Visiting Almeria Spain
Originally known as the Costa del Sol that name became attached to the area around Malaga Province and specifically Almeria the city. The Costa de Almeria runs east of Almeria City and includes the Cabo de Gata-Nijer Natural Park, Carboneras, Mojacer, Garrucha, Vera Playa, Palomares and Villaricos.
Visiting Almeria, Spain which includes the majestic Sierra Maria-los Velez with its snow-capped mountains, which is also a nature reserve and the Cabo de Gata-Nijar Nature Reserve. Both areas are known for the flora and fauna, which includes deserts, sea caves, a vast array of wildlife and fauna. In one area of Spain, you can conquer mountains, swim in the Mediterranean’s deserted waters, and tour the desert.
The area of Andalucia has some of the absolute prettiest villages in Spain. Romantic bougainvillaea covered alleyways and whitewashed villages perched high on the mountains and hills, tucked into little valleys. This article on the Most Beautiful Villages in Andalucia by Sonja of Migrating Miss blog shows of some of her favourites from Salobrena to Mojacer.
The greatest advantage of staying in this area is the ability to travel around Andalucia, this means you can easily get to Seville, Barcelona and Granada which are absolutely amazing destinations. If you would like to explore this area further head over to Lavina’s Continent Hop website to see an itinerary for a week in Spain for those destinations.
History of Almeria Spain
Almeria’s name comes from a time when the Arabs occupied Spain. At that time, it was known as Al-Mariyya, which means watchtower. This area was the first line of defence against enemy forces. The capital city Almeria with its Moorish castle, Alcazaba was a major harbour and principal stronghold of the Moors kingdom.
The Alcazaba is the second largest fortress in Andalusia after the Alhambra in Granada. There is a lot of evidence of the moors in the region from the architecture to the agriculture and food of the region. There are also many Roman and Greek Archaeological remains along the coast alongside relics from the days of the Crusaders and Christians.
Visiting the Almeria
Cabo de Gata Almeria Spain
Starting at the Cabo de Gata – which is a nature park there is very restricted road access but the area has many tiny fishing villages where you can get a beer and tapa before you hike to its secluded beaches for swimming. The coastline is incredibly rugged and care must be taken when swimming due to rip tides in some of the secluded bays. There are amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea and coastline from here. Cabo de Gata is the perfect place for hiking and bird watching.
Cabo de Gata’s Best snorkelling spot – Los Escullos beach
Most of the beaches and waters in the Cabo de Gata offers fantastic snorkelling. There are underwater rock formations just next to Los Escullos beach as well as caves which are particularly beautiful.
The deep water allows dive boats to get in close for scuba diving. Snorkelling, it’s an easy enough spot to get to, with a little walk and a short swim. You snorkel over layered rocky platforms, with huge drops between the platforms. The water can get very deep very quickly and you need to be a very confident swimmer to snorkel this area.
Best places to eat in the Cabo de Gata
This area can be quite expensive to eat out. The villages beside the beaches can be overpriced. Cabo de Gata can be expensive to eat out. The more popular villages, particularly the ones next to the beach can be overpriced.
San Jose in the middle of the park is a lovely place to while away some hours with tapa and Spanish wine. You can find lots of little restaurants with great seafood and paella as well.
Best beaches in Cabo de Gata
There is a great range of beaches in Cabo de Gata so it’s virtually impossible to pick the best.
For families Playa el Playazo is great, easy access lots of sand for the kids to play in and pure beautiful waters that are quite shallow.
Playa de los Muertos is not an easy beach to access and would not be suitable for children or those with mobility issues. The paths to the beach are steep and it takes around 20 minutes to get to the actual beach. However, it is well worth the hike if you can do it.
San Miguel is an urban beach that runs the entire 2.5-kilometre length of San Miguel de Cabo de Gata. There are lots of facilities with showers, access for the disabled, and lifeguards. On the waterfront area, you will find many cafes, restaurants and bars as well as some superb ice cream. On the beach itself, there are lots of tables and shaded terraces to enjoy the views and sample some tapa and wine. This is a Blue Flag beach.
Salinas beach is a 5 miles long beach that sits alongside the wetlands that are also known as Salinas. The beach stretches from the Tower of San Miguel to the Cape with its lighthouse. It is the largest beach of the Natural Park and not terribly crowded even in high season.
If you love a backpacking trip check out Aiden’s Guide to Backpacking Andalucia for a ton of valuable information.
