Gracias a mi amigo Rubén, un almeriense quien me ayudó elegir las maravillas. Más o menos, hemos coincindido en las maravillas/Thanks to my Almerian friend Rubén, who helped me pick the meravelles. We agreed on the meravelles…for the most part!
Located in the very south of Spain, Almería is a forgotten about Andalucían province that boasts over 300 sunny days a year (the opposite of Bilbao in so many ways! Opposite side of the country, and it is sunny for every cloudy/rainy day in the Capital of the World). Much of the province is an arid desert, and many people skip over it for more touristy places like Málaga and Granada. They’re making a mistake. Almería is quaint and has a lot of beautiful places to see.
It also has a lot of mythology and rumours about it. There are rumours that Walt Disney was born in Mojácar and was adopted/his father died, his mother met a seaman who ran away with Walt to the States as a youth. Tom Hanks obviously did not play this urban legend up in Saving Mr. Banks. Another claim to fame for the province. Now immortalized in the 2014 Goya (Spanish Oscar) winning Vivir es más fácil con los ojos cerrados, John Lennon filmed How I Won the War in Almería province in 1966. It was here where he began writing “Strawberry Fields Forever”. A more current pop culture item is the sixth album from one of my favourite groups, Lifehouse. It was named for the province as the album has a more western theme and so many westerns were filmed in Almería.
My first and only visit to Almería came in 2011 during the Puente de Diciembre, that time of year that usually gives the Spanish 3-4 (some years even 5) days off from work and travel due to the holidays of el Día de la Constitución (Dec. 6) and an important Catholic Saint Day on the 8th. I caught a too-early Ryan Air flight on Thursday morning (the 8th). I slept the entire flight despite Ryan Air’s desperate pleas to sell electronic cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets and advertising another
flight that actually arrived without incident on-time flight. I caught a taxi to the city (maybe 15-20€ if I remember correctly? It wasn’t too bad. I want to say only 11€, but it was three years ago and memory makes things better and cheaper most times.) and the taxi driver complemented me on my Barcelona wallet. It was nice being around another culé (Barça supporter) as I was living in Madrid at the time.
I was hit with a calmer pace of life immediately. I checked into the pensión and went for my fave breakfast, done better in Andalucía than anywhere else in the world, pan tostada con tomate (Baguette-style bread lightly toasted with olive oil and a tomato paste).
Then it was time to explore. I went immediately to the alcazaba, which was free for being a Spanish holiday. It was a great visit with spectacular views of the city and Mediterranean. I later explored the city. I remember a little girl asking me why I was taking pictures of the city, and I told her I thought it was interesting. She was a bit shocked and thought I was “raro” (a weirdo). I saw the cathedral and had some cafés con leche in the plaza nearby (Ryan Air means little sleep and mucho caffeine, folks). I met up with my friend in the evening for tapas and mosto (a Spanish grape juice).
The next day, I really wanted to visit el Cabo de Gata. (Cape of the Female Cat for those wanting a translation) said to be one of the most beautiful natural areas in the Greatest Peninsula in the World. However, public transport to natural areas is not always the best, so with a sigh, I made a vow to return one day and made my way to Granada. Three years later, I would’ve found some way somehow to spend another night in Almería to have had time to get to the park. Hindsight is 20-20.
Cabo de Gata (yet to discover)
The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Cabo de Gata is the only region in Europe with a warm desert climate. It has high cliffs and Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation, El Fraile. Although I have joked that “gata” female cat here (it is), it’s actually named for the mineral agate that was mined here in the past. There are numerous coral reefs and small islands off the coast. It has many wildlife and plant life species and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
In the capital city (around 192,000 habitants), the Alcazaba and the ruins of San Cristobal castle are the main attraction. The Muslim fortress was began in the late 10th century and was expanded between 1012 and 1028. After the reconquista, King Carlos III added a wall and after the reconquista of the city, the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabel added a third castle. Today it offers some beautiful views of the city.
Catedral de la Encarnación de Almería
The Cathedral of Incarnation of Almería is a Gothic/Renaissance-style cathedral built in the 16th century. It’s one of the most visited places in the capital city Almería.
Mojácar (Yet to discover)
Mojácar is a beautiful white village of nearly 8000 habitants boasting over 3000 hours of sun a year. (I’m going now. Agur, sirimiri!) Due it’s location on the sea, it has a bit milder weather than the interior of the province. A nearby village, Lucainena de las Torres, has recently been listed on “Los pueblos más bonitos de España” (The most beautiful villages/towns of Spain).
Calar Alto (Yet to discover)
The Calar Alto Observatory is a German-Spanish astronomical observatory perched high on the Calar Alto mountain in Almería. It opened with a 1.2 metre/47 inches telescope and today has the largest telescope in Europe with an Equatorial mount, which is 3.5 metres/138-inches.
Desierto de Tabernas (Yet to discover)
The Tabernas Desert is a semi-desert located 30 kilometres/19 miles north of the capital. It usually has less than 200 millimetres of annual rain and offers 280 square kilometres of natural beauty. It was a popular location shoot for Western movies and is somewhat similar to the Badlands in the American Dakotas.
Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada (compartido con Granada) (Yet to discover)
I’m cheating as I know I wrote about the Sierra Nevada when I wrote about Granada, but the Sierra Nevada is impressive enough to merit a second mention. It’s the largest national park in Spain and is popular with skiers and people like me, hikers/trekkers.
And now I want to return to Almería to pick up all that I have yet to see.)