A beautiful but windy mini trip to the Natural Park Cabo de Gata-Nijar
We needed a change of scenery, so we decided to make a small trip to a special place in the south of Spain. Michael came from the U.S. to Spain in August 2016 and had not seen it yet. It is called Cabo de Gata which means Cape of the Cat or if you wish Cat Cape and is only some 3 hours’ drive away from where we live.
The area has a category of V in Spain, which means protected landscape/seascape. It is the largest coastal protected area in Andalusia.
The unusual and driest area in Spain
The landscape is isolated and has some of Europe’s oldest geological features. On top of that, it has a boiling desert climate. The nearby mountain range, Sierra del Cabo de Gata, includes Spain’s largest volcanic rock formations and has cliffs that are 100 meters high. These cliffs have unique forms, make hidden coves, and the area has some lovely white sandy beaches.
This is just a short YouTube video giving you a glim of this special area.
The international village San Jose
San Jose is the biggest village of Cabo de Gata. They constructed its fort between 1733 to 1735. Of the people living here, about half are of Spanish nationality, followed by Italians, Germans, English and some other nationalities. There are 2 famous beaches, which will have many people in the summer.
There is Bahia de Los Genoveses, which got its name when in 1147 a fleet of 200 boats from Genova landed to support King Alfonso VII in his battle against the Muslims. Since then, the Flag of Almeria has been the same as the state of Genova. The other famous beach is called Playa de Monsul.
We decided to stay for 2 nights so we would have a full day of exploring the area. Beforehand we had looked up the things we wanted to see and made a detailed plan for that day.
We left right after breakfast, around 10.30, and took the Mediterranean highway (A-7) which goes north towards Almeria. After a couple of hours in the car, we found a little coffee shop to stretch our legs, then continued on. We arrived in San Jose around lunchtime (2 – 3 ish).
Before reaching San Jose we had commented already on how different everything looked from where we live. It is about the driest area of Spain, so vegetation is sparse and the colors of the landscape were all different hues of brown and cream. The small villages were populated with little white houses, often only 1 floor high. I really got the feeling of being in another country.
That it is so dry here has made this area a magnet for film production. The Almeria area is famous for the spaghetti western made there.
Exploring San Jose
We parked on the main street and had a little lunch. Afterward, we went across the street to the 1 star Hostal to check in. It had a good clean room with a small balcony where we unpacked and did a bit of computer work.
Then we made a brisk walk along the boulevard and small marina. A tremendous wind was blowing, and it made a beautiful and rough sea and caused the sand from the beach to convert into a Sahara storm. We did not last too long and found refuge in a pleasant restaurant next to our Hostal for an excellent dinner with some wine.
The start of our day tour
The next morning we had a little breakfast, Spanish style, and went on our tour of Cabo de Gata. As the area is enormous, you do need a car. We planned to first visit the Playa de Los Muertos, which means the beach of the dead.
We drove a bit inland to then turn to the right toward the town of Agua Amarga, which means bitter water. This is a small village on the coast. It only has some 400 inhabitants and a pretty beach some 500 meters long.
This tiny village has no real harbor, and they pull small boats onto the beach. Mooring balls for bigger boats are located about 100 meters away from the beach. We had something to drink, asked for directions, and went on our way. Not long afterward we reached the parking place on top of the hill and saw the Playa de Los Muertos a long way down below us.
Playa de Los Muertos
In old times, probably because of the currents, this was the beach where sailors who had drowned would wash ashore. Stepping out of the car and looking down, it became obvious it would be a little hike, and off we went. The wind was blowing strongly, which made the sea really spectacular.
Descending, I slipped once and fell on my butt. There was no major damage. Arriving on the beach, I spent the next hour looking for interesting stones. I got quite a collection to take home. There were also some unusual rock formations. After a brief rest and something to drink, we climbed uphill and continued our trip.
The pretty village of Nijar
We drove inland to Nijar, which took a little over 1 hour. We passed a big flat area which is covered with plastic. This plastic is on the greenhouses, which stretch as far as you can see.
Because of the high winds that frequently visit this area, some torn plastic from damaged greenhouses was hanging on dry bushes along the road. I thought that with all that wind it could very well end up in the sea and form a danger to marine life.
