National Park of Cabo de Gata (Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park)
Approx 2.30 minutes from Cortijos Rey Fini
If you want to see more wild beaches and see things beyond Almeria and Cabo de Gata National Park, the recently opened motorway which goes from Velez de Benaudalla will give you an option to go to the deserts of Cabo de Gata which have excellent wild beaches. However, this has been under construction for several years now due to the state of the Spanish economy so it is unclear as to when it will be completed. You can also join the same motorway being built by leaving the Cortijos and going to Trevelez and continue towards Ugijar.
Our recommendation is that it is rather too far to do it in one day. but during the summer months of July and August accommodation is hard to get hold of even in the town of San Jose is rather difficult to find and very expensive. Do try to reserve somewhere unless you are camping before you set off.
Cabo de Gata
If you enjoy wild natural beaches and a natural desert landscape then you should visit Almeria and the Cabo de Gata National Park. This part of Spain is quite different to the Alpujarras and well worth a visit if you have the time to spare. From our experience it is too far to visit in one day. We suggest you plan your trip beforehand, booking accommodation as well if you are going in the summer months as leaving it to chance is risky and could be expensive. You can start out on the motorway by heading towards Orgiva and carrying on towards the coast until you see the motorway signs to Almeria/Cabo de Gata. However, this motorway is still under construction so currently you can only use it for part of the journey. Due to the state of the Spanish economy so it is unclear as to when it will be completed but we live in hope! You can also join the same motorway being built by leaving the Cortijos and going to Trevelez and continue towards Ugijar.
There are lots of beautiful and wild beaches in Cabo de Gata many of which do not have car access and are located in the national park.
The Tabernas Desert (Spanish: Desierto de Tabernas) is one of the only true semi-deserts in Europe (there are no true absolute deserts in Europe), located within Spain‘s southeastern province of Almería, where annual rainfall may in some little areas be below 200 mm a year
Some 12 km along the A92 and the junction with N340, there is Mini Hollywood, where the town was built for filming many spaghetti westerns – films like A fistful of dollars and The Good, the bad and the ugly, as well as Indiana Jones. This is one of the most incredible places and if you are going that way, it is a must. However during the month of August , it is impossible to find a hotel and if you intend to go make sure you have either reservation or will do it in the same day from our Cortijos.
During the summer months the coastal route becomes impossible. However the new motorway which passes between Orgiva and the A92 is due to be finished for the summer of 2008. When this is opened, reaching Almeria and Gabo de Gata will be a much shorter.
The main town in the National Park is San Jose offering many restaurants, hotels and beautiful beaches nearby.
San José is a very beautiful little fishing port in the centre of the natural park. Over recent years it is seeing an increase in the number of visitors and is an easily accessible town from Almería airport and the A7 autovia. San José, as with all of the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata is beautiful all-year round but most popular during the spring and summer months. Although San José boasts a few nice beaches, a little outside the town and within walking distance, are some of the most amazing and picturesque beaches in the natural park such as Playa de los Genoveses, Playa de Mónsul and Cala de la Media Luna. There are several good restaurants and excellent tapas bars in San José. The local independently run tourist office is a very good reference point for activities in the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata. Accommodation is plentiful although in summer some places can be fairly expensive and are quickly filled. San José along with Las Negras is a bit of a haven for the more bohemian type of person and enjoys a chic riviera type atmosphere.
There are many other small towns in the Cabo de Gata area.
Translated from the Spanish, Agua Amarga means literally bitter water. This name dates back to when trains used to bring minerals from the mines in the Sierra Alhamilla and chemicals used in the mining process would taint the wells in the town. These days Agua Amarga is one of the hot-spots for visitors to the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata. It is a pretty little sea-side town and fairly expensive in comparison to other towns or pueblos in the natural park. There is one fairly extensive beach, a number of very nice restaurants and hotels.
