TOP THINGS
TO DO in Cabo de Gata

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What to do in Cabo de Gata

Although Cabo de Gata is home to some of the best beaches in Almeria, there is more to do than just taking a dip in the water. From breathtaking lookout points with views over the Mediterranean to watchtowers that were once used to guard against Moorish invaders – Cabo de Gata is definitely worth exploring. Here is a list of the main points of interest that you shouldn’t miss.

Top Things to Do in Cabo de Gata

1

MIRADOR DE LAS SIRENAS

Views from the Sirens’ Lookout (Mirador de las Sirenas) – Cabo de Gata
Views from the Mirador de las Sirenas

The Sirens’ Lookout (Mirador de las Sirenas) offers surreal vistas of the turquoise water and the surrounding reef (known as the arrecife de las sirenas). With its iconic spiky rocks rising out of the water, its no wonder why the Sirens are one of the most photographed corners of the park.

The name Sirens seems to have been given to the reef because monk seals used to inhabit this area and sailors confused them with mermaids. The monk seals are not around anymore, but there is a diverse range of marine life found within the reef. Make sure to hike down to one of the tiny coves and see for yourself. It’s a great spot for snorkeling and even scuba diving.

The lookout is located right next to the Cabo de Gata Lighthouse. The two areas share a parking lot and there is also a Tourist Information Point there. The road does end here and any further exploring in the park will have to be done by foot or bike. If you do continue, you will find a number or small virgin coves along the coast.

Not only is the Sirens’ Lookout one of the main highlights in Cabo de Gata, but it’s also one of the top things to do in Almeria.

2

CABO DE GATA LIGHTHOUSE

Cabo de Gata Lighthouse, Almeria – Spain
Cabo de Gata Lighthouse

Located right next to the Mirador de las Sirens is the Cabo de Gata Lighthouse. The lighthouse, also known as Faro de la Vela Blanca, was built in 1863 on the actual Cape of Gata. It was constructed over the ruins of the Castle of San Francisco de Paula which was part of the defensive system on the coast of Almeria.

Today, the lighthouse warns sailors of the presence of a treacherous reef called the Laja of the Cape which sits about 1 nautical mile off the shore. Throughout history, the reef has been responsible for many shipwrecks. Many of those wrecks are now dive sites.

The lighthouse is not open to visitors.

3

NIJAR

Town of Nijar – Cabo de Gata, Almeria
White houses in Nijar

Located just 30 min away from the beaches of Cabo de Gata is the picturesque white village of Nijar. Famous for its arts and crafts, Nijar has a long tradition of textiles and ceramics. The most typical of which are colorful rugs knowns as jarapas. You can visit the ateliers of several artisans and see how these traditional crafts are made.

Nijar has a few other things to check out including a watchtower with great views overlooking the town. On the outskirts of the village there is a cacti botanical garden and a separate butterfly park that’s home to over 30 species from around the world.

Link to full travel guide about Nijar  FULL GUIDE TO NIJAR
4

RESERVA DE LAS SALINAS (SALTWORKS)

Reserva de las salinas (saltworks) – Cabo de Gata
Saltworks in Cabo de Gata

The Salinas in Cabo de Gata are the only marine salt gathering operation still active in the region. It produces 40,000 tons of salt per year and occupies 400 hectares of floodable land that sits along 5km of coast line – from the town of San Miguel de Cabo de Gata to La Fabriquilla. These saltworks have a long history that dates all the way back to the time of the Romans.

Besides producing salt, the salinas are also known its large variety of animal and plant species. The location is frequented by migratory birds and the area is great for birdwatching. It’s possible to see more than 100 species of birds (70% are migratory) including flamingos. The ponds usually have hundreds of flamingos in them but in July and August there can easily be thousands!

There are several little observation huts around the salinas where you can watch the wildlife. Binoculars are recommended.

5

ESCULLOS

Fossilized sand dunes (escullos) in Cabo de Gata, Spain
Fossilized sand dunes (escullos)

Escullos are fossilized sand dunes that are found all throughout the coastline of Cabo de Gata. Their wavy shapes have been sculpted by millennia of weathering. The largest of the escullos can be found in the neighborhood bearing the same name that is just south of Isleta del Moro. Others can be found around these beaches: Playa de los Genoveses, Playazo de Rodalquilar and Playa de Piedra Galera.

