City Life: Where the wind blows
South of Seville and within touching distance of Africa, Cadiz Province - at the very bottom tip of western Europe - is a beguiling mix of Moorish and Castilian cultures.
In the cities of Cadiz and Jerez, you'll find mosques that have been adapted into churches, Arabic arches beneath filigree detailing on houses, and tajines and tapas sharing menu space. Out in the mountainous countryside, hill-clinging whitewashed villages hover over beautiful national parks and the region's unspoilt coastline, allowing you a bird's-eye view of some of Spain's most perfect playas.
A car is a must if you want to escape into the mountains or explore the beautiful Andalucian countryside. If you pick one up at Jerez or Seville airports, you'll need to take the A4 south, which passes through Jerez, Tarifa and Cadiz.
The region's biggest airport is Jerez, though Seville San Pablo isn't too far away. There are regular buses from Jerez airport, eight kilometres outside the city, into the centre, while the M-050 and M-051 services take you into Cadiz in an hour and a quarter.
Spain's speedy AVE trains will get you from Madrid or Malaga to Seville (both journeys take two and a half hours. After that, you'll need to use Andalucia's unreliable local train network (www.renfe.es) or take a connecting bus into Cadiz Province. A high-speed rail link between Jerez and Cadiz is planned for 2012.
Spain: 34. Cadiz Province: 956.
Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Fury is a swashbuckling tale of derring do at the 1811 siege of Cadiz. The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus, by the great conquistador himself, includes tales of setting off New Worldwards from the province.
Do go / Don't Go
Cadiz Province is at one of Europe's most southerly points, so it's hot, hot, hot all year round. Summer can be uncomfortably sizzling, but spring and autumn are more temperate.
Regional cooking in Cadiz Province makes use of the abundance of fine ingredients available in the area. This means you'll find plenty of fresh fish - especially shrimp, lobster, sea snails and delicious Sanlúcar prawns - around the coast, while inland dishes feature lots of beef, pork, game and goat, often in stews. Many employ the world-renowned wines, sherries and brandies that are produced in the region.
Cabs are cheap and, in towns, can be hailed in the street. They display a green 'libre' notice or green light at night if they are available.
Aim to leave 10 per cent of the bill in restaurants; if it's drinks and tapas you're having, just a couple of euros will suffice.
Sunhats and parasols to keep off the heat, jumpers for when the levante winds get too cool, a gung-ho spirit so that you can try kite-surfing at Tarifa.
Carnivals, invariably linked to the Christian calendar, are taken very seriously in this part of southern Spain. Semana Santa around Easter, for example, sees lots of parades and fireworks throughout the province. Equally exuberant displays can be seen nightly all over Jerez, when spinning and twirling flamenco dancers start clacking their heels to the sound of Spanish guitars. The city is regarded as one of the dance's spiritual homes.
The best shopping in Cadiz Province is to be found in the cities. In Cadiz itself, head to Belle Epoque (956 226810) at Antonio Lopez 2, which specialises in antique furniture, or Hecho (956 283197) in Plaza Candelaria, a vendor of fine local food. After that, amble along Columela, beginning at Plaza de las Flores, where you'll find everything from fashion to furniture. Jerez is packed with shops that sell wonderful local handicrafts. Try Casa Rubio (956 422 6872) on Sierpes for fans both contemporary and traditional, Ceramica Amaya (956 143567) on Avenida Carrero Blanco for pottery and Duarte (956 342751) on Larga for stunning leatherwork. If you want to buy sherry direct from the bodega, then Sanlúcar and Jerez are the places to go.
Head up into the Sierra de Cadiz hills and visit the precariously positioned pueblos blancos (white towns). The spectacularly cliffhanging Arcos de Frontera offers breathtaking views over the Serranía de Ronda mountains.
The Arab baths at Iglesia-Convento de Santa Domingo in Jerez have been built in a fascinating mishmash of architectural styles, so you can reflect on the cultural tug-of-war that typifies this city while enjoying a cooling dip. Entrance is free.
January-February The Cadiz Carnival (www.carnavaldecadiz.com), a week-long festival centred around Shrove Tuesday, is a riot of fancy dress, floats and fun-filled processions. The Falla's Contest, a musical competition that is televised across Spain, is held in the Gran Teatro Falla just before the carnival celebrations begin. February-March The International Flamenco Festival (www.flamenco-world.com) in Jerez sees hand-clapping, heel-stamping and skirt-throwing aplenty. Bring your castanets. Early May The Jerez Horse Fair (www.turismojerez.com) is a celebration of all things equestrian. August Horse races take place on Sanlúcar beach on the second and fourth weekends of the month. October Indulge yourself at the Sanlúcar tapas festival, held along Calzada del Ejército. Visit www.andalucia.org for more event listings.