Oct 19, 2011

Next door to the Algarve - Ayamonte

Ayamonte

With its attractive tiled plazas, remniscent of neighbouring Portugal, lined with trees and restaurants and bars, the fishing port and resort of Ayamonte makes an ideal stopping place between Spain and Portugal. It has more foreign tourists than other resorts along the Costa de la Luz in Huelva province, partly due to its proximity to the Algarve and its position as the westernmost resort along the Andalucian coast.

Situated on the estuary of the Rio Guadiana, the second longest river in Europe, Ayamonte’s development has been inextricably linked to its position on the border with Portugal.

Until the 1990s, Ayamonte occupied a prime position for crossing the Spanish-Portuguese border, with its frequent ferries across the river to Vila Real de San Antonio in Portugal. In 1991 an impressive new suspension bridge was opened two kilometres north of Ayamonte that took away the town’s cross-border traffic on what is now a motorway linking the Algarve with Huelva city and Seville. The journey from Ayamonte to Faro on the Algarve now takes a mere 45 minutes. Ferries still go to Vila Real in Portugal with the boat company Transportes del Guadiana, which runs regular boats from the Muelle de Portugal in the centre of Ayamonte. From Vila Real there are frequent buses to the Algarve.

The centre is a good place to take a leisurely stroll, as many of its narrow streets are pedestrianised. These link small, pretty plazas, which are tucked away but full of busy pavement caf?s and bars serving great seafood characteristic of the Huelva Costa de la Luz. Visit the elegant Plaza de la Laguna, for a good choice of eating places with outdoor seating. Next to the main square, the Paseo de la Ribera, is the harbour and further along is the ferry dock. In the old town is the fifteenth-century Iglesia de San Salvador, worth a visit for its memorable tower with superb views across to Portugal. There are similar good views from the tower of the sixteenth-century San Francisco church nearby.

Ayamonte is surrounded by protected areas teeming with wildlife. The Marismas del Guadiana, the marshes of the Guadiana estuary, are rich in birdlife, including herons, storks and flamingos.

The Parador has an excellent restaurant and rooms with great views over the Guadiana river and across to Portugal.

The nearest beach is the new resort of Isla Canela, five minutes’ drive away from the centre of Ayamonte. It boasts a particularly wide stretch of sandy beach, with chiringuitos (summer beach bars), parasols and hammocks for hire and showers. It is a fast-growing resort, with many new holiday apartment blocks, as well as a big hotel, the Riu Canela, and a golf course. However, it also has extensive sand dunes and marshes home to abundant wildlife.

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