Discovering Almeria: 7 Reasons to Visit Spain’s Hidden Gem

Tabernas desert – Must visit attractions and natural sights in Almeria

Almeria is an often overlooked Spanish hidden gem that offers unspoiled beaches, a unique desert landscape, and a long history of culture and warfare – an ideal destination for sun-seekers, history buffs, and adventurers.

Almeria in Southern Spain has been called the sunniest city in Europe and has recently won awards for its food. It is just a couple of hours by road from neighboring cities Màlaga and Granada, so why isn’t Almeria as well known?

Described by many as a hidden gem, Almeria is less developed than other tourist destinations on the Andalucian coast. Still, it offers much to the traveler, whether they are sun seekers or prefer history and culture.

Almeria is often overlooked by travelers drawn to the award-winning beaches in Màlaga or more famous historical sites at Granada like the Alhambra, but this city has both, and more.

Here’s what we think will help you decide to visit Almeria.

Where is Almeria?

Almeria is on the South coast of the region of Andalucia, just 130 km from Granada, and halfway along the coast between Màlaga and Cartagena. 

It sits on the mouth of the Andarax River ahead of a gap in the Sierra Mountain range, a gateway to the interior of the Iberian Peninsular.

Getting There

Almeria does have its airport with regular services from several European capitals including London, Dublin, Paris, and Warsaw, and also from other cities such as Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Manchester, and Birmingham in the UK.

For other countries and regions, the airports at Granada, Murcia, and Màlaga are not too distant, and transfers via train, or hiring a car can get you to the city in a couple of hours. Take the A7 highway along the coast or the A92 behind the mountains.

Unlock the Secrets of Almeria’s Stunning Coastline

1. Unspoiled Beaches

The lack of development and the protected nature of the coastline means that the beaches at Almeria are some of the most pristine in the Mediterranean. With over 300 days of sunshine every year, this has got to be the number one reason to visit Almeria and the surrounding coastal region.

  • Playa Los Genoveses

The Playa Los Genoveses is one such beach, tucked away in the nearby national park. Because of the laws governing development in the park, it has retained its natural beauty with the car park set a little way behind the beach.

It is surrounded by stunning volcanic hills and no man-made structures, so take a picnic and plenty of water. The village of San José is 2 km from the car park and the beach is only accessible on foot.

Compared to the urban man-made beach, the Malagueta on the seafront at Màlaga, this beach is simply the complete opposite. If it weren’t for the other beachgoers the powerful sense of natural wilderness would be overwhelming.

  • Playa Agua Amarga 

The Playa Agua Amarga has all the family-friendly, tourist-ready services you can think of, while to the west of the beach, the more intrepid traveler can discover small rocky coves. There is parking next to the beach, making it very accessible, and while the town has been developed for tourism, it hasn’t been overdeveloped and still retains a lot of its original charm.

  • Playa del Zapillo

The Playa del Zapillo is the main town beach of the city of Almeria, situated to the East of the seaport it has polled highly in visitor rankings and is currently sitting in the top spot likely due to its gorgeous golden shell sand and its accessibility from the city center.

It is terrific for adrenaline sports and is a top spot for windsurfers, kite surfers, and other activities.

2. Cabo De Gata National Park

The National Park in Andalucia has the only desert in Europe, along with the lowest recorded rainfall on the continent of Europe. It is a wild landscape, dotted about with red peaks of volcanic rock on which dry vegetation clings. 

  • The coastline is the longest protected area on the Mediterranean and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
  • Eco-tourism is big in the National Park, with birdwatching tours, spotting flamingos, spoonbills, and bee-eaters high on the must-do list. Guided trips start at €35.
  • The Caldera de Majada Redonda hiking trail takes about two hours from the start point in a dry river bed, ending in the crater of a long extinct volcano.
  • Alternatively, there are horse riding trails and jeep trails that can take you deep into the wild landscape of the park with its abandoned farmsteads and dust-covered empty villages. Rides start at €40.

The land is hard, and attempts to cultivate the arid volcanic hills often ended in failure. When there is other, more productive land in the region it is easy to see why the Cabo de Gata is so empty.

3. Tapas

You cannot come to Southern Spain and not sample the local tapas tradition. In Almeria, one of the best Andalusian cities to visit, it has developed to a point where when you buy a drink at a taverna, you never know what might come with it.

