The sun beats down mercilessly on the small village near the settlement of Los Albaricoques in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. The red dust of the hot, dry earth makes it difficult to breathe and makes the landscape shimmer. The daughter of the wealthiest farmer in the village is to be married on this unbearable day. But she loves another; elopes with him. Blinded by the shame, her brother tracks down the unfortunate and stabs his lover in front of the young woman.
In the work of the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, the failed wedding here in the desert of Andalusia becomes a „blood wedding“, a much-praised drama of the 1930s. Dramas like this could have happened anywhere. But here, on this patch of earth between volcanic rock, deep blue sea and endless expanses, tragedies seem to find the right backdrop.
The landscape in the southeast of Andalusia, at the „Cape of the Cat“ – Cabo de Gata – is reminiscent of scenes from Italo-American westerns. No wonder, as many were actually filmed here in southern Spain.
Not many tourists and travelers stray here. Big tourism with its hotel complexes and pool landscapes, bars and nightclubs seems to have forgotten Cabo de Gata.
Just under an hour’s drive from Almería, the next largest city with an airport, the visitor is greeted by a lonely, bizarre landscape.
The fact that much of what is generally expected on the sunny coast of southern Spain is missing here is mainly due to the fact that the cape north-east of Almería has been a nature park since the late 1980s. The Spanish government decided to protect this sensitive volcanic landscape because it is home to numerous rare birds and plants.
At first glance, the stranger sees above all a wild mountain landscape – torn and fissured by millennia-old lava flows, wind and the merciless sun of Andalusia. There is hardly a tree here, few larger bushes. Various species of cacti, low palm trees and shaggy creeping shrubs populate the land.
The coast of the Cape is just as rough and wild. Between steep cliffs and stony hills, however, you will find lonely beaches with wonderfully clear water, guarded by old lighthouses and castle ruins, which is much cleaner than in front of the hotel zones of the Costa del Sol thanks to the special conditions of the 26,000 hectare nature park.
What seems like hell to some tourists is paradise to others: mountain bikers, hikers, divers and of course holidaymakers looking for a quiet place in the Mediterranean.
This hideaway used to be the hideout of pirates and smugglers, today it has become home to many artists and writers; of course also for dropouts and late hippies.
But not everyone stays here for long. It is said that some people turn back after just a few nights. The others, however, become addicted and keep coming back. Locals say the volcanic rock is magical and not everyone can take the power and magic of the stones.
Especially in midsummer, when even the little birds are silent in the unbearable midday heat, it is unbearable except on the beach or in shady rock caves.
The only larger town with some tourism, a few small hotel complexes and bars is San José. Overlooking the sea, whitewashed houses and apartments cluster along the rocky coast of the Cape’s south-east. San José is a popular starting point for hikes, mountain bike and jeep tours to the almost uninhabited tip of the cape.
On the way along the coast south of San José you come across one of the most beautiful beaches of Cabo de Gata: Playa del Monsul. The fine sandy beach is nestled between grey-black cliffs and a huge white shifting dune. There are no houses and no beach bars here, and yet or perhaps because of this, Playa del Monsul is no longer an insider tip among the few Cape tourists.
The insider tips and the total solitude can be found in the north-east of the Cape. The villages of Los Escullos, La Caleta, Las Negras and Rodalquilar have retained their charm as isolated little villages. Las Negras is a romantic little fishing town with corner shops and a couple of hippie bars that sit right on the jet-black volcanic sand beach. Rodalquilar is home to the only gold mine in Spain, which was abandoned in the 1960s. Today, the mine and part of the former workers‘ houses are empty and overgrown, reminiscent of ruins from Italo-Westerns. This year, a small botanical garden will open in Rodalquilar, presenting the plants and rocks native to the region. A few minutes by bike from Rodalquilar is a quiet bathing bay at the foot of an old defensive castle that was supposed to protect the coast from pirates and smugglers. The lookout tower rises above it «Punta de la Polacra», to which a paved road leads. From here you have a view over the entire cape on a clear day. Rodalquilar is also an excellent starting point for a two to three hour hike to the scene of the „Blood Wedding“.
Beyond the ridge of the Sierra de Cabo de Gata lies the whitewashed church surrounded by abandoned stables and a few palm trees against the foothills on the other side of the Sierra. Somewhere in the mountains a goat bleats. Otherwise, the hiker only hears the chirping of the crickets and the soft chirping of the small Cape birds…
The destination airport is the airport in the city of Almería. From here, the best way to get to the Cape is by renting a car in a southeasterly direction. In almost all villages you can rent small fincas and rooms, Los Escullos and La Caleta have well-equipped campsites. You can hike almost anywhere. No fences or prohibition signs line the stony paths, only nature occasionally prohibits the path through steep gorges and rocks. Tourist centers in San José and Rodalquilar can help plan hiking and biking routes.
A text by Cora Knoblauch