At the eastern end of Andalucía, lies the city of Almeria, a modern and lively city with a long and interesting history.
The city itself is a lively, modern commercial city; culturally it is very Spanish, with few foreigners residing in the centre. There is a ferry port – where you can take a trip over to North Africa, a sports marina and a working fishing port.
The name Almeria derives from the Arabic occupation, originally Al-Mariyya, meaning The Mirror, as it was compared to The Mirror of the Sea. Almeria was an Arabic stronghold and the principal harbour in its domain.
Architecture and sightseeing
The Moorish castle Alcazaba is the second largest of the Arabic fortresses in Andalusia, after the Alhambra in Granada.The striking fortress stands on a hill overlooking the city. Dating back to the 10th century, this lavish monument was built by Caliph of Cordoba Abd-ar Rahman III and comprises of three great walled enclosures the second of which contains the remains of the sites original mosque, converted to a chapel by the Catholic kings. Unfortunately the area has been ravaged by earthquakes, which have rendered much of the interior somewhat lacklustre. The exterior, however, remains truly impressive.
At the heart of the old quarter stands the strange fortified cathedral with its Renaissance façade and six Gothic towers that once held cannons. The cavernous interior is home to a wealth of priceless artwork including an eighteenth century tabernacle designed by Ventura Rodriguez, paintings by Alonso Canon, an ancient Andalucian altar piece made by Araoz and the statue of St. Indaletius, Almeria’s patron saint, sculpted by Saizillo.
Around the city there are numerous places of interest; Almeria has a good selection of galleries, museums and shops, as well as lots of pretty squares along the main central avenue Las Ramblas. Thee Almeria Museum and Contemporary Art Museum are both worth visiting and you will also find some interesting examples of street art throughout the city.
Gastronomy & Nightlife
Almeria is an excellent city for dining out, head to the Puerta de Purchena, at the end of Paseo de Almeria or the old town for a great choice of bars and restaurants. Typical local specialities include Gachas (hot and spicy clam stew), Gurullos (stew with pasta) and Escabeche e Sardines (fresh sardines in hot sauce).
As with most major resorts, Almeria has a good nightlife with a couple of dozen music bars and discos dotted around the centre.
The bizarre, almost lunar appearance of the surrounding countryside made it a popular desert location for the movie industry. Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here, as were many westerns including Fistful of Dollars, the set of which now stands as a popular tourist attraction.
In nearby Los Milares there is a large archaeological site dating back to 1800BC that is believed to be Spain’s first metal works, and an important area in both the Stone and Bronze Ages.
The year round clear skies make the area a favourite research centre for Astronomers and on the outskirts of the small town of Gergal, in the Sierra de los Filabres, there is the Hispano-German Astronomical centre where you’ll find the worlds most powerful telescope.
In the surrounding desert lands are the famous troglodyte villages, in which many of the homes are caves dug into the soft, sand-coloured cliffs. The casas-cueva (cave homes), as they are known, often have façades with windows and tiled roofs like conventional houses. The most interesting place to visit cave dwellings is in the region around Sante Fe de Modujar.
Almeria celebrates several festivals throughout the year including Carnival and Holy Week festivities. However, the most important event in the calendar is Almeria Feria (Fair), which takes place during the last two weeks of August. As well as music, dancing and general joviality, there are also various sporting events, religious acts and bullfights. Most of the celebrations take place in the cities fairground in tent-like-pavilions.
If you’re after a beach holiday, you have come to the right place. East of the city is Cabo de Gata where you will find the most beautiful, natural and un-crowded beaches in the province. The sea is crystal clear and the beaches clean and quiet, remaining pleasant all year round.
The city of Almeria enjoys a perfect all-year round Mediterranean climate, as does the whole of the Costa Almeria. In the sub-tropical environment temperatures rarely fall below 18ºC. During the summer months the temperature rises above 30ºC and July and August can get much hotter, dropping again around mid-September to a milder, but still warm and enjoyable 23ºC-27ºC degrees. The winters are mild and mostly dry, although the winter evenings can get chilly.