The Spanish province of Almeria boasts about 200 miles (322km) of varied, scenic coastline that attracts package tourists to its developed resorts near the main towns, but also offers idyllic spots for nature-lovers to explore with its many unspoilt fishing villages, long sandy beaches and small intimate coves popular with nudists. Sunny and mild, Almeria lies southeast of the Iberian Peninsula on the Mediterranean Sea, still bearing the archaeological evidence of the many ancient cultures, from the Tartessos and Phoenicians to the Romans and Visigoths, who were drawn here by the natural beauty and useful maritime geographic location. The region retains an African flavour, imbibed from that continent which is a short distance away across the Mediterranean.
Inland, Almeria is rather barren and arid, and boasts Europe’s only desert region around the village of Tabernas , which has been used as the location for several western movies. In the east the lunar-landscaped Cabo de Gato-Nijar nature reserve with its rugged coastline, attracts hikers, birders and scuba divers. Despite the dry, inhospitable landscape Almeria has developed a thriving agricultural industry and plastic-covered tunnel farms packed with lush fresh produce and flowers are to be seen in abundance.
Most visitors flock to the holiday resorts to the east and west of the lively capital city of Almeria , which boasts picturesque squares, some worthy sights to see, cafes, a ferry port and marina. Lovely beaches, marinas, hotels and sports centres provide plenty to keep holiday-makers happy in the resort towns of Mojacar to the east, and Anguadulce, Roquetas de Mar and Almerimar to the west of the city.
The ancient Andalusian city of Almeria lies sheltered at the base of a bay, proudly dominated by the amazing Alcazaba, a huge Moorish citadel with three walled enclosures dating from 995. From the citadel visitors have a good view of the city’s most impressive and important Christian monument, the Cathedral, dating from 1524, designed more like a fortress than a church because of the need to defend it from pirate attacks. The Cathedral contains numerous art treasures, including a tabernacle dating from the 18th century, designed by Ventura Rodriguez. With its interesting medieval architecture, Almeria ‘s old town is a delight to stroll through with its tranquil squares, archways and colonnades. The city also has a fascinating archaeological museum and unique cave dwellings in the hillside above the old gypsy quarter.
Movie buffs in particular enjoy a visit to the little village of Tabernas, about 16 miles (26km) from Almeria city, set between the Sierra de Alhamilla and Sierra de Filabres in a barren landscape of canyons and rocky wasteland reminiscent of the American Wild West. A few decades ago when Western movies were the most popular Hollywood genre, legendary stars such as Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef, Claudia Cardinale and Charles Bronson strutted their stuff here in the dry heat on film sets which fans will recognise from such great films as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly , A Fistful of Dollars and The Magnificent Seven . The movie lots have now become theme park tourist attractions. There are three to visit: Mini Hollywood , Texas Hollywood and Western Leone. All offer a fun day out in Europe ‘s only desert region, with stagecoach rides, live shows, a zoo and the opportunity to slake your thirst in the saloon.
Cabo de Gata Natural Park
A lighthouse stands at the tip of the Cabo de Gata peninsula, north of Almeria city, marking the extremity of Andalusia’s largest coastal nature reserve, it’s a fascinating landscape cocktail of arid desert, volcanic mountains, jagged sea cliffs, sand dunes, wetlands, a lagoon and sandy hidden coves. Mountain bikers, hikers, bird-watchers and water sports enthusiasts of all persuasions get away from it all to this natural wonderland which encompasses some quaint fishing hamlets, historic ruins and magnificent stretches of beach.
Roquetas de Mar
The popular tourist resort town of Roquetas de Mar was once a sleepy, picturesque fishing village, dating from Roman times, and it still retains its warren of Moorish alley-like streets and pretty aspect of white-washed houses ascending the hillside. Hotel and apartment complexes, however, are beginning to dominate the skyline especially along the long, sandy beaches adjacent to the village. Tourism is big business along the holiday strip, with shops selling local crafts jostling with numerous restaurants and bars, and myriad activities on offer from horse riding to scuba diving or sailing. Roquetas has an 18-hole golf course (at Playa Serena) and a specially designated nudist beach. Those interested in history will enjoy exploring the ruins of the medieval Castilla de Santa Ana and other fortifications in the area, and bird-watchers have a treat in store at the Las Marinas salt marsh and Punta Entinas beaches a few miles south of the village, where flamingos, egrets and avocets gather.
The delightful holiday resort town of Adra , the western-most coastal town in the province of Almeria , is surrounded by magnificent beaches and is rich in history, having been founded in the 8th century. Adra remains a working fishing harbour and early-rising visitors enjoy the daily dawn fish auctions and dining out at the many tempting seafood restaurants. The clean, neat town centre with its many squares and parks is split by the attractive Paseo de Natalio Rivas promenade. Sights to see include the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Partridge Tower (which houses the tourist office), an historic restored mill and the town’s interesting museum. Adra boasts the Poniente blue flag beach among its stretches of beautiful sandy shore.
Undoubtedly the most romantic and picturesque resort town in south-eastern Spain , the white-washed houses and cobbled streets of Mojacar are sprinkled atop a hill overlooking pristine sandy beaches, washed by the warm Mediterranean . This unspoilt ancient Moorish fortress town has been a favorite with artists and writers for many years, and now attracts holiday-makers who fill up the hotels and villas which have proliferated along the nearby stretch of beach, fortunately not yet to the detriment of the town’s appearance or beguiling atmosphere. The village centre is honeycombed with narrow casbah-like cobbled alleyways, which hide many quaint surprises, like a Roman fountain pumping fresh spring water and the unusual fortified church of Santa Maria.