Things to do in Almería
Travelling the most eastern province of Andalusia
Travelling the most eastern province of Andalusia
We spent a long time thinking about the easiest and most concise way to get all the tourist attractions in Andalusia’s province of Almería onto one list. In the end, we mentally sat down in the car and just drove on and on while writing. In this way, we at least managed not to forget anything that lay on the way 🙂
Reading about all the things to do in Almería in one go, however, resulted in a rather extensive e-book with 37 pages – and that was only the rough draft without pictures 🙂. The complete edition will be available for you to download here soon.
But for now, here is an overview of everything you might want to visit in the province of Almería, and to make it less “overwhelming”, we added a simple clickable table of contents.
Enjoy your trip from the comfort of your armchair – and we hope to see you here soon, live and in colour 🙂.
In order to get all this information onto our website quickly, we have automatically translated it from German to English using deepl. So if the text is not as fluent as you’ re used to from the other pages, we deepl(y) apologise 🙂. Should you wish to help us improve the text with some new phrasing, please feel free to drop us a quick email with the content in question. We appreciate each and every help.
Before we set off on our journey from Mojácar, let us first turn our attention to the village of Mojácar itself.
Since 2003, Mojácar has officially been one of the most beautiful white villages in Spain. Every year a new jury evaluates this and we are always there 🙂
The village is located at the end of the Sierra Cabrera in the east of the province of Almería, on a hill about 170 metres above sea level. It is definitely a wonderful destination to spend your holidays.
This particular village is divided into two areas: Mojácar Pueblo (the village) and Mojácar Playa. Its clean beaches stretch for about 17 km and many have the blue flag seal of approval, guaranteeing carefree bathing fun.
The name Mojácar derives from “Monxacar” and stands for “Holy Mountain”. The city has a thousand-year history that began in prehistoric times and has since absorbed many other peoples and cultures such as the Phoenicians, Celts, Greeks and Romans before the era of the Moorish Kingdom.
Later, the Spanish reconquered large parts and Mojácar plays a remarkable role during this Spanish Reconquista in Andalusia. Although almost all the villages in the region surrendered to the Catholic royal couple (Ferdinand and Isabella) in 1488, Alavez, the Moorish ruler of Mojácar, refused to hand over the town and its inhabitants to the Spanish.
When asked why he did not show up at a surrender meeting at the Fuente Mora, the village’s Moorish well, he reportedly replied that he was as Spanish as the Catholic royal couple, but that he would never want to go to war against the Christians. He then added the wish that the people of Mojácar be treated as brothers and not enemies, and that they wished to continue cultivating the land and controlling their city, in a peaceful alliance with Spain, of course. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel accepted Alavez’s diplomatic proposal, thus preserving the prosperity of Mojácar and its inhabitants.
Even today, this history is duly celebrated during the Fiesta de los Moros y Cristianos.
However, Mojácar’s greatest heyday was yet to come. Silver was discovered in Mojácar in the early 19th century and heralded an economic boom. Unfortunately, dark times soon came to the town. The mines were closed at the beginning of the 20th century and the village suffered severely from war, drought and disease. The impact on Mojácar was further exacerbated by the Spanish Civil War and the economic problems that accompanied it. The population decreased drastically as many inhabitants emigrated to Argentina and the USA.
It was not until the 1960s that Mojácar recovered a little after the mayor devised a plan to offer land or houses for free to those who would work to restore the run-down town. Until then, the town was not even supplied with running water. The mayor’s plan sounded like music to artists, journalists and intellectuals who had fallen in love with Mojácar’s beautiful location and rich history.
Thanks to their efforts, Mojácar picked itself up again and in addition to the renovation of the village houses, new residential areas were created on the coast and Mojácar developed into a hippie hotspot.
Even today, Mojácar manages to preserve parts of its Moorish past, and these influences blend beautifully with modern and contemporary architecture. This mix of old and new gives the place its distinctive character and gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy a unique atmosphere where past and present combine.
Did you know that Mojácar is believed to be the true birthplace of none other than Walt Disney?
In 1901, at the time of the great migratory flows, a baby born of an extramarital affair between the laundress Isabel Zamora and the powerful Gines Carrillo left southern Spain with his mother for Chicago. This baby was named Jose Guirado Zamora and was eventually adopted in America by Elias Disney and his wife.
Unfortunately, there is no proof, although many people in Mojácar are still working on it. There are many indications that the story could be true. Walt Disney took the truth with him to his grave and so we will probably never know it.
To find out more about the story, just type “Walt Disney Mojácar” into Google and you’ll get articles in every language. We were totally gobsmacked that the press from pretty much every country had already reported on it …
If you want to know all about the history of Mojácar (and walk it – note: Mojácar is on a mountain 🙂 ), there are a number of places you should definitely visit.
… the Moorish fountain where the last Moorish king peacefully offered his surrender to the Catholic royal couple. Also take the time to read the plaque located above the fountain’s 12 jets of water.
Directly above the Fuente, by the way, is the modern Centro de Arte Contemporáneo del Municipio, which opened in 2010.
The original gate to the city, built in 1574, in the Plaza de los Flores. From the back it still bears the original Arabic inscription of the village of Mojácar.
The renovated building near the town gate used to house the customs house and now houses a small accommodation and an inn.
The 17th century Jewish quarter of Mojácar is characterised by narrow streets and vivid colours. It begins just beyond the city gate.
The town hall of Mojácar stands on a picturesque square with a beautiful and huge Ficus benjamini, which an emigrant brought from America 100 years ago.
This is the old Arab cemetery, of which, however, nothing can be seen today. It is a beautiful plaza decorated with many flowers and plays a major role in local festivals.
Next to the Plaza del Parterre is the Church of Santa Maria. In Moorish times it was a mosque, after the Reconquista a fortress, which unfortunately later almost completely fell victim to a fire. After its reconstruction as a Catholic church, its altarpiece was painted by a German artist.
In the square in front of the church is the statue of the “Mojaquera”, a marble effigy of the women of Mojácar, depicted in typical garments that highlight their traditional role as water carriers.
From up here you can enjoy a wonderful view directly onto the sea. The old well of Muslim origin has been restored and now houses a museum.
The lively main square of Mojácar is invariably full of tourists having a drink in one of the cosy bars or enjoying the breathtaking view from the Mirador. This fantastic vantage point offers a view of the so-called Valley of the Pyramids and over the Sierra Cabrera, the village of Bédar and the Sierra Alhamilla beyond.
The Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, was built in the 16th century on the foundations of a Moorish mosque. The hermitage is now privately owned and houses a souvenir shop.
This museum offers a trip back in time to see how the people of Mojacar lived in the early 20th century.
The Casa de la Canana museum opened in September 2018 and the approximately 200 square metres of the museum reflect the traditional atmosphere of a Mojaquera house. There are also traditional tools and Mojaquera costumes used at the beginning of the last century.
The beaches of Mojácar are almost exclusively sandy, sometimes very fine and sometimes a little coarser. Here and there there are also a few pretty rock formations where you can watch the cormorants resting before they go hunting again.
There are many chiringuitos – that’s what beach bars are called in Spain. If you want to know more about them and everything that has to do with food and drink in our region, you can download our EBook here.
The most beautiful stretch of beach in Mojácar Playa is undoubtedly Playa de las Ventanicas to Playa del Venta del Bancal.
The sand is super fine, the chiringuitos offer comfortable beach loungers, sun umbrellas and, for the lazy among us, free delivery of drinks to the lounger. At lunchtime, you can have a tasty snack there and then go back to your sun lounger, or siesta.
The sea is beautifully clear here, so there’s really nothing to stop a carefree day at the beach.
If you are looking for beaches away from the hustle and bustle, you will also find three beautiful natural beaches outside Mojácar, except that here again you have to look after yourself.
