The coast of Almería is situated in the south of Spain, in eastern Andalusia, where the Mediterranean coastline changes from the south to the east (levante). Of the many characteristics of this area, its contrasts, film sets and sceneries, its wildlife and history, none surprises the visitor as much as its light. A pure, intense light which gives Almería , along with St Joh of Acre, Athens and Syracuse, the highest number of daylight hours in the world (3100 hours of sunshine per year).
Along its coastline we can find villages ideal for relaxing and hidden-away places where nature reigns. The quality of light and the unique landscape have enchanted film directors: from the dunes of Cabo de Gata–Níjar Natural Park, where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, to the Tabernas desert, site of so many spaghetti westerns.
The western extreme of the Almería province, known as Campo de Dalías, occupies a wide strip of land rich in products grown in greenhouses and under plastic sheeting; the cultivation of these products has made for a genuine economic miracle in the area. To the west of the city of Almería, and facing the African continent, the western coastline descends from the Sierra de Gador to melt into the Mediterranean along beaches rivalling each other in beauty. Setting out from the capital, and before arriving at Aguadulce, the coastline becomes more uneven and rugged, with high cliffs from where you can take in a splendid view of the Bay of Almería. Travelling along the coast road, Almería gradually disappears behind us, and we pass among numerous hotels hidden away in small coves and tunnels dug in the rock. Aguadulce suddenly appears before us, with its attractive port to the forefront. We recommend stopping off here and taking a walk among the pleasure yatchs, of all kinds and nationalities, and to make your way to the jetty to be able to enjoy an incomparable panoramic view of Aguadulce.
A neat holiday complex forms the background to a clean, intensely-blue sea, lapping a shoreline which disappears far into the horizon. Numerous hotels and restaurants tempt us to stay here for a few relaxing days while enjoying the sea and sun of this beautiful spot. In Aguadulce the horizon opens out onto a flatter area where numerous tourist complexes are to be found in full expansion. The landscape here becomes very special. The work of man has transformed a former desert into a genuine emporium of horticultural products which are sold in European markets. A sea of plastic sheeting dazzles our sight before running right up to the Mediterranean shore.
Roquetas de Mar is the next stop on our route along the western Almerian coastline. Many civilizations since Prehistoric times have been attracted by this land and have settled here. From its Muslim past, Roquetas proudly offers the Torre del Castillo de Santa Ana. A sheltered marina, which extends on from the fishing port, offers many possibilities for maritime sport lovers. Close by the marina, an extensive complex has been built, with attractive buildings which blend with the environment, where the overriding impression one gets is of the white walls splashed with bright colours. An attractive, full-size golf course serves as the ideal complement to a long beach with its promenade, leading to a fully equipped tourist complex.
To the left of the west-bound road, we find the Reserva Natural de Punta Entinas, which in summer is home to a wide variety of migratory birds. Now the road rises a few metres in order to give us a splendid view of Almerimar, with its golf course in the foreground and the marina behind. Yet again, an endless array of hotels and restaurants offer us the possibility to relax, taking up water sports, tennis, golf and many other activities.
Beautiful beaches such as Guardias Viejas, Balerma and Balanegra, lead to Adra, a town of Phoenician origin which enjoyed a golden age with the Romans.
Back in the capital, to the east of the city of Almería we can find the Cabo de Gata–Níjar Natural Park, a cocktail of beaches, cliffs, sea and light combined in perfect harmony. The lack of crowds and the wildness of the landscape are things that do not pass unnoticed. As a taster of things to come the Reserve area of “Las Amoladeras” houses the Visitor Centre. Passing along a beautiful road between the Salinas Natural Site on one side and the Mediterranean on the other, we reach the site´s bird observation post. This place is of great ecological importance, with a flamingo population which reaches up to 2400 examples.
The contrasts begin when a narrow road snakes in often tight bends, and the superb flat beaches of San Miguel and La Almadraba move on to often steeply-dropping beaches, and the peace and quiet of the flamingoes, golden dunes and whitewashed arquitecture of San Miguel de Cabo de Gata are replaced by the high cliffs worn away by the violence of the sea. The lighthouse of Cabo de Gata, appears before us 150 meters below. In the midst of the seaspray, the Mermaids´ Reef stands dark and ghostly. The south gives way to the east, and the coastline begins to climb north.
San José is the most important town within the park area, after Carboneras. It is a fair-sized white-washed town with an enormous beach, two coves and a well-implanted tourist infrastructure. Its marina, sheltered by the cliffs, gives lovers of the sea the chance to practice many different water sports. A few kilometres to the north, La Isleta del Moro is a welcome sight, with its palm grove in the foreground and beyond, the whitewashed village spreads out over various crags, one being an islet, all set against the intense blue Mediterranean sky.
Carboneras, with its 16th century castle of St Andres, is a typical Mediterranean town, clean and tidy, and which is experiencing a growth of tourism. The arquitecture of the new developments by the sea recalls once more the area´s arab past, with dazzling-white cube-shaped buildings finished off with half-spheres.
From this point onwards, and moving out of the Níjar area, the road rises among the cliffs, to then drop down to Mojácar, situated in the foothills of Sierra Cabrera. It is actually quite difficult to find two streets at the same level in this beautiful, ancient town, with its clear Arab past. Mojácar should be visited without hurrying, to fill our senses with its strong personality, a personality which has caused such a deep impression on many foreign visitors – mainly British - that many of them have stayed to spend here the rest of their lives.
Under Arab domination Almería was the most important port of the Omeyan Caliphate under the rule of Abderrahman III. With the expulsion of the “moriscos”, Moorish converts to Christianity, in the 16th century, and after a number of earthquakes, the city fell into decline until the middle of the 19th century when the mining industry reached its peak.
From the sea, the city appears as a white line topped off by the Alcazaba (fortress) and the Cerro de San Cristóbal hilltop, and unequalled vantage point from which to see the town. The Alcazaba, built in the 10th century, consists of three fortified enclosures – two Arabic ones below and the Christian one above - surrounded by battlement walls. It retains interesting halls and passages open to the outside. Its high ochre-coloured walls turn to red in the early evening.
The Cathedral is a unique example of its kind. This 16th century fortress-cathedral displays a Gothic structure with Renaissance facades, and was constructed with the dual purpose of worship and defence against attacks on the city by Berber pirates.
There are numerous squares in Almería, although the Plaza de la Constitución is without doubt the prettiest, with its wide, arched porticos and the Casa Consistorial (town hall) which presides over all. The Puerta de Purchena area is the nerve centre of the town, with many small plazas where local handicraft products can be bought.