Cabo de Gata – A Different Side of Spain

It’s so easy to get to Spain – from the UK there are loads of flights, many with the budget airlines.  But we don’t all want to spend our holidays basking in the sun in the sweltering, packed, mass-touristy Costas.

Fortunately there are still regions of Spain that are not overdeveloped and spoiled – even on the coast.  One such area is in and around the Cabo de Gata/Nijar Natural Park.

Cabo de Gata Natural Park, Spain

Desert landscape in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park

 

This unusual area near Almeria is characterized by mainland Europe’s only true desert and a rugged coastline with unspoiled villages and deserted beaches.  You would never guess it was situated between the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol.  We love its stark and lonely beauty.

Cabo de Gata coast, Spain

Typical undeveloped area of coastline

 

Cabo de Gata coast, Spain

More rugged area of the coast

 

Less attractive (but still interesting) is the massive horticultural industry where most of our tomatoes and many other fruit and vegetables come from.  But once you get past the many square miles of greenhouses and polytunnels, you can find alluring arid landscapes, hills formed from ancient volcanoes and true solitude.

Desert track in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park, Spain

Wonderful solitude

How to Get There

The nearest airport is Almeria, but it is also an easy drive from Alicante or Malaga where there are many more flights to choose from.  Murcia and Granada are also possibilities – it really depends on which flights are most convenient from your local airport.  To see what is available from your local airport try Skyscanner.


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For car hire it is worth checking Holiday Autos – they will compare many local suppliers and offer great prices.

Where to Stay

We love Agua Amarga, a small white coastal town which is quite sleepy if you avoid the main holiday season.  You can walk along the coast in both directions from here, and also into the hills and desert-like scenery behind the town.

Agua Amarga, Cabo de Gata, Spain

View over Agua Amarga from the Boutique Hotel El Tio Kiki (see below)

 

Beach at Agua Amarga, Spain

The beach is quiet outside the main holiday season

 

Another great thing about staying in Agua Amarga is a row of simple restaurants actually on the beach.  It is a lovely experience having dinner as the sun goes down with the sound of the waves literally a few feet away.

Restaurant in Agua Amarga, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Dinner with a sea view and the sound of the waves

 

Sunset, Cabo de Gata coastline, Spain

Sunset over the coast

 

There are a number of good hotels in Agua Amarga.  We have stayed in the elegant and luxurious Boutique Hotel El Tio Kiko and also in the simpler but great value Hotel Las Calas.  We can personally recommend both of these hotels.  There are several other options in the town, and some great-sounding hotels in the nearby countryside – to see what is available click booking.com.

We have also stayed in the modern Hotel Spa Calagrande Cabo de Gata at Las Negras, a little further along the coast, which is luxurious with great sea views.  Again we can definitely recommend this hotel.

View from hotel on a moody evening

 

Other places to stay include San Jose, which is a slightly larger coastal town with more facilities, or if you wish to stay inland, Rodalquilar would make a great base.  To search the whole area and compare the various options click here.

Where to Explore

Rodalquilar

We highly recommend a visit to the atmospheric little town of Rodalquilar.  Here there is a lovely little botanical garden, displays about the local geology (opening times are limited out of season), and abandoned alum and gold mines to explore.

There is a great waymarked walk that passes many ruins from the gold mining industry which once existed here.  The full walk takes around 3.5 hours and involves some gentle climbing, but is interesting all the way.

Rodalquilar, Cabo de Gata, Spain

View from Rodalquilar’s botanical garden

 

Botanical Garden, Rodalquilar, Spain

Botanical Garden

 

Abandoned gold mine at Rodalquilar, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Abandoned buildings from the old gold mine

 

Abandoned mines and Rodalquilar town, Cabo de Gata, Spain

View over some of the mining relics with the town of Rodalquilar behind

 

Beaches

There are numerous beaches along the coast, often accessed by rough tracks or steep paths.  Many of these are very quiet and secluded, and great for exploring interesting coastal formations as well as strolling and swimming.  Note that some of the beaches are used by nudists.

Uncrowded beach, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Typically uncrowded beach at Playa de los Muertos

 

Playa de Piedra Galera, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Playa de Piedra Galera

 

Rocky shore, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Rocky shore

 

Cala del Plomo, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Cala del Plomo

 

Cortijo del Fraile

It is worth visiting this atmospheric old farmhouse to explore the wonderful desert landscapes around it.

Cabo de Gata, Spain

Matt enjoying the open space

 

Lizard, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Local resident

 

Agave plant, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Lonely agave plant

 

The house itself is known as being the site of a 20th century crime, and also being one of the locations used for filming The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Cortijo del Fraile, Spain

Cortijo del Fraile

 

We walked from Los Albaricoques, but you can also drive to the Cortijo along rough tracks and there is parking.

Flamingos at Las Salinas

An unusual sight is the flocks of wild migratory flamingos that visit the wetlands at Salinas.   Herons, egrets, plovers and other wetland species also use the site.

Flamingos

Flamingos at Las Salinas (photo © Jan Hovvels)

 

Numbers are greatest in the summer, but we have seen flamingos as early as Easter.  The area is a protected fenced-off reserve, but there are paths around the perimeter and some observation posts to watch the birds.

Other Walks

There are many other possibilities for walks in the area.  For a variety of routes see  Choose Almeria which has details of 16 signposted routes in the Cabo de Gata park, as well as many other walks throughout Almeira.  The route directions are vague, so it is best to use them in conjunction with a map – see Cabo de Gata Nijar.

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If you want to explore a quiet area of Spain, and appreciate starkly beautiful landscapes and undeveloped beaches, you may fall in love with Cabo de Gata.  We did.

 

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