Johanna Payton’s Mediterranean cruise took her through the port of Cadiz in Andalusia – but she chose to discover the stunning town of Jerez Spain by cruise ship instead.
After getting a glimpse of the captivating town of Cadiz on a hot and beautiful July morning, we questioned our wisdom in booking a coach excursion that took us around 40mins inland from the pretty port – but if you’re in this neck of the woods, Jerez is just as spellbinding and well worth a visit.
From the port of Cadiz (which is actually an island, connected to the mainland by bridges), our coach journey took us past salt marshes and pink flamingoes, then through sunflower fields and vineyards towards the quintessentially Spanish town of Jerez.
Everything you’d associate with Spain is here in Jerez: tapas, sherry, wine, horses, orange trees lining the streets and flamenco…even on a sleepy afternoon, in the middle of siesta time, the sound of flamenco guitar lessons tickled through the cobbled streets.
Our tour was a whistle-stop one, but it convinced me that Jerez may be one of the most photogenic places I have ever been. Jerez (or Jerez de la Frontera) is one of three towns of major historical and geographical importance in the region along with Cadiz and Seville. It’s easy to see why as you wander the streets, taking in the sights of the churches, the cathedral and well-tended squares.
One landmark really makes this town stand out: Alcázar de Jerez was an 11th-century Moorish castle but has been restored to include a park and gardens as well as the remains of a bath house and Jerez’s only mosque (at one time there were 18 mosques in the town).
Sherry is another hugely important ingredient that makes Jerez special: true sherry can only be made in the area lying between Jerez, Puerto de Santa María and San Lucar de Barrameda, where the chalky soil is perfect for growing Palamino grapes, so sherry bodegas here are the real deal. We visited the small but fascinating Bodegas Tradicion where the proprietor shows off an impressive collection of Spanish art, as well as an artisan sherry making outfit.
Jerez is known as the birthplace of flamenco and, to that end, it hosts an annual flamenco festival; it is certainly a town to bear in mind if you want a taste of real Spain. The tapas here is on another level (great for lunch) and keen shoppers should look out for the markets in Plaza Esteve.
If you’re feeling particularly touristy on a trip to Jerez, jump in a horse-drawn carriage for a tour of the town: or, if you’re seriously into all things equestrian, there is a famous horse fair each May.
If you’re in Cadiz for the first time on a cruise stop, I would suggest making the most of its immediate vicinity and exploring the incredible port without wasting any precious time on a coach – but if it’s your second time in town, or you are looking for a quieter, more authentic taste of Andalusia, Jerez is the ideal place to make a bee-line for.
How to get to Jerez, Spain without flying:
Johanna took a no-fly 14 night Mediterranean Italian cruise with Royal Caribbean, departing from and returning to Southampton. She visited Jerez as part of a “Jerez with sherry cellar and tapas and panoramic Cadiz” excursion arranged with Royal Caribbean.
Words: Johanna Payton for Feet on the Ground
Images: Johanna Payton/Matthew Swan