I’m always on the lookout for new places to take people with the ultimate goal of showing all the natural beauty of Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata and the surrounding areas and of course promoting utmost respect for the environment at all times.
Designated a natural park in 1987, the Sierra María-Los Vélez occupies the eastern end of the Cordillera Subbética in the north of Almeria province. A landscape of impressive contrasts, with its arid plains overlooked by the Sierra’s rocky summits, which are white with snow in winter. The park’s altitude ranges from 800m to the highest peak of María, a barren limestone outcrop of 2,045m.
Unusually for the otherwise arid and barren mountain ranges in Almeria, the Sierra is clothed in extensive pine forests and woodland, some of the best preserved in the province. It supports a varied flora with nearly half of all plant species in Almeria province found here, including some unique to the Sierra.
The small town of Vélez Rubio is in a picturesque setting, surrounded by sierras, olive groves and fields of wheat and graced by the nearby Fuente de Gato, a surprisingly busy area.
The main monument of note in the town is the magnificent Baroque Iglesia (Church) de la Encarnación which can be found on the plaza of the same name. Built in the 18th century, this has an imposing carved facade which includes the arms of the Marquises of Villafranca y Vélez, who built it. Inside, the main altar has a superbly detailed, 20-metre-high carved wood retablo. We had a drink and tapas opposite this magnificent building.
The prehistoric cave paintings of the Cueva de los Letreros, close to the town are supposed to be spectacular and contain the original “Indalo Man” painting which has become the symbol of Almería.
Nestling at the foot of a rocky outcrop about 6km north of Vélez Rubio is the small whitewashed village of Vélez Blanco, Personally, I liked this town better than Vélez Rubio because of it’s position and views over open country. That’s not to say that I didn’t also find Vélez Rubio beautiful!
On top of the hill is a stunning Renaissance castle, an extension of the original Moorish alcazaba built by the Marquises of Vélez Blanco in the 16th century. The town is surrounded by almond trees and what an amazing sight they were too, all in blossom.
Also worth a quick mention because it was so busy, is the picnic area of Fuente del Gato (Fountain of the Cat). The Fuente del Gato is located just outside the town of Vélez Rubio in La Rambla de Chivirel. It is a natural water source and the water is high in iron content and as you might expect (or not) is delivered through the head of a cat.
This particular visit to Los Vélez was purely spontaneous on our way back from Murcia. We will return later this week and look around in more detail, perhaps even combining the visit with another place we’ve been thinking of returning to… watch this space to learn more 🙂
If you would like to visit this beautiful area or any of the places I have written about in previous posts and take part in a guided photography experience, please do not hesitate to contact me – I would love to welcome you to my part of the world.