfront hotels, bars and restaurants. Not to mention the beautiful people enjoying sun, sea and siestas.
Frankly, if this was the only thing you did every day of your holidays, I’m sure you’d have an incredible time.
Stop for drinks and tapas, and claim a space on the beach to call your own.
Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Chipiona’s Warm Waters
If, like me, you find it difficult to sit still for too long at the beach, I highly suggest trying your hand at paddle boarding.
Visit the friendly instructors at the Venturi Center (see if you recognise anyone from the photos) for lessons and/or gear hire – they also offer surf, sailing and kitesurfing lessons.
Discover the Fascinating Chameleon Centre
I for one was extremely surprised to discover that Chipiona is home to indigenous chameleons. Apparently they live among the sand dunes, though you’d be incredibly lucky to spot one in the wild.
Nuzzled away among the dunes, however, is the fascinating Chameleon Nature Interpretive Centre. This beautiful space is dedicated to the preservation of the local species, complete with a thatched-roof that rustles away with scurrying lizards and singing birds.
Find Some Perspective at the Castle of Chipiona
Overlooking the fishing corrals, in the heart of the old town, this historic castle houses a cultural centre that tells the story of the role that Chipiona played during the discovery of America.
It also boasts an impressive ocean-facing terrace and sprawling rooftop, from which you can enjoy commanding views over land and sea.
Get Lost in the Tangle of the Old Town
Take a few steps away from the front line and you will soon find yourself in the white-washed, flower-potted streets of Chipiona’s old town.
Here, elderly locals perch on stools sipping tiny glasses of beer in the shade. Families and flocks of tourists explore the little gift shops and sun-bleached bars.
Wander aimlessly and you will be rewarded with some of the best people-watching in all the land.
Immerse Yourself in the Pine Forests
I don’t think there’s anywhere more beautiful than a pine forest on a hot summer’s. And Chipiona’s, where locals take joyrides with their horse and traps, is just the ticket.
Take a wander with your bicycle, take a picnic and a few deep breaths of sweet, pine-scented air.
Experience the Wildest Sunsets in Spain
I can honestly say that the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen were in Chipiona.
This is, after all, the ‘Coast of Light’. Shifts of molten raspberries transformed the sky, the sea like fields of blueberry jam. Every night.
You can enjoy the spectacular from pretty much anywhere on the coast, but I can highly recommend pulling up a lounger at the waterfront SAAM club and enjoying the show with a cocktail or two.
Just go steady on your ride back.
What and Where to Eat in Chipiona
I ate and drank like a prince in Chipiona. As always, I recommend seeking out local dishes and small local restaurants. The beauty of Chipiona is that this is almost always the case. There are no chain restaurants. There is no ‘big business’.
Naturally, you’ll want to eat lots of fish and shellfish. No doubt some of it will have been captured byAndrés and his amigos.
From rustic little restaurants to trendy chiringuitos built on the sand, these are a few of the highlights from my gastronomical whirlwind tour of Chipiona.
This is the real deal. A traditional local restaurant specialising in Andalusian fish and seafood dishes.
Generous portions, fantastic prices and that heartwarming service style that you can only find in these sorts of places.
This was probably the most memorable meal I had in Chipiona. Located in the marina, El Náutico Casa Ricardo specialises in all things traditional, with hearty stews, great grilled seafood and fantastic fish dishes.
I was fortunate enough to stay at the stunning Agaró Hotel, a crispy clean 4-star property right on Chipiona’s waterfront.
The bedrooms are bright and spacious with great bathrooms. The breakfast was 10/10 and the terrace bar out front is definitely the place to see and be seen – though there are tons of bars and restaurants just next door. There’s also on-site parking, which is extremely useful.
I didn’t have a chance to use the pool, but it did tempt me every time I saw the sun setting over it.
My fellow travel bloggers stayed in other hotels nearby and they were equally as happy with their accommodation.
Luxury: My amiga Claudia stayed at the spectacular Marina Luz Hotel, a seriously stylish property with a spectacular sea-facing swimming pool and a couple of hot-tubs. The rooms have gorgeous private terraces overlooking the beach – a seriously sensual hotel for a romantic escape. Prices pushing €200 a night, but definitely worth it if you don’t mind splashing out a little.
Mid-range: Next door to my hotel was the stunning 3* Playa de Regla, which is housed in a historic mansion and brimming with Andalusian features. Rooms from around €70/80 – fantastic value for money.
Budget: Check out the gorgeous 2-start Hotel La Española for if you’re travelling on a budget.
How to Get to Chipiona
If you’re planning on exploring Andalusia then it’s most likely that you’ll fly into Sevilla. I suggest spending a few days exploring Sevilla and then hopping on the bus to Chipiona. Jerez is another major city that’s actually even closer to Chipiona.
Booking transport: My trip to Chipiona was organised by GoEuro, a really useful search engine that helps you find the quickest and cheapest bus, train and plane routes around Europe. I use the app myself and highly recommend it (see my review here).
I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the beautiful people I met on the #ChipionaNatural blog-trip. From my fellow bloggers to the people who fed us and made us all feel so at home, it was an honour to explore Chipiona with.
Have you been to Chipiona or anywhere else in Andalusia? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!