|Home||Penthouse||Activities||Local Area||Links||Availability and Fees||Contact Us||Maps|
The Local Area
Isla Canela, which means the Island of Cinnamon, is a small island in the mouth of the Guadiana river which runs between Spain and Portugal. It is connected with the mainland by a causeway 5 km from the lovely Spanish town of Ayamonte in the region of Huelva in Andalucia. Ayamonte is sometimes known as the Gateway to Spain, since it is the first town after crossing over the delicate-looking, airy bridge over the Guadiana river.
The area offers the best of both Spain and Portugal, and provides seven kilometres of unspoilt, uncrowded glistening golden sand and shimmering blue sea. It is a safe beach for children because of the soft sloping ocean-floor, and the waters are warm and calm for much of the year. The beaches have been voted amongst the 6 best in Spain. It is a magnificent area for golfers, with Isla Canela course less than 10 minute drive, and an additional 5 courses within an hour away.
It is less than an hour from the bird watchers' paradise of Coto Donana, and a little over an hour from beautiful and historic Seville, the home of flamenco and tapas. 10 minutes walk away is the fishing village Punta del Moral, with authentic Andalusian atmosphere and great fish restaurants.
The little town of Ayamonte offers many delights. Here you will find typical Spanish, palm-fringed squares, cobbled streets, boutiques, open-air cafés and a good range of excellent restaurants. The Spanish tend to eat very late, and around 9pm you will start to find a real buzz about the place.
There are a number of interesting and important buildings, such as:
The Church of Nuestra Senora de las Angustias
The Temple of San Francisco
The Church of El Salvador
La Casa Grande
The Marquis of Ayamonte’s Palace (now the town hall)
There are two main squares in the town. The Plaza de la Laguna, so called because it was constructed over a lake (now filled in), and the Paseo de le Ribera, beside the Marina. The first is a wide, tranquil square, overlooked by the beautiful town hall. The second, with it’s beautiful fountain, and it’s situation close to the river, is a more bustling space, and is usually used as the starting place for the many fiestas and festivals. Both squares are decorated with typical Andalusian tiles, and around the edges of the squares are a number of open-air cafés and tapas bars.
Don’t forget to visit the mouth-watering Abasto market, especially fish-lovers.
From Ayamonte you can also take a ten minutes or so ferry to the little town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal, and browse the hundreds of shops for inexpensive, good quality linens.
Punta del Moral
This is the little fishing village opposite the Marina, and a very short walk across the causeway. Here you will find a number of good restaurants, mostly, but not entirely, specialising in the local catch. Stroll right along to the end of the unmade road beside the river, and you might see boats unloading the catch you will be eating later on!
In the middle of the little town is the church of the Virgen del Carmen. This church, although renovated in 1925, originates from 1810, when the ruling Junta de Sevilla , along with many others, fled to Isla Canela to escape the French invasion.
On the 16th July every year, the festivity of the Virgen del Carmen is held, when the people carry the statue of the Virgin on their shoulders from the church to the river.
Steeped in history, Sevilla bears evidence of many cultures, from the Tartessians and Phoenicians, through the Moors and on to the Christians. It was allegedly founded by Hercules! Sultry, proud and sexy, many will tell you that Seville is Spain’s soul! It lays claim to being the home of tapas and flamenco, and you will find both in abundance.
The banks of the Guadalquivir river are lined with busy tapas bars and restaurants, but wander up the little side streets and find somewhere a little quieter, with perhaps a more unusual choice of portions. Flamenco is everywhere, and often will break out spontaneously in unexpected places. To be certain, book a table somewhere like the Tablao El Arenal, Calle Rodo 7 (+954 216 492) www.tablaoelarenal.com. A more authentic flamenco can be seen in bars such as La Carboneria in Calle Levies. There is no need to book here, but be warned – it won’t start until late!
Places to visit are the cathedral, the largest Gothic structure in the world; the 10th century Moorish Alcazar, full of exquisite carvings and flowery gardens, and the Museo de Bellas Artes, with works by Murillo, Velazquez and Zurbaran. Don’t miss the Parque de Maria Luisa, where you can hire a four wheeled bike to travel along the wide boulevards, or travel in style in a horse drawn carriage. Within the grounds is a series of unusual pavilions built by countries taking part in the 1929 Iberian-American exhibition.
On Avenida Americo Vespucio you will find the Centre for Contemporary Art, with temporary exhibits of modern works of painting, sculpture, tapestry, ceramics and more. There are also several permanent exhibits, plus special performances such as dance, music, etc. The beautiful Arabian baths are about ten minutes’ stroll from the cathedral. You can spend a couple of hours lounging in the baths, plunge pools and steam room. The price of 28 Euros also includes a 15 minute massage.
Set at the mouth of the two rivers, the historic city of Huelva is less than an hour’s drive from Isla Canela, and has been an important port since the Phoenicians established it as a major trading post. Mythology has it that this is the site of the lost city of Atlantis.
In the 15th century, this was the departure point for the voyages of Christopher Columbus, who recruited local sailors for his voyage, and on his departure and return, prayed to the city's patron saint at the Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora la Virgen de la Cinta.
Today he is commemorated in the Monumento a Colón. The precise departure point was the nearby village of Palos de la Frontera, where you can still see the old well from where fresh water was taken on board.
For those particularly interested in the story of Columbus, a Columbus tour can be booked from the Isla Canela Tours office in the marina.
Another pivotal point in the port's history was the industrial development in the city in the late 19th century due to mining activity to the north. The massive, open cast mines can still be seen, and these are reputedly the original mines of King Solomon fictionalised by the great novelist, Rider Haggard. Foreign mining companies built impressive ironwork loading quays that extended into the estuary that, although decaying, still exist today. The grand neo-Moorish train station, the Estación de Sevilla, was also erected around this time.
Badly damaged in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and scarred by industry, Huelva lacks the architectural splendour of Seville. It does possess, however, several notable churches, like the oldest one in the city, the Iglesia de San Pedro, and the Catedral de la Merced, with a magnificent Baroque façade, as well as a number of pleasant plazas, bars and restaurants.
Not far from Huelva is the famous Parque Nacional de Doñana, one of Europe's most important wetland areas, and home to an incredible multitude of wildlife in its sand dunes, marshes, pine woods, salt flats and freshwater lagoons. Here is one of Europe's last remaining habitats for the endangered lynx and the rare Spanish Imperial Eagle. The best time to visit is in winter and spring when the park is full of wildfowl. In winter thousands of geese and ducks arrive from the north, while in spring there are many flocks of breeding birds, including herons, flamingos, spoonbills and storks.
It is possible to book jeep safaris through the National Park from the Isla Canela Tours office in the marina, or alternatively contact www.donanabirdtours.com for a specialist guide. Make sure to visit the little town of El Rocio, famous for the annual Rocío Pilgrimage at Pentecost, where masses of pilgrims process from Seville, mostly on horseback. This little town has wide, sandy streets lined with houses complete with broad verandahs and wooden rails for tying up horses. Here you can lunch beside the lake and watch the graceful flamingos.
Sanlucar de Guadiana
Sanlucar de Guadiana sits high above the Guadiana river, forty minutes’ drive from Isla Canela, and from here the most spectacular sunsets can be seen. This is one of Spain’s pueblos blancos, with a castle dating back to the 12th century. Once upon a time it was an important port for exporting rice, salt and wood, but the river has now silted up so that it is no longer fully navigable as far as Sanlucar other than for pleasure craft.
There are four or five bars and one restaurant, and in addition a ferry from here will take you to the little Portuguese town of Alcoutim.
It is a great starting place for a number of day or half-day guided walks.