  • Free tapas are sometimes served with beer, wine, or lemonade as part of the hospitality of a city that has seen travelers come and go for centuries. 
  • For a top-rated tapas that caters to everyone, including vegetarians, vegans, and coeliacs check out Jovellanos in the old part of town. Prices are reasonable and the portions generous. 
  • The city of Almeria was awarded the title of ‘Food Capital of Spain’ in 2019, spotlighting the city’s commitment to traditional tapas.

4. Alcazaba Fort

The Alcazaba Fort was begun in 955, its walls protecting the local seat of power, a mosque, and the soldiers required to defend the region. It has been added to, modified, and expanded over centuries by both Muslim and Christian rulers.

  • The palace boasts royal baths, pools, patios, and gardens, while the fortified walls afford spectacular views across the old city to the sea. 
  • Visit the Tower of the Odalisque, the Tower of Mirrors, and the Cerro de San Cristóbal for the best views of the Alcazaba.
  • You might recognize the Alcazaba as the fort has been used by Hollywood for Indiana Jones and Wonder Woman movies, and, most recently, for season six of Game of Thrones.
  • Entry is free for citizens of the EU, and only €1.50 for everyone else, which makes it a pretty good deal. However, most of the time no one is challenged and everyone gets in for nothing!

5. Desierto Tabernas

Following the movie theme you can visit the Tabernas Desert where Lawrence of Arabia and A Fistful of Dollars were filmed. Also, episodes of the British cult show Dr. Who were also made here.

  • There are film sets open to the public where you can get a ride in a horse and cart and become part of the old West with an all-day theme park tour from €59 per person. 
  • The Oasys Park brings the former film sets to life with a tour and a show where the local Sheriff confronts armed bank robbers.
  • It is home to yellow scorpions and black widow spiders, but they are shy creatures and likely won’t bother you while you reenact scenes from famous Sergio Leone movies.

6. Cathedral Fortress of Almeria

The Cathedral at Almeria was built following an earthquake in 1522 that destroyed the mosque that had been converted to Christian worship. Begun in 1524 it was designed to keep the population safe, not only from temptation by the devil, but also from attacks by Barbary pirates.

  • Its windows are set high in the thick walls and its facade has minimal ornamentation that was added much later once the threat had diminished.
  • It is the only surviving example of a cathedral fortress from the 16th century in Spain. 
  • At each corner, there are round towers that once held cannons used to fend off attacks, and there are arrow slits and ramparts too, characteristic of defensive architecture. 
  • The €5 entrance fee includes an audio guide that will take you through its five centuries of history.

7. Civil War Tunnels

Beneath the city of Almeria, tunnels run for more than four kilometers, another protective, defensive piece of work to protect the population from war. They are the best-preserved examples of civil war bunkers in Spain and were built to house 40,000 people.

  • Almeria was the last city to fall to General Franco’s forces after major bombardments. Once the war was over the tunnels were sealed and not rediscovered again until 2001. They have since been opened to the public and you can take a tour through a kilometer of tunnels that weave nine meters below the city.
  • Sixteen meters down there is the operating center which had direct access to the market so that produce could be transported underground in case of lengthy stays in the shelter.
  • It has been made accessible for those with reduced mobility and is a cool place to go should you need to escape the hottest part of the day.
  • Tickets start at €11 and tours are limited to thirty people at a time as some of the tunnel areas can feel a little claustrophobic.

To conclude, Almeria is an overlooked destination that has much to offer travelers of all types. Unspoiled beaches, a unique desert landscape, and a long history of culture and warfare make it an ideal destination for sun-seekers, history buffs, and adventurers alike.

With its easy access to Màlaga, Granada, and the Cabo De Gata National Park, there is something for everyone to explore, from the Alcazaba Fort to the Cathedral Fortress and the tunnels of the Civil War. Not to mention the award-winning tapas that make Almeria one of the food capitals of Spain.

So why not make the journey and discover the hidden gems that this Andalusian province has to offer?

Almeria is a destination that should not be overlooked – come visit and unlock its secrets!

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Lucia is a Slovak expat living in Southern Spain. On her blog Viva la Vita, she shares her insights about beautiful locations, hidden gems, and authentic experiences from Costa del Sol and beyond.