What to see and do in Mojacer Playa
Down the road, going east from the Cabo de Gata you will find Mojacer Playa. The playa area encompasses over 17 miles of beautifully groomed beaches, chirinquitos, beach bars and plenty of little cafes and bars from which to people watch.
Mojacer is actually a village in two parts. The beautiful whitewashed village that clings to the side of the cliff is Mojacer Pueblo and the area that runs along the beaches is the Playa these are around 2km apart but there are good transportation options to get between the two.
Mojacer Playa is the place to be for the Spanish in the summer months of July and August but during the rest of the year, the Playa has a great population of ex-pats that live here year round,
History of Mojacer
Mojacer has apparently the largest population of expats in the country. During the 60’s when Mojacer’s population dropped to 1000 people they began to give away land to anyone who promised to build. This sparked the local economy and many artists and new residents moved in. This gave Mojacer a great boost and the tourists began to arrive to enjoy the local beaches and restaurants.
Local legend claim that the cartoonist Walt Disney was born in the area and immigrated to the United States when he was a child.
This depopulation of Mojacar continued until the 1960s when it reached critical proportions with only 1000 residents living in the area. Local leaders then decided to give away land to anyone who promised to build upon it. This offer proved to be the spark, which rekindled Mojacar’s economy.
New residents began to appear and the town soon became a thriving artists’ colony. It was around this time that the symbol of Mojacer – Indalo man was found near Vélez Blanco. Indalo man was a cave painting of a man holding a rainbow over his head. This became Mojacar’s lucky symbol and you will see it represented all over the area.
What to see in Mojacer Pueblo
Mojacer pueblo remains true to its Moorish past and can only be really explored on foot. There is an elevator above a parking site on the edge of the pueblo, which will take you up to the old town where you can explore its beautiful streets on foot.
While in Mojacar, there are some places you definitely can’t miss out
Mojacar Town Hall and the precious adjacent tiled square with the Indalo everywhere. In the centre, there is a century-old Ficus Benjamina is located, brought from America by an immigrant.
Plaza del Parterre, with many flowers, was used as the Arab cemetery.
La Fuente Mora, the Moorish fountain where the last Moorish ruler peacefully surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs.
Puerta de la Ciudad, the original doorway to the town. It was built in the 16th century, and it is decorated with the emblem of the city, a two-head eagle.
Iglesia de Santa Maria. Located near the Plaza del Parterre, you can see the statue of The Mojaquera, that represents the women of Mojacar.
Plaza Nueva and the Mirador. Mojacar’s main square is always filled with lively tourists, drinking a copaat one of the comfortable bars or enjoying a breathtaking sunset from the Mirador. From there, you can revel in the views over the Sierras de Cabrera, Bédar and Almagrera, as well as the nearby towns and the river Aguas.
Barrio del Arrabal, the 17th-century Jewish Quarter of Mojacar, characterised by narrow streets and bright colours.
Mojacer Playa sits on 17 kilometres of gloriously beautiful beach around 2.5 kilometres from Mojacer Pueblo. Full of chirinquitos, play areas for the kids, beach bars and restaurants and loads of activities the beach is virtually deserted except in July and August when the Spaniards hit Mojacer for the summer holidays.
There are tons of places to eat and drink from Irish pubs to tapas bars, Indian food, and Spanish cuisine restaurants. You can get everything from paella to a Full English breakfast.
From Mojacer you can travel the road east to Garrucha. This is a port city and if you are on the beach in Mojacer, you will see the container ships coming in to off-load and load up the great vegetable riches of the region. Garrucha is a lovely small Spanish village, there are fewer expats in Garrucha but the population is growing because it is more a village than Mojacer Playa is.
The harbour is the central point of Garrucha as it is a working fishing village and that comprises a great deal of the local economy. Garrucha is famous for it’s locally caught red prawns and on the quayside, you can buy all manner of fresh fish in the morning.
The harbour is surrounded by the promenade that is over 2km long and is lined with palm trees, restaurants, cafes and bars. The evening hours bring everyone out to walk the promenade and have a beer or cafe in the small venues along the harbour. On Friday there is a fantastic market held one street up from the harbour promenade were everything from undies to oranges can be purchased.
Visiting Vera Playa and Vera
North of Garrucha is the inland town of Vera with its famous bullring but further east is Vera Playa. Vera Playa is famous for its nudist beaches and hotels as well as the Dream Beach festival that takes place every summer and brings in over 100,000 visitors.
