The Costa Tropical, in southern Andalucia, is a relatively new name for the stretch of coastline between Almunecar and Almeria which was previously part of the Costa del Sol. The costa takes its name from the sub-tropical climate which enables the cultivation of exotic crops. With warm winters and long hot summers, the average year round temperature is 20C. Airports servicing the area are at Almeria and Granada and to the west at Malaga.
Since the filming of Lawrence of Arabia near Almeria, and many paella westerns since, the countryside at the far eastern end of the Costa Tropical has been compared to the sunbaked state of Arizona. As one travels westwards towards Almunecar the coastline becomes greener with cliffs and secluded sandy coves, in places resembling the Costa Brava.
Aguadulce lies in the Gulf of Almeria, 12 kilometres west of Almeria and 160 kilometres east of Malaga. Originally a fishing village, it has a working port, a leisure marina and two golf courses within 8 kilometres. The wide, sandy beaches slope gently to the sea and have water sports facilities provided near the urban area.
Mini Hollywood, Almeria
Almeria is a white-washed, sunny, coastal town with its own international airport 10 kilometres to the east of the city. It was first settled around 3000 BC and became a thriving trading port and principal centre of the Cordoba Caliphate. The sea, which has been one of the town’s prime sources of wealth, was also a potential menace in the past as the coast suffered attacks from pirates and corsairs. Not surprisingly, there is a marina here with all facilities and berths for approximately 300 private boats.
Almeria has shopping and business centres, plenty of bars and restaurants and is 20 kilometres to the east of two 18-hole golf courses, Playa Serena and La Envia. A charming district in the town is La Chanca, where fishermen and gypsies live, stretching out at the foot of the imposing Moorish Alcazaba fortress. Dwellings here extend into caves, the outsides of which are gaily painted.
Almeria is the capital of the province of the same name. Mainly undeveloped, the province has 200 kilometres of beaches and three national parks that extend through snow covered mountains, desert and thick woodland.
The Alcazaba, an imposing Moorish fortress built in the times of the Cordoba Caliphate.
The Cathedral, built over an ancient mosque, was reconstructed in 1524 after an earthquake. Outside it resembles a fortified stronghold with protective towers but inside there is a touch of elegance with choir stalls skillfully worked by Juan de Orea.
Castell de Ferro
Castell de Ferro is a pretty Mediterranean fishing town with access from airports at Almeria, Malaga and Granada. It has narrow, winding streets clustered around a main square surrounded on three sides with shops, bars and restaurants and the shingle beach on the fourth. The town was named after the castle that stands behind, which was built to defend the natural harbour that it overlooks.
Water sports available at Castell de Ferro include sailing and sub-aqua diving. The Los Moriscos golf course lies 20 kilometres along the coast to the west.
Guadix is located in the province of Granada with good access to the city and its airport. It is also a very good location from which to explore the nearby Alpujarras. An ancient settlement, it was established by the Romans as a base for exploiting seams of silver in the surrounding hills, and later becoming a substantial Moorish town. It is now known for the 2,000 caves that are homes to people known as troglodytes.
From the battlements of the Alcazaba there are views over the cave district of Santiago and the Sierra Nevada. It is worth the walk over the Barrio Santiago for a closer look at the white-painted chimney pots poking out from the golden red hillocks. Here it is difficult to walk around without treading on someone’s roof. The cave dwellers are not gypsies and there is no social stigma about being part of this subterranean society. The unusual compacted clay, from which the caves are dug out, is known as the Guadix-Baza postpliocene deposit. Although people lived here in ancient times, the current population dates from the 16th century when persecuted Moriscos took refuge underground.
The caves have title deeds and some have gardens and cave garages. Often, when a member of the family marries, a new home is cut out of the hillside from within the family dwelling. No planning permission is necessary and a new chimney just appears. The rooms have metre thick walls and doors or curtains separating them. The ceilings are always curved and the interiors are painted white. Niches are dug out for cupboards and wardrobes.
