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Although foreign visitors often overlook the southwestern corner of Spain, it is a prime destination for Spanish visitors from other regions of the country.

Beaches of all kinds have put this coastal area on the tourist maps. The province of Cádiz alone has 260km (161 miles) of coast and 138km (85 miles) of beaches, including coves, inlets, sandy stretches, and isolated strips. Neighboring Huelva province, associated with Columbus, has beaches that stretch from its eastern border to its frontier with Portugal in the west.

The two major cities, each capital to the province of the same name, are Cádiz and Huelva. Huelva can be skipped if you're pressed for time, but Cádiz is one of Andalusia's hidden gems. Long known as a seafaring port, it once dominated trade between Spain and the New World.

Much of modern Cádiz can be passed by, but the seaside promenades and its Old Town can easily take up a day or more of your time. With its sailors' alleyways and high-turreted houses, this is a remnant of the great days of the Spanish empire.

Heading east from Cádiz you can visit Europe's southernmost port city, Tarifa, for a day or overnight. Cádiz is also convenient for visiting El Puerto de Santa María, part of the fabled Sherry Triangle.

Even if you don't fall in love with large, sprawling, and industrialized Huelva, you can use it as a base for exploring the province's many riches. In addition to living it up at the region's first-class and deluxe coastal resorts, you can explore Cota de Doñana National Park, sited at the estuary of the River Guadalquivir, and the country's largest wildlife reserve. Visitors often stay 2 days and then wish they'd budgeted more time.