Almería, Spain

HOW ONE TRIP CHANGED MY WHOLE OUTLOOK ON SPANISH HOLIDAYS

On the 9th of June 2019, I landed back on British soil after a trip that would change my outlook on Spain forever. I had just spent the most incredible week in the beautiful city of Almeria, exploring the sites and devouring the culture.


Imagine of Almeria Cathedral
Almeria Cathedral 

Before booking my last minute flights, I'd never even head of Almeria, and if I'm honest I was trying my hardest to convince my travel buddy to pick somewhere else to go. Why would I want to fly to Spain to spend a week with drunken Brits behaving badly? Spanish holidays just weren't for me!
Well, I can't have been too convincing because an hour and a couple of hundred pounds later, our trip was booked and we were heading to Almeria.

3 weeks after that we landed in the sunshine city and were pleasantly surprised as soon as we arrived. Our hotel was based in the centre of Almeria, between the old town, and the much more modern area. Within minutes I was falling in love with the Moorish architecture, though the heat left a lot to be desired. We didn't waste any time in the hotel and set off exploring as soon as we had dropped off our bags. 

Armed with Google maps, and a funky tourist map from the hotel receptionist we walked across what felt like the entire city. We just kept going, coming across photo opportunity after photo opportunity - this was the life. Before long we realised we should probably grab a bite to eat so found a small cafe along one of the main streets. This was where we would realise that choosing Almeria for our week away was going to be a very good choice.


Almeria Alcazaba
Almeria Alcazba 

Standing by a pool inside Almeria Alcazaba
Inside Almeria Alcazaba

There were no English menus to be found. Not on any of the tables, and certainly not on a designated stand with the Union Jack sitting proudly on top. There were no French menus, no German menus, no menus in any language other than Spanish to be found anywhere. For a seaside resort, it was very strange to not cater to tourists, but maybe we had wandered off the beaten track somehow?

After a few minutes of translating the text in front of us, we decided that toasties and Sangria were in order, after all, you can't come to Spain without inhaling a gallon of the good stuff! Our waitress soon arrived to take our order and it wasn't long before we realised she didn't speak an ounce of English. It was a lightbulb moment and we realised that we were not in a typical Spanish resort at all. We weren't going to be catered for here, we were going to be experiencing a week of the real Spain, and we were ready for it. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. 


Ticket for entrance to Almeria Alcazaba
Ticket for Almeria Alcazaba  

Standing in front of a row of arches inside Almeria Alcazaba
Inside Almeria Alcazaba

Emerging from our hotel at around 7 pm for our meal was a mistake. 7 pm may be late for most Brits to eat tea but in Spain, this is very early indeed. Throughout the week we would come to realise that 10 pm would be a more realistic time to head out for food, if not later.

After a nice but underwhelming supper of takeaway pizza (because nothing else was open yet!) we went off on a quest to find a bar. This would be surprisingly easy, and after a little bit of wandering, we soon found a quiet bar to guzzle Estrella. 

As it goes in Spain it wouldn't be long before we were joined by a lovely group of Spanish boys, who you guessed it, spoke little English. But it wasn't a problem, it made communicating a little harder I'll admit, but if we really wanted to submerge ourselves in the culture this was going to be the way to do it. Besides, we were in Spain, it would be ignorant of us to assume everyone here should speak fluent English. 

Several beers and a whole lot of chit chat later, we returned to the hotel but not before exchanging numbers with one of the lads who spoke the most English. We left with the promise to meet up later in the week, though we all knew the chances of that actually happening were slim. 


A plate of Chicken and Chips for dinner with a side of olives and Sangria
 Chicken and chips for dinner, with Sangria of course

Tapas with a glass of Sangria
The free tapas that came with our drinks

In the days that followed we embraced everything that Almeria had to offer. From sizzling on the beautiful beaches to exploring the old town and the 10th century Alcazaba fortress, we did it all. And there really was just so much to do in and around the city. We were living our absolute best lives. 

Because Almeria is a city, we had the best of both worlds in our week away, and whilst we did occasionally splash about in the sea, we also made time to see the guts of the place. On one of our first days we took a walking tour, which is always my first port of call in a new place. We were taken to a few areas we had already seen previously but our tour gave us so much more insight than we had managed to pick up before. They did not have any English guide books when we initially visited the Alcazaba (which says it all about the number of English tourists they receive) so our second visit with our local guide was just that much better. 

After the tour was finished we went on to have drinks with an English lad who was part of the group. He would be our only interaction with anyone from the UK in Almeria and whilst his company was lovely, it was just so refreshing to know Brits haven't yet swarmed this beautiful city. Whilst having drinks that evening we soon discovered that free tapas accompanies most drinks in Almeria - bonus!

We did also indulge in a few touristy things while we were away. Apart from the 6 hour round trip to Malaga (which was amazing but mostly just to visit the Hard Rock Cafe) we also used public transport for two other day trips.


