Hiking amid other-worldly beauty in one of Spain’s 7 Natural Wonders
Contrast between the stark semi-desert landscape and the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea
The pristine Playa del Mónsul, considered by many to be the best beach in Spain
Stunning volcanic scenery with bizarre multi-coloured rock formations
Rugged cliffs, extensive coral reefs and tiny white-washed villages
Hiking in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park
Self-guided walking holiday with luggage transportation
Discover Andalucía’s longest unspoiled section of protected coastline.
The ruggedly beautiful Cabo de Gata Natural Park is the perfect destination for off-season hiking. This wild south-eastern corner of Spain has a dry desert climate and a landscape to match. With its prickly pear cactuses, agave plants and palm trees, it is reminiscent of Mexico or Arizona. In fact, it will come as no surprise that Cabo de Gata and the neighbouring Tabernas desert have been popular locations for some of the great Western movies, including A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The park is designated a UNESCO Biosphere reserve and has been protected from development, so avoiding the mass tourism of much of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Cabo de Gata has therefore been preserved as one of the last completely unspoilt stretches of Mediterranean coastline. Many parts are only accessible by foot, and the numerous walking trails make this an incredibly rewarding hiking destination.
This week-long walking holiday begins in the former fishing village of Agua Amarga then takes you inland to Rodalquilar, before ending at the lively beach town of San José. The walking routes follow fishermen’s trails, converted railway lines and narrow goat tracks. You will pass by tiny whitewashed villages, abandoned windmills and goldmines as well as volcanic rock formations and secluded coves on your hike along this idyllic Andalucían coastline.
|8 DAYS / 7 NIGHTS
|From €799 per person sharing*
*A high season supplement will apply during peak booking periods
|7 nights in small family-run hotels, set in beautiful white villages. All of them have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere and/or unique services. All rooms are en-suite.
The standard hotels of this trip are listed below. If any of the hotels are unable to confirm due to lack of availability, we will request a similar one and inform you about the alternative booked.
Extra nights can also be booked at any of the hotels along the way.
|You can start on any day of the week, subject to availability, from February 1st to June 13th and from September 15th to November 30th.
|DIFFICULTY / TERRAIN
|The difficulty level of this trip is rated as moderate to challenging overall. Some walks are easier than others but the terrain can be rocky and uneven. There are some steep ascents and descents, for which walking poles are recommended. The cliffside paths can be exposed eroded in places. Inland alternatives are recommended in very windy weather. This tour is not suitable for anyone who suffers from vertigo. Sun protection and plenty of water are essential for the daily routes, as there is generally very little shade.
Day 1: Arrival in Agua Amarga
Your Cabo de Gata hiking trip begins in the pretty fishing village of Agua Amarga. Undiscovered by mass tourism, this laid-back beach town is one of Andalucía’s hidden treasures. Your accommodation is right by the beach, in a white-washed hotel built in the typical style of Southern Spain with terraced gardens and views to the bay.
Overnight: Agua Amarga
Day 2: Circular walk from Agua Amarga
On your first day you have the option of two different hikes.
Distance: 10.5 km | Ascent: 290 m | Descent: 290 m | 3 hrs approx.
The first hike involves a steep ascent through an abandoned 19th century old iron ore plant to the table mountain Mesa Roldán. Here, you follow a path along an abandoned railway line to the 17th century watchtower and lighthouse perched on the cliff edge. You will enjoy sweeping views to the sea and over the village of Agua Amarga as you make your way back to the village.
Distance: 13 km | Ascent: 230 m | Descent: 230 m | 4 hrs approx.
The section option begins with an inland stroll to an ancient olive tree – the oldest in all of Andalucía and one of the oldest in the entire Mediterranean region. Then you hike toward the coast to explore the typical steppe-like habitat of “los espartales”. You will enjoy beautiful views over the lovely coves Cala Plomo and Cala Enmedio.
Overnight: Agua Amarga
Day 3: Hike from Agua Amarga to Rodalquilar
Distance: 21 km | Ascent: 530 m | Descent: 500 m | 7 hrs approx.
Today you hike southward from Agua Amarga, first on inland paths then along the coast to reach the village of Rodalquilar, set in a valley of the same name. You’ll pass the characteristic dry riverbeds called “ramblas” and follow them down to hidden coves, where lush greenery creates surprising oases in the desert. Your route takes in the lovely bay (and quirky hippy colony) at Las Negras and the unspoilt beach at El Playazo.
