Almeria truly has something for everyone, from a great tapas scene and magnificent architecture, to a stunning natural park and some of Spain’s best beaches. Read on for our pick of the top ten things to see and do in this southern Spanish city.
One of the joys of visiting Almeria is being able to sample a range of traditional Andalusian cuisine for hardly any cost. Here, with every beer, wine or soft drink that you order, you’ll receive a plate of tapas for free. The often-generous portions make the city’s tapas bars unbelievable places in which to eat, as for the price of a couple of drinks (about 5-6 euros ($6.8)) you can basically enjoy a meal.
Almeria’s forbidding Moorish fort, or Alcazaba, was built during the latter half of the 10th century, when the city was one of the most important in Arabic Spain; along with the Alhambra in Granada, it was one of the largest such structures in Al Andaluz. Its construction was ordered by Abd al-Rahman III, the wealthy caliph of Córdoba who was also behind the latter city’s magnificent Medina Azahar.
Aside from the Alcazaba, Almeria’s other architectural masterpiece is the great Catedral de la Encarnación. Constructed in Renaissance and Gothic styles over forty years in the early 16th century, this beautiful building was not only used as a place of worhsip by Catholics, but it was also intended to provide defence against roaming Berber pirates.
Despite its somewhat macabre name, Almeria province’s Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) is one of the most stunning beaches on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Located in the Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park (see below), its unspoilt sands are surrounded by rugged hills and cacti-strewn countryside. Take a picnic with you, as there are no facilities on this wild and untamed stretch of sand.
Playa de los Genoveses is another of the Cabo de Gata’s star beaches and offers pristine sand and wonderful swimming. This is the kind of beach for those who like getting back to nature: there are no chiringuitos or other facilities, and it’s reached by walking through the desert-like landscape for a few hundred metres after parking.
Almeria’s Refugios de la Guerra Civil were built during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and comprise about 4.5km (2.7 miles) of underground caverns and tunnels. They were constructed to offer a safe retreat from the relentless attacks of Franco’s fascists, who bombed the city into submission before finally capturing it in the last year of the war. You can visit 1km (0.6 miles) of the tunnels, with tours offered in Spanish only.
During the 1960s and 70s, the desert-like terrain of Almeria province became a sought-after filming spot. Many of the decades’ best-known films were shot in the area, including the Sergio Leone westerns that have become classics of their genre. Today, you can visit three of the Wild West film sets that were built during this time: Mini Hollywood, Fort Bravo and Western Leone (no prizes for guessing who the last one was named after).
Almeria is the driest area in Europe, largely due to the fact that it is home to the continent’s only desert. Technically a semi-desert, the Desierto Tabernas is located 30 km (19 miles) north of the city and is a barren but beautiful land of sand dunes, cacti and mountains. Though it’s too hot for exploring on foot in spring or summer, you can drive through the Tabernas using the A92 road, admiring the scenery as you go.
A cowboy in Almería's Wild West | Emilio del Prado/flickr
Located 40 km (25 miles) east of the city, Cabo de Gata Nijar‘s uninhabited, rugged expanses make up the largest protected natural area on the Mediterranean. The park is home to the 493 metre (1617 ft) high El Fraile mountain – Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation – some of the country’s finest beaches and a number of incredible trekking and cycling trails. Native fauna include the yellow scorpion and a specimen of the Black Widow spider.
History buffs visiting Almeria will want to check out the Museo de Almeria. One of the city’s best museums, its focus is on the Copper and Bronze ages and it has a number of important pieces from those periods. These are spread out over three floors surrounding the impressive 13-metre (43 foot) tall Stratigraphic Column, which shows layers of earth representing various stages of the city’s long history.