Looking up a hill with the ocean in the background
Walking up the the steepest road in all of Spain

The view from the top of the hill
The view from the top of the hill we had to climb

The first trip, seemed very straight forward on paper but in reality, it was a disaster waiting to happen. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at navigating foreign transport by now but in all honesty, sometimes I still don't get it right. Our plan was to take a bus roughly 40 minutes from Almeria to Cabo De Gata, a popular beach where kayaking was available. Easy enough right? And after discussing with the bus driver where we wanted to go before boarding, we were certain we had got everything spot on. Fast forward half an hour later when we were being kicked off the bus in the middle of nowhere by the driver who insisted this was our stop. Confused and a little bit flustered we left the bus with the instructions to ''walk 4 kilometres that way''. Fantastic.

What the bus driver didn't point out was that this walk would take us up a rather high road in 40-degree heat. But whilst the walk was long, tiring, and very unexpected, what we saw on the other side was worth it. We arrived at a lighthouse and viewpoint which overlooked the most stunning stretch of jagged coastline. This was likely where the kayaking would have taken place though we never actually found it. We stayed here for a while, dipped in the cool ocean below, and had a small lunch of chips and sherry before enduring the long walk back to the bus stop. I decided this time we should crack open a carton of wine to accompany us on the journey, and so off we trotted back up the hill, merry as anything. This day didn't go to plan at all, but my god will I remember it forever.


Where the sea meets the jagged coastline
 Looking down over the jagged coastline from the lookout at Cabo De Gata

Looking out over the sea, the jagged rocks can be seen coming out from the ocean
At the foot of Cabo De Gata Lighthouse

Our next trip was to be the most touristy day we had an Almeria. This time we boarded a bus to Mini Hollywood, an old American film set where movies such as The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly were shot. The set was preserved and is now a wild west theme park, with a zoo (???) for some reason. Throughout the day there were cowboy and Can Can shows, with characters roaming the fake streets in between performances.

Although it was an absolute tourist trap this small theme park was incredibly fun and my travel buddy and I spent hours running around living out our cowgirl dreams. We would have stayed until lock-up had it not been for the fact that buses in that area are few and far between and had we missed our bus at that time, we would have to wait 5 hours for the next one. So home we went, but we weren't disappointed because we'd managed to convince the beautiful Spanish boys we'd met earlier in the week to come out drinking with us.


The entrance sign to Mini Hollywood
At the entrance to Mini Hollywood 

The wild west show at Mini Hollywood near Almeria
One of the Wild West shows at Mini Hollywood

We took our time getting ready as we likely wouldn't be eating until 10 pm and the boys probably wouldn't be on the scene until they had finished their dinner at midnight! We ate and drank and then met up with our new pals at some point in the very early hours. We were quickly running out of cash and were about to call it a night when they turned up and explained that it wouldn't be a problem as they don't pay for drinks in the bars anyway. Already drunker than I would like to admit by this point, we accepted the free drinks and began our night.

From there we moved from club to club, never paying an entrance fee, always skipping the queue to get in, and being showered with free drinks from the bar staff everywhere we went. This night seemed too good to be true, but it wasn't. The lads were friendly but never crossed the line. We mostly communicated via Google translate, especially once the music was too loud, but this was never a problem. If anything it only left me feeling a little embarrassed that I hadn't bothered to learn more Spanish before we came here.

We danced and drank and danced some more, all the time being joined by more and more friends of both sexes who tried their best to chat with us, no matter how much of a struggle it was. As hours went by and as we dipped in and out of multiple clubs it was starting to become clear why everything was free. One of the boys was a local DJ and from what I understood, a minor celebrity in Almeria. Everywhere he went, we went too, and were lucky enough to experience all the benefits of spending a night with the DJ. In our final club, he took to the stage and spent the remaining hours playing song after song in the booth. 


Standing in front of a cowboy on a horse at Mini Hollywood
A wild cowboy appeared as we were doing a little photoshoot 

Locked in a Pillory at Mini Hollywood near Almeria
Locked in a Pillory at Mini Hollywood

I thought the fun would never end, but a 7 am it did, and off we went to find breakfast. When my new pal said ''In Spain, we party hard'' he wasn't lying. For that night, these people were my best friends and I will never forget them. 

After that evening we only had one last day which was spent recovering on the beach and enjoying our last few hours in the city that stole our hearts. 

Almeria was not like any other holiday resort I'd had the pleasure of staying in. Few of the people we met spoke English and the ones that did asked us why we would come here on a holiday?! I imagine is a very valid question if you're a local, but to us, this was a dream break. In our entire 7 days in that city, we only met 1 other Brit. Apart from that, we barely heard anything other than Spanish the whole time we were there, but that made our trip just a little more special. 

Almeria has not yet been ruined by tourism, and as much as I would recommend visiting the place, I would hate to see it become the next Benidorm. As one of our Spanish friends said ''Almeria is paradise'', and they were right. 

I fell in love with this city and I fell in love with the people who welcomed us and showed us what Spain was really like. Before my trip, I avoided Spanish holidays like the plague. For me, they had the reputation of being sunny resorts for British people to have week-long piss ups, but now I know better. Now I know the real beauty of Spain and I cannot wait to experience more of it.

Thanks for reading!


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The sea near Almeria harbour
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