A gastronomic tour of the Costa de la Luz

 Costa de la Luz.
Costa de la Luz.

Spain's Costa de la Luz, or Coast of Light, sweeps in a great arc from the Straits of Gibraltar up to the Portuguese border. It is an elemental land of "vivid, piercing" light, as its name suggests, but also "endless" dunes, "Wild West" horizons, and often relentless sea winds, says Lydia Bell in Condé Nast Traveller.

Inland, Moorish pueblos blancos "dust the hills like icing sugar", and vast wetlands, forested mountains and pristine river estuaries are protected in a series of glorious national parks. The hiking on offer is wonderful – and so too are the food and drink, from earthy meals prepared in village kitchens to Michelin-starred restaurants, all rooted in the region's distinctive produce.

There are gastronomic riches enough in the 60 miles between Cádiz and Tarifa, at Spain's southern tip – and among the best guides to them is the chef José Pizarro. Known in the UK for his seven restaurants and frequent appearances on the BBC's "Saturday Kitchen", Pizarro welcomes guests for three-night stays at his house, Iris Zahara, a "glassy modernist" villa perched on a sea cliff with fabulous views of the mountains of Morocco and the lights of Tangier, twinkling across the straits at night. There's cooking, as well as vineyard visits and a trip to the covered market in Barbate, for ingredients including bluefin tuna, harvested using the almadraba method – a system of nets developed by the Phoenicians three millennia ago.

At Bodega Sancha Pérez, there are organic olives and wines (notably "sweet, tanniny" Tintilla de Rota) to sample, and, at Bodega Manuel Aragón, sherries ranging from "bone-dry to treacle-sweet". A hike around the peaks of Los Alcornocales with the "chatty" guide John Carlos Milburn Rodríguez takes you to the Antigua Venta de Ojén, a village house in whose "cosy" garden Luisa Martínez Ríos serves excellent rustic meals by special request. And back on the coast, there are other great restaurants to try, including the three-Michelin-starred Aponiente, and Casa Bigote, a "traditional gem".