Almería: Domes and arches

The Almeria east coast resorts of Mojácar, Garrucha and Vera are very attractive to tourists
Almeria is a province of disconcerting contrasts. It is home to one of the most fertile areas in Europe, the Campo de Dalías, and to the most overwhelming dryness in the continent in the form of vast deserts.

On the one hand it is a land that is clearly tourism-orientated, due to its position, climate and magnificent beaches. And on the other it is also a forgotten land, above all since the railway line from Guadix in the province of Granada closed down at the beginning of the 1980s.

What to see

Clearly a great attraction to tourists are several of the villages on the east coast of the province, the part near the province of Murcia, especially Mojácar, Garrucha and Vera.

Mojácar is a sparkling mixture of hundreds of white houses with minute domes, arches, fabulous views from windows, high minarets, the odd flat roof, steps and masses of warm beaches.

The origin of the village is not clear. Some historians situate it as far back in time as the Age of the Iberians and others place it in the time of the Carthaginians. In the middle of the fifteenth century it was conquered by Alonso Fajardo, who sacked the village and knifed its inhabitants. The wall dates from these days, although only the gate now remains.

The spot was discovered by tourists in the 1960s, when it was an unknown village where the women still used to carry pitchers of water gracefully on their heads and the majority of the houses had their doors painted with “indalos” – a traditional local geometric shape which has now become a symbol of the area.

You mustn’t leave Mojácar without visiting the Plaza de Parterre, the Town Hall Square, Calle Jazmín, Calle Estación Vieja, the Jewish quarter or Arrabal, the Luciana arch, Plaza Nueva – where you must stop to see the view of the Valle de las Pirámides (Pyramid Valley) – and the church of the Incarnation, in a little square which also contains a monument to the women of Mojácar.

Some of the guides who show visitors around the village insinuate that it is still possible to see veiled women in the streets but the truth of the matter is that they dress in the latest fashions here and it is only a few country women who still hang on to old forms of dress and ancient customs.

The guides also say that this is a land of highly imaginative people, where superstitions and witchcraft go hand in hand.

Now carry on along the coast road until you come to the village of Garrucha. As the light fades the fishing boats will be coming back to harbour, accompanied by seagulls, and pulling alongside the wholesale fish market for their catches to be auctioned. This is one of the most unchanging sights, although after the auction the fish is no longer carried away on the backs of donkeys, but in huge refrigerated lorries.

Garrucha has a motto in its coat of arms which fits the description of the village exactly: “Ex mari sortis” (exit to the sea) because it is just that – sea without the usual municipality boundaries, although it has had to face conflicts with neighbouring Mojácar and Vera in this respect.

Two suggestions in Garrucha: take a walk along the Malecón, a beautiful seafront promenade where the local landowners had houses in the eighteenth century, or go to the beaches which attract thousands of visitors every year and try the roast sardines. If you still have time take a look at the San Joaquín church.

Around ten kilometres from Garrucha is Vera. If there is one village famous for its Holy Week processions this is it. There are also one or two interesting monuments in Vera such as the Iglesia de la Encarnación (the Church of the Incarnation), which dates from 1520; the Convento de los Padres Mínimos (a monastery); the Iglesia de San Agustín (Church of St Augustine) and the Mudéjar (referring to baptised Moors) bullring.

Don’t miss the Saturday market, where absolutely everything is on sale, including a few useful items!

Vera beach runs for five kilometres and is in very good condition.

The coast at Vera is also known for being the site of the only nudist hotel in Spain: Vera Playa Club. If you decide to spend a few days there you will have to leave your bikini or tanga, sarong, bathing trunks or T-shirt in the cupboard. It is a different way of passing one’s leisure time, but under very strict regulations.

The experience….

Of the tourist destinations on the coast of Almeria, the most popular is probably Mojácar, which also boasts a large number of “residential tourists”, otherwise known as foreign residents. The village proper sits perched on a hill giving panoramic views, and is a maze of steep winding streets, old houses, tiny bars and souvenir shops. The two main drawbacks are the difficulty of parking, particularly in summer when the road up to the village becomes clogged with cars and coaches, and the discomfort experienced by the less agile in attempting to stroll up, and down, the pedestrian alleys. Mojácar village holds no attraction for the disabled visitor.

Mojácar Playa, on the other hand, lies at the foot of the road up to the village and is a long extension of residential developments, clubs, shops, businesses and sea-front amenities. One of Spain’s chain of state run hotels or Paradores offers first class accommodation immediately opposite the beach.

A rather different hotel, but also top class, is the nudist Vera Playa Club which has indoor and outdoor pools and a “mini-club” for children.