Arriving in Nijar, we found a good parking spot on the main road going into this picturesque town. Nijar has around 20.000 people and the inhabitants appear happy with a good economy. We stopped at one shop that had a weaving machine set up to make colorful blankets and rugs.
There are 5 ceramic workshops in the lower part of the town. You will see colorful pottery in which we can recognize many Arabic designs and colors. We found a nice little place on the plaza where we had wine and some local tapas.
After this brief rest, we had a look at the church. They build la Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion in Mudejar style of XVI.
We continued our walk uphill and discovered a small plaza with an old fountain and some big old trees. The fountain is from 1859. Then we came upon a small passageway and we could see the Atalaya de Nijar, the tower of a small fort from Arab times.
On top of the tower, you have a superb view of Nijar and the mountains of Cabo de Gata. We walked downhill to the car and continued our trip.
On route to the gold mines
There is a route over a dirt road that will take you to an extensive area, wherein old times many mines were being exploited. Actually, mining had been going on here since prehistoric times.
These mines produced alum, lead, silver, and zinc. Gold was found by pure chance in 1864 in Rodalquilar and soon the area was booming. It was not found in nuggets, but you had to win it from the mineral-laden rock called ore.
Because of the civil war, it all came to a standstill. In 1956 the company Denver, which was a melting plant, was opened by General Franco. It was the largest Gold Mine of these characteristics in western Europe. There were 1400 people living in the village and 1000 worked in the mines. In 1966, the mines closed as they had exhausted the veins.
I was so lucky to find a smallish stone with some small green crystals. I get the impression it could be this new mineral that was discovered in 1968, but I am not sure. The mineral I speak of is called Rodalquilarite and you will also be able to find it in Coquimbo in Chile and in Tombstone, Arizona.
Along the route, we climbed up to an abandoned mine, including some ruins. We took some photos and climbed back as the area is a little dangerous. You have to be careful to not fall into sizeable holes. I picked up some stones here and there and one of them could be that special mineral, at least it has the color of emeralds.
We continued driving and saw many mines in these mountains, but most of them were too far away from the road to go exploring. There was a part of the road where they had dynamited the mountain, and you could clearly see different color bands in the wall.
In the village Rodalquilar, an area is isolated and fenced where you can see the houses of the people who worked in the mines used to live. It is being kept as a reference to the past history of the town.
We came home, tired of the many climbs we made and were completely windblown. I had a salty face. After a nice fish dinner in the restaurant next door, we went to sleep.
Visiting the beach de Monsul
The next morning after breakfast we decided to see where the 2 famous beaches were. Going over the mountain, we came to a dirt road on the other side of town. We did not stop at Playa de Los Genoveses but took photos. The scene of the train attack in the film Lawrence of Arabia, with Peter O Toole 1962, was filmed at this beach.
The following beach is called Playa de Monsul and is very special. The sand is quite dark and this beach can boast of a live dune.
Depending on which direction the wind blows, its sand will cover one of its basalt walls. Many times they used this beach for films. Part of a well-known film was also made on this beach, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
We arrived at Playa de Monsul, where we parked the car and walked down to this pretty beach. I found some delicate shells, made photos of unusual-looking rocks and seaweeds. After 1 hour at the beach, we walked back to the car and continued our trip home.
On the trip home, we decided to not take the highway A-7 and instead took the coast road. A nice quiet trip with beautiful heights above the sea as well as small jaunts through the local villages.
It was a slow drive home and a wonderful respite from the fast pace of the major highway. After a brief stop on the coast for a coffee, we were on the road again. Soon we were home, tired but happy, having visited Cabo de Gata.
A book for your tastebuds
Traveling is a delight for many reasons, one of them being the original foods. Fiona Dunlop is a very well know writer and has appeared in the Financial Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and many other publications.
In this book Andaluz, a food journey through Southern Spain, you will not be disappointed as you will travel from the mountains to the sea and visit everything in between.
Spain is a wonderful country. Many people think that beaches and the sun are the only significant experiences you can have coming on a holiday. This country has so much more to offer. Spectacular nature, rich history with remaining buildings from past times and the colorful fiestas, friendly people and great food.
I have made a special page for my visitors. Have a look at Recommendations, you might find something you like.