The temperature within the caves remains at about 18 degrees centigrade all year round. They are easily heated and sound-proof. The chimneys conduct air and fire-smoke from below. There is never any dampness as rain just cascades off the impervious hillsides.
As well as private homes, there are cave shops, a hotel and bars with huge earthenware wine jars. A 300 year old cave church is cut deep into the hillside with a high nave and several side chapels. There is also a cave hotel, the Apart-hotel de Cuevas Pedro de Alarcon, with a restaurant (Tel: 958 664 986). Private caves are also available to rent.
The Puerta San Turcuato – a Moorish gateway in the old town wall.
Cathedral – 16th century built on the site of a former mosque with an 18th century Corinthian exterior. Open Mondays-Saturdays from 10.30h to 13.00h.
The Plaza Mayor – an arcaded Renaissance square.
Alcazaba – 9th century Moorish fortress with restored battlements. Open daily from 9.00h to 13.00h and from 16.00h to 18.00h.
Palacio de Penaflor.
La Rabita is situated in the east of the Costa Tropical and can be accessed via airports at Malaga, Almeria and Granada. This is a pretty seaside town with facilities including shops, banks, bars, restaurants and three nearby golf courses. La Rabita has a new promenade which has become a lively and central meeting place.
The beach is a mixture of sand and pebble and has safe bathing for all ages.
Town hall & church, Motril
Motril lies in the east of the Costa Tropical, an hour and a half’s drive both west from Malaga airport and east from Almeria airport. It is situated on a fertile delta 3 kilometres inland from the coast at the foothills of the Sierra Lujar mountains, surrounded by a tropical landscape with sugar cane, vineyards and banana plantations. It is 40 minutes from Granada and an hour from the Sierra Nevada. Motril is a main shopping centre along this part of the coast and it also has many bars, restaurants and clubs.
On the coast there is a fishing harbour and marina with restaurants specialising in local fish dishes. Either side of these areas are extensive sandy beaches, the two main are Playa Poniente and the quieter Playa Granada. Water sports include fishing, sailing water-skiing, jet skiing and scuba diving. Motril’s golf course is located next to the sea, featuring large greens, two lakes and fairways lined with papaya, mango, palms and sugar cane.
Roquetas de Mar
Roquetas de Mar is situated in the Gulf of Almeria, 17 kilometres to the west of Almeria town and 27 kilometres from Almeria airport. This Mediterranean city has a population of 53,000, large business and commercial centres and plenty of bars and restaurants. Roquetas lies in flat countryside, dotted by saltwater lagoons, with a mountain backdrop.
Roquetas has large beaches with water sport facilities and a pretty harbour. The town’s 18-hole golf course is 5 kilometres away and another two are within 15 kilometres.
Salobrena lies on the coast 45 minutes from Granada, an hour from the Sierra Nevada and just over an hour from Malaga airport. It is a whitewashed town, with a population of 10,500, that clambers over a rock, crowned by a Moorish castle. The area is surrounded by sugar cane plantations and sub-tropical fruit trees.
Settlement of the town dates back 6,000 years. The old, predominately Moorish, area of the town encircles the castle and rock, with newer developments spread out below. From the top of the old town there are spectacular views of the Sierra del Chaparral mountains to the north and the coastline to the south.
Salobrena has 8 kilometres of well kept beaches and, to the west, many little coves and smaller beaches. A few years ago an artificial reef was created off of the Penon rock where snorkelling and diving is permitted. There is an 18-hole golf course conveniently located 5 kilometres to the east.
The Moorish Castle – built in the 10th century.
The Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario – a 16th century Mudejar church built on the remains of an old mosque.
The Town Museum – housed in the former town hall in the old town.
The Parque de la Fuente – a shady park beside the coast.
The Penon – a large rock jutting out to sea that was a prison in the 1st and 2nd centuries and then a Christian burial site.
The Film Office – a recent project to encourage television and movie makers to the area as a film location.
The Sugar Factory – the last working sugar factory in Europe lies just to the west of Salobrena in the small village of La Caleta.