La Joya de Cabo de Gata

Almeria, Spain Book from Book from £105 per night

Rustic self-catering eco retreat in the desert gardens of Cabo de Gata Natural Park, near Med beaches
This is where the Almería desert meets the sea; a place of ochre and terracotta landscapes, tinkling goat bells, palm trees swaying in a warm North African breeze, fiery sunsets and velvety night skies. One of the most protected areas in southern Spain, it’s a place that’s often overlooked by tourists. Hidden behind rough stone walls, La Joya is a celebration of everything this unspoilt region has to offer - its native plants, architecture and traditions. Lovingly created by Charo García (a city high-flyer before she escaped Madrid to build her Almerían sanctuary), its cluster of earthy buildings was designed to blend perfectly with the desert setting.

In addition to Charo's house, there are 3 simple cottages for 2-4 all run on eco-friendly principles. In the garden, among cacti and bougainvillea, there’s a cool pavilion offering massage therapies; the Phoenician pool is fed by a well. From a hammock swinging from a Peruvian pepper tree, you can look across the canyons of the desert hills to the sea. Agua Amarga, with its sandy beach, white cliffs and dazzling white-cube houses, is 3km away.

Highs

  • An awesome location, with lots to see: Cabo de Gata Natural Park has 34,000 hectares of desert wilderness, pretty villages, dunes, cliffs, volcanic rocks and a wetland Biosphere (with flamingos)
  • Good value
  • Soaking in the Jacuzzi as the sun goes down, or at night, gazing up at the stars
  • Charo’s passion for the area is infectious, as is the slow pace of life she prescribes for her guests
  • The incredible beaches of Cabo de Gata are among the most beautiful in Spain - and just a few kilometres away

Lows

  • The area is not big on public transport so you'll need a car; no restaurants or shops within walking distance
  • You'll want sensible shoes for the rocky garden paths, especially the steep steps leading down to the pool
  • Resident wildlife includes snakes, spiders and scorpions, though we only saw skittering lizards
  • Note the fairly strict cancellation policy

Best time to go

Cabo de Gata enjoys a warm-dry climate rather like North Africa’s, with very little rain (this is the driest place in Europe) and mild winters. Visit in spring or autumn when the sun is not quite so hot, the nights are cooler and the beaches are more or less empty. The summers are hot and sultry; the winters are still warm, but chilly in the evening.

Our top tips

Protected by National Park status, Cabo de Gata is one of the few areas of Spain’s Mediterranean coast that hasn’t been spoilt by over-development. It also has the peachiest of beaches, with long strips of fine white or dark volcanic sand framed by high cliffs and desert dunes. Los Genoveses and Monsul are the best known, but Playa del Playazo is easier to get to and just as beautiful. Just remember to take water and a hat or a parasol. On these pristine beaches, there are no shops and no shade.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Rural Retreat
  • 3 cottages for 2-4
  • Self-catering (restaurants a drive away)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

The 3 cortijos are built in the same style: a colourful fusion of painted beams and timbers, with kilims on rustic terracotta floors and a homely jumble of old and new furniture (comfy sofas, original art and quirky details like recycled sewing-machine tables).

Cala Enmedio and Cala el Plomo both have 2 bedrooms (a double and twin), a living room with a fireplace (winter evenings can be chilly), a kitchen-diner and 2 shaded terraces, the latter designed to capture the sun at different times of the day. Cala Enmedio has a one bathroom; Cala el Plomo has 2 ensuite shower rooms. Both have underfloor heating and dreamy views of the desert, the pool and the gardens.

Our favourite was Cala de Aguamarga, a spacious one-bedroom cortijo with huge picture windows across two walls, giving stunning views over the gardens, towards the hills and valleys. There is also a cool little mezzanine sleeping nook, accessed by a ladder, with a low ceiling and small beds for 2 children.

All the cortijos have fans for the summer and a wood-burner for the winter. There is also air-conditioning, but it's coin-operated, as befits an eco-conscious retreat such as this.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbecue
  • Bathrobes
  • CD player
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob or stove
  • Honesty bar
  • Juicer
  • Kitchenette
  • Mosquito net
  • Oven
  • Phone
  • Pool/beach towels
  • Radio
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • TV
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi

Eating

All the accommodation is self-catering, with an electric stove or hob and an arsenal of pans and cooking utensils. Alfresco dining tables overlook the gardens, pool and the landscape, and in the evening you can dine by candlelight under the stars. There is also a communal BBQ (wood for cooking is supplied) with a large circular table - a lovely shaded corner with views across the desert to the Mediterranean.

