The cave homes of Almeria

Almeria is both a province and a city in Spain sandwiched between Granada and Murcia. On the inland side you can find Little Hollywood and Yucca City near Tabernas, both sets of numerous spaghetti westerns like Fistful of Dollars.

Though the inland part of Almeria is hot and dry, more of it is hot and wet enough to make Almeria among the most productive agricultural areas in Europe. And the most important and productive solar energy plant in Europe is also located nearby. With 3100 hours annually, Almeria may be the sunniest place in Europe.

The once-unknown beaches are growing into Europe’s most popular, but you should not neglect the thermal waters of Alhama de Almeria and Sierra Alhamilla; they’ve been used as baths since Romans held sway here.

The City of Almeria is at the base of a mountain crowned by the Alcazaba, an ancient Moorish fortress containing three walled enclosures. In the Alcazaba, you’ll find the remains of a mosque that the Catholic kings of Spain later converted into a chapel. And from this high vantage, you’ll have a marvelous view of the cave quarter, Barrio de la Chanca, where unique cave houses are still inhabited by the citizens of Almeria. The city was terrorized in the 1500s by Turkish and North African pirates like Barbarosa, and even the old cathedral from this time used to be fortified with cannon.

Almeria also holds attractions like museums and some very unique dishes specific to the region.

The magnificent Alcazaba, dominating the hilltop over the city, have some of the best views in Andalucia, and was built to hold 20,000 men. It has about a mile of walls enclosing 18 acres. The area that dates back the furthest today is a formal garden. In the second section, a hermitage built by Catholic kings after the Moors were defeated and a reconstructed Moorish house can be visited, as well as the ruins of a mosque, baths, and aljibes, or water-storage units. The third area was organized around a parade ground, and the towers you’ll find attached to it afford a perfect view of Almeria’s harbor.

Be certain to pick up a guide when you go through the gate. Entrance is free to anyone holding a EU passport. It’s not open on Mondays, or on Christmas or New Years Day.

You should also visit the Cathedral of Almeria, begun in 1524 when the old cathedral was destroyed by the 1522 earthquake. Its architecture is a blend of Gothic and Renaissance, and it looks almost like a fortress, partly due to having to defend against pirate raids. Inside, you’ll find a traditional Gothic ribbed ceiling, and the marble in its baroque and neoclassical trim is quarried locally.

The Almeria Museum contains objects discovered by a mining engineer, Louis Siret. You’ll also find the Sala de Prehistoria, with exhibits from the Los Millares site, and the Sala de Historia Antiqua, with Roman and Iberian collections.

Where to Stay
The Hostal-Residencia Americana is simple and clean, and quite reasonably priced. If you prefer to stay somewhere more historic, try the Hostal Universal, with shared bathrooms in some of the rooms, but built in a small mansion that is decorated beautifully. The Hotel Torreluz III is a more upscale place to stay, and is located in the heart of Almeria.

Where to Eat
Gurullos (a pasta stew), trigon (a pork, wheat, beans, and herbs stew), gachas (clam stew with hot spices), and escabeche e sardines (sardines in hot sauce) are specialties of Almeria. You’ll find vegetables here to be almost invariably the freshest; Almeria is an agricultural center.

Most restaurants here are excellent. For a wide selection, look around the Puerta de Purchena part of the Paseo de Almeria.

Map of Almeria in Spain