The first two are right next to each other and can be reached via a “mogul slope” from Torre de Macenas.
The Torre de Macenas on the beach of the same name is an old 18th century watchtower that is still well preserved.
On the way south, you also pass the Torre de Pirulíco, another watchtower, to end up at the deserted beach Playa de Bordenares. Here you will always find peace and quiet out of season and even in high season this beach is rarely crowded.
Only a few hundred metres further, you reach Playa de Sombrerico. Due to the many rocks, this beach is better suited for snorkelling. There is also a nice chiringuito here from June to September. Manacá offers super tasty food, a good ice-cold beer and always clean toilets.
A little further south, on the road from Mojácar Playa to Carboneras, you will eventually reach a small hamlet called Sopalmo. Here there is a small, very popular tapas bar and the way down to the Rambla of Sopalmo. From here, after 10 min. mogul track to the
Actually, there are three beaches. The finest sandy beach, crystal clear water, always interrupted by rock formations. If you climb over the rocks all the way to the end, you come to a last little bay where hardly anyone ever gets lost 🙂
And now that we’ve told you almost all of Mojácar’s insider tips (of course, a few still remain a surprise), we’re heading north from Mojácar Playa.
We leave Mojácar and follow the coast, the sea always on our right. We pass the port of Garrucha, the residential area of Puerto Rey, Vera Playa – known for its nudist beaches and facilities – and Villaricos.
Here, but only by appointment, there is the possibility to view the
The city of Baria (Villaricos) was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC. They were attracted by the filthy lucre that the Sierra Almagrera offered due to its fertile land, abundant fishing resources and good strategic location. Centuries later, it was involved in the Second Punic War (209 BC) and was besieged and conquered by Publius Cornelius Scipio, nicknamed El Africano. This fact made Villaricos a Roman municipality.
The necropolis, with more than 2,000 tombs excavated so far, shows the public the hypogea, family tombs of rich people hewn out of the rock.
There is also a castillo in Villaricos that not only looks almost exactly like the Castillo de Macenas in Mojácar, but also served the same purpose.
Before continuing along the coast, we make a small detour into the hinterland, namely to
The most important building in Cuevas de Almanzora is undoubtedly the Castillo del Marqués de los Vélez in the Plaza de Libertad.
It was built on the site of the former Roman tower and extended as a fortress by order of Don Pedro Fajardo y Chacón. It is a large walled enclosure that can be entered through a single doorway. The coat of arms of the Fajardo family is emblazoned above the door.
Once you enter, you find yourself in a paved courtyard with an amphitheatre. From here you can see the three main buildings that make up this fortress:
The Torre del Homenaje (15th-16th century), probably from Roman times, measures 16 x 19 m and is divided into five floors connected by a spiral staircase. During the 18th century, it served as a prison and recorded the desires and fantasies of the prisoners on its walls.
The Palace of the Marquis (16th century); is a two-storey building made of ashlars surrounded by four cylindrical bastions. The interior consists of numerous rooms opening onto a central terrace. It currently houses the AMC Museum of Contemporary Art. one of the best art galleries in Andalusia.
The House of the Tercia: a neoclassical building built in the 18th century as a barn and place where people paid taxes (tithes) to the Marquis at that time. It currently houses the municipal library, the archaeological museum and the exhibition room La Tercia I. The annex to this building is Tercia II; a glass room with numerous jars half-buried in the ground and the permanent exhibition of Goya’s engravings (Sala Goya).
are the Palacete de Don Torcuato Soler Bolea, which now houses the Cuevas Town Hall, and the Convento de San Francisco. This former convent from 1651 now houses the Colegio Municipal for dance, music and theatre.
Cuevas de Almanzora is also known for its many well-preserved cave dwellings.
From Cuevas de Almanzora we continue to San Juan de los Terreros, the last village in the province of Almería and also the last village in Andalusia.
Just after leaving San Juan in the direction of Aguilas, at the beautiful Playa de los Cocedores beach, Andalusia ends and you enter the autonomous region of Murcia.
The most important building here is also the Castillo de San Juan de los Terreros, the first guardhouse in Almería, which is therefore somewhat larger than the guard towers on the sea to the south.
Today, the Castillo de San Juan houses a small museum, but it is really known for the 3D virtual reality tour of the Geoda of Pulpí, which until recently was only open to researchers and did not allow public access.
Discovered in 1999 by the Madrilenian Mineralogist Group, this geode is the second largest in the world after the Naica geode in Mexico.
The Pulpí Geode, also called the Pilar de Jaravía Geode, is covered with huge selenite crystals, a transparent type of gypsum. And since it is unique in Europe, and also the only geode in the world that can be walked on without special equipment, you should definitely plan this visit.
However, please let us know well in advance so that we can book your tour. Unfortunately, the limited number of places cannot be booked spontaneously.
It was worked long and hard to be able to show it to the general public, because basically the conditions of 20 °C and a pleasant humidity were an advantage. The Naica geode, with a room temperature of 50 °C and 100 % humidity, is completely unsuitable for visitors.
Today, there are many steps to descend, which is why the geode is not recommended if you are not good on your feet or are afraid of depth or darkness. Once at the bottom, every visitor gets the opportunity to see the geode up close. To protect the geode, it is of course not allowed to enter it.
The guided tour lasts about 1.5 hours and is a real highlight, as you can never again marvel at such a natural wonder in Europe.
From here we now drive all the way to the north of the province to the Sierra María – Los Vélez with its towns of Vélez Rubio and Vélez Blanco.
In Vélez Rubio there are two important sights that you should definitely see.
The museum is located in one of the most important buildings in the historic-artistic quarter of Vélez Rubio: the old royal hospital from 1765 in the bourgeois baroque style.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, the building led a dangerous and hectic existence: it was occupied by French troops, closed as a hospital for the poor in 1822, ceded to the local militia, used as a maternity and foundling hospital, barracks, school, theatre, academy etc.. Until it was taken over by a community of Servants of Mary in 1887 and served as an asylum under them until the 1960s.
The founding idea of the museum came from D. Miguel Guirao Pérez and his family, who felt that his extensive collection would be useful for a public exhibition. After several failed attempts, the museum finally became a reality in 1988.
… popularly known as “the cathedral” because of its size. This religious construction is the most important, characteristic, spectacular and valuable work of the 18th century Almería Baroque.
It was built in 1754 by the Marquis of Los Vélez on the foundations of the old parish of San Pedro, destroyed in an earthquake, and is considered an important architectural example of the development of the late Baroque.
The interior has a Latin cloister and is divided into three naves with a huge dome crowning the transept. The magnificent wooden altarpiece stands out on the high altar, made by Francisco Zesta between 1769 and 1777.
From Vélez Rubio we continue to nearby Vélez Blanco.
It is one of the first works of the Spanish Renaissance, very well preserved externally and with a spectacular location. The Marqués de los Vélez had the castle built at the highest point of the city on the remains of an old Arab fortress.
It was built between 1506 and 1515, precisely in the transition from Gothic to Renaissance. The external impression is that of an imposing military fortress that adapted its defences to the (then) latest artillery weapons. The Castillo of Vélez-Blanco consists of two very different buildings connected by a drawbridge. The castle is entered through the first and best secured part of the building. Unfortunately, only the walls of this part remain, but it is known that the artillery was located here.
The second building, which you enter via the drawbridge, is the more attractive part of the castle. It is a towering palace where the Homage Tower stands out with its height of 33 metres.
