Almeria - spring wildlife and walking in southern Spain
A relaxed week of spring flowers, interesting landscapes and country walks, exploring the Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Nijar in eastern Andalucia.
The Natural Park juts out into the Mediterranean, to the east of the city of Almeria. This is one of the most arid regions in Europe, with the semi-deserts of Tabernas close-by, and the wildlife has much in common with North Africa: Dwarf Fan Palm, the spiny Ziziphus lotus, the scrambling milkweed Periploca angustifolia and the lavenders Lavandula multifida and Lavandula dentata are amongst the common plants here that are more familiar from Morocco than elsewhere in Europe, while the desert-loving Trumpeter Finch has its only European outpost here.
The volcanic Sierra de Cabo de Gata and the 40km of rocky coast, including cliffs up to 100m high, make for an impressive landscape, with a number of endemic wild flowers found only here, including the Cabo de Gata Pink, Cabo de Gata Snapdragon and Cabo de Gata Germander. Black Wheatear is a common site in rocky areas, with a couple of pairs of Bonelli’s Eagle present in the mountains.
Away from the cliffs, the coastal plain includes sand dunes, a system of salinas where flamingos feed alongside the industrial salt production, and ‘ramblas’, seasonally dry riverbeds, with small lagoons home to White-headed Duck and plenty of other interesting birds.
We will take daily excursions to explore the various habitats and hidden corners of the area, from the arid ‘steppe’ to the gyspum karst around Sorbas. Colourful spring flowers include Purple Jerusalem-Sage, Mallow-leaved Bindweed and Sea Mallow, with spring butterflies on the wing and newly arrived migrant birds all adding to the interesting wildlife to be found during our days.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 A morning flight will take us down to Almeria, in the south-eastern corner of Spain, from where we will travel to the seaside town of San Jose, in the Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Nijar. In the afternoon, we will make a short walk out to the nearby Playa de Los Genoveses, and have our first introduction to the wild flowers of the area.
Day 2 We travel to the western edge of the Natural Park, to the visitor centre at Las Amoladeras, which sits in an area of interesting semi-desert habitat. A trail takes us through this bleak landscape, with interesting plants. The steppe-like habitat is home to Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Iberian Grey Shrike and several species of lark, while reptiles include both Edwards’s and Large Psammodromus.
Day 3 We head inland to the village of Rodalquilar and visit the excellent botanic garden, where we can familiarise ourselves with many of Almeria’s endemic plants, before taking a trail that leads us through the ruins of a 19th century mining complex, and then on a circuit through the shrubby hills. Interesting plants should include the locally endemic Cabo de Gata Pink Dianthus charidemi, Helianthemum syriacum and Phlomis purpurea, along with Dwarf Fan Palm Chamaerops humilis.
Day 4 We visit the wetlands around the village of Cabo de Gata. Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Avocets and Black-winged Stilts make their home on the salt pans, Kentish Plovers nest on the shore, and White-headed Duck and Black-necked Grebes can be found on nearby lagoons. We will pay attention to the interesting wild flowers that can be found in the area, including carpets of the lovely Silene littorea at the back of the beach, and the bizarre parasitic Cynomorum coccineum, growing at the base of the shrubby chenopods.
Day 5 We head into the Sierra de Cabo de Gata and follow a trail that will lead us into the caldera of a long-extinct volcano. Western Black-eared Wheatear flit about the rocky areas, and we will keep an eye out for Bonelli’s Eagle overhead, while enjoying plenty of interesting wild flowers. The afternoon will be free, to explore the town some more, or spend some time on the beach.
Day 6 Travelling further north, we explore the Gypsum Karst landscapes of the Sorbas area. The gypsum-rich soils here are home to a suite of endemic species, including Chaneorhinum grandiflorum, Helianthemum alypoides and Narcissus tortifolius, with Short-toed Lark making their display flight overhead.
Day 7 Today we will drive around to the lighthouse at the ‘cape’ of Cabo de Gata, and then spend the day walking around the rocky coastline back to San Jose. Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear sing from the rocks, and the uncommon Trumpeter Finch could turn up at any of the dry gullies along the way. The coastal plants include the locally endemic Cabo de Gata Snapdragon Antirrhinum charidemi and Cabo de Gata Germander Teucrium charidemi. This will be the most challenging walk of our week (6.5 miles, with a climb of 150 m in the first mile), but the scenery and wildlife will make it worth the effort!
Day 8 After breakfast, we return to Almeria and our early flight home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
We will be staying at the Santuario San Jose, a comfortable two-star hotel in the quiet village of San Jose. The hotel is a short walk to the beach and the fishing port. All rooms are en-suite.
Evening meals will be at the hotel or at local restaurants, and we will take picnic lunches out with us every day.
For our daily excursions, we will travel by small coach or minibus.
Group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Almeria
11th April depart London Gatwick 05.35, arrive Almeria 09.30
18th April depart Almeria 10.05, arrive London Gatwick 11.50
You can reach Almeria by train from London, with an overnight stay in Barcelona. Contact us to find out more, and to make your holiday flight-free.
Spain is one hour ahead of UK time.
If you hold a British passport you can travel to countries in the Schengen area (including Spain) for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. You must have at least six months left on your passport to travel to most countries in Europe.
British passport holders will need to apply for the ETIAS European Travel Authorisation to visit Schengen countries. This must be applied for online prior to travel, at a cost of €7 (free for over 70s). Once granted, your ETIAS will be valid for three years.
At this time of year the weather should hopefully be warm and sunny, with average temperatures between 12° and 19° C. As with everywhere, the weather is less predictable now than it used to be, and there may be cooler or hotter weather and some rain. We will do our best to adapt our walks and excursions accordingly.
On most days, we are walking for much of the day, albeit at a relatively slow pace. The day walks are mostly between 3 and 6.5 miles, with some rougher ground and some slopes, both up and down. Walking boots (e.g. lightweight) are essential. The pace will be relaxed, with plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings and take photos as well as stopping to enjoy the wildlife along the way. If you are a slow walker, please contact us to discuss whether any of the walks will be a problem for you.