Cabo de Gata
The strip of beach known as Playa de San Miguel and the adjacent road stretches from the small village of Cabo de Gata to La Fabriquilla before ascending a tiny mountain pass towards the Arrecife de las Sirenas and the stunning beaches beyond. This coastal strip is generally known as Cabo de Gata although it comprises several little smaller villages (pueblitos) including Cabo de Gata, Almadraba de Monteleva and La Fabriquila. There are a number of hotels and places to eat and drink along this beach. At Almadraba de Monteleva are the salt works which are still operational, next to the salt works are the ram shackled and salt-blasted houses of former workers, some of which are still occupied. Opposite these houses is the curious church of San Miguel. Behind the salt-works are the lagoons known as Las Salinas de Cabo de Gata, as previously mentioned. Cabo de Gata has tradition of fishing which continues to this day and there are a number of old fishing boats that have been left along the Playa de San Miguel as artifacts of days gone by… these are said to have an important ethnological value and so are left as a “living museum”.
The pueblo of Carboneras is located near to the eastern-most border of Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata and is a fairly large town dominated by a large cement works. It is also home to a large desalinization plant, one of the biggest in Europe, which provides water for residents as well as the burgeoning plastic green house based vegetable industry. Carboneras has a convivial atmosphere and night-life almost throughout the year as it is a major sea-side town. The main town has fine beaches. Located just a little out-of-town and en route to Agua Amarga, is the popular naturist beach of Playa de los Muertos (the Beach of the Dead) which is reported to have been voted one of the country’s top beaches. Carboneras is also known as a town of live music due to the Teatro de Musica and a number of other smaller venues hosting live music all year round.
Las Negras is a little different from the other pueblos in Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata. It is a peaceful yet lively little sea-side village towards the eastern end of the natural park and just to the west of Agua Amarga. Las Negras has some rather odd buildings that are very 70s in appearance because it has been developed in a more modern style to other towns. Despite its size, there is a lively night-life and some great places to eat and drink and enjoy live music. Las Negras is a bit of a haven for the more bohemian type of person and has a lovely beach on which to sit and watch the world go by. From Las Negras there is a footpath to Cala de San Pedro which takes about 40 minutes to an hour to walk or you can take a boat.
Any movie buff will recognise Los Albaricoques as being the pueblo of Agua Caliente in the seminal films (movies) of Sergio Leone. The final shoot out in the film For a few dollars more took place in the centre of Los Albaricoques. The economy of Los Albaricoques relies heavily on the agriculture that surrounds the village and arguably some of the best tomatoes from Spain are grown in this area, notably the ‘Raff’. There is only one shop and two bars in Los Albaricoques. One of these bars Hostal Alba, is a mecca for film / movie buffs and a tribute to the village’s cinematic history. Not far from the pueblo of Los Albaricoques is the infamous Cortijo del Fraile, the backdrop for Federico Garcia Lorca’s seminal play, Bodas de Sangre(Blood Wedding), which features a crime of passion that took place close by.
Níjar has been described as one of the most picturesque towns in the whole of Spain and is known for its superb handcrafts in pottery and carpets. Located inland and on the northern edge of the natural park, it comes highly recommended as a place to see and should be on any self-respecting visitor’s itinerary. The visit is made all the more pleasant thanks to the many reasonably priced bars and restaurants offering delicious local dishes. There are also affordable hostels and hotels in and around Níjar. It is well worth visiting Níjar during the processions of Semana Santa (Holy Week). In the bigger towns and cities around Spain, these processions are quite lavish including at times some very intricate animatronics but in smaller towns, such as in Níjar, they are much more “earthy” affairs.
The tranquil town (pueblo) of Rodalquilar sits peacefully in the middle of the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata and is a haven for the local artistic community. There are a number of unique independent galleries dedicated to showing off painting, photography, pottery and ceramics. Rodalaquilar is a sleepy town with some very nice places to eat and stunning beaches and couldn’t be more different from its past for it is known in the province of Almería for ancient mines of gold! A trip to the natural park is not complete without a visit to the goldmines and abandoned miner’s villages. One of the more popular “must see” beaches near Rodalquilar is Playa el Playazo. In common with many of the beaches in the middle and towards the western end of the natural park, the sea is normally crystal clear and perfect for snorkelling or diving.
There are a number of smaller towns and villages in the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata that are worth mentioning and each with its own charm and historical / ethnological importance. Campohermoso, Fernán Pérez, Isleta del Moro, Los Escullos, Pozo de los Frailes, San Isidro are just some of them. Isleta del Moro and Los Escullos are particularly interesting as they are along the coast and have some stunning, if not smaller beaches. There is a network of footpaths (senderos) that connect all the sea-side towns / pueblos.