Spain is one of the world’s top destinations for both beach and culture, with its endless miles of Mediterranean coastline and vibrant city breaks.
While it’s always been popular among newly-weds and sun-seekers, in recent years, it’s piqued the interest of yet another traveler profile:
Young solo travelers like me.
As a passionate solo traveler with an unquenchable thirst for braving new corners of the world and experiencing new cultures firsthand, I have been to over 50 countries at only 26. As part of that count, Spain features on the list innumerable times as it’s always been a go-to family getaway.
It wasn’t until recently, however, that I decided to return to Spain on my own as a grown-up, venture off path, and see the country with a fresher perspective, and as it turns out, it is still one of my top five favorites.
To be more precise, it’s this one relatively unknown beach town, straddling the ever-warmer Andalusian coast, that has now stolen my heart, and having been twice now as a lone explorer, I can safely infer it is one of the top solo travel destinations out there:
What Makes Almería So Special?
Though it is officially a city, Almería cannot be compared to any larger coastal conurbations on Spain’s Southern Andalusian coast, like Malaga, Córdoba, or even up-and-coming Torremolinos.
Home to just under 200,000 inhabitants, it feels incredibly compact for a provincial capital, with an ocher-tinged townscape unfolding at the foot of a central hill and bordered by the azure waters of the Mediterranean.
Not a widely-promoted tourist destination, I stumbled upon Almería almost accidentally in my readings, as I had taken an interest in pre-Christian Spain when most of the lands we associated with the Iberian country today were ruled by Arab caliphates originating in North Africa.
@larolife Follow us to Almería 🇪🇸. Top things to do!! Perfect location for a beach holiday 🏖 #holiday #summer #fyp #yourpage #beach #review #tiktok #travel #traveltiktok #heat #tiktoker #spain #explore ♬ Tigini – Kikimoteleba
The city’s name is actually derived from Arabic, in Latinized form, Madīnat al-Mariyya, and as I was already closeby in Granada, where