Always I describe Almeria say that it is the most mountainous region in Spain; indeed it is. The elevation of the mainland due to the tectonic plates crash has lifted up the territory in different areas, so that Almeria is run from East to West by different ranges of mountains (sierra = saw) in all its area: the main ranges are Gador, Alhamilla, Cabrera, Filabres, Nevada and Estancias, but there are also smaller ones with their own identity and beauty, their hidden villages and their own culture.
This is one of the main aspects to be considered while travelling to Almeria. It is a land where you will find always mountains beyond mountains, where it can be enjoyed the unique experience of travelling from sea level up to 2000 metres in less than 40 minutes; take breakfast at the sunny coast of Cabo de Gata and enjoying a bottle of spanish red wine one hour later in the highs, hidden in the middle of nowhere, at undiscovered high peaks that kiss the sky with their genuine pure air.
In these heights I feel myself free, totally human… with the World at my feet, only missing a couple of wings; and this is what I share with visitors travelling with me. Although Almeria is also the driest area of the Iberian peninsula, with its unique desert of Tabernas (Desierto de Tabernas) it is not something rare to be in the middle of the snow at any moment, either in a snow-storm or under a snowed brilliant blue sky. Because of this we locals like to say that… everything is possible in Almeria; also travelling by excellent secondary roads of mountains and more mountains beyond mountains.
Alhamilla the big strange of Almeria, as a sleeping giant looking always at the sea; so is perceived for locals this small range of mountins that run the Almeria province from East to West at the northern border of Cabo de Gata National Park and just at the south of the Tabernas desert.
Alhamilla emerged 7 million years ago from the seabed and Earth´s core. It is one of the mountains of the so-called Baetic Massif, so as Filabres, Gador or Nevada, being raised as its neighbours around 2 centimeters every 100 years. Its rocks, mainly schist, quartzites, limestone and some other metamorphics are older than 250 million of years, sometimes more than 500 millions and they are intensely distorted, twisted, folded and mineralized.
Alhamilla´s name can be linked, although it is not sure, to the arab language (al-hammam = the baths) alluding perhaps to the two known places with thermal water that exist at the place.
One of the best preserved holm-oak tree forest is still preserved just at the top, that talk by itself how it was the wilderness in the area some thousands of years ago, before humans came in times of first colonizations to exploit the abundant minerals in Almeria lands; for feeding the furnaces built for melting the mineral, it was used the wood of these trees, what happened not only in this area but in all the Almeria province. In roman times it is documented that people knew that they were arriving to this point on Hispania map because of the big smoke columns in the sky, resulting from the intense mining activity.
Nowadays a mixed forest of oaks and pines can be found in the heights, growing under the scarce rainfalls that happen in the area, and living so in highly stressed hydrological conditions.
The mining activity has been present in Alhamilla till the past century and still can be found lot of places linked to the industry, that make these mountains an enjoyable place lost in the time in the middle of a dramatic landscape.
At different altitudes some villages as Lucainena, Nijar or Turrillas can be found; traditional gastronomy, film locations, quiet places and a lot of Nature.
Do you dare to discover the Almeria sleeping giant??
One of the most impressive landscape in Almeria is the so-called Almeria geographical depressions.
Almeria, Tabernas and Sorbas basins, just with Nijar, Vera, Almanzora and Pulpi were indeed in past ages marine basins, refilled by sediments provided by the erosion of the surrounding just-emerged lands while the Mediterranean Sea advanced slowly from the Cabo de Gata archipelago and the young mountains nearby. These basins are understood to be aproximately between 15 and 8 million years old and they were covered by sea water till recently (around 2 million years or perhaps less time).
Anyway the land-raising that bordered the entrances of this ancient sea didn´t happen all at the same time. The first places to be raised were Sierra Nevada and Filabres Range of Mountains (15 million years ago), while Cabo de Gata volcanic activity was just happening not far away. On these times the coastline of the actual Almeria was placed on the line that is today occupied by the villages of Sorbas and Tabernas.
8 millions of years later there were arised the Mountains of Gador and Alhamilla, nearby to the actual coastline.
Did you know that nearly all the words that begin with al in spanish come from the arab language, meaning the english article the ???. For example Al-hamilla (the hammams, the baths) or Alcazaba (the kasba, the fortress)… and so on in a very long list.
The last mountains to be raised up were the so-called Sierra de Cabrera (Cabrera range of mountains), that is by the way the youngest mountains chain on the iberian peninsula; this happened approximately 5,5 millions of years ago.
As we can see, Almeria is an exceptional place for studying the history of our Planet in which we live, and where can be found sedimentary,volcanic and metamorphic rocks altogether, nude and with no vegatation, and under a dry and sunny weather along nearly 12 months in the year. Becase of this Almeria has been called, among other names, the open laboratory of Europe.
