Covering 45,663ha in the southeastern corner of Spain, Cabo de Gata-NÃjar is Andalusia’s largest coastal protected area, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe’s most original geological features. The eponymous mountain range is Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks and crags in ochre-hues. It falls steeply to the sea creating jagged 100m-high cliffs, which are riven by gullies leading to hidden coves with white sandy beaches, some of the most beautiful in Andalusia. Offshore are numerous tiny rocky islands and, underwater, extensive coral reefs teeming with marine life.
High temperatures (an annual average of 18°C) and the lowest rainfall in the Iberian peninsula (200mm annually on average) has created a large semi-desert area, with characteristic shrubby vegetation and dwarf fan palms. But the park also encompasses an outstanding variety of habitats, from coastal dunes, beaches, steep cliffs, saltpans, a substantial marine zone of 12,200ha, saltmarshes, 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.