Bolonia is a small isolated ex fishing and farming village on the Atlantic Costa de la Luz 20km north from the surfer paradise of Tarifa and 20km south of Zahara de los Atunes. It is also the site of one of the three most important Roman archaeological excavations in Andalucía, along with Italica outside Sevilla and Acinipo outside Ronda. Roman Bolonia became famous as the source of a fish-based savoury paste, garum, a local form of gentlemen’s relish much prized as a garnish in meals by the Roman inhabitants of first-century AD Andalucía.
Bolonia sits on one of the many beautiful sandy bays along this remarkable coastline. Bolonia abd its beach is a favourite with Spanish families from Algeciras and beyond, but it remains largely unspoilt. There are hostels and appartments to rent and beach bars, its isolation from the administration, gives Bolonia a funky edge. Its distance from the main N340 highway and its cul-de-sac situation also make Bolonia a relatively traffic-free haven. It is very popular in the summer weekends, the roads are being improved and off road parking is always availible for a small donation.
The village of El Lentiscal – the name is open to various interpretations, but given it’s a noun in farmland like this, it probably means “lentil-grower” – sits at the end of the narrow 7km CA 8202 and is reached by passing over a col between two rocky hills, the Sierra de la Plata (459m) and the Lomo de San Bartolomé (444m). There’s a rather simple concrete ornithology post at the col here for birdwatchers, and a venta for the walkers. The road down the coast affords excellent views of the bay and coastline.
There are three options if driving into El Lentiscal. To the left is the village centre, which leads on to the southern end of the sandy beach for access tot he sandy coves.The second turning on the left and a signposted right turn leads to the northern part of the bay for access to the enormous sandunes. Continue on the same road and you will reach the visitors centre and entrance to the Baelo Claudio Roman ruins, which still retain recognisable architectural details of the original Roman settlement. Continue on to reach the Sierra de la Plata to the north, and, walking accesss to the next coves, Atlantera resort and fishing village, Zahara de los Atunes.
South part of Bolonia bay
The southern part of Bolonia’s bay is dominated by three very popular wooden beach bar/restaurants: La Cabaña, Los Caracoles (snails), and El Tucan. This is a very popular watersports area, and the zones where you are allowed to use water craft are marked out by yellow buoys. Hip, young, wind and kite surfers head here, especially when there is a levante (a strong easterly wind) is blowing, although the wind is nearly as strong as Tarifa, Punto Paloma or Valdevequeros, many favour Bolonia as opposed to overcrowded Tarifa. There is also a separate swimming space for bathers, also clearly marked by yellow buoys.
Accommodation here is Hostal Rios, Hostal la Jerezana (P*) here is a traditional style hostel with a leafy patio, bar and restaurant and swimming pool. Apartmentos Ana and Apartamentos Isabel are self-contained one bedroom apartments with their own terraces and kitchenette facilities, including washing machine, so they are ideal for families. There is also a private sheltered lawn garden with sunbeds. Hidden away in this area is Panaderia Beatriz; a small friendly essentials store down the track towards the beach on calle de las Marias. More obvious is La Cantina; restaurant specialising in pizzas cooked on an open wood stove in a rustic setting.
It is difficult to find rooms in the village during the busy season of July and August, but outside it you should find simple accommodation and welcoming bars and restaurants. During the high season it’s advisable to book accommodation in advance. Most hostels and other accommodation are closed from October to April. There is also a open air parque infantil to keep kids entertained. you can stay in the village at Apartamentos Miramar.
At the far end of the village there is a field that also operates as an unofficial car park which is looked after by security volunteers. Nearby, on the beach, is the La Cabaña bar, which deserves a special mention.
Apartaments Ana – Apartments set back from the beach across the main road.
Hostal Retama Rios – A simple but good hostel on the sea front
Posade de Lola – land side small hotel.
Apartament Mirimar - on the corner with swimming pool. Tel: 956 688 561
Apartamento Turisticos Trajano AT** terracotta style. Tel: 629 560 691 & 615 247 837
Don Pedro - On Entrance road, left hand side, white walled with swimming pool. Tel: 956 680 577
Apartamentos Carmencita - On Entrance road, set back on right hand side, AT* Tel: 956 688 519
Apartamentos Bella Vista - On Entrance road, left hand side, fair walk to the beach. Tel: 956 688 553
Isolated naturist coves
Parking the car at the end of the village road opposite La Cabaña bar and continuing south on through the fields or on the beach you can visit a number of isolated coves which are officially designated as naturist beaches by Tarifa town council. A red paint sign on the wall or a derelict wartime pill box advises sun worshipers. Conversely there was a sign in the village reminding visitors that clothes must be worn. A popular question for friends to ask if they know you go to Bolonia is “Do you turn left or right?”