Source: My Life and Wikipedia
Photo Source: Private
Some years ago, Danish friends who live in Canada came for a holiday in Portugal. As it was around 500km away from where we live, we decided to spend a week there so we could see each other. We had a great time, and I found something really special on the beach. Perhaps you would like to read about my trip to Portugal.
Awesome Taetske, that’s an amazing article. Though I’ve never been to such location before, but after reading this article, I felt like I’ve virtually traveled there already, feeling so refreshed.
Your analysis is very much detailed and complete backed up by important videos. All this information makes me to keep this destination to my number one spot for upcoming holiday trip.
Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful post.
Good Morning Akshay, I hope I got your name correct?
Thank you for your visit and leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
We were also happy to have made this trip. It looks so different from where we live. Spain is a lovely country with so many beautiful things one can visit, be it nature, culture and different climate zones.
Incase you should come here do not hesitate to let me know. I love to meet the visitors to my website.
The reason some people come to Spain is because of the weather. Northern Europeans flock to Spain to lie on Spain’s famous beaches with supposedly guaranteed sun all day, every day. Spain’s weather isn’t as simple as that. One of the biggest myths about Spain is that the weather is always good. Never knew Indiana Jones and Last Crusade was made on the beach. Thanks for the informative post , have really learnt a lot .
Good Morning Labulo,
I have been living on my Spanish farm in the south of Spain since 1981. That is more than half my life. I have seen a big change in the climate of these years. Somehow 2 seasons have gone missing. These last winters have been really mild, with a few exceptions it was around 20C during midday. At night it would be no colder than 6C.
Spring is short because then the summer is there, sometimes quite hot with peaks of 38C. Inland it might even be 45C. We are lacking rain and that is somehow worrisome. It is true that a lot of people think of Spain in terms of good weather and beaches. Luckily this country has a lot more to offer.
Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
Hi, Taetske, it was nice to change to be able to take this trip with you and Micheal. And explore the beautiful landscape of Spain. I especially enjoyed the first video.
It has been a while since I have listened to a documentary in Spanish and I totally enjoyed that.
This reagin has a very interesting history with filmmakers and how it originated.
And yes it was nice to break from my work and enjoy some of Mother Earths Treasures. thanks for the trip.
always a better way
Good Morning Linda,
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my post.
Cabo de Gata is a very special place and we both enjoyed our mini-trip a lot. You should really come and visit Spain one day, there are so many beautiful places I would like to show you.
God will that will happen and it will be a very special trip because I will have very special people to show me Spain in all its glory
Good evening Linda,
I hope it will happen soon!
Higs back, Taetske
what a great description of your trip to Caba de Gata, I could imagine being there just by reading your story and it came to a good time too since our weather here is very bleak at the moment.
When I lived in Europe I never really thought of Spain as a destination to do some great vacationing. I love the water but I am not a beach tourist either because I love to meet local people far away from the “big” tourist attraction.
Cabo de Gata is certainly a place I like to visit when I come to Spain, I already wrote it down on my list “places to go”. 🙂
Thanks, my dear, it was wonderful to dream.
Good evening Sylvia,
Thank you for your visit and comment.
It was a lovely mini-trip and as the name indicates too short. We did see a lot but of course not everything, perhaps next time. As I worked as a tourist guide I do not like beaches too much as I would bump into my clients on my free day. They would say: I know it is your free day but…Anyhow, Spain is a beautiful country and I hope I can continue exploring it with Michael.
All the best and see you in Spain, Taetske
I think the reason why Cabo de Gata is considered the driest place in Spain is because of its geographical location. Down under, beyond the Mediterranean Sea, you will find Morocco which is a part of the African Continent. And as we know it, the African continent is know for its deserts. So, that probably has influenced the weather in that part of Europe.
Oh, by the way, I’d love to visit Nijar, as it reminds me of my favorite story that was told by my grade school teacher entitled Florante & Laura. It was a love story that happened in Spain when it was being raided by Moors coming from Morocco.
Good Morning Gomer,
Cabo the Gata is said to be the driest place in Spain. I live 3 hours away, more to the south in the Malaga area and there it is not so dry. The funny thing is that about one and a half hour, more to the south but a little inland is the wettest place in Spain. It is the lovely village of Grazalema high on a mountain with a microclimate. So there you have it, the driest and the wettest place in Spain are both in the south of Spain.
