Tapas can, of course, be enjoyed in any Spanish city, town or village, but usually these tasty snacks come with a catch: you have to pay for them. Not so in Almería. Here, with every beer, wine or soft drink you order, you’ll receive an accompanying tapa for no extra charge, meaning you can sample a variety of Andalusian classics for hardly any outlay.
If you are able, try to enter or leave Almería via the A-92 motorway. About 30km (19 miles) north of the city, it cuts through a landscape that is as barren as is it beautiful. This is the Desierto de Tabernas, Europe’s only desert, which spans 280 square km (108 square miles) and where temperatures rarely drop below 40°C (104°F) during the summer.
The Tabernas is responsible for Almería province being the driest area in continental Europe and for its capital being the warmest city on the continent: the annual temperature is a balmy 19°C (66°F), and in recorded history it’s never dropped below freezing. This makes visiting a pleasure at any time of year – indeed, 20-degree days are common, even in the depths of winter.
Almería’s desert has also been the setting for many classic films, including 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia and the Sergio Leone Westerns starring Clint Eastwood. For a truly memorable day out, you can visit three of the film sets that were made for the Leone classics – Fort Bravo, Mini Hollywood and Western Leone – where shootouts and other scenes from Wild West life are re-enacted for visitors.
Almería is not unique for being home to a beautiful Gothic-Renaissance cathedral, but its 16th-century Catedral de la Encarnación is the only building of its kind in Europe that was used as a fort as well as a church. The sturdy watchtower that can be seen to the left of the main entrance provides an architectural contrast that appears in no other cathedral on the continent.
Almería province is home to the Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park, which in turn boasts some of Spain’s most unspoilt and beautiful beaches. Playa El Playazo is the park’s most popular stretch of sand, whilst the Playa de los Genoveses and the Playa de los Muertos are two of the largest and most untamed. Bring a picnic, because there are no beach bars out here.