Andalusia’s Leading Lady: Almería
The golden city of Almería basks in sweeping views of the dazzling blue Mediterranean from its high coastal perch, with colorful rooftops and dramatic sun burnt landscapes stretching as far as the eye can see. This glorious setting, still richly influenced by traditional Arabian culture, is where a long list of Hollywood A-listers made films including, Lawrence of Arabia, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and more recently, a season of Game of Thrones. Now filled with lively tapas bars, well-preserved historic sites and sunny beaches, Almería is a uniquely charming and romantic yacht charter destination.
Almería’s best-known attraction is undoubtedly the 10th-century citadel Alcazaba, one of the most impressive surviving sites of the medieval Islamic al-Andalus territory. Whilst it’s quite a hike to get to the top of it – especially in the pressing midday heat – cool evening guided tours explore the maze of towers, rooms and courtyards, taking in the magnificent views of the glowing city and the darkened sea. Under the city, hides a warren of tunnels, constructed to shelter the population during bomb raids in the Spanish civil war. Dark and winding, these pathways can only be navigated with the assistance of a pre-arranged guide, but its well worth the organisation for a fascinating insight into the city’s furrowed past. In peaceful times though, Almería was a bustling venue for Arab markets, bull fights and fiestas – an atmosphere that can be most vividly imagined standing in the vast main square, Plaza de la Constitución where food markets are still held today.
Near the Cathedral, you’ll find the city’s oldest and still most popular bar, Casa Puga. The interiors harken back to the rugged old days with religious artwork, tiled walls, hams hanging from the ceiling and photos of deceased clientele, while the tapa menu is delightful (grilled artichoke, prawns and warm breads). Las Botas Bodega is also treasured for its homemade Spanish cooking and bullfighting memorabilia, tucked away down a quiet street off Calle de Tiendas. Or else try the tiny restaurant Teteria Almedina, located in the most authentically Arabian part of town, the Alemdina barrio. Stop here for a refreshing limón a la hierbabuena (mint and lemon cordial) and sweet, stuffed pastry en route to the fortress of Alcazabar.
There are more modern facilities too though for those craving contemporary comforts. Club de Mar de Almeria, the city’s modest marina is a pleasant place to dine at lunchtime in the cool sea breeze. There’s tennis and squash courts here as well as a sauna. However, the glamorous yachting crowd can usually be found at the luxurious boutique hotel, Plaza Vieja, enjoying the relaxed lounge terrace and Arabian baths, Aire. Aside from the usual program of spa treatments, Aire’s soothing aqua experiences include a specialized wine bath that invites guests to soak up the antioxidant qualities of Ribera Del Duero red grape, whilst enjoying a glass of vino and a soothing head massage.
Like most Spanish towns, Almería siestas in the afternoon – restaurants and shutters close, and the locals retreat inside. But for tourists, it’s a peaceful time to wander the streets, admire the architecture and browse the few shops that stay open. Pick up one of Almeria’s famous jugs, made using centuries-old techniques or a decorative Jarapas blanket, hand-woven by Andalucian artisans, from the Arabian craft market, Bazar Arabe. Alternatively, board your yacht for a peaceful afternoon cruise of the surrounding coves and secluded beaches.
Come nightfall, El Vino en un Barco, a bar renowned for its inventive cocktails (try the mescal sour), great tapas and artistically designed interiors attracts a sophisticated crowd. Or embrace night in true Hispanic style: dancing till the early hours. Pena El Taranto is one of the main centres for Flamenco, where large concerts are held at intervals throughout the summer, whilst Galeón Música Latina is popular for salsa dancing. Then, as daybreaks, return hot and breathless to the calm and comfort of your personal five-star floating retreat.