The most diverse region you’ve never heard of
Spain’s south-easternmost province might not be as traversed as Seville, Granada, and its other Andalusian neighbors, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. From the hustle and bustle of the eponymous provincial capital to the tranquil pueblos in the north; from the rugged terrain of the Tabernas desert to the sparkling beaches dotting the coastline, Almería province has something that will suit every traveler’s tastes and budget.
I just moved to Córdoba earlier this week, but I called a tiny town in Almería province home for the past eight and a half months. Although it wasn’t originally what I’d had in mind while picturing my idyllic Spanish adventure, it grew on me, and I was truly sad when it came time to get on the westbound bus weighed down by no less than five stuffed-to-the-brim bags and suitcases – clearly more than Alsa’s 30kg/60 pound weight limit (but this is Spain, so absolutely nobody cared).
Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, Almería is home to beautiful weather year-round, the ability to live well for little money, and some of the friendliest locals you’ll ever come across. If you’re planning a trip to sunny southern Spain, don’t forget about the sunny sun-drenched province in the east of Andalusia. Having trouble narrowing down where to go? Here are my picks.
5. Almería capital
As much as I claim to be a city girl, I actually prefer Almería’s quieter coastal areas to the capital itself. That being said, the city is absolutely worth visiting for a day or two. Although it’s one of Andalusia’s smallest provincial capitals, Almería city has a lot to offer in the way of mouthwatering tapas (free with your drink at many bars!), stunning views of the Mediterranean (as seen from the Alcazaba, above) and Spain’s famous nightlife.
Travel tip: Uncle Tom’s Cabin might be an American literary classic, but it’s also one of my favorite tapas bars in Almería. La Cabaña del Tío Tom (c/ Joaquín Vázquez 2) is located right on the beach and offers tapas so big they could practically be considered individual meals. Remember when I said some places in Almería give you a free tapa with your drink? Tío Tom is one of them – essentially you get a full meal for the price of a beer.
How to get there
By plane: Almería has a small airport with flights arriving from several cities, mostly in Spain and the UK. Madrid, Barcelona, London, and Manchester are your best bets. From there, you can get to the city center using city bus number 22 (1.05€), which passes about once every hour and gets you into town in about 40 minutes.
By train: Almería is unfortunately not very well served by rail. Two trains per day arrive from Madrid, as well as a handful from Seville and Granada.
By bus: The bus station is connected to the train station and much better served. Hundreds of buses arrive in Almería every day from most major cities in Spain, including Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Seville, and Málaga.
4. Cabo de Gata Natural Park
To the east of Almería capital lies the coastal gem of a natural park that is Cabo de Gata, offering some of Andalusia’s most beautiful landscapes. Enjoy a getaway at the beach without the tourist crowds or take a hike to get the best views of the natural beauty that surrounds you. Cabo de Gata is untouched nature at its finest, and one of the most stunning corners in all of Spain.
Travel tip: You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes and tuck a pair of flip flops into your backpack for the beach.
How to get there
If you don’t have access to a car (*raises hand*), your best bet is to arrive in Cabo de Gata by bus. Bus line M202 runs regularly from Almería capital to Cabo de Gata – check out the schedule (in Spanish) here (and here are more bus schedules for lines that run less frequently).
3. Calar Alto and the Sierra de los Filabres
Southern Spain’s most famous mountain range might be the Sierra Nevada in neighboring Granada province, but the Sierra de los Filabres in Almería deserves a visit for its peaceful atmosphere and stunning views. Hike up Calar Alto, the range’s highest peak, on a clear day and you’ll be able to see Almería capital, 70 km/43 miles off in the distance. Calar Alto is also home to an astronomical observatory owned jointly by German and Spanish institutes.
Travel tip: Visit in the fall to see the leaves changing color. It sounds simple, but as someone who was born and raised in the midwestern US, I missed seeing the changing of the leaves last year and visiting Calar Alto in November almost made me feel like I was at home.
How to get there
The mountain range itself is not served by bus, so the best option is to arrive by car (from Almería capital, take the A-92 direction Granada and take exit 362 to change onto the A-1178). You can also take an Alsa bus from Almería city to the town of Gergal, and get a taxi from there that will take you into the mountains (expect to pay about 20-24€).
2. Vélez Blanco
This classic white village in the northernmost reaches of the province is the perfect spot to spend a relaxing afternoon. Whether you’re getting lost in the narrow, winding streets or exploring the imposing 16th-century castle that sits on a hill overlooking the town, you won’t be bored on a visit to Vélez Blanco despite its small size. I was so happy that I took the chance to tag along on a field trip my students took here last month – it’s not a place I normally would have thought of visiting, but its Andalusian charm captivated me immediately.
Travel tip: On the outskirts of the town you’ll find the Umbria de la Virgen botanical gardens, which is a great place for a nature hike. We visited the gardens on the field trip as well and the staff were incredibly helpful and taught us a lot about the region’s flora and fauna (something I previously knew nothing about, let alone in Spanish).
How to get there
Take the A-7 most of the way from Almería capital and switch onto the A-1301 at exit 408. From Murcia, the RM-730 will get you most of the way there. There are occasional Alsa buses from Almería capital, Cartagena, Murcia, and Lorca, but check schedules and prices in advance.
Have I ever mentioned how much I love Mojácar? Because it’s one of my absolute favorite places not just in Almería, not just in Andalucía, but in Spain, period. It’s a beautiful little seaside town, and it’s anything but boring despite its small population (just over 6,000 people). With nightclubs such as the legendary Mandala overlooking the Mediterranean, delicious food from all over the world (I recommend the Arabic-inspired cuisine at Califa), and postcard-perfect views of the beach and the mountains, Mojácar just makes me happy.
Travel tip: There’s Mojácar pueblo (the town) and Mojácar playa (the beach, which is also like a mini-town). Make sure you know which one you’re going to in order to avoid confusion.
How to get there
Buses regularly serve the entire coastal area (schedule in Spanish here). Alsa runs buses from Granada, Almería capital and Murcia (not as frequently).
Enjoy your trip to Almería!