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679km (422 miles) S of Madrid, 132km (82 miles) W of Málaga

Not really a destination in and of itself, Algeciras is a refueling stop on the way to Tangier in Morocco or to chicer oases like Marbella to the east. Algeciras is also a base for day trips to Gibraltar. If you don't have time to visit "the Rock," you can at least see it from Algeciras -- it's only 10km (6 miles) away.

Despite an intriguing history, there is very little of interest here. Near the southern tip of Iberia, Algeciras was once the ancient Roman port of Portus Albo. In 713 it was refounded by the Moorish invaders. In 1344 Alfonso XI of Castile recaptured it in the name of the Christians, but it was destroyed once again by Mohammed V of Granada in 1368.

Today little remains from all these conquerors, and in fact, Algeciras's architecture is some of the most undistinguished of any port its size along the Costa del Sol. Franco's dream was to turn the dreary port into a commercial hub that would dwarf Gibraltar's success. (Of course, his ultimate goal was to force Her Majesty's Army out of Iberia.) He set about building ugly concrete bunker-type architecture and ill-conceived high-rises that remain to this day. And so do the British, who still house their troops on Gibraltar.

If you're waiting for a boat and have time to spare, head for La Plaza Alta, the palm-tree-studded square with a fountain in the center of town. Dating from 1807, the square boasts two churches, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Palma, constructed in 1723, and the Capilla de Nuestra Señora de Europa, constructed sometime in the 1700s as well.

Better yet, if you have even more time to spare, head for the nearest good beach. The best one is Playa de Getares, 5km (3 miles) south of the port. It's unattractively built up, but the sands are golden and stretch for some 3km (2 miles).