Costa de Almeria holidays are like that friend who’s good at everything. Wildlife reserves, big-and-small beaches and historic towns leave the neighbours green with envy.
Big on beaches
There’s a beach for every occasion here, veering from tourist-heavy stretches to little-known fishing villages. Roquetas de Mar lines up a restaurant-furnished belt of golden sand, and gets the cream of the package holiday crop. Among the dinkier options is Agua Amarga, where a mob of whitewashed apartments huddle around a picturesque patch of sand. The whole region’s one of the sunniest in Europe, too, so scorching days are a given.
The city of Almeria’s prime daytrip fodder. The don’t-miss list here includes the mighty Alcazaba of Almeria – the second biggest Arab construction in Andalucia, behind Granada's Alhambra Palace. A network of tunnels fan out like a web beneath the surface and, at ground level, there’s a statue of John Lennon to mark his stay here in the 1960s. Roquetas de Mar’s forte lies in tapas bars and watersports, and it feels like an honorary member of the Costa del Sol club. Granada completes the well-known trio, and goes toe-to-toe with Almeria for age-old sites.
When you think desert, Spain’s not the first country that springs to mind. That’s where the Costa de Almeria plucks another rabbit from the hat. The Tabernas Desert has an other-worldly look about it, with dusty canyons and spiky peaks rippling across the landscape. In fact, it’s so convincing in its American Midwest look, that Hollywood directors often plump for this place as a setting for Wild West flicks.
Trace a line east from Almeria, and the intriguing Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park snaps into focus. It’s the bulkiest protected area on Andalucia’s coastline, and serves up Insta-worthy volcanic peaks and off-shore marine life that will make you crave an underwater camera. There are wetlands in the bargain, too, where candy-pink flamingos shuffle together in feathery clumps.
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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