If you want to see the inside of the castle, you should definitely take a guided tour and visit the integrated museum. Here you can learn about the history and life in the castillo. Unfortunately, little is left today of what was once one of the most beautiful castles in Spain. As the castle was abandoned for decades, it was looted several times and other remaining treasures and works of art were later sold all over the world and can now be admired in Paris or the MET in New York …
The Ambrosio Cave is a Palaeolithic site that has since been declared a World Heritage Site. It is located in the valley of the Arroyo del Moral and served as a refuge for the earlier inhabitants of this region. Cave paintings made of a red dye were found here.
The far more important cave paintings, however, were found in the somewhat smaller Cueva de los Letreros – the Cave of Signs.
Various cave paintings with scenes related to the activities of the first inhabitants of south-eastern Spain have been discovered here. The site, used as a shelter, was part of the large site of prehistoric painting in the Spanish Mediterranean, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The cave of Los Letreros contains representations of so-called prehistoric painting in the Levantine style with highly schematised animal figures (goats, deer, etc.) and men and women, mostly with lowered arms and legs. The cave paintings date from around 5,000 BC.
The so-called Indalo figure was also discovered in this cave, which depicts a man holding a rainbow with his hands, or a taut bow, or perhaps the symbolised sun. We will probably never know what exactly the drawing was supposed to represent, but in any case it has become the most representative symbol of Almería.
The indalo, today’s emblem of Almeria, has also become the most important and best-selling souvenir, and anyone who has an indalo at their front door only lets good things in – bad things must then stay outside. In this way, it “guarantees” safety, health, money and everything else you could wish for.
But WARNING: You must never buy an Indalo for the front door yourself, but receive it as a gift for good luck.
And with this portion of luck, we now drive on. Next stop: Macael
Macael is inextricably linked to the word marble, as the quarries very close to the town were already used in ancient times.
During the Neolithic and Copper Ages, the inhabitants of the Almanzora Valley used the white marble stones to create small schematic figures called “Almerian idols”, which were destined for the collective tombs. In archaeological research, they were seen as one of the characteristic elements of the “culture of Almería” in antiquity.
With the Romans, the quarries of Macael gained greater importance and were developed economically, but it was the Moors who carried out the quarrying on a large scale. Much of the wealth of the Kingdom of Almería under King Jairán was based on the marble of Macael.
After the Reconquista, Macael’s marble mining also reappears in writings. Macael’s “Libro de Apeo” (1573) reports that the settlers of the time used the marble of the mountains without restrictions and it is assumed that this is the basis of the traditional right of the inhabitants of Macael to freely exploit marble. After a complex and long process, this right was abolished by the town council and the town administered the rights from then on.
The commissioning of the Almanzora railway in 1895 marked the beginning of the boom in Macael’s marble industry and suddenly offered the opportunity to distribute its products throughout Spain and Europe.
Currently, Macael is the largest marble producer in Spain, which in turn ranks second in the world.
In addition to interesting guided tours of the quarries and the Marble Information Centre, you should definitely visit the town of Macael itself. Here you will find the largest mortar in the world made of marble. It even made it into the Guinness Book of Records.
And a replica of the fountain from the Alhambra’s Court of Lions also stands in the middle of the city to highlight the use of its marble in art throughout history.
The Lion Fountain is one of the Alhambra’s most famous – and most photographed – installations and is considered the pinnacle of Andalusian art … a symbol of its decorative wealth.
The study carried out on the occasion of their restoration confirms that both the basin of the fountain and the lions are made of Macael marble, which was produced between 1362 and 1391 during the reign of Mohamed V.
It consists of 12 lions, all different in size and details. The basin, 262 cm. in diameter and 49 cm. thick, was made in one piece. On the outer rim of the basin is an inscription of the 12 verses of the minister and poet Ibn Zamrak.
Strictly speaking, the only difference between the replica installed in Macael and the original is that the replica is surrounded by a series of marble slabs on which the inscription of these verses have been translated into Spanish.
After our little excursion to the white gold of Macael, our journey now takes us to the next Castillo, namely the
The castle of Serón dates back to the Nasrid period (13th century) and is located in the highest part of the city. From there you can see the entire Almanzora Valley, the Sierra de las Estancias and part of the province of Granada. It played an important role in the Muslim era and served as a refuge in the Moorish revolt. All that remains of the original fortress is a wall and some screens. The layout of the Serón castle is rectangular and consists of trapezoidal cubes with wide plinths on which towers are built, using brickwork bonded with mortar for corners, doors and windows. At the top, there is a small esplanade on which the Neomudéjar-style bell tower is built. The square floor plan is raised on a masonry base. It is divided into two floors and has two-part windows on each front that end in a semicircular arch made of bricks.
Another important building is the
The 17th century building was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 1983, as it brings together the two architectural traditions of the time in the region, the Mudejar, heir to the Islamic tradition, and the Christian tradition.
For those interested in culture and/or geology, as well as for hikers, we recommend a visit high up in the
Las Menas de Serón, the mines of Serón characterise a mining town whose iron deposits were the most important and productive in the province of Almería for more than half a century. Built gradually with a hierarchical urban planning, it houses buildings of great architectural quality, including the Hermitage of Santa Bárbara, the hospital, offices, workers’ pavilion, workshops and several houses of managers and technicians.
After the mines closed in 1968, there were several looting incidents. However, part of the buildings have been rebuilt as a tourist centre with a geomining interpretation centre and a forest park with native trees and shrubs. This makes it possible to learn about both the mining history of the area and the environmental features of the Sierra de los Filabres.
Up here, at almost 2000 m above sea level, nature is what is really special. Flora and fauna are completely different from what one has experienced and seen further down and near the sea. There are big game and forests here, which has become a real exception for us. Many hiking trails lead through the beautiful landscape, and in winter there is also a tendency to snow, which can be seen from the snow guide posts at the side of the road.
And while you’re up here, there’s another very special highlight, actually two. The first, however, we only reveal to our guests so that it remains something very special for a long time. The second is a visit to the
… the largest observatory on the European mainland
The official name is the German-Spanish Astronomical Centre (DSAZ) or in Spanish Centro Astronómico Hispano-Alemán (CAHA) and as the name suggests, this is a joint project.
There are daytime tours and also late evening stargazing offers. The website is available in English and really provides much more information than we ever could. We are happy to help with booking any tickets 🙂
From Calar Alto we descend out of the mountains again in the direction of Almería. In front of us is the Tabernas desert and we have beautiful views of Almería and the sea.
At the bottom, it’s worth stopping in Gérgal, which we pass anyway …
The castle of Gérgal is a low, medieval fortress. Its strategic location in the north-east of the town on one of the hills that form the foothills of the Sierra de los Filabres offers a wide view of the town.
In 1492, the Catholic Monarchs gave this castle, along with the towns of Gérgal, Bacares and Velefique, to Don Alonso de Cárdenas of the Order of Santiago.
During the 16th century, the castle of Gérgal played a major defensive role against the raids of Turkish and Berber pirates who landed on the coasts of Almeria.
After the final expulsion of the Moors between 1571 and 1620, the area was half depopulated and exposed to the banditry of outlaws. The castle was rebuilt in the 17th century to restore order and encourage repopulation. In the middle of the following century, it belonged to Isabel Pacheco Portocarrero, Countess of Puebla del Maestre and Marquise de la Torre de las Sirgadas, who used it to store the grains she received through tithes and state rights.
The last heiress was María Luisa Fernández de Córdoba y Marín, granddaughter of the XIX Count of Puebla del Maestre. She died around 1940 without descendants and bequeathed the castle to the Gérgal Town Council. In 1968, the castle became the property of the state, which declared it alienable and then sold it at auction to a private investor.
Before we turn left into the desert, we make a short detour to the right. Here is another very special highlight on the Rio Andarax.
… or in short: Los Millares
This is certainly the most important Copper Age settlement in Europe from the period 3200 to 2200 BC.
