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Cabo de Gata Natural Park, Almeria Places of Interest 

Cabo de Gata Natural Park
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The 71,500 acres of Cabo de Gata stretch east from Retamar, to the east of Almeria, across the cape to the Barranco del Honda, just north of Agua Amarga. Classed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, it has been protected since 1987. It is oolcanic in origin and land height ranges from 493m above sea level to 60m below. With an annual average rainfall of 100m.m, it is the driest place in Europe. Despite this, it supports a great variety of flora and fauna, adapted to the arid, salty environment.

South of the village of El Cabo de Gata, lies Las Salinas (salt lakes) where, in the first millennium B.C., the Phoenicians controlled the seawater, which entered through the marshes, in order to extract salt. Here, the Laguna de Rosa and the adjacent dunes are home to many species of migrant and breeding birds. The best known are the pink flamingos but over eight other species, including avocets, storks and eagles, can be sighted throughout the year, from spring through to autumn. Very few over-winter when the Salinas are drained after the autumn salt harvest.

     For the rare, Italian wall lizard, with its green back with three rows of black spots, Spain – in particular this area – is its o­nly habitat. The fox, hare and common grass snake are more common animals. Europe’s o­nly native palm, the stunted dwarf fan palm, grows here, and the strange, yellow-flowered, parasitic plant, Cistande phelypaea, also flourishes.     

     Cabo de Gata offers much to human visitors. The volcanic hills form dramatic cliffs and capes, the backdrop to beautiful, uncrowded beaches. Within the park and along the coast are scattered settlements of white-washed, flat roofed houses. It is possible to walk the 61km. from Retamar, round the southern tip of the cape, then north-east to Agua Amarga, although in summer, the lack of shade could make it uncomfortable

     The main information centre for the park (Centro de Interpretacion Las Amoladeras – phone 950 16 04 35; open 10am – 2pm and 5pm – 9pm from mid July to mid September and 10am – 3pm from mid September to mid July) is about 2.5 km. before Ruescas o­n the road from Almeria. As well as tourist information and maps, it has displays of local flora, fauna and human activities, souvenirs and craft work.

     The village of San Miguel de Cabode Gata, still supporting a small fishing fleet, is the main o­ne o­n the western side of the promontory. Here, you will find a sandy beach and places to stay and eat. The campsite near the beach (Camping de Cabo de Gata), which is open all year round, boasts a pool and a restaurant. The bank o­n Calle Iglesia has ATM. The information centre at Avda Miramar 88 (open daily 10 am – 2.30 pm and 5.30pm – 9pm.) has information o­n walking and rents out mountain bikes.

     Continuing south from the village, you will come to La Almadraba de Montelva, where salt from the salinas is piled in great heaps. Its church, with a very tall tower, dominates the area for miles around. The road then winds round rugged cliffs to reach the lighthouse (Faro de Cabo de Gata) o­n the southernmost tip of the cape. A turning by the Bar Jose y Maria (open Easter to October) just before the lighthouse, leads up to Torre Vigia Vela Blanca, an 18th century watch tower o­n top of 200m cliffs. It is not open to the public but there are great views of the rock cliffs and perhaps, o­n clearer days, Morocco’s Rif mountains.

     A walking and cycling track, closed to cars, passes through prickly pear plantations to the fine, sandy beaches of Monsul (2km), the secluded Media Luna cove and Los Genoveses (4km) and to the resort of San Jose (8.5km). An information centre is situated in the centre of the resort and internet access is available at Tierra Red San Jose, Plaza de Genova (open daily 10.30 – 2pm and 5 – 10pm). Horses can be hired for exploring the park from Hotel Cotijo El Sortillo, an 18th century ranch house, converted to a 4 star hotel, south out of San Jose.

     The road continues north over cliffs, along the coast, past Los Escullos and La Isleta, then turns inward before descending to a pleasant valley. Four kilometres o­n is the desert hamlet of Rodalquilar, o­nce a small mining settlement, amid scrub, palms and cactuses. The Natural Park information office is in the centre (open May – September, daily, 10am – 2pm and 4.30 – 8.30pm and October – May, Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 3pm). Hotel Rodalquilar, with amenities including restaurant, pool, sauna and gym, has rooms arranged around a sunken courtyard. o­n the east side of the village is a good-value restaurant, down a signed track.

No road follows the cliff-lined, most secluded stretch of the coastline from Las Negras to Agua Amarga. For walkers, it is an 11km. up and down path. o­ne hour’s walk from Las Negras takes you to the site of a ruined hamlet, whose buildings included a castle and which more recently was an international hippy colony. In a further hour and a half, you will reach Cala del Plomo, where there is a beach and a tiny settlement. The path continues to Agua Amarga, the northernmost settlement o­n the east side of Cabo de Gata. This pleasant fishing village, with its sandy beach, now caters for holiday-makers and has a supermarket, post office, several restaurants and hotels.

A further 3km. up the Carboneras road, a turning leads to a cliff-top lighthouse (Faro de la Mesa Roldan) and an old watchtower. From here there are mote wonderful views. From the car park, you can walk down to the naturist Playa de los Muertos.

Public Transport
     Bus timetables can be obtained from Almeria city tourist offices or from Almeria bus station. There are daily services between Almeria and Agua Amarga, La Isleta, Las Negras and Rodalquilar, four buses daily to El Cabo de Gata and a more frequent service to San Jose.


Towns
Agua Amarga Cabo de Gata Carboneras Nijar
San Jose

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