The natural park of Cabo deGata-Níjar is located in Andalusia east of Almeria. It is a natural reserve, classified by UNESCO, which occupies 38,000 hectares of land and 12,000 hectares of sea.
As soon as we arrived in the park, we were immediately seduced by the beauty of the arid landscapes, surrounded by mountains which shelter some small villages with whitewashed houses, typical of Andalusia.
This park was recommended to us by an Italian couple who regularly come here to enjoy its beautiful beaches, indeed here, the Mediterranean coast, completely wild, is sublime. The beaches and small coves are bordered by crystal clear water.
We share with you, below, how to get to Cabo de Gato-Níjar and what to do and see in the park. We have also grouped all our good addresses on our map at the end of the article.
Where is Cabo de Gata located?
Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park is located in Andalusia, 30 minutes east of Almeria, in one of the sunniest regions of Europe.
This park is one of the few areas on the Mediterranean coast that has remained untouched, and one can imagine that the area must have been incredibly beautiful before the construction of all the coastal cities. With about 50,000 hectares of protected area, it is the largest natural park in the country, both on land and at sea.
What to do and see in Cabo de Gata-Níjar?
We recommend that you spend at least a day or two exploring this park.
➡️Si you have only 1 day concentrate on the points of interest around the village of San Jose, this area offers beautiful hiking trails and the most beautiful beaches. You can also enjoy water activities such as diving, boat or canoe tours. You can also explore the salt marshes right next door.
➡️Si you have two days on the spot, you can add the villages of Nijar and Rodalquilar.
The park is best known for its incredible beaches. Indeed, there is level, fine sandy beaches, crystal clear water, in an environment with the appearance of a desert, in short a guaranteed change of scenery.
We had planned to spend the morning at Mónsul beach, unfortunately when we arrived at 10am on the first weekend of September, it was no longer accessible, as the number of parking spaces is limited in order to regulate access to the beach. Once the parking lot is full, access is only possible on foot or by bus.
So we stopped just before at the beach of Los Genoveses, which looks like the beach of Mónsul and is therefore just as beautiful. It is directly included in our ranking of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The water was 27 degrees (yes we had taken the thermometer of our daughter’s bath to check), a real happiness to swim such a setting.
It’s a big beach so even in September we didn’t feel crowded (parking 5€ a day).
- Níjar Níjar: perched on the heights, at the gateway to the park, is a typical Andalusian village with its small whitewashed houses. We loved walking through the small white streets around the main square, Plaza la Glorieta. Here the cactus is king, each house has its decorated pot hosting a small plant. We had a lot of fun photographing them.
We took the opportunity to get some information about the park at thetourist office, located next to the church. Small anecdote, the person recommended us a wild beach in the north of the park with a view on the Lafarge factory, thank you no thank you, always think to check the information even when they seem reliable… The village is famous for its ceramics, many stores (a little too touristy for our taste) sell pottery from the region.
- San José: is an old fishing village, its location is ideal, because just next to the beach of Los Genovese, a hiking trail along the coastline can reach the beach of Los Genovese and then that of Mónsul . This is where most of the hotels and guesthouses are located, as well as bars and restaurants.
- Rodalquilar : this small village is not located on the coast, but in the heart of the valley, surrounded by mountains, which gives it a small air of end of the world.
We stopped in the village of Cabo de Gata to explore the salt marshes. As the site is still in use, it is not possible to enter. We walked along the salt water, small observatories have been installed to observe flamingos in the distance, we advise you to come with your binoculars.
A bit of culture, while looking for information on the park we read that many movies were shot in this incredible setting, including of course westerns. Here are a few that we have noted below:
- Monsul Beach: scenes shot for Indiana Jones and the last crusade of Steven Spielberg
- Playa de las Salinas : scenes shot for the series Casa del Papel (Netflix series)
- Village Los Albaricoques (at the gates of the national park), it is an open-air museum since the locations of the scenes are indicated with explanatory panels with photos of shooting of the following films: For a Fistful of Dollars and And for a few dollars more with Clint Eastwood
Water activities to do in the park
Of course, there are a lot of water activities to do in this natural park, you can explore the coast and the sea bed by boat or canoe. You will find a lot of ideas on the GetyourGuide website , we advise you to have a look at it!
Don’t forget to read the description carefully, so that you know what is really included to fully enjoy your excursion.
How to get there?
To explore the natural park of Cabo de Gata- Níjar we advise you to rent a car in order to stop at the different points of interest.
The highway that connects the city ofAlmeria to the natural park of Cabo de Gata, in 30 minutes, is in very good condition. As explained below, the view is a bit spoiled by the thousands of greenhouses.
Once in the park, the greenhouses disappear, giving way to beautiful desert landscapes and the coastal road offers nice views of the beaches and coves along the coast.
Car rental: To compare the prices of car rentals, we recommend the site RentalCars which compares the prices of hundreds of car rental companies to find the best price. Count about 40€ per day in September.
Excursion from Almeria, or Aguadulce
From Almeria or Aguadulce, you can book your tickets for a day with transportation and several stops in the different points of interest of the park and a free time during which you can swim.
Where to sleep?
There are few housing options in the park. We advise you to book your accommodation as early as possible in order to have the widest choice and the best hotels. The village of San Jose is a nice place to stay, to fully enjoy the atmosphere of the park or in Almeria at 30 minutes by car.
➡️Doña Pakyta, in San José, small hotel ideally located, with direct access to a small beach and 2 minutes from restaurants (with parking).
➡️Cortijo El Sotillo, in San José, outside the city, the location is beautiful, in the middle of nature, and the hotel has a nice pool
Our map of Cabo de Gata-Níjar
A special environment
We will not hide it from you, we were surprised by theenvironment around this natural park. From Almeria, we crossed several kilometers of farmland covered with plastic sheeting, which completely distorts the landscape.
After reading some articles, it turns out that the region lives mainly from intensive agriculture and that it feeds a large part of Europe. With 35,000 hectares, it is today the largest expanse of greenhouses in the world, its little nickname:“The sea of plastic“, that means everything. There you go, don’t look any further for the origin of the winter tomatoes sold for a few euros in our supermarkets.
This trip allowed us to become aware of certain aberrations of our society. And makes us want more than ever to continue to consume locally (even if it has a higher cost) and to learn as much as possible about the origin of the products on our plate.
The other point is that we discovered that a cement factory was implemented in the north of the park next to the Playa de los Muertos, you remember this beach recommended by the tourist office!
We loved our stay in this beautiful natural park, it is one of our favorite places on the Spanish coast.
Feel free to leave us a note below to tell us if you are planning this trip, ask any questions or share on social networks, our Instagram, we will answer you with great pleasure!