Driving approximately 2 hours west from Murcia airport, you reach the rugged hills and valleys of Almeria’s Cabo De Gata park. Here in the 1960’s and 70’s, the arid landscape served as a substitute backdrop for America’s Wild West in the spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone amongst others. You can visit some of the locations in Fort Bravo Texas Hollywood, tucked away in the hills outside the town of Tabernas. Here there is a real ‘western town’, complete with saloon, bank, and gunsmiths amongst other buildings, side by side with a Mexican pueblo in the style of Santa Fe. In the saloon, the showgirls perform a can-can show twice daily, followed by a knockabout and shoot out between the cowboys. Later in the afternoon, outside the saloon, the cowboys ride into town, tie up their horses and rob the bank, resulting in another shootout with the sheriff and his deputy. All in Spanish of course, but even if you don’t speak the language, it’s all good fun and tongue in cheek, and a visit can easily use up three or four hours, including a beer in the saloon, and lunch in one of the eateries on site. In the summer months, there’s a swimming pool to cool off in, and if you want to stay on site, some basic self-catering cabins.
Leaving Fort Bravo, we drove 45 minutes south to the small beachside town of San Jose, in the Cabo De Gata National Park, to stay 2 nights in the Hostal Santuario. Located in a quiet side street with on street parking, but a couple of minutes walk from a few restaurants and the seafront, this small 2-star hotel was clean, comfortable and charming, ably run by a pleasant and helpful Spanish lady who ran the reception, served an excellent continental breakfast and cleaned the rooms seemingly single-handedly. San Jose beach is a horseshoe of golden sand, fronted by small bars and cafes, and low-rise apartments, and backed by hills of red sandstone. The first evening, we stopped for a pre dinner gin and tonic, then walked to the other end of the beachfront promenade, just past the marina, and had a dinner of fried calamari, and seafood paella, washed down with a chilled bottle of white wine at the 4 Nudos.
After breakfast the next day, we packed our rucksack with towels, swimsuits, suncream, snacks and water, and headed south out of San Jose past the church and onto the walking track that leads around the headland towards the lovely beach at Los Genoveses. From the Hostal, it took around 45 minutes, leaving the residential areas behind and heading into the Cabo De Gata park with its red sandstone landscapes and wild agave plants. Los Genoveses takes its name from the landing in 1147, of the Genovan fleet that came to support the Spanish troops in the conquest of Almeria, which at that time belonged to the Muslim kingdom of Granada. It is a wide golden sandy beach, with just a few trees for shade and no facilities or beach bars. If you like, you can walk further to more beaches but we were happy just to flop down for an hour or two, interspersed with a paddle in the sea before heading back to San Jose, and to the Restaurante Mediterraneo for a lazy lunch of more fried fish and white wine followed by a siesta.
After two nights in San Jose, we were ready to move on and explore the area further. Driving north firstly to Las Negras, this small seafront village has a couple of bars, and a black sand beach, with fishing boats but not much else. There’s a laid-back hippyish feel to the place if you like simplicity and non-fancy accommodation, though there is a smart (and expensive) hotel on the outskirts of town.
Leaving Las Negras, we headed out of the Cabo De Gata park, past the tomato greenhouses and inland to Nijar, a mountain town famous for its handicrafts of pottery and weaving, many examples of which you can buy relatively cheaply in the town. The centre of the old town has a beautiful church and further up the hill, is the Atalaya De Nijar tower which is the symbol of the town, and from which you see spectacular views of the town and surrounding countryside . On the outskirts of town is the Cactus Nijar, a plant nursery and outstanding cactus garden surrounded by the wild mountain landscapes, and as such well worth a visit, and if desired, to purchase a plant or two.
Leaving Nijar, we then headed back to the coast, and into the Cabo De Gata Park again for a short visit to the beautiful seaside village of Agua Amarga. Slightly larger than Las Negras, and boasting a golden sandy beach, bookended by wind-sculpted cliffs, there are a few restaurants and bars dotted around the village, and we stopped to refuel with a couple of beers and assorted tapas, at El Rincon De Caparras.
Our stop for the night was the Cortijo Los Malenos, approximately 5km outside Agua Amarga. This restored farmhouse, surrounded by open countryside, has rooms laid out in low-level white-washed buildings around pretty gardens, interspersed with small patios, and an outdoor pool. We stayed in the La Higuera room, simply furnished in a rustic style but clean and well equipped. There is no TV except in the lounge area but that adds to the feeling of peace and tranquillity about the place. After a refreshing swim and glass of wine on the patio outside our room, we felt completely relaxed. We chose to dine at the hotel that evening and dinner was served outside in the beautiful ‘pink patio’, enhanced by the soft light and beautiful sunset. There are other places to dine in Agua Amarga if you don’t mind the drive, and the hotel has many suggestions for places to visit and activities in the area.
After breakfast next morning, we reluctantly left the beautiful Cabo De Gata, and drove back to Murcia, making a brief stop at Mojacar, another mountain town along the coast. Mojacar beachfront is very built up and we’d been advised to avoid it, and visit the town instead. Stopping for coffee on the terrace at Café Torino, we had great views across the countryside and to the coast. If you have an interest in seeing the interior of the old Moorish style houses, the Casa De La Canana is open as a museum, furnished in authentic style and nice to visit, but mind your head if you go down into the cellar!
Getting There: Flights to Almeria or Corvera, Murcia, then hire a car.
Hostal Santuario and Cortijo Los Malenos can be booked independently, through booking.com
Fort Bravo Texas Hollywood: https://www.fortbravo.org/en/