Sitting along from the Costa del Sol, Almeria can be often overlooked but it offers the perfect retreat to unwind and soak up some rays. Capital of the province of the same name, its origins can be traced back to 955 AD when it was used as a defence system for the regional Arab towns. Nowadays it is a haven for holidaymakers with some breathtaking sights and delightful beaches.
Almeria is considered one of Spain’s best kept secrets, regarded as the “unknown” province of Andalusia. However, it is a beautiful destination with a unique charm, making it unlike anywhere else in the country you may have visited. Whether it is the unspoilt nature or the great mountain ranges, it provides the perfect background for a week or two.
Before you step on the plane and jet off to Almeria, with flights now available from Manchester, let’s take a look at what you need to know about the area.
It is a culture vulture’s paradise
If you are one for a spot of culture then the city of Almeria is a hive of activity.
Overlooking the city itself, is La Alcazaba Monument. An imposing sight on the skyline, this 10th century fortress includes three huge enclosures, gardens and the Walls of Hayran. It provides spectacular views over Almeria and down the valley to the San Cristobal hill. For a truly memorable experience, venture up to La Alcazaba as the sun sets.
Heading down from the hilltops and into the city itself, then why not visit the Cathedral of Almeria? It was an integral figure when the area was used as a defence post during the 16th century. The cathedral acted as a fortress during this period and was a stronghold against pirate raids from North Africa. It has managed to retain its glorious structure to this very day.
Staying in the city and another testimony to Almeria’s Arabic heritage are the Aljibes. These 11th century Moorish water cisterns have been beautifully preserved and once supplied the inhabitants and troops stationed in the city.
One of the best nature spots in Spain
Not only is Almeria known for its culture but it has some of the most magnificent natural sights around. Just a few miles out of the city is the Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park, considered one of the most important natural reserves in Europe. It is dominated by the Sierra del Cabo de Gata mountain range, which includes Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation of El Fraile.
It is the only region in Europe to have a true hot desert climate and was shaped by lava flows, volcanic domes and volcanic calderas. The area is also famous for a different reason – flamingos. These unmistakable pink birds flock to the region and tend to be seen on the salt flats.
The area has been designated as a Special Protection Area for bird life meaning more and more nest there every year. Visiting here certainly adds something a little different to your holiday.
It has some of the best beaches in Spain
Besides the volcanic cliffs and rolling landscapes, Almeria is home to some magnificent beaches. Head to the western coast in a region known as Poniente, here you will find the Roquetas de Mar beaches.
Popular with locals and tourists these resorts manage to stay typically Spanish despite the influx of holidaymakers. Both Poniente and the Bay of Almeria are beaches you come to expect from a European break with bars and restaurants lining the seafront and water sports and sun lounger hire in abundance.
The Natural Park of Cabo de Gata-Nijar as mentioned above is also a great place to soak up some sun. These unspoilt, uncrowded beaches are stunningly beautiful. The long sandy shores, coupled with the turquoise waters make them perfect for a quiet retreat. It allows Almeria to boast the one of the best coastline in Spain.
Charming village life
Almeria is surrounded by a number of little quaint villages that can provide a great day out from the city itself. Head to the resort of Mojacar on the coast to get that quintessential holiday vibe. The resort is the largest in the region and is split between the old town of Mojacar Pueblo and the sandy beach area of Mojacar Playa.
If you’re looking for something a little quieter then the smaller, Villaricos with its pebble beach, is just the place for you. Should you be looking to play a spot of golf then there is no better place than Roquetas de Mar, while the Castilian villages of Velez Rubio and Velez Blanco provide some glorious views over the region from up in the mountains.
The city has a bustling nightlife, not to mention the delicious food
After a day of sightseeing you need to unwind and enjoy a night out. Almeria has you covered. With an abundance of tapas restaurants you can dine out on some truly delicious meals, all with that authentic Andalusian flavour.
Why not indulge in some puntillitas, battered and fried baby squid, to get a true taste of the region? Thanks to its coastal location, Almeria loves its seafood so it would be a great shame not to try some of this delicious fayre.
Wild west backdrop!
A little known fact about Almeria is that it is the scene to many Hollywood films. Have you ever seen the classic Western films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars or even Steven Spielberg’s classic Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? Well, Almeria provided the backdrop to them all.
Walk in the footsteps of famous movie stars such as Clint Eastwood, Brigitte Bardot, Sean Connery and Harrison Ford and visit the city’s Mini Hollywood. You can visit this attraction in the Tabernas Desert and take a tour around Oasys Park, Fort Bravo and Western Leone, all of which played a part in creating some of cinema’s best loved films.
The Tabernas desert became a favourite for filming Westerns thanks to its remarkable resemblance to a typical, dusty US town and continues to be used today.
Almeria is one of the hidden gems of Spain, so why not discover it for yourself?