The excavation site consists of a city with four concentric walls, a necropolis of communal tombs and a series of 13 forts on both sides of the Rambla de Huéchar, which complete the powerful defensive system that controlled the settlement and its surroundings.
The necropolis covers an area of about 13 hectares and is located on the outskirts of the city. It consists of about 80 large graves and various ceremonial structures. The graves are distributed in small groups and reflect the family, social and symbolic relationships that existed in Los Millares.
Most tombs consist of a circular chamber between 3 and 6 metres in diameter, sometimes with various niches on the sides. From the outside, the chamber is accessible via a corridor and the whole was covered with a mound of earth and stones.
The city has three concentric walls that close the settlement to the outside. Inside there is a citadel, the typical round houses, and some buildings for public use and construction related to the distribution and storage of water. The main economic activity was agriculture, animal husbandry and hunting, as well as other specialised trades such as metalworking and the manufacture of arrowheads.
A really interesting excursion into history far before Christ.
Now – while you’re there – you could follow the Rio Andarax and drive into the Sierra Nevada.
This part of the famous mountain range is called Alpujarras Almerienses and is absolutely popular with hikers and foodies. A trip along the river is simply beautiful. From Canyajar, to Padules with its famous waterfalls, to Laujar, it’s really something for the eye.
But since wine is also grown here, we dedicate a separate page to this route … later 🙂 … and quickly head back in the direction we came from. We actually wanted to go into the desert on the way from Gérgal to Almería …
On the way to the only desert in Europe, we make a small detour via Zorba with its famous caves.
The Sorbas Caves are located in the Karst y Yesos de Sorbas Natural Area. It is the largest underground cave system in all of Spain. The caves are 6 million years old and are made of karst and gypsum – a truly special place for all cavers from small to large and young to old. There are different tours for all ages, in English and Spanish.
And one more tiny detour on the way to the desert is a must, to
This small, white mountain village lies about 500 m above sea level and has an eventful past.
In 1895, iron ore mining began in Lucainena and in a very short time the village became the most productive plant with the best infrastructure in the entire province of Almería. State-of-the-art technology and a 35 km railway line to the old port of Agua Amarga kept the mine running at full speed until 1942. The furnaces built in 1900 can still be visited today and information signs explain the work processes of that time in great detail.
Part of the railway line is now a hiking trail in the Via Verde network. And while staying with us, there is another super secret tip, but we’ll just have to explain it on the spot 😉 .
And now we’re finally off to Europe’s only and unique desert.
Between the mountains of the Sierras Nevada, Gador, Filabres and Alhamilla lies one of Spain’s most dramatic landscapes, the barren Desierto de Tabernas. The only real desert in Europe.
This area was in fact once covered by the sea until the Sierra Alhamilla pushed up and virtually lifted the area around the town of Tabernas out of the sea.
The end result of the sedimentation or settling process is a terrain of calcium carbonate, mudstone and sandstone that is very prone to erosion. Over time, weather and environmental conditions have created this amazing and unusual landscape.
The strangely eroded gorges, dry riverbeds and barren slopes, seemingly devoid of vegetation, bleached by the sun and occasionally dipped in ochre hues, have a surreal lunar quality. With its poor soils, low rainfall and temperatures ranging from -5 °C to +48 °C, the landscape has hardly changed due to agriculture and other human activities.
The Tabernas Desert is one of the most geologically interesting landscapes in Europe, as it clearly shows the process of natural desertification and erosion. Its features include deep ravines carved out by the rare but heavy rains that occur only a few days a year. Another feature is “piping”, where water penetrates through the top of a slope and exits through a hole further down, with the mountain forming an underground pipe in the process.
Although the environment is quite barren and almost uninhabitable, some animal and reptile species actually thrive here, mainly rabbits, other rodents, lizards and snakes.
The desert is an area of special protection for the variety of birds that have found refuge in the gorges. Species that can be spotted include the bee-eater, songbirds, the cliff swallow, the desert bullfinch and the DuPont lark.
Birds of prey such as the peregrine falcon and the hawk-eagle from the Sierra Alhamilla use the desert as a hunting ground.
Filmmakers have long been attracted to the landscape of this desert, because the dusty wastelands between Tabernas and Gador are reminiscent of dark stories from Arizona, California and the Wild West. The Tabernas desert was also the setting for many of the so-called Spaghetti Westerns. It is fair to say that Clint Eastwood’s career began in the Tabernas desert. And they are mighty proud of that here.
The unique landscape has brought prosperity and fame and made the area known worldwide.
Currently, some scenes for “Games of Thrones” were shot in the desert as well as in the Alcazaba of Almería.
And what else did the spaghetti westerns need besides barren desert landscapes? That’s right: villages with saloons to drink in, banks to rob and horses to make a run for it 🙂
The film village of Fort Bravo is picturesquely situated on a gorge and can only be reached by an adventurous drive through a dry valley where, on passing the border post, the entrance fee is paid and the car parked in front of the fort gates.
You really have to rub your eyes a little to believe that you are in Europe here. The cacti, the vastness of the terrain, the blinding light and the eerily tense atmosphere of the film village make the trip an unforgettable experience.
Fort Bravo is the oldest of the western villages built here for filming and is still used today. Many great directors have filmed here; westerns, war films and fantasy adventures have been shot here, in south-eastern Spain.
The famous spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s almost all originated here.
This land has seen some of the greatest legends of the silver screen, such as Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Brigitte Bardot, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Faye Dunaway, Sean Connery, Bud Spencer, Terence Hill, Gregory Peck and Harrison Ford; the greatest gunslingers in film history have shot here in Almería.
Under the direction of the Italian cult director Sergio Leone, spaghetti westerns were created as the Dollars Trilogy with Clint Eastwood: “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) or the classic “Two Glorious Scoundrels” from 1966.
Those who know the saloon scenes from the Karl May films will have many déjà vu in the Fort Bravo saloon. You might even see his whisky glass sliding across the bar like in the old film.
What many don’t know is that one of the main Indiana Jones films, The Last Crusade, was filmed in Almería. The dry Ramblas were the only witnesses to actors Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in heavy armour fighting the Nazis. The scenes in Petra, Jordan, were also filmed here.
The really big breakthrough for the Andalusian desert as a film set came with the filming of Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O’Toole.
Even commercials for the car industry have been filmed here, such as the Peugeot Partner 2015 commercial or the Pepsi commercial with David Beckham and the Manchester United and Real Madrid teams.
In 2014, Ridley Scott filmed his epic Exodus, for which 2,000 dark-haired amateur actors were sought. Every day, extras could earn between 80 and 100 euros.
When you visit Fort Bravo, you should ask at the entrance about the times of the western shows. They are really funny, staged by drama students or extras who devote their free time to the local film industry.
Stagings also take place in the dark saloon between the old wooden tables or at the bar where a whisky is ordered. There is a bad singer with an even worse guitarist and a can-can show. We deliberately do not make a comparison with the Moulin Rouge in Paris here 🙂
Commercials are also shot here for cars, motorbikes and Coke. In 2012, Pepsi shot a really wacky commercial here in which Real Madrid met Manchester United in the saloon – in the person of David Beckham and Iker Cassilas. After the Western costume is dropped, the football game starts …
Mini-Hollywood today is much more than just a film village. In addition to many well-known filming locations from the Western era, there is a large swimming area and a zoo here these days.
It is now more of a family fun park, where especially the little ones get their money’s worth. However, the small film museum is quite interesting.
This is the smallest of the three theme parks and the complex owes its name to the director who was instrumental in the creation of Almería’s film industry, the Italian Sergio Leone.
This film set was originally built for probably the most famous of all Sergio Leone films, “Play Me the Song of Death”. Starring Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale, this was one of the most important films in the series of spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone and shot in the Tabernas desert.
