Guide to the Costa Almeria
The Costa Almeria consists of 200 kilometres of coastline fringing the south east corner of mainland Spain. It's certainly not one of the better known Spanish resort areas although tourism has started to make an impact on a handful of beachside villages dotted around the coast either side of the cosmopolitan city of Almeria.
Come to this particular 'Costa' if you're seeking uncluttered beaches and an altogether more relaxed sun and sand holiday than you'll find on the far busier Costa del Sol.
The Costa Almeria's few main beach resorts offer low key tourist facilities geared to families and couples rather than party people. It has to be said that much ofinland Almeria is rather bleak and barren, unlike the stunningly beautiful hinterland of the Costa del Sol.
The region is home to Europe's only desert and vast areas near the coast are swathed in plastic thanks to the mass greenhouse production of millions of kilos of crops which are exported from here each year. But this barren moonscape has its own particular charm. The desert 'badlands' of Almeria have become a major tourist attraction in themselves due to the fact that hundreds of Spaghetti westerns were filmed here along with some mega movies including Lawrence of Arabia and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The abandoned film sets have been incorporated into two popular entertainment centres - Mini Hollywood and Texas Hollywood - near the village of Tabernas, 30 kilometres north of America city.
Almeria and the cave houses
Inland Almeria is home to another rather offbeat attraction in the form of the many troglodyte cave homes to be found in the area. Curious tourists are drawn to villages such as Benahadux,Alhabia and Laujar de Andarax where 21 st century cave dwellers live in hobbit-like homes burrowed out of the soft rock.
The Costa Almeria's busiest tourist resort is Mojacar, to the north east ofAlmeria city. The bustling beachfront is a hive of activity throughout the summer months and there are plenty of watersports, bars, restaurants and entertainment facilities to keep hordes of foreign visitors happy. The nightlife is fairly low key but there's enough of it in high season to satisfy all but the most hardened revelers.
The coastal resort is overlooked by the charming hilltop town of old Mojacar - a sugar cube confection of Arab-style houses clustered beneath an impressive Moorish fortress. Other seaside resorts all geared to the demands of the international package holiday market have developed to the west of Almeria city at Agua Dulce, Roquetas de Mar and Almerimar.
At the very south eastern tip of Almeria province lies a wild and untouched nature reserve called Cabo de Gata - home to various exotic flora and fauna and a magnet for scuba divers who come from far afield to marvel at the wealth of marine life to be found in these crystal clear waters.
Almeria 's relative obscurity has kept property prices in the region much lower than in high profile resort areas such as the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol. Affordable holiday homes and a proliferation of 'off-plan' developments have combined to bring an increasing number of ex-pats to live here, either for part of the year or on a permanent basis.
Places of interest on the Costa Almeria
Los Millares is situated 20 kmsNorth West of Almeria between the villages of Gador and Santa Fe de Mondujar and was thought to be the location of Spain's first metalworking culture dating back to 1800 BC. Los Millares provided a crucial stepping stone between the Stone and Bronze ages because of its ability to smelt and shape copper.
Velez Blancois a small whitewashed village that lies 6km north of Velez Rubio at the foot of a rocky hill. On top of the hill you will see a stunning castle built by the Marquis of Velez Blanco between 1503 - 13. Although the castle exterior is still viewed as a stunning piece of Renaissance architecture the interior is just a shadow of its former self.
In 1904 the castle was sold to George Bluementhal, an American millionaire, who proceeded to rip out the interior, including the Patio de Honor - an impressive courtyard carved in white marble, and ship it all off to the USA. It has since been reconstructed inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Plans are in discussion to carry out a complete reconstruction of the original using marble from nearby Macael.
Mojacar is one of the most charming and least built up towns in Almeria consisting of white houses, fine beaches and beautiful natural surroundings. The character of Mojacar is unique with its narrow streets, secluded corners, and terraces that have been dug into the side of a hill. No other area of Andalusia can boast such a close heritage with its Moorish past.
Other interesting things to see on the Costa Almeria include:
Desierto de Tabernas
The'Desierto de Tabernas'is a land mass measuring approximately 11,625 hectares which lies to the north of the city of Almeria. It is considered to be the only real desert in Europe and has been used as a backdrop for a number of famous films.
Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata
The Natural Park of Cabo de Gata has become one of the jewels in the crown of Almeria and was created in 1987. It is the first terrestrial / marine Park in Andalusia covering 38,000 hectares of dry land and 12,000 hectares of land under water. The land in this area has remained largely undeveloped, there are no real towns, just small villages scattered here and there.
Scuba divers and snorkellers are attracted to a stretch of seabed 2 km wide in the park where marine flore and fauna are abundant.
San Miguel de Cabo de Gata is one such village, home to a large lake favoured by flamingos.
The Faro de Cabo de Gata (El Faro - The Lighthouse)
Sits on the cape's southern tip and on a clear day the Rif Mountains in Morocco can be seen.
The Renaissance church of Santa Maria
The castle of Mojacar
La Puerta de la Ciudad (Gates of the City)