Introduction to Almeria, Spain

Introduction to Almeria, Spain

Desert Springs etc July 08 006 RESIZEDBetween the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca, south of the Costa Calida, we find the Province of Almeria which covers an area of nearly 9,000 square kilometres and comprises a great many geographic contrasts, including long beaches with small coves, large desert areas and areas of varied vegetation, with high mountains, extensive valleys and plains.

Almeria enjoys a warm and dry Mediterranean climate, the driest in Europe in fact, with little rain and more than 3,000 hours of sun per year.This climate allows visitors to enjoy all aspects of the province at any time of the year.

Almeria province, long appreciated by the Spanish, is now very much on the list of destinations for the discerning holidaymaker and also for longer term residents. Until recently Almeria was less accessible than some other Spanish destinations, a fact which has undoubtedly helped to shield it from the excesses of tourism and allowed it to remain the unspoilt, peaceful place it is today. There are now however, daily domestic and international flights from the airports at Almeria, Murcia and Alicante.

The Costa Almeria has many fine sandy beaches with clear water and you can still find some deserted beaches farther along the coast.   It’s also well worth exploring the dramatic scenery inland.  Visit the stunning Alpujarra mountains or visit the desert areas of the Campo de Tabernas with its Wild West landscapes; not surprisingly, there’s a thriving film industry here. Only a short journey away are the winter ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which offer all of the facilities you would expect from a modern ski resort.

Mojacarbeach 3 resizedMojacar, ancient in origin and Arabic in appearance, is undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan town in the whole region.   It spills down the side of a hill on the lower slopes of the Sierra Cabrera.   In spite of the slow destruction that it has been subjected to over the centuries, it preserves its spectacular structure of stepped terraces and charming narrow streets. On the coast are more than 5kms of beachfront, along which there has been considerable development. However, there are 12km of virgin beaches and coves which reach to the borders of the Cabo de Gata natural park.

Geographically situated in the South-East of the province of Almeria, Moj√°car possesses a comprehensive communications network which makes it easily accessible from anywhere in the country.   It is just 90 km. by motorway from the provincial capital (about 50 minutes), and the A7 connects it with the whole of the South and East of Spain and beyond. New high speed rail lines to Madrid have now been announced too.

0000001534Moj√°car’s privileged position on the coast gave it great strategic importance.   It was the birthplace of the Argaric culture, and later received peoples like the Phoenicians, the great traders, and the Romans, who left valuable evidence of their presence in the Barranco de la Ciudad and in a tile deposit at the foot of Moj√°car La Vieja.

After the Visigoths, who stayed here until the 8th century, came the Moors.   It was under their dominion that the population was to experience a period of splendour accompanied by the construction of watch-towers and one of the most impressive water cisterns in the old Kingdom of Granada.

In 1488 Moj√°car passed from Moorish to Christian hands, and was repopulated by one hundred families originating in the Kingdom of Murcia, whose loyalty during the Alpujarras rebellion won for them the two-headed eagle motif on their coat-of-arms, the symbol of the House of Austria.

The 19th century began with the War of Independence (Peninsular War), and 1812 was the blackest year in Moj√°car’s contemporary history due to epidemics. In the 1840s, the discovery of silver in the Sierra Almagrera again brought prosperity, an upturn that its tourist potential has maintained to the present day.

In 1940 three men arrived in Moj√°car dressed in strange grey suits. They said they were representatives of Walt Disney Studios and were looking for the birth certificate of Josẻ       Guirao Samora, born in Moj√°car in 1901.   They claimed that this Almerian villager and the American genius of cartoon productionfame were one and the same person.

From the Mirador (viewing point) of Plaza Nueva, where the 18Ith century Ermita de los Dolores (Hermitage of the Agony), there is a magnificent view of the Valle de las Pir√°mides) and of the area previously occupied by Moj√°car la Vieja.   The visitor can also enjoy a fine view of the coast from the Mirador del Castillo, the highest point in the village.

A walk around the Arrabal, the old Jewish quarter made up of labyrinthine streets, holds special charm, as does the old route leading to the twelve-tubed Fuente Mora (Moorish Fountain), where women still wash clothes at dusk.

The southern zone of Moj√°car allows for wilder, more adventurous enjoyment of the coastline paradise, where calas (small bays) like Bordenares, El Lance or Cala Granatilla display immaculate natural beauty and rich marine life.  

Moj√°car cuisine, although faithful to the sea which provides its fresh fish, is very much tied to the land and its produce. Crayfish, red prawns, grouper fish and red mullet make up the dishes which delight the most demanding of palates with the sheer flavour of local produce.

But it is the fruit and vegetables and their local transformation which confer a real identity on the area’s gastronomy. Tourists should not, therefore, be surprised to find a number of ‘poor people’s dishes’ on the menu.

Just a few kms. away, near the Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) and the Faro de Mesa Rold√°n (Mesa Rold√°n Lighthouse) is the village of Agua Amarga, where remains are kept of mining archaeology.   Agua Amarga is also the starting point for visiting the fascinating Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park, notable for countryside like that at Rodalquilar, with its abandoned gold mines.

This Natural Park, not far from the impressive Genoveses beach, is the perfect backdrop for active tourism pursuits like walking, mountain bike trekking or scuba-diving, and is also a paradise for ornithologists, containing species like the pink flamingo.

From the coast at Moj√°car, going past the golf course at Marina de la Torre, the Palacio de los Ch√°varri or the protected area at Lagunas del rio Aguas, the tourist arrives at Garrucha, a village which for three centuries was the cause of disagreements between Vera and Moj√°car over their respective municipal boundaries. Garrucha is notable for its fishing, trading and recreational harbour, its fine promenade built from Macael marble, and its Ermita del Carmen (Hermitage of the Virgin of the Villa).

From Vera the road leads to the Cuevas (Caves) de Almanzora, a real open air archaeological museum, with an ancient area of great distinction.   This patrimonial wealth is shown in the caves dating from the Neolithic period, the troglodyte necropolis and living areas, the Castle of the Marquis of Vélez and the Casa de la Tercia (House of the Tierce).

The town of Vera is very prosperous and has many stores; it is rich in handicrafts and is renowned for its high-class cuisine.   There are many traditional Spanish ‘Tapas’ Bars as well as the fancy restaurants and the friendliness and hospitality of the inhabitants of Vera make this town especially attractive for residents and visitors alike.   There is also a street market every week.

If it is a more peaceful and tranquil environment that you seek, then inland from Punta del Rey and Vera is the ideal location.   Here, the towns and villages show little sign of tourism, and the many customs and traditions of the area are a constant source of delight for all.