Rodalquilar is a former gold mining town and the eerie and fascinating abandoned gold mines are still there, set in Martian-like red rock terrain. Nowadays the town has the feel of a desert oasis; its large botanic garden contrasting with the barren surroundings. You will stay in a very comfortable Spa hotel with Arabic and Andalucían influences.
Day 4: Circular walk to Cerro del Cinto
Distance: 16 km | Ascent: 320 m | Descent: 320 m | 5 hrs approx.
The Rambla de la Granadilla winds through the barren hills like a lush, green, life-giving artery. Here you will find palms and oleanders, reeds, fig trees and poplar groves. The surrounding mountain ranges appear like waves rolling off into the distance. Walking among rough volcanic rock formations, you traverse a painter’s palette of earth tones studded with mine shafts, boreholes, terraces and reservoirs, remains of a gold rush which continued up to the 1960’s. You will pass the infamous abandoned farmstead Cortijo del Fraile, site of the tragic events which inspired Federico García Lorca’s great tale of love and revenge; “Bodas de Sangre” (Blood Wedding). Film buffs may recognise the farmstead, as it featured in the Spaghetti Westerns For a Few Dollars More and The Good the Bad and the Ugly, both starring Clint Eastwood. A short tunnel through the rock takes you to a viewing point over the abandoned mining town of San Diego.
At the end of your route, you pass the the museum at Casa de los Volcanes (house of the volcanoes) with its beautifully landscaped botanical garden and excellent café located at the foot of the old gold mines.
Day 5: “El jardín volcánico” (the volcanic garden)
Distance: 19 km | Ascent: 410 m | Descent: 410 m | 6 hrs approx.
After making your way along dry riverbeds among dwarf palms and eroded lava formations, you reach an open steppe-like area. The path surrounded by agave plants leads you to the tops of extinct volcanoes. On the way you will see remains of Moorish inventions designed to conserve water. Then you traverse the narrow Canal de Requena to enter an area of unique beauty with intriguing volcanic phenomena, such as tafone, formed by erratic erosion. Small palms cling to the steep slopes while mastic and wild olive trees cluster in the ravines, as you admire the desert landscape spread out behind you.
From the top you will have breath-taking views of the coast, the fishing villages of La Isleta del Moro and Los Escullos and the twin peaks of El Fraile and Cerro de los Frailes (remains of a once-powerful volcano). A unique forest of Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis) is somehow able to survive here, thanks to the north-facing slopes. The last section circles back to the Rodalquilar Valley.
Day 6: Hike from Rodalquilar to San José
Distance: 19 km | Ascent: 310 m | Descent: 330 m | 5 hrs approx.
This walk follows the cliffs through an unspoilt area, where oases and palm groves emerge from among the dunes and bright white villages provide contrast to complete the picture. At Cala de los Toros, you will find a beautifully lush oasis with a striking black sand beach. La Isleta del Moro, a former anchoring spot for pirates, offers the welcoming atmosphere of a picturesque fishing village and makes an ideal lunch stop. Just inland is el Cerro de los Frailes, the highest summit in Cabo de Gata at 493m. Finally, you reach the beach town of San José, the largest town in Cabo de Gata with lots of bars, cafés and restaurants.
Overnight: San José
Day 7: Circular route from San José
Distance: 17 km | Ascent: 280 m | Descent: 280 m | 5½ hrs approx.
Today you will discover pristine beaches backed by wild vegetation and dramatic volcanic rock formations, as well as secret coves which are only accessible via hiking trails. There are some adventurous sections as you go up and down along the cliffs, so a head for heights and good hiking shoes are essential. Walking poles are also recommended.
Playa del Mónsul is widely regarded as one of the best beaches in all of Spain, with crystal-clear water lapping the soft golden sand, which is surrounded by crumbling volcanic rock formations. The beach featured in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Other beaches along the route include Los Amarillos, Chica, Grande del Barranco, Lance de Perro, Playa del Barronal, Media Luna and Los Genoveses. This is a beautiful and varied route with ever-changing views and is a marvellous way to end your week of hiking in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park.
Overnight: San José
Day 8: Departure
Your Cabo de Gata hiking trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning. Taxi transfers can be arranged to Almería, please enquire for prices.
Getting to Agua Amarga
Departure from San José
|Taxis can be pre-booked to take you to Vera or Almería for onward travel. Please enquire for prices.
|If travelling by car, you take a taxi from San José back to Agua Amarga, to collect your car (40km, approximately 45 minutes).