Those who remember the film can still recognise the desert town of Sweetwater and the McBain Ranch very well today.
If you still haven’t had enough of Westerns, click over to our blog post about Cabo de Gata – there are some real Western secrets hidden there too 😉 .
With this, we leave Tabernas and the desert and drive leisurely back to the coast. Here we find the Cabo de Gata nature reserve.
When it comes to the Cabo de Gata Natural Park, it’s hard to know where to start. With the unique bays and beaches, the beautiful hiking trails through untouched nature, the villages still smelling of saddle leather that made history through the Spaghetti Westerns? The fortunes of the silver and gold miners, the small fishing villages with their delicious restaurants? Or the small villages that are reminiscent of hippie times gone by and still have that very special vibe?
Cabo de Gata really offers something for everyone!
The Cabo de Gata/Nijar Nature Park is of volcanic origin and was the first biosphere reserve to be protected by UNESCO. It consists of approx. 37,000 ha of land and approx. 12,000 ha of water. The Mediterranean Sea is considered the best protected and therefore the most pristine. The crystal clear water is more than spectacular!
… but since we have just come from the desert, where we have intensively studied the old westerns and film history, we start in the heart of Cabo de Gata with the
The Cortijo del Fraile is a remote and unfortunately by now quite destroyed farmhouse near the small village of Los Albaricoques, which belongs to a private agricultural company. Originally built in the 18th century by Dominican monks, it came into private ownership much later.
The local administration and the residents have so far tried unsuccessfully to convince the owner of the 730 ha property to rebuild the cortijo or at least to protect it from further, natural, destruction.
The cortijo is an enclosed farmstead, typical of Andalusian country estates, with a central terrace, a chapel with bell tower and crypt, outdoor ovens and a well.
Built in the 18th century by the friars of the Dominican Order from Almería, it was confiscated by the state in 1836 (as part of a national expropriation of church property) and sold to a private family after an auction.
The Cortijo del Fraile has a creepy past and housed shady characters – but those are two pairs of shoes 🙂
An imposing building in a remote location, it has been used as a backdrop for a number of films over the years. Among them the classics with Clint Eastwood: “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and “For a Few Dollars More”, as well as some Italian westerns and a few Spanish TV dramas.
“In the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” Tuco (The Ugly) pulls up in a six-horse carriage, similar to a stagecoach, and stops in front of the Cortijo, supposedly a Catholic mission run by his brother. A monk comes out of the building and he and Tuco together take the injured Blondie (The Good) and carry him into the house.
I have to say that I was never a big fan of western films. I used to laugh at my grandma when she wanted to watch old Clint Eastwood movies. Today I sit riveted in front of every single western that was filmed here and then go to see the place “for real” – you can get that crazy 🙂
This is the dark but unfortunately true story of the Cortijo del Fraile.
On 22 July 1928, the “Crimen de Nijar” (Crime of Nijar) took place in the Cortijo, which inspired Federico Garcia Lorca to write his famous play “The Blood Wedding”. It was also the model for the novel “Puñal de Claveles” by Carmen de Burgos.
Francisca Cañadas Morales was born in Nijar in 1908 and lived in the Cortijo del Fraile. She became known as Paquita La Coja (Paquita the Lame) because of her lame leg. Some attribute this to polio, others to hip damage, as her father probably slapped her buttocks too hard as a baby so she would stop crying.
Her father arranged for her to marry Casimiro Perez Pino, who lived near the Cortijo.
The wedding party met in the evening at the Cortijo Del Fraile for the night wedding (customary at the time) and the guests noticed that the bride was suddenly gone. Then they realised that her cousin Francisco Montes Cañadas was also missing, and very quickly it was clear that she had run away with the man she had been very close to from an early age. The guests started looking for them and found Paquita a mile away, with her clothes torn and her neck bloody. She claimed to have been strangled by masked robbers.
Francisco’s body was found 8 km away in Cañada Honda Serrata (later marked by a spontaneous cairn of small stones and a wooden cross). He had been shot three times.
José Pérez, the brother of the abandoned groom, turned himself in for murder. However, he claimed at the trial that he had not pulled the trigger, but would not say who had done so either. Perez was then found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison, but served only three of them and died of typhoid shortly afterwards.
The attempted murder of Paquita was committed by Carmen Glen, her own sister, and the wife of José Perez, whom he had protected all along. Carmen was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
The spurned groom Casimiro proved innocent of the murder. He never spoke to Paquita again and later married Josefa Segura. They lived with their two children in the fishing village of San José and he died in 1990. Paquita lived in seclusion as a hermit in El Hualix near the cortijo, looked after by a niece. She never married and refused to tell her story, despite requests from journalists around the world. She met Carmen only once more – when Paquita was very ill, Carmen came to her bedside and apologised. Paquita forgave her but did not want to talk further about what had happened. She died in 1987 and was buried in the Nijar cemetery not far from her murdered cousin.
After so much terrible history, however, we now turn our attention back to the beautiful things and head for the wonderful beaches of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park.
To get to these pristine beaches from Cortijo del Fraile, it is best to take the path through the mines to Rodalquilar.
So, along dirt roads full of red earth, we head towards Rodalquilar. The mining tradition of Rodalquilar goes back a long way and begins with the extraction of alum, a fixing agent for the colours of fabrics, which was of great importance in the Middle Ages.
Then, in 1883, gold was discovered in the “Las Niñas” mine in Lobo Canyon, less than a kilometre from the town of Rodalquilar. The problem with extraction was that the gold was scattered in the quartz and required a technology for extraction that was not available in Rodalquilar at the time.
The solution was to transport the quartz by ship to the port of Mazarrón to the “Santa Elisa” metal smelter. There it was melted and ingots were obtained, which were then shipped to Antwerp. Lead and gold were then separated there.
In 1915, gold was discovered in another mine, “María Josefa”. The special thing about this discovery was that the gold was not scattered in the quartz here and so it could be mined directly at the foot of the mine.
This marked the beginning of the search for Rodalquilar gold and the sleepy village with only 200 inhabitants made it to the top of the gold Olympus. The Rodalquilar plant surpassed both the world’s most prestigious plant in Denver up to that time and the largest plant in Europe by Adaro.
The entire daily life of Rodalquilar suddenly revolved only around the extraction of gold and because of the resulting wealth, there were many things that were actually not “normal” for that time, such as a cinema and a business club.
Rodalquilar’s golden dream, however, ended again as early as 1966.
In 1989, another attempt to extract gold was made with the opening of a new mine. The aim was to produce 200,000 tonnes per year.
However, Rodalquilar’s production was now too small compared to other, newer competitors in other parts of the world. The Yanacocha mine in Peru was producing 350,000 tonnes per day, and this huge production again made the Rodalquilar mines unprofitable. In 1990, the Rodalquilar mines were completely closed, and it is more than unlikely that they will ever open again. Although one or two still dream of it today …
There is a very good information centre at the bottom of the large main mine in Rodaquilar. On the way here from Cortijo del Fraile, you can also stop at some abandoned mining villages and walk along them – great photo opportunities included.
Yes, and once we’ve arrived in Rodalquilar, we first choose one of the many bars to get to know the places of Cabo de Gatas a little better …
The most important and also most beautiful villages of Cabo de Gata are on “our side” on the eastern coast all the way to the famous lighthouse of the nature reserve at the southern tip. The only exceptions are Nijar in the interior and San Miguel de Cabo de Gata on the west coast.
On the one hand, we have one of the namesakes of the national park, Nijar, inland. It is a village that has become particularly famous for its pottery. Of course, there are also imported pottery products, but Nijar is characterised by a number of local artists who make beautiful things, both for everyday use and for decoration.
