High temperatures and the lowest rainfall in the Iberian peninsula have created a large semi-desert area with characteristic shrubby vegetation and dwarf fan palms. The park also encompasses an outstanding variety of habitats from coastal dunes, beaches, steep cliffs, salt-pans, a substantial marine zone, salt-marshes, inland arid steppe and dry river beds. Designated a UNESCO Biosphere reserve in 1997, the park shelters an extraordinary wealth of wildlife, including many rare and endemic plants and endangered fauna.

One of Spain’s most important wetland areas for breeding and overwintering birds is called the Salinas de Cabo de Gata, the saltwater lagoon that runs parallel to the beach and is separated from it by a 400m-wide sand bar. Located between San Miguel and the Cabo de Gata headland, this lagoon is of outstanding ecological interest, particularly for its bird-life. The salinas (salt-pans) are the only ones still in operation in eastern Andalucia.

Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs were all attracted by the area’s rich mineral deposits like agate, jasper and, most importantly, gold, which was extracted from the mines of Rodalquilar. A jetty at Agua Amarga was used for loading ore onto cargo boats. Other inhabitants were Berber pirates, who sought refuge in this remote corner of Andalucia, but the dozen lookout towers dotted along the coast are evidence of attempts to repel them.

Inland, the landscape is arid and desert-like, making for harsh living conditions, even fifty years ago, a period described in a modern Spanish classic, the Campos de Níjar, by Juan Goytisolo, published in 1959. A similarly bleak view is glimpsed in Federico Lorca’s seminal play, Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding), which features a crime of passion that took place near the Cortijo del Fraile, a farm close to Albaricocques village.

Above text extract taken from the website