Half-empty beaches, rugged scenery and traditional towns – discover Spain’s secret spot on a holiday to the Costa de Almeria.
The secret Costa
The Costa de Almeria is tucked away in Spain’s south-east corner, between the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca. Despite its claim to fame as Spain’s sunniest spot, it’s managed to stay under the radar of most holidaymakers. It means golden beaches and rugged desert scenery are yours for the taking, and there are oodles of traditional hilltop villages where you can get a taste of old-school Spanish life.
Roquetas de Mar
The big name here resort-wise is Roquetas de Mar. It used to be a sleepy fishing village, but now things are a bit livelier, with a posh marina, gleaming shopping malls and a decent helping of tapas bars, seafood restaurants and British-style pubs. The beaches are probably its biggest pull, though – they’re toffee-coloured and stretch along the coast for miles.
Out and about
When you’re ready to explore, there’s plenty to get you reaching for the map. There’s the city of Almeria, with its palm-lined plazas and Arab fortress. Or the Tabernas Desert, with its cactus-dotted spaghetti western landscapes. And there’s also the Cabo de Gata, a flamingo-flecked national park. Granada is within daytripping distance, too.
Things to See and Do in Costa de Almeria
The Costa de Almeria is supposedly Spain’s sunniest spot, and it certainly makes the most of it. From the wild, empty sweeps in Cabo de Gata Natural Park to the lively Blue Flag sands in Roquetas de Mar, the jagged coastline here is packed with top-class beaches. And the best part? The Costa de Almeria is one of the least developed Costas, so even on the busiest stretches you won’t be squashed in like a sardine.
The big beach
Roquetas de Mar’s Urban Beach is the most popular spot. It’s smack-bang in the centre of town, and stretches along the coast for about 3 kilometres. The golden sands are great for a spot of sandcastle building, and when it comes to watersports you can take your pick from things like water-skiing, fishing and sailing. The prom is lined with cafés and tapas bars, too, so there’s no danger of going hungry.
The secret beach
For something a bit more low-key, make for Cerrillos Beach. This rugged slice of sand sits in the Punta Entinas-Sabinar Natural Park, about 15 minutes’ drive from Roquetas de Mar. It’s a pretty back-to-nature spot – you might even spy a flamingo or two from the nearby salt flats. There’s not much facility-wise – which keeps the crowds away – so it’s a good idea to pack some supplies if you’re staying the day.
When it comes to bargain buys, your best bet is to head for one of Roquetas de Mar’s markets. On the first 3 Thursdays of the month, an open-air market springs up on Avenida de la Union Europea. It’s open from 9am ‘til about 2pm and sells everything from fruit and veg to shoes and handbags. And on the first Sunday of the month, there’s a market in front of the Plaza de Toros where you can pick up antique crafts and second-hand goodies.
If it’s clothes you’re after, make tracks to Roquetas de Mar’s shopping centres. First up is the Gran Plaza. This glitzy mall has more than enough UK and Spanish fashion chains to have your suitcase bulging on your return trip. There’s also the Centro Comercial Mediterraneo, which has around 125 stores to flex your credit card in.
For some serious retail therapy, it has to be Almeria’s Paseo de Almeria. This elegant tree-lined boulevard is packed with chic boutiques selling the latest fashions. For handmade Andalucian crafts, villages like Nijar, Sorbas and Vicar are goldmines. Their workshops and markets are crammed with painted ceramics and woven Jarapas blankets. Vicar is the closest to Roquetas de Mar – it’s about 20 minutes’ drive. Nijar is about 45, and Sorbas takes just over an hour to reach.
If you’re after a quiet evening, Roquetas de Mar’s marina is a good bet – there are loads of seafood and tapas restaurants. Avenida del Mediterraneo is also great for a meal out, and the Auditorio Theatre hosts music and ballet performances if you’re after a bit of culture. In Almeria, head to the Plaza Vieja in the old quarter. Start off with a drink at a pavement café before heading to one of the hole-in-the-wall tapas bars.
While the Costa de Almeria isn’t as party-powered as its Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca neighbours, it does have a few upbeat hangouts. In Roquetas de Mar you’ll find a clutch of music bars, karaoke dens and British-run pubs along the seafront, offering everything from quiz nights to sing-a-longs. Things get a bit livelier in Almeria, where you’ll find a few clubs in the city centre, near Paseo de Almeria.
Thanks to the Costa de Almeria’s coastal location, seafood is a big hit in these parts. You’ll find things like squid, octopus, prawns and red mullet on the menu, as well as fish chowders, stews and soups served with steaming rice. Pescado Frito – crispy fried fish – is also a favourite.
Game dishes are a popular pick in the Costa de Almeria, and one of the best is rabbit stew. It’s hearty stuff and goes down a treat with a glass or two of the local vino. You’ll sometimes find it dished up with snails and gurullos, a side dish that’s a bit like pasta.
Just like we Brits dunk chocolate digestives in our tea, in Almeria the locals like to dip these tasty desserts in their drinks. They’re made from deep-fried choux pastry – sometimes dusted with sugar – and are best enjoyed dunked in coffee or thick hot chocolate.
Spain knocks out some fantastic wines, and the Costa de Almeria is no different. Fortified wines are the big hitters here, and you can also pick up some great fino sherry. Stop by one of the region’s vineyards or bodegas for a tour and a tasting session.
This chilled soup is a Spanish staple. It’s a pretty simple recipe – tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onion, garlic and sometimes bread are all whizzed together and mixed with a few glugs of olive oil. In these parts it’s usually made with raf tomatoes – a unique, super-sweet variety grown locally.
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