Continuing south along the beach and after a couple of coves there is a cliff path into Cala del Picacho, you will soon reach a point where there are visible seams of grey crumbly shale in the cliffs. It is a good half hour walk so take water.
On a summer’s day, you will also see people covered in grey therapeutic mud, making the return journey. The mud has curative properties that have been known since Roman times.
This is the Andalucia.com recipe for mud baking in Bolonia:
1. Collect a selection of slatey grey stone, grind the stone into a powder using broken fragments and stones. Mix the power with sea water and keep pounding until a paste is formed, totally coat yourself and your friends with this therapuetic concoction.
2. Bake all the mud covered bodies in the Bolonia sun until the mud begins to crack and flake. This should be done while standing up to prevent the sand adhering to the mud.
3.The grand finale is a dip in the Atlantic ocean.
4. Result, beautiful soft smooth skin and a great day out.
If you were to continue south along the beach and rocks you would round Punta Paloma and reach the beach and dunes of the same name leading to Playa Valdevaqueros. The walk is possible and it is safe and only a few km but a long difficult walk and scramble especially in the summer heat.
Centre part of Bolonia bay
At the central part of the bay the beach is favoured by families because of the Red Cross emergency first aid point and Lifeguard lookout (open in the summer). There is plenty of free parking here. The beach bars here such as Cheringuito Los Troncos now rent sunbeds and sun shades. Much to the delight of those who like comfort and much to the disappointment of the purists who can be overheard to say. “How things are changing in Andalucia, you can even find sunbeds on the beach in Bolonia now!” What would they say if Tarifa council ever built a seafront prom in Bolonia?
North part of Bolonia bay
The Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia are just to the north of the present settlement. They show how important the town used to be as a fish salting community. There is a large car park just by the ruins. However access to the ruins is now via the visitor centre slightly inland. Those visitors with more interest in the great outdoors than history can still park here and head off to the beach.
You can treat yourself to a refreshing drink or meal in either the Bar Ortega or Bar La Bahia, two very cool locations in between the ruins and the beach. The terraces of these sheltered bars are a popular spot on a weekend lunchtime in the winter. You can stay in this preveliged location at Hostal Bellavista
At the north end of the bay the golden sand blows up the peninsula to form a huge sand dune system. It is said to be one of the biggest in Europe. Many would-be explorers attempt to climb the dune and see what is on the other side. Unfortunately, they are disappointed: after a series of false summits the dune simply fades into the pine forest.
After entering the village, drivers and walkers should continue on the CA-8202 road that first crosses the fields and then the higher reaches and the unexcavated parts of Baelo Claudio and the visitors centre. At the first sharp right hand bend there is a foot track that leads through the pine forest to Punto Camarinal.
When the road forks, take the right hand fork which is the road that skirts round Sierra de la Plata leading to the hamlet called Molinos de Carrizales. Off this road on the right hand side is ‘LaSemilla’ ecological project. Park the car by the road and walk down. At weekend lunchtimes, you can enjoy home grown organic vegetarian fare here. Ask for a tour of the project.
Take the left fork road that climbs to the transmitter at the top of the Sierra de la Plata. Shortly before the big ‘U’ bend there is a track on the left hand side that leads to the deserted and isolated Playa Arroyo del Cañuelo. This one is for the serious hard-core hiker as the track is so bad it can only be reached on foot. The track to the right is better. This leads to the end of Cabo del Gracia, where one finds the old watchtower Torre de Gracia, a modern lighthouse and civilisation in the form of a tarmac road leading down to Playa del Cabo de Plata, the Atlantera resort and a road north along the coast to Zahara de los Atunes.
Playa Bolonia is included in our beach guide.
Bus Service TARIFA TOWN TO BOLONIA - SUMMER SERVICE
During the months of July and August ( 1 july to 31 Aug ) , a micro-bus service operated by HorizonteSur (956 640 000) from Tarifa town bus station to Bolonia taking 25mins .
Depart Bolonia at 11.30, 16.00, 20.30
Departs Tarifa at 10.45, 15.15, 20.00