The resort is fairly unique in that some of it is dedicated to naturism including a number of apartments where you can wander around naked and we saw many of them….lol…
Check out Palomares
Slightly up from Vera Playa is the little town of Palomares, which is famous because of the hydrogen bomb incident that took place in 1996 a B-52 bomber from the US, collided with a tanker in the sky above Palomares. The accident killed all four crew members of the air tanker and the B52 broke apart killing 3 of the 7 crew and dropping its payload of non-nuclear explosives on Palomares. Two of the bombs detonated on contact, the third stayed intact and the fourth was dumped into the sea.
The area is cordoned off to this day and each year several of the villagers are taken to Madrid for testing to see if there have been any ill effects from the dropping of the bombs. Fortunately, there have been absolutely no incidences of ill health or physical effects from the bombs. Nearly 50 years later the US has signed an agreement to clean up the site in Palomares.
The village itself has benefited from that incident, as it is a very wealthy little area with many beautiful homes. The town square has a lovely selection of restaurants and a great central area where many treat themselves to tapa and beer and people watch. Palomares has a shop of every kind from bakeries to pescadaria (fish shop) and a village market every Wednesday.
It is home to many ex-pats that gather in the square on a Saturday afternoon to meet friends and listen to some live music. The beach is a bit of a hike from the centre of the village but this is a lovely friendly village to just hang out in and meet lots of people.
From Palomares travelling further east, you will arrive at Villaricos. Villaricos is situated in a unique position on the mouth of the Rio Almanzora and the coast. Villaricos is another fishing community but it has several unspoilt beaches to swim from. The countryside around Villaricos is stunning with the entire coastline sheltered by the dramatic Sierra Almagrera Mountain.
There is a lovely seafront promenade, which is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and bars where you can people watch for hours. There is also a small population of ex-pats here who love the peace and quiet of the area.
From festivals like Dream Beach (the best electronic music on the planet apparently) at Vera Playa which takes place every August on the beach to Moors and Christians Ferias that are held all around the area, the Costa de Almeria area is rife with celebrations.
During the summer months, many of the small villages and towns host Cine de Verano or movies on the beach. You can also take part in Noche de San Juan, which is celebrated on the shortest night of the year with bonfires and picnics on the beach. A curious tradition along the Costa de Almeria is the El Entierro de la Sardinia or the burial of the sardine, which brings to a close the carnival season.
Cuisine, Culture and Movies on the Costa de Almeria
Naturally being a seafront area, much of the food of the Costa includes seafood from fried and grilled fish to octopus and of course, the justly famous Garrucha red prawns. Many dishes have a distinctly Arabic flavour and couscous is quite common here.
Andalucían cuisine includes an amazing selection of tapa and the agricultural industry here produces superb fruits and vegetables, which are used in dishes such as gazpacho and eggplant with local sugar cane honey. There is a great variety of soups, stews and salads from tabernero, a spicy tomato stew, and sopa moruna, a soup with vegetables, lentils and cilantro). Other typical dishes include migas, which is fried breadcrumbs with garlic and chorizo, papas a lo Pobre (fried potatoes topped with a fried egg and/or roasted peppers).
Tabernas Desert – Europe’s only desert
Many a Hollywood film has been shot here, the Tabernas desert just up from the coast is the only European desert and it is a classic arid landscape that has proved to be a brilliant location for films, TV shows and documentaries.
Classic spaghetti westerns such as ‘The Good, the Bad and The Ugly’ were filmed here and the town of Tabernas has developed a thriving tourism business known as ‘Mini Hollywood’ comprised of several of the old film lots now converted into living museums. Other filming includes Game of Thrones, documentaries like “The Hunt for Bin Laden” was filmed here and the movies with Christian Bale film Exodus Gods and Kings was filmed at the Taberno de Castillo an Olive farm in the desert.
Cave houses on the Costa de Almeria
The Andalucia area is famous for its many cave houses and homes. This Spanish cave area starts from up at Granada in Northern Andalusia down to Cuevas del Almanzora just around the corner from Palomares. In areas near to Baza (further north towards Granada), there are entire neighbourhoods of cave homes or casas Cuevas. The Wagoners Abroad got to experience living in a cave and you can too through Air BnB.
The cave houses owe their existence to the region’s peculiar geology – eruptions of rock formed from the sediments of a prehistoric sea. The region’s cave-dwelling tradition began with the Moors, but most were built (or carved) in the 19th century by peasant farm workers. And thanks to the user-friendly nature of underground life in a hot, dry climate, it’s a tradition that’s never died out. The number of modern cave-dwellers in the Granada province runs into the thousands.
We definitely fell in love with the area and hope to come back again and perhaps even make this area our retirement home.
Where would you like to retire to?
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