Francisco Balagtas is a famous Philippine poet who wrote Florante at Laura when he got out of prison in 1838. Florante was a duke of the kingdom of Albania and Laura was the daughter of King Linceo. I do not think this story has anything to do with Spain.
Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
I have always wanted to visit Spain and other places outside of the US, but have never been able to do except for the little islands we have been able to visit during a cruise which we are taking on the 22nd. Woohoo! I absolutely love this article and the pictures you provided are absolutely beautiful. I love historical places and appreciate you providing the historical information about this place. I think this article is absolutely lovely and it has been very helpful to me by giving me information and an idea of where I would like to visit if I ever make it to Spain.
Good Morning Kristena,
Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
I have lived in Spain for many years and now, having 2 websites when I make a trip I can write a post about it.
This country has many unusual and beautiful places one should visit. Michael, who emigrated from the U.S. to Spain in August 2016 likes to travel around so I am being his guide. Recently we made another nice day trip to some unique villages here in Andalusia, you might like to read the following post https://motherearthstreasures.com/2-unusual-and-beautiful-villages-in-the-south-of-spain.
When I saw your article about Capo de Gata located in the South of Spain, it peaked my interest. My sister lives in Costa Del Sol which is about 30 miles west of Malaga. I have visited her several times. The view of the coast is beautiful.
Can you tell me where in relation to Malaga is Capo de Gata located? It is interesting that this is the driest place oin Spain. I would have thought that would be located inland. Your portrayal of these places paints a vivid picture that entices me to want to visit them on my net visit to Spain.
Thanks for bringing up this place.
Good afternoon Edwin,
Thank you for visiting my website and for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF? Tulip widget.
Cabo the Gata is close to Almeria which is above Malaga like going North/East along the coast.
It is a very unusual place and well worth a visit. Last year with the catastrophic weather the huge area with the greenhouses was completely destroyed and the little village where we stayed completely flooded.
I live in Alhaurin de la Torre, 8km from the coast and between Malaga and Torremolinos. In case you come down to the south do not hesitate to contact me.
First of all, many thanks to you for giving us such a wonderful article. I enjoyed reading it. I went to Spain last year for my vacation and I would have loved to have visited Cabo de Gata. It is interesting to hear that this is the driest place in Spain. Seeing your photos I appreciate the coast is beautiful and picturesque.
Apart from this, you have given a wonderful description of the historical sites. My sister is in Spain and I will be delivering your article to her. Perhaps during my next visit I might be able to visit this special place myself. Can I share your article on my social media?
Good evening Mahadi,
Thank you for your visit and for leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF? Tulip widget.
In case you come to Spain again it would be nice if you contact me. I love to meet people who read my posts.
That is very kind of you to share it on your social media, thank you.
You have a beautiful post. At first, I was scared that you made the trip now. But I was quiet when I saw the date on the photos. I learned a lot about southern Spain. I want to tell you that I live in Romania, by the sea. The photo from Playa de Los Muertos looks perfectly like the beach near which I live. Thanks for the article.
Good afternoon Carmen,
We are staying home at least till the 11th of April, in total that is one month. Perhaps we will have to stay longer depending on the situation. As in Spain only 1 person is allowed in a car Michael does the shopping and I am doing a big house cleaning.
Nice to hear you liked my post. Looking at the photos it gives me fond memories of that trip. I live 8km inland between Torremolinos and Malaga on the Costa del Sol.
Thank you for leaving a comment on my website. I hope you downloaded your free PDF? Tulip widget.
Hello, I now understand why some people like to go to Spain and actually choose to live there, of all places! Beautiful weather, beaches, sights and the surroundings are very captivating!
There is so much history tied in with Spain and the trip that you both had through the gold mines struck out to me the most for the image shown and the amount of people that worked in the mines and the treasures found within – Wow!
I enjoyed the first video and had to watch again to properly view the beautiful surroundings again and mesmerising scenery.. thanks a lot:)
Good Morning Farah,
Thank you for visiting my website and for your comment. I hope you have downloaded your free PDF? Tulip widget.
Spain is a country full of surprises, be it beautiful nature, culture, and colorful fiestas. The people are friendly and especially inland in the small villages; they are so helpful. I have lived here since 1975 and am happy here.
If you have never been to Spain, put it on your bucket list.