Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in the south-eastern corner of Spain is Andalusia’s largest protected coastal area, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe’s oldest geological features. Spain’s southeast coast, where the park is situated, is the only region in mainland Europe with a true hot desert climate.
The park is located between the cities of Alicante and Malaga on the southern coast of Spain. It is probably the only pristine, non-developed, bit of coastline left in Spain.
The eponymous mountain range of the Sierra del Cabo de Gata, with its highest peak El Fraile, form Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks and crags in red and ochre hues. It falls steeply to the Mediterranean Sea, creating jagged 100-metre (330 ft) high cliffs riven by gullies, creating hidden coves and white, sandy beaches.
We stayed in the small town of San Jose, a fishing village with a few hotels, nice restaurants and a beachfront that is easily accessible from anywhere in town. Our hotel was like most of the hotels in town, a small family run establishment. Hotel Dona Pakyta is nice and has a good location in town.
It is also a movie buffs paradise! Especially for those with a hankering for spaghetti westerns. Numerous films have been produced in the area, due to the desert climate and the similarity to the American western landscape. Not in the park but close by is the Tabernas Desert, most of those locations are now theme parks, but visits are still cool. Movies shot in the Tabernas Desert and in Cabo de Gata includes monumental movies like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, A Fist Full of Dollars, Laurence of Arabia and Cleopatra and many more. Wikipedia has a good list of what has been filmed on location.
In the park itself, there are some epic locations. The farmhouse at the end of this dirt track between San Jose and the beaches of Monsul and Genovese was used in the spaghetti western featuring Clint Eastwood “For A Few Dollars More”. It was featured as “Alomogordo Prison” where Clint’s character liberates one of his compadres.
Playa de Monsul a bit further up the road was used in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where father of Indiana Jones (played by Sean Connery) brings down a German fighterplane with the help of his umbrella and a flock of seagulls (that were actually pidgeons). Unique Almeria has a good page on all things movie related.
The beaches in the park are all genuinely nice and big, and due to the lack of development, they are wonderfully “wild” and unspoilt. Cabo de Gata is a great stop on any roadtrip along the southern Spanish coast, if you want to see what Spain pre-development was like, this is the place to go.