Almeria, this incredible arid area at south Europe is not anyway a desert, and water is abundant in its territory, but water is a sensitive case here… because it flows underneath the ground, at the water table (aquifer), and many times it is fossil water that has been stored along thousands of years, and is not charged back so quickly as it is used for agricultural and tourist purposes.
Because of this, the natural geography of these areas offers us some unique places where water come up to the surface building by itself amazing natural oasis … genuine ecosystems that are the true responsible of life happening here. The mountains of Alhamilla and Gador are being raised up so fast as 2 cm every 100 years, attending to scientific research.
Filabres and Sierra Nevada are called the Iberian peninsula roof, beause they are the highest peaks in it, with exception of those in the north border at the Pyrenees.
More resons for visiting Almeriaand its geographical depressions??
In summer there are very rare times in which I go down to the gorges and death-valleys down at the bottom of the desert; but sometimes I like to take a break and switch-on the air conditioned devices in my 4×4 car …. and there I went.
Temperature beginning to warm up to 36ºC and life seeming to be stopped (11h00). That´s just the moment to run-off the car´s engine and wait, listen and prepare the camera. A rabbit comes out of its den, two rollers do appear from behind the top of the cliff, a big spider looks to me while she weaves its cobweb, some jackdows flying faraway… and so on, life goes forward as if I were not there. That´s the mistery, that´s the real experience of the desert summer ecology.
Time to remember the flash floods that do happen here in the badlands so frequently. How do these bigger or smaller creatures survive to the disaster happening in the Ouads (ramblas = dry beds of seasonal rivers) ???…
Travellers cannot imagine what is a flash-flood (rambla or avenida in spanish) till they do not see it with their own eyes. You don´t spot the water coming till it is just on your nose; you only can hear the terrible sound of bolders transported in front of the huge wave generated by the current; there it can be seen only foam, peaces of wood and other solid materials (pitifully plastics and scrap nowadays). That´s the experience although the adventure also happens for wildlife and any small creature and plants living on the place. Some of them will be washed down to the sea, and only the best adapted creatures will be the winners (Dr. Darwin´s evolution/adaption theory). That is the mistery of the desert, the pure desert ecology in summer time.
I really enjoyed my morning trip today in the badlands of Almeria at up to 34ºC… seeing that while I was suffering so much under the sun heat, my trip neighbours the rabbits and hares, felt so happy in their just built dens. Just pure ecology… It makes a sense.
I ended my morning trip designing new moments to be experienced by all of you coming soon… as for example walking inside this ancient qanaat of moor times. What is a qanaat?? … Book for your trip to the desert and sure that you will learn about it more than you can think. Come and see…
Any landscape at any region of the world is always changing and changable; under this point of view the mountains and valleys around us are not always at the same position than millions (or thousands) of years ago. In most cases the land on which we step on, was formed underneath an old sea that emerged to the surface due to the so called plates tectonic; this land changes are due to complex geological and global processes, and they are printed on the rocks that can be found when we visit these areas, as for example the valleys of Alfaix, Macael, Sorbas or Tabernas.
Geodiversity is huge in the Almeria region: volcanic materials, metamorphic rocks, evaporitic and sedimentary layers… we need few more materials to read and understand a big part of Earth´s story, experienced under the framework of a unique landscape in the most arid place of Europe and one of the most dry places in the World. The fossil and geological register is tremendously big here, talking us about the most recent times of what we know nowadays as Andalucia region (southernmost 8 provinces in Spain) and also helping us to understand the geological formations along all the Mediterranean basin, mainly on the las 15 millions of years. In Almeria´s landscape there can be recognized easily two different land formations: the sierras (ranges of mountains) and the depresiones (flatlands emerged from the sea and afterwards eroded by the effect of the ramblas (dry beds of seasonal rivers, usually responsible of generating flash floods).
Our highest peaks are located in the sierras known as Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Filabres, Sierra de Gádor, Sierra de Alhamilla and Sierra de Cabrera; they are part of the so called Baetic Massif (Macizo Bético); the rocks there are mainly mica-schist, slate, quartz, limestone and marble… that were originated from deposits of any sea happening very faraway, hundreds of millions of years ago (perhaps more than 500.000.000). Later these huge masses of land were moved slowly adrift to their actual positions and lifted up by the collision of the two huge continents named actually as Europe and Africa, in the process named Alpine Orogeny, global process that could be started 60 millions of years ago and that is still happening.
Almeria is no doubt, one of the top 10 places to visit in your life. Come and see… That was only an aperitif to Almeria geological evolution.