hiking Cabo de Gata, Spain

After freezing for 3 nights on the Sierra Nevada Traverse, the nearby Mediterranean coast of Spain appealed.

Cabo de Gata map

Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park is Andalucia‘s largest coastal protected area, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe’s most original geological features. It is the only region in Europe with a true hot desert climate.

The eponymous mountain range of the Sierra del Cabo de Gata with its highest peak El Fraile is Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks and crags in red/ochre-hues. It falls steeply to the Mediterranean Sea creating jagged 100-metre (330 ft) high cliffs, which are riven by gullies leading to hidden coves with white sandy beaches, some of the most beautiful in Andalucia. …

I departed Granada by bus at noon. And was sitting down in Cabo de Gata town for Calamari by 4pm.


Cabo de Gata is a popular beach town in “summer”. But by mid-October it looks like this.


Mine was the only open restaurant. I need to wait for siesta to finish so I could buy 6 litres of liquid (mostly Coke Zero) to start the walk. Happily, the tiny supermarket opened at 5pm.


Lonely Planet Hiking in Spain describes a 52km coastal walk from Cabo de Gata to Aqua Amarga. I planned to start. And continue as long as I wanted. Bus transport back from Aqua Amarga is a problem. 😦


Passing retirees enjoying the sun, first stop is the Cabo de Gata tower.


Turns out there is a series of these ruins up and down the coast.

Between the village of San Miguel and the Cabo de Gata point are salt flats. This is an important stopping point for migrating flamingoes and other birds.

bird sanctuary
bird sanctuary

In the distance loomed this impressive church.



The beaches were near empty. Only one fisherman on this one.


It was a steep climb up and over to reach the Cabo de Gata light station.


The rugged geology is impressive.


Many tourists drive out to enjoy the views at dusk.


The only other person left standing in the dark with me was a young German who had rented an apartment in San José for a week. We walked together past the road block, back towards his place.

Together we found this tent spot. Quiet. Peaceful. And much warmer than 3000m in the Sierra Nevada.


Here’s a glimpse looking back to where I’d come from. Next morning.


I’d been looking forward to tramping a series of pocket beaches.


If the tides are right, you can scramble between most of them. This was a highlight of the trip.


This time of year you’ll see nude and topless sunbathers at pretty much every near deserted beach.

And artists. 🙂



There’s San José (Almeria) in the distance. The centre of Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata.


I’ve seen cows (Sri Lanka), kangaroos (Australia) and goats (Spain) on beaches. Never once understanding why they would want to be there.


This is a desert. There’s very little water.


This windmill marks the start of town.


I could spend a week or two in San José. It’s lovely. Population about 1000. Plus tourists. And there are very few tourists in October despite daily highs around 28C.

An ideal idyl for cyclists, hikers, artists and photographers, I’d say. Lawrence of Arabia and the Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns used this location.

The campground was (surprisingly) closed. On a whim I checked the Aloha Hotel, recommended by Lonely Planet. When they offered me a pool view room for only 40EU, I couldn’t resist. After all … “recovery is an important component of every successful hike”. Plus wine. 🙂

In the afternoon I continued my hike – without backpack – up into the hills beyond San José. Here’s a glimpse back to town.


It’s rough and arid.


But with gorgeous coastal views.


I enjoyed chatting with a very tan elderly couple from GBR before finally stopping at this ruin.




This vista was the end of my Cabo de Gata hike.


I turned back to civilization.

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