Nearby Agua Amarga has a bakery, deli and small convenience store; for more comprehensive shopping there are supermarkets in Carboneras (15 minutes away). When available, you can use herbs and vegetables from Charo’s organic garden, and eggs laid by her hens.

For eating out, Charo has a wealth of great restaurant tips - we ate in an amazing tapas bar in Carboneras. Also, don't miss La Haima de Fernan Perez, which serves an amazing Spanish-Asian fusion menu of tapas-style dishes. It's set in a wonderful Berber tent, with lovely views across the valley and national park.

Features include:

  • Barbecue
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Fridge
  • Hob or stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Oven
  • Toaster
  • BBQ area
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Visit Agua Amarga: this whitewashed fishing village has a gorgeous sandy beach, cafés and bars, and a few shops. It also has a weekly market and there are canoes to rent in high season
  • Cabo de Gata has some of the loveliest beaches in Spain, many of them completely undeveloped and natural
  • Enjoy the desert on horseback. A local riding stables offers guided excursions, lessons for beginners and pony rides for kids
  • Explore the Cabo de Gata on foot. With 16 marked trails (ranging in length from 1.5 to 11km and largely sticking to the coast), it’s a great way to see the beaches, rock formations and rugged terrain of this wildly beautiful region
  • The Cabo de Gata is a bird-watcher’s paradise, particularly on the salt flats and lagoons of Las Salinas, where you can see storks, plovers, herons and crowds of greater flamingos
  • Take a day trip. Options include a tour of the canyons, gullies and filmic cowboy landscapes of the Tabernas Desert (where the Spaghetti Westerns were filmed), or a 4x4 tour of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. You can also rent bikes, go scuba-diving or paragliding, or do a boat trip around the coast
  • Massages can be arranged in the restful Arabic Pavilion (best to request in advance, as availability varies through the week)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Paragliding
  • Private guided tours
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children are welcome and the 2-bedroom cortijos are designed to accommodate families. Nearby Agua Amarga has a great family beach.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The 2-bedroom cortijos each have a double and twin bedroom and can fit a baby cot. Cala de Aguamarga has sleeps 2, plus there's a mezzanine sleeping deck (best for older / well-behaved children).

Babysitting:

On request.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Families Should Know:

The pool is not fenced, and it can get extremely hot here in summer. Note the pool is closed mid-Dec-mid-March

Kid Friendly:

Location

La Joya is 3km west of Agua Amarga, near the Cabo de Gata Natural Park, in Andalucia, southern Spain. It's just under an hour from Almería and 3 hours from Malaga.

By Air:
The closest airport is Almería. It’s 50km away and takes 40-50 minutes by car. Murcia-San Javier airport (186km) is around 2 hours to the north, and Malaga (280km) takes approximately 3 hours. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

By Car:
For car hire see our car rental recommendations. There is a covered car park.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Andalucia and getting around

Airports:

  • Almería 50.0 km LEI
  • Murcia-San Javier 186.0 km MJV

Other:

  • Beach 3.0 km
  • Shops 3.0 km
  • Restaurant 3.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests

8/10
Room
10/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

A great location for exploring the Cabo de Gato park and set in beautiful grounds. The pool and the very comfy loungers (carefully spaced around) are perfect for relaxing and enjoying the peace and the views of the desert landscape. The accommodation is slightly eclectic 'shabby chic' and unfortunately, we both found the bed small and a bit uncomfortable which meant we didn't sleep as well.

7/10,

Such a special place! The grounds are amazing with artworks and quirky areas. Charo was also so helpful - even driving and picking us up from a restaurant. We will be booking again!

10/10,

This is a richly individual place almost overflowing with character and charm. Don't expect slick facilities or all mod cons. Jacuzzi was out of service during our visit, which was a shame, because it was too cold to swim in the pool.
Lots of dogs and cats around which we loved!

10/10,

Lovely quirky houses throughout with a sense of style and culture. Enjoyed our short stay.

10/10,

The place is great. Is a very nice spot in the middle of the national park.
However, I consider it is a little too expensive for what the room is.
Anyway, I totally recommend it!

8/10,

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