Furthermore, Nijar has a nationally known cactus farm – the Cactus Nijar. Here you can buy the most beautiful and unusual cacti in a beautiful setting. The concentrated specialist knowledge that awaits the interested layman here is enough to make one’s jaw drop. A very special feature is that this cactus shop also functions as a cultural centre. There is also a stage where concerts take place regularly.
Let’s not talk about marketplaces, churches etc. in this section 🙂
Furthermore, Nijar has the first (and only) butterfly zoo in the province, where up to 300 specimens of about 30 different species live together.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to see butterflies because there are fewer and fewer flowers all over the world and, unfortunately, more and more concrete. That’s why a butterfly garden like this one is the ideal place to observe the beautiful and delicate animals up close.
In the butterfly garden, the reproductive cycle is followed very closely. They take care of the eggs to prevent the butterflies’ main enemies, the birds, from eating them. In the Pupario, the butterflies are born early in the morning. Blue, orange, brown, black – they flutter around visitors in all colours.
The largest butterfly is the Attacus atlas and you can also admire this species in the butterfly garden of Níjar.
Actually funny, because the place is neither particularly beautiful nor does it offer any striking nature. On the contrary! If there weren’t a few restaurants here with really great food, we probably wouldn’t necessarily recommend the place to most of our guests, to be honest. Unless you are interested in the harbour, cement works, industrial towers, state water treatment plants and the like.
But just beyond the harbour, the road climbs steeply and suddenly you leave all this ugliness behind, are greeted by rolling hills and here it begins – the Parque Natural Cabo de Gata-Níjar, as it is officially called.
And just around the next bend, the most famous of all beaches, Playa de los Muertos.
Directly above Playa de los Muertos lies the
… not actually a village but worth mentioning.
The tower high above Playa de los Muertos is nothing special in itself, as you can’t get in. However, the nearby lighthouse with models and pictures of all Spanish lighthouses is worth a visit. But above all, the view up here is breathtaking and we definitely recommend taking binoculars!
We continue south on the coastal road and the next village is only 5 minutes away.
This is it – the place with the vibe, a bit of hippie, a bit of art and above all, lots of good food in nice little bars and chiringuitos.
The public beach, situated in a pretty bay, invites you to swim and enjoy a cold beer in a chiringuito just 5 m further along the beach. It is a very family-oriented beach and a very popular holiday destination, especially among Spaniards. So it can get a bit noisy in the high season. But that’s the Spanish lifestyle you come here for 🙂 .
Since this village has exactly this vibe, everything fits together perfectly – but you can’t really explain it! When you walk through the village, with all its little shops where local artists are always given space to present their art, enjoy a glass of wine on the little market square, you can literally feel it. And then you know exactly what we mean …
Don’t miss a visit to the Real Beach Club – what sounds like a posh beach club for posh people is actually a super nice, clean chiringuito with very tasty food and even tastier wine.
Those who like to hike and do a bit of sightseeing should go left on the beach. There is the old loading ramp of the former port of Agua Amarga, where the production of the ironworks from Lucainena de las Torres was shipped. Incidentally, this is also a worthwhile excursion, especially for those who like to take photographs. Great impressions can be found on the website of the Dutch artist Hessel Bosch.
From Agua Amarga, the road continues and as soon as you leave the town in the direction of Fernan Perez (the miniature hub of eastern Cabo de Gata), you already come to the turn-off for the next beaches, Cala de Plomo and Cala Enmedio.
The next place is again not far away and is called
To be honest, Cabo de Gatas is the least beautiful place for us. It all looks very crowded, a bit as if they had wanted to quickly build up something for the beginning tourism in the 70s. An aging fishing village is probably a good description, although the volcanic landscape around Las Negras is breathtakingly beautiful – especially for hiking! From here you can reach Cala San Pedro on foot.
We prefer to move on to
We have been here before in the course of the Ruta de las Minas, but on our journey along the coast towards the southwest we are now coming from a different direction.
We have already reported in detail about alum, lead, silver and gold, but the small village of Rodalquilar has a lot more to offer.
In the end, there is only one small main street through the village, but it’s a tough one. There are bar after bar. Many of them have small art exhibitions by local artists. Everything looks pretty and well-kept, a little bright and colourful – inviting all around, anyway.
At one end of the village there is a funny phenomenon: the old, abandoned village without running water and electricity from the gold rush days is still standing next to the new village just as it was left behind. Now fenced off because of dilapidation, the local artists have nevertheless managed to decorate the whole old village with graffiti.
There is also a beautiful botanical garden in Rodalquilar, the
After an intensive redesign, the botanical garden has been transformed into an environmental management centre for the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park. Visitors can observe almost all types of adaptation of plants to periods of drought, but also get to know many species unique to the European continent.
And of course, Rodalquilar’s most famous beach, Playa del Playazo, also has a lot to offer.
From Rodalquilar we continue our journey, only to stop again just around the next bend, namely at the beautiful lookout point of
This is an old lookout and observation point of the Guardia Civil and you can enjoy a panoramic view over all the small coves, as well as the highest mountain in the area, the 500 m high Pico de los Frailes.
From there it is only a few hundred metres further to the small fishing village
La Isleta embodies like no other the typical fishing villages of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park: the small boats close to the beach, the modest white houses of the fishermen and the extraordinary tranquillity for most of the year, only sometimes abruptly interrupted in the summer months.
From the beach you can see the two rock formations, one of which is slightly separated. Since this makes it a small island, so to speak, this is also where the name of the village derives “La Isleta del Moro”.
Just beyond the village, further and further south, you come across the beach of Playa de los Escullos.
The road now heads in the direction of
San José is probably the liveliest village in Cabo de Gata, with its many shops and bars. The town beach is absolutely ok, but why you actually go to San José are the beautiful beaches outside the town, which actually deserve an even bigger superlative.
If you leave the village following the signs, you will eventually find yourself on a “gravel road” and after the first sand dune you will reach the beaches Playa des Los Genoveses and Playa de Monsul – next to Playa de los Muertos, these are THE tourist magnets during the Spanish holiday season from mid-July to mid-September.
Outside of this time, an absolute dream!
From the beautiful beaches of San José we now continue to the final destination on this route, the Arrecife de las Sirenas lighthouse. On the way we pass
The town itself does not have much to offer apart from a few bars, restaurants and picturesque fishing boats. However, with Playa de las Amoladeras on the right of San Miguel and Playa de las Salinas on the left, this is by far the longest stretch of beach in Cabo de Gata.
And there is another attraction:
Directly behind the beach – inland – are the salt flats. The area of las Salinas is an ornithological nature reserve where you can watch wonderful birds. Here you can see flamingos all year round …
As the hiking trail around the water body has been built at a distance to protect the animals, be sure to bring binoculars to view these beautiful birds.
There is also a small, picturesque church in Las Salinas, which makes a beautiful photo motif. It has often been part of world-famous films and music videos. The lower part now houses a tourist information centre.
A few hundred metres further on is the actual saltworks that give the beach area its name and where Flor de Sal de Cabo de Gata is produced.
The small houses, some of them still made of wood, right next to the salt works are also a popular photo motif. So you should always have your camera with you!
Later, you can drive up to the lighthouse, which was built on the courtyard of a former castillo. From there, there is a hiking trail along the coast back towards San José …
What has to be said at this point is that all the beaches in Cabo de Gata are natural beaches – without any facilities such as sunbeds, bars, toilets or the like. Only on the main beaches of the villages are such “amenities” to be found. But that’s what makes these bays so charming, and we have sun chairs and parasols for our guests to take home. This way, the beach trip is always cosy and comfortable 🙂
Also, on all the beaches, at least on the east coast of Cabo de Gata, outside the villages, you will meet both lightly dressed, half dressed and not dressed at all. Because here everyone wears what they want, even if it’s nothing 🙂
This beach received the Wow Award from the Beach Inspector in 2018 and is ranked among the TOP 3 most beautiful Spanish beaches. It is a true heaven on earth – even if its name suggests otherwise.
