By Wendy Williams
THE Costa Levante of Almeria is a popular destination for holidaymakers and expats alike.
It offers superb sandy beaches with clear waters ideal for diving and snorkelling and boasts excellent all-year weather conditions.
“We rarely get much more than around 150 litres of rainfall a year most of it spread over around 12 to 20 days,” explains architect Almudena Mateo-Sagasta, who lives in Cabo de Gata with her Italian husband Umberto.
Much more than sun, sea and sand, the area also offers excellent hiking, cycling, climbing and caving and it is well-known for its golf resorts.
“You can have a really good holiday here,” remarks Bill White, 70, who has lived in Los Gallardos, near Mojacar, with his wife Jean for the last five years.
“There are wonderful beaches, Mojacar is steeped in history, and just down the road is Almeria city, which has lots of museums and a castle.”
Here the Olive Press shines a light on some of the other places of interest in the area…
Arrow that created modern Vera
Bigger than some of the surroundings villages, Vera offers six miles of stunning sandy beaches.
The town, which was originally called Baria, is also steeped in history having been inhabited for thousands of years from Neolithic times right through to the Romans and Moors.
Interestingly, the Arabs moved the town to the hill of Espiritu Santo but an earthquake destroyed it in 1518.
Legend has it that after this, Queen Isabel climbed to the top of the hill, fired an arrow and ordered that Vera be built wherever it landed.
The town as it stands today was built in the 16th century and enlarged in the 18th century.
It is one of the most important commercial centres in the region and is a prosperous town with a variety of shops.
There is also a keen artisan tradition with handicrafts including embroidery, esparto grass weaving and marble carving.
A big street market is worth a visit on Saturdays.
The towers that created Turre
This small inland village is situated a few miles inland from Mojacar next to the river Aguas and the soaring Sierra Cabrera.
Its Muslim origins are apparent from the whitewashed houses and flat roofs, and while it is not the most visually appealing town it has a lot of character, and a large gypsy influence.
The main sights include the 16th century Hermitage of San Francisco and the Parish Church de la Purisima Concepcion.
There is also a market on a Friday but the real draw is the history.
The town sprung up around 1488 after the Catholic Monarchs forced the inhabitants of Mojacar who did not want to flee to Africa to settle inland.
Turre – which originates from the Latin word ‘turris’ meaning tower – was named after a watchtower built by the Moors during Nazari times to protect the people from continuous attacks by the Christians.
The Moors of Turre were eventually taken to Cordoba during the War of the Alpujarras between 1568 and 1570 and the town was left deserted for several years until 43 families from Murcia moved in to repopulate it.
In recent years the town has benefitted from an influx of tourists visiting the region.
Come to the caves
Cuevas de Almanzora, an inland town which lies in the fertile valley of the Almanzora River, is one of the oldest towns in the province.
It was here that silver was discovered in the Sierra Almagrera in the early 19th century which led to the town becoming flooded with miners looking to make their fortune.
In particular the town is known for the artificial caves that were once inhabited by the silver miners.
Some of the caves are still lived in today and you can visit many of the dwellings.
Meanwhile, the silver rush also led the town to prosper with a lot of grand old houses springing up.
These too can still be seen today, particularly around Plaza de la Constitucion and the town hall.
The Castillo de Cuevas del Almanzora, a 16th century palace/fortress is also well worth a visit and the Castillo de Marques de los Velez houses an important art collection.
“It is a nice place to live,” said John Crellin, 59, from Blackpool.
“I think a lot of Brits came originally as it was cheap but now they have made their home here.”
Take a visit to buzzing Garrucha
Last, but not least, it is worth popping in to visit the lively seaside town of Garrucha.
While winning no prizes for beauty, it is a buzzing place, particularly when the fishing fleet comes back to the port mid-afternoon.
There is a lively fish auction and some of the best fish can always be found in the popular port-side restaurant El Almejero.
A great place to stay is Hotel Tikar, where American Sean has recently added a wine shop to compliment his excellent restaurant.