Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in the south-eastern corner of Spain, is Andalucia’s largest coastal protected area, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe’s most original 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 mountain range of the Sierra del Cabo de Gata is 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 high cliffs, which are riven by gullies leading to hidden coves with white sandy beaches, some of the most beautiful in Spain and Europe. The name Cabo de Gata could be related to the mineral agate that used to be mined in this area.
The climate is arid to the extent of being the driest location in Europe and within a region which has the continent’s only subtropical or “warm” desert and in 1997 it was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The mountain range forms coves of great beauty that give rise to 50 km of the best preserved rugged coast on the European Mediterranean, with urban beaches such as the one at San José and Aguamarga; magnificent natural beaches such as Mónsul and Los Genoveses; almost inaccessible coves such as Carnaje and Enmedio; spectacular volcanic cliffs and reefs such as Punta de los Muertos and Mesa Roldán; dune formations with white and grey sand -San Felipe de los Escullos and Las Amoladera, and ones in movement, which cause coastal spits that enclose lakes and create such attractive landscapes as the Salinas del Cabo de Gata.
Playa de los Genoveses is one of the most famous spots of the Natural Park and, due to its beauty, setting for many films. It is is formed by dunes of fine golden sand dotted with prickly pears and native pitas. It is located in the valley of Campillo del Genovés, a place with hardly any buildings and without paved roads that are preserved in their purest form.
Cover image by Martyn Thompson (Cabo de Gata Photography) via Wikimedia Commons