The “beach of the dead” takes its name from the old days when shipwrecked sailors and pirates were washed up on the beach or simply dumped “overboard”. This natural beach with the finest pebbles and crystal-clear water is particularly suitable for snorkelling, especially around the striking rock.
From the car park there is also a short walk to the viewpoint (Mirador) from where you really have the best view of this fabulous bay. A real tip in the early and late season, but unfortunately no longer really secret and therefore rather to be avoided in the high season.
Six kilometres through a rambla (a dry river bed), sometimes soft, sometimes bumpy, through a barren landscape that raises a lot of dust. At the end of this rambla is Cala del Plomo. Turquoise sea, fine sandy beach with single large stones, therefore ideal for snorkelling again.
If you are now looking for the absolute insider tip, walk from the car park of Cala del Plomo in the direction from which you came, and after about 50 m, between two small stone towers, enter a small trail. Follow this path, keeping to the right, for about 30 minutes and you are already in Cala de Enmedio.
Alternatively, leave Cala del Plomo in the other direction and hike through the mountains to Cala de San Pedro. This legendary bay can only be reached on foot from here or from Las Negras. … or from the water by boat.
Voted one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe by the New York Times, this bay has the finest sandy beach and water so clear that you can see everything on the seabed. We always call it our very own Maldives – only a little colder, as the water here is of course also “only” the temperature of the Mediterranean and not that of the Indian Ocean 🙂
Once you’re in the water, you usually don’t want to come out again, but a short walk around the unusual rock formations washed out by the sea to the right and left of the sandy bay is always worthwhile. As always, don’t forget your snorkelling gear.
You can also reach this cove on foot from Agua Amarga, but the climb is a little steeper than from Cala de Plomo. It is not possible to reach this cove by car, which always makes it a bit more “lonely” – even in summer.
This cove is very secluded and can also be reached from the other side – from Las Negras … or by boat. Watched over by a 16th-century tower and the 18th-century fortress, there is a real peculiarity about this cove, because it is home to hippies all year round, who live mainly by making handicrafts from leather, shells or other materials.
The inhabitants have built their houses with materials from the region and live completely isolated from modernity and in harmony with the environment. You can see their houses scattered along the beach or even in the interior of the valley, where a natural water source has allowed them to grow orchards for self-sufficiency. One of these buildings functions as a bar and even has a terrace where you can watch the beach with a cold can of beer, sitting in the shade.
In summer, the number of inhabitants increases because many young people pitch their tents here for a few days. So the bay seems very crowded in the high season, but is a true oasis of peace and relaxation in the off-season.
There is a paved road that takes you about 3 km from the village to the beach.
On a dune on the beach stands the imposing ruins of the Castillo de San Ramon, the fortress that in earlier times protected this area from pirate attacks.
The beautiful bay, nestled in the valley of Rodalquilar, with its clean water and golden sandy beach is especially popular with families, as the water is very shallow and therefore nothing stands in the way of bathing fun for the little ones.
Actually, this is also a mini-small fishing village – now an almost extinct place of tranquillity. There are several small bays and the ruins of the Castillo de San Felipe. This beach has become famous through individual scenes from James Bond’s “Never say never again”.
Here we start a beautiful, albeit long, hike to San José – always along the coast.
This approx. 1.5 km long bay with its fine, golden sand, surrounded by agaves, is not only a real eye-catcher. The water is so shallow that you can walk several metres in the water and it is so clear that you really don’t see it very often.
Incidentally, this bay owes its name to the troops from Genoa who landed here in the 12th century to help Alfonso VII reconquer Almería.
From Playa de los Genoveses, you can either drive to the next beautiful cove or walk along the path through several more small coves to reach Playa de Monsul at the end.
This beach, with its striking lava rock, has become very famous, especially through Indiana Jones and a scene with Sean Connery. Here, too, we find shallow water, the finest sandy beach and crystal-clear water.
We personally like these two sandy beaches of San José much better than the very “knobbly” pebble beach of Playa de los Muertos. However, the water is simply unbeatable at all of them.
On the beaches of San José, especially in the early and late season, you can spend wonderful bathing days, have a nice picnic on the beach or stop off at one of the many tapa bars in the village.
This is by far the longest beach of Cabo de Gata with its 5 km. You can park anywhere along the beach and then get to the beach via small wooden walkways.
This beach is one of the few where you can enjoy a sunset over the sea. All the others are located in an easterly or south-easterly direction and you can only see the sunrise. So for spectacular photos, you usually have to get up early 🙂
At the southernmost end of the beach, you pass through La Fabriquilla. You should definitely book a canoe tour here. (There are now many providers, we will be happy to help you!) The canoe tours go towards the lighthouse around the Siren Reef. The tours here are very varied and, due to the current, also a sporting challenge – and beautiful.
The Siren Reef is not really a beach but ideal for swapping and snorkelling. There is a small bay where you can take off into the underwater world. And you can explore the reef by canoe from La Fabriquilla (see above).
It is said that many monk seals lived in this place in ancient times. The sailors succumbed to the mistaken belief that the cry of the seals was the song of mermaids (sirens). Hence the name Reef of the Sirens.
Now that we’ve covered more or less the entire province, it’s time to take in the sights of Almería. It is only a stone’s throw from the Cabo de Gata Nature Park … After a 15-minute drive, we are already in the middle of the city and can look for a parking space.
Almería has a lot to offer as a city. There are, of course, many markets and also a large Mercado Central, where you can find just about everything that makes your gourmet heart beat faster. Once you’ve seen the selection of fresh fish, you won’t be happy in your home country again 🙂 .
There is a well-known jazz festival and, in general, Almería is very hip musically. Almería is home to many jazz musicians, flamenco musicians, singers and dancers, and the world’s greatest musical export, David Bisbal, is also a native of Almería. He is the only but also the best ambassador of our province that we can imagine. He lives Almería with every fibre.
Almería’s most important attraction is and remains the Alcazaba, towering high above the city and clearly visible from everywhere. The name is derived from the Arabic al-qasbah, a fortress located inside or outside a city. Construction of the Alcazaba began in 955 and it was the seat of the local government. The fortress was also intended to serve as protection for the inhabitants in case of danger. Therefore, houses, squares and a mosque were built within the defensive walls and towers of the fortress.
Of course, there are also countless beautiful churches in Almería and, as befits a Catholic country, a special and fascinating cathedral. Until the 1520s, a mosque stood right here, which fell victim to an earthquake. The construction of the cathedral on this spot took a whole 40 years. And if you are surprised that the cathedral’s construction reminds you of a fortress, let me tell you that this is not by chance. The cathedral was intended to protect against pirate attacks.
Another special feature of Almería are the “Refugios de la Guerra Civil”. This is a bunker complex that was dug under today’s Paseo de Almería, the main shopping street, during the Civil War to protect against air raids. During the civil war, up to 40,000 inhabitants could seek shelter here and there was both a food station and an infirmary for medical care.
In the period 1936-1939 alone, there were 52 bombing raids with more than 750 bombs.
A cultural asset handed down by the Moors can be found in the Aires de Almería, a traditional Arab bath where you can spend a great day in a luxurious atmosphere. It was built on the site of the Arab souks in Moorish times.
The Arab cisterns are a masterpiece of Andalusian hydraulic engineering in Almería. They were built in the 11th century by order of King Jairán.
They were part of the water network that was created to supply the population via public springs and wells and, of course, the troops. Unlike public buildings and institutions, private houses were not connected to the network at that time.
