Spain! Ever since I was a child I dreamt of going there because my grandfather used to have pictures with cactuses and he told me numerous times about their suspended highways and their amazing music. When I was about 9 or 10 he gave me tapes with flamenco music and Mexican music and a big red book: “Learning Spanish without a teacher”. I guess that paid off, because here I was in Spain, talking Spanish to locals.
You could call me naive but oh, boy! there are really a lot of cactuses in Almeria! I was so stunned and impressed like a little child because I was seeing them for the first time. And also, not to mention the palm trees, orange trees, banana trees, olive trees!
What is there to see in Almeria you could ask since there are probably more exciting cities to explore in this country. And you’d be probably right. Well, the answer is friends and authentic Spanish life. Almeria is not where the tourists usually go, so everyone here will be surprised to find out that you’re not Spanish.
I spent 2 days and I’ve seen pretty much everything in the city allowing myself a short trip to the famous Cabo de Gata too.
Alcazaba (derives from an Arabic word) is a Moorish fortification and it can be easily found in the center of the city. It is the biggest of the citadels built by the Arabs in Spain, having a 1430 m. walled perimeter. Its inside is stunning: there are a nice garden and a typical Arabic pond (which I will describe in the article about Granada). By climbing the towers, you will get the best view of the city and the port, as well as the famous gypsy caves from the neighborhood “La Chanca”. The fortress has 3 parts: the first two Muslims and one Christian, easily identified by its canons.
Northward the Alcazaba, you will see a line of the wall, leading to the hill “Cerro de San Cristobal”, built in the 11thcentury. It is a leftover that surrounded the once Muslim neighborhood and descended from the hill to the street Antonio Vico. On this hill, there are seven towers. Three square ones, from Muslim times, and four semicircular ones built by built by Christian Templars. The road to San Cristobal was closed at the time and I didn’t want to venture to the top by climbing the unsteady rocks. Locals say it’s the best place for watching the sunset!
The entry to the Alcazaba is free and it’s opened from Tuesday to Sunday, but allow yourself 3-4h to see it and enjoy it. I strongly suggest taking a guided tour because you’ll find out more about the history of this place.
2. Cathedral of the Incarnation of Almería
This massive cathedral was built in the 16th century having two purposes: place of worship but also a refugee in the way of the pirates, who attacked the city. That is why the cathedral consists of four majestic towers that could belong easily to a fairytale castle. Also, it consists of plain walls, small windows and only one entrance to prevent the invasion of the North African pirates. Its interior is rich: three chapels, ribbed ceilings, soaring arches and Baroque and neo-classical details. Being Orthodox myself, I am always impressed by the choir stalls and secretly wish to see them in action.
3. Tabernas and Europe’s only desert
A trip to Tabernas takes only 45 min taking the bus from the Estacion de autobuses, which is not far from the city center. According to Ken Jennings from Condé Nast Traveler, this is Europe’s only desert. The climate is semiarid Mediterranean and rainfall does not reach 250 mm per year with an average temperature of over 17° C. Maybe that is why a lot of western movies have been filmed there, such as Indiana Jones, Lawrence of Arabia and Exodus. Not to mention, there is also a mini-Hollywood at Fort Bravo, not far away from Tabernas. But maybe I’ll stop there next time!
On the top of a hill, you can see the ruins of a castle built by the Arabs in the 11th century. Take some water with you and start climbing! The best views of the desert are up there!
4. Casa Puga
Casa Puga has a tradition of tapas in Almeria for more than 100 years. It’s a place frequented by both tourists and locals. There are meat, fish, even mushrooms tapas accompanied by a delicious house-made wine. The waiters are prompt and they don’t take notes of your order, instead, they write it on the bar.
The word “tapas” is derived from the verb “tapar” which in Spanish means “to cover”. In the Andalusian region, you’ll find it often that with every drink you order, the waiter will bring you a tapa for free. The drink is usually “tinto de verano”, which is wine with lemon juice and it has about 4-5% alcohol. The drink is not that old, it has been created in Cordoba in the 20th century. Tinto de verano is more common to be consumed in a restaurant or bar, whereas sangria is drank by the locals in their homes with friends.
5. The Beach
The beach in Almeria is quite chic and clean. I spent almost an entire day there and I didn’t see any tourists, only old people, and teenagers (probably because it was on a Monday).
Getting help from locals is not a problem at all! Do you want to catch a bus? No worries, another bus will catch the first one for you! Do you want to find your hotel? No worries, someone will lead you there! Do you want to see Cabo de Gata? No worries! A kind-hearted local will take you there! I was able though to see only the first beach in the Cabo, Nijar, and I have to say it’s magnificent! Fine sand, surrounded by mountains, clear water and no one around. You have all this beach to yourself!
The Natural Park of Cabo de Gata is worth exploring in a separate trip as it’s accessible only by car or by a rare bus, which runs on very specific days. But that will definitely be on my bucket list!
There are many other places that you could explore in Almeria such as Plaza de Toros (the bullring), the Museum of the Civil War and having a relaxing time in a Hammam (Arabic bath). Unfortunately, I’ll have to come back for those since I didn’t have enough time this round.
If you’re tempted, you can reserve your flight here.
PS: check out the Indalo – shaped cookies (indalotes) made of oranges and almonds. The Indalo is the symbol of Almeria, considered a lucky charm!