6

ABANDONED HOTEL AT ALGARROBICO BEACH

Unfinished behemoth hotel at Algarrobico beach – Cabo de Gata
Unfinished hotel at Algarrobico beach

Algarrobico Beach is positioned at the very northern tip of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. But what makes the beach peculiar is the fact that there is an unfinished behemoth of a resort located right on its shores. It’s the kind of thing that really makes you shake your head.

The hotel developer acquired all of the necessary permits in the 1980’s before this belonged to the Cabo de Gata protected area. However, its construction didn’t start until 2003. There was strong local opposition to the hotel which was given wide coverage by the Spanish media and the fight against it became a symbol of the poor conservation of the Spanish coast.

After many campaigns, the construction was stopped in 2005 – but not before it was almost completed. Currently there are plans for its demolition.

7

MESA ROLDÁN

18th century tower at Mesa Roldán in Cabo de Gata, Almería
18th century tower at Mesa Roldán

Mesa Roldán is a flat-top volcanic dome that is the remnant of an extinct volcano, whose crater is half eroded. It stands 200m above sea level and offers a great look out point with views to Agua Amarga, Carboneras, the coastline and the interior.

In addition to a lighthouse, there is also an 18th century tower built by King Charles III. The original tower, which is no longer standing was built in the 9th century by Abd-el-Rahman II, the Moorish Emir of Cordoba to protect against viking attacks. Game of Thrones fans might recognize this spot from season 6 when the city of Meereen was under attack.

Mesa Roldán is a 10 min drive east of Agua Amarga, almost halfway to Carboneras. To get there, take the paved road that goes towards the direction of the water from the Playa de los Muertos parking area. It is about a 5 min drive to get to the lighthouse and tower. You can’t enter either of them, but it is still a great place to go for a walk.

8

DEFENSIVE CONSTRUCTIONS ALONG THE COASTLINE

La Calilla del Playazo – Cabo de Gata, Spain
La Calilla del Playazo

The coastline of Cabo de Gata has for a long time served as a first line of defense. The Moors were the first to build watchtowers and later in the 18th century, King Charles III ordered the construction of new ones. Protecting the coast from Berbers and pirates allowed for people to move back into the area, which had been all but abandoned since the time of the Moors.

None of the structures are open to the public with the exception of the Torre del Rayo and the San Andres Castle. However, since some of them were built as watchtowers, they are typically located in areas that offer uninterrupted views of the coastline.

The most noteworthy defensive structures are:

  • Torre del Rayo, located just north of Carboneras. Climb to the top and enjoy fantastic 360º views of the coastline including Carboneras, Playa del Algarrobico and the interior mountains.
  • San Andres castle, located in the center of Carboneras. You can walk through a couple of rooms with exhibitions. It’s nothing extraordinary but since it is free, you can’t really complain.
  • Watchtower at Mesa Roldan (see #7 above)
  • San Ramon Castle, located at Playazo de Rodalquilar. It’s not open to the public but still looks cool from the outside. Currently for sale for 3.3 million euros.
  • San Felipe Castle, located at the Escullos Beach (also known as Playa del Arco).
9

RODALQUILAR GOLD MINE

Abandoned mining complex in Rodalquilar – Cabo de Gata
Abandoned mining complex in Rodalquilar

Cabo de Gata has a long history of mining going all the way back to the Phoenicians and Romans. In 1509 alum was discovered and mined in Rodalquilar. A mining village was established by the Playazo which was constantly under threat of Berber attacks.

In the 19th century lead was mined and just as its supply was running out, gold was found. Gold fever struck Rodalquilar and lasted until the late 1960’s when it too was running out and the mine was ultimately closed down. The village’s population suffered as a result – in 1960 there were 1,375 residents but by 1986 there were only 70.

Today, it’s possible to visit the abandoned mining complex. There are factory buildings, the miners’ housing and giant tanks for filtering minerals. The spot definitely has a post-apocalyptic feeling. If you do decide to walk around, be extra cautious.

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