King Jairán was the first king of the independent kingdom of Almería. Under his reign (between 1012 and 1028), Almería experienced economic prosperity. The city grew rapidly and Jairán strengthened the fortress and the walls of the city. It was also Jairán who ordered the creation of a water conduit from the springs of Alhadra and the cistern outside the walls of the walled city. He placed its construction under the rule of his successor Zuhaír (1028-1038). Traditionally, however, they are known as Aljibes de Jairán (Cistern of Jairán).
The stored water volume was 630,000 l, an amount sufficient to supply a city of 30,000 inhabitants – even during a long siege.
This building was extended in the time of King Ibn Sumadih with a new canalisation that reached the Aljama Mosque and supplied the rest of the city. I have to grin a bit – how small cities were back then…
Just opposite the Alcazaba, on the next hill, the Cerro de San Cristobal, lies the Castillo de San Cristobal. The hill is surrounded by the ruins of a fortress wall from the 11th century (Jairán sends his regards). The wall in turn contains several fortress towers to demonstrate its military dominance. What is striking here is that of the seven existing fortress towers, three are square and were designed by Muslim architects. The other four are semicircular: they were built after the first Christian Reconquista (reconquest) by Alfonso VII in 1147.
The Castillo de San Cristobal, originally a Muslim military fortress, is now protected as a cultural monument.
In the port of Almería you will find another special feature: El Cargadero de Mineral or the English Cable. This loading station is located on the Playa de las Almadrabillas. El Cable Inglés” takes its name from its original owner, the British mining company “The Alquife Mines Railway Ltd”. Construction began in 1902 and is a masterpiece of early 20th century iron architecture.
It consists of two parts: the entrance connecting the railway station to the pier, and the pier itself, through which trains could be unloaded directly into the hold of the ships. Its access begins at the railway terminal, the central part of which rests on stone pillars in large arches separated by metal pieces on the base of large iron beams. In 1998 it was declared of cultural interest for its historical, symbolic and aesthetic values.
Another highlight is the bronze statue of John Lennon, which reminds us of those times in 1966 when John Lennon filmed the film “How I won the war” in Almería and also wrote the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”. At that time, he lived in the house that now houses the Film Museum.
This modern, interactive museum explains the history of the city of Almería.
The museum is spread over three floors and features a large-scale relief model of the city, as well as a five-minute high-definition film about the history and main sights of Almería, shot mainly with the help of drones. The model and film provide visitors with an excellent introduction to the city of Almería – a great way to get your bearings and see what the city has to offer.
So it is not without reason that we call this museum 😉 first.
Each floor of the museum covers a different period, with details of the main characters, typical dress and traditional customs:
the first shows Moorish Almería, the second Christian Almería and the third contemporary Almería as seen through the eyes of Carmen de Burgos, also known as Colombine (women’s rights activist and Spain’s first trained journalist).
… better known as the Archaeological Museum of Almería. Housed in an award-winning contemporary building, it displays the province’s considerable archaeological wealth, from prehistoric remains discovered by the Siret brothers in Los Millares to Roman statues.
Most of the exhibits date back to the Copper and Bronze Ages. Innovative displays on the first and second floors show how the earliest communities of Los Millares and El Argar lived (3rd and 2nd millennium BC)and farmed their land, as well as reconstructions of historical monuments from this period such as the burial chambers.
A circular “tomb” area with model skeletons arranged exactly as they were found is the best way to see a dolmen – far more pleasant and accessible than the dark and claustrophobic experience of a real walk-through 🙂 . An audio-visual display recreates the burial rituals.
Finds from the Roman period, including a beautiful statue, the Bacchus of Chirivel, as well as relics from the Islamic period can also be found in this museum, which is incidentally housed in the beautiful Escuela de Arte, an old convent.
This beautiful gallery is located in the fantastically restored house of Doña Francisca Torres Diaz, who died in 2014. She was a businesswoman from Almería and a passionate environmentalist, thanks to whom the east coast of Almeria offers some of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in Andalusia.
Opened in spring 2015, the 1920s Casa Vasca (Basque-style house) is a cultural centre and exhibition space featuring Almerian art from the 1880s to the 1970s. Three rooms are dedicated to the Grupo Indaliano, artists of the city from the late 1940s and early 1950s, including Miguel Martinez Gomez and Jesus de Perceval.
This museum is the other part of the Almería Art Museum, next to the Museo de Arte Doña Pakyta, which is housed in a historic building.
The Art Museum’s elegant contemporary building houses the city’s complete collection of contemporary art from 1980 onwards.
The building has a permanent exhibition on the ground floor and temporary exhibitions, usually by contemporary artists, on the upper floors.
This collection was previously housed in a beautiful neo-Moorish building, which is currently being restored, dating from 1927 on the same square.
This small, private museum, which opened in 2015, is the home of the most famous Spanish intellectual of the second half of the 20th century.
The Galician-born poet, essayist, writer and translator Jose Angel Valente (1929-2000) lived in the traditional house, with tiled floors and wood-beamed ceiling, for the last 15 years of his life.
During his time outside Spain, Valente earned a Master’s degree at Oxford, was a translator for the WHO in Geneva and worked for UNESCO in Paris.
Valente’s poems were published between 1947 and 1996 – almost 50 years of writing on themes of loss, death, exile and contemporary Spain. Valente returned to Almería in the mid-1980s and was heavily involved in many cultural, artistic and social activities. Like Doña Pakyta, he was a great supporter of the Parque Natural Cabo de Gata-Nijar.
The Film Museum is located in the renovated Santa Isabel (known locally as Cortijo Romero), where John Lennon stayed in 1966 during the filming of the comedy “How I Won the War”. The villa, where Lennon also wrote the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever”, is located in the Villablanca area outside the centre.
Furthermore, other famous personalities such as Clint Eastwood and Brigitte Bardot, to name but two, lived here at times.
In addition to the original accommodation for the stars, the museum is also an audiovisual tribute to Almería as a filming location – in the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of spaghetti westerns were filmed nearby, including the classics “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, as well as “A Fistful of Dollars” by Sergio Leone, but also the parts of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. You can still visit three Wild West film sets in the Tabernas desert today.
Events in the museum include concerts, exhibitions and film screenings. Outside there is a small auditorium for presentations. The museum is a hidden gem.
Take some time to watch a series of videos about Cortijo Romero and Casa del Cine, including the return of Cynthia Lennon in the mid-2000s.
The Museum of the Spanish Guitar ‘Antonio de Torres’ is more than a museum; an exhibition and information centre where visitors can easily learn about the main features of one of the most popular musical instruments in the world.
The most used and manufactured instrument in the history of world music comes from the hand of guitar maker Antonio de Torres, who is considered the father of the contemporary guitar.
This museum offers participants much more than a simple sequence of exhibits. It is a special, didactic, interactive and attractive cultural space open to the public.
There! Now we have earned a break after so much educational culture. And tapas are also sooooo culturally valuable 🙂
Almería, generally one of the (if not the) least known provinces of Andalusia, has not yet been able to build up a great gastronomic reputation. Therefore, the traditional tapas bars are definitely among the places of interest in Almería.
Those who spend their holidays here will wonder why they have never been here before, not only because of the remarkable sights, untouched landscapes and beautiful beaches. The gastronomy is also excellent! That’s why Almería was also the gastronomic capital of Spain in 2019. The Almería area has the best products of their kind with great traditional recipes, reinterpreted by young chefs today, of course, in a new and modern way. Nowhere eats better in our province than in the capital!
If you want to learn more about food in Almería, download our EBOOK here …
And of course, when you visit Cortijo El Sarmiento, you’ll get the hottest insider tips on tapas on a daily basis.
Or click here for the ultimate list of our favourite restaurants – in Almería Capital, but also in the rest of the province!