Almeria

"Time stands still at sunset, when the sky turns crimson over the Nijar countryside near Cabo de Gata," wrote Goytisolo; a phenomenon that in all likelihood also spellbound Palaeolithic man, sun worshipper and creator of the mysterious Indalo. The cave paintings at Santonge and Bronze Age sites as important as that of "Los Millares" testify to the fact that Andalusia was the cradle of one of Europe's foremost prehistoric cultures.

Almeria is one of the most rugged regions in Spain; around 80% of the province's population live in the mountains or the hills. With 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, it is also one of the most arid. Regarded as the only authentic desert in Europe, Tabernas occupies an area of 280 square kilometres between the sierras of Filabres and Alhamilla, some 30km to the north of the city of Almeria.

There are a host of interesting itineraries, from the mountains of Sierra Nevada National Park and the charming villages of the eastern Alpujarras to the high peaks of the sierra of Gador and the deserted beaches of the Biosphere Reserve of Cabo de Gata-Nijar, the first natural park in Spain to include protected waters. The village of San Jose, close to Cabo de Gata, is renowned for its wild turbot, while the nearby beaches of Monsul and Carboneras offer excellent conditions for scuba diving.

The "Portus Magnus" of Pliny, the city of Almeria reached the zenith of its influence and prosperity under Abderraman III, who fortified it; the Alcazaba provided barracks for 20,000 soldiers. Another imposing monument is the Cathedral, whose architecture, between Late Gothic and Renaissance, also displays later Baroque and Neoclassical elements.

Places not to be missed include the Ermita de la Luz, with its unparalleled views, the 16th century fortified church at Vicar, and the dunes of Punta Entinas-El Sabinar Nature Reserve.

Some places of interest: Adra, Aguadulce, Alpujarras, Berja, Cabo de Gata, Carboneras, Cuevas del Almanzora, El Ejido, Garrucha, Huercal-Overa, Mojacar, Nijar, Roquetas de Mar, San Jose, Sierra Alhamilla, Sierra de Filabres, Sierra de Gador, Sierra Maria-Los Velez, Sierra Nevada, Tabernas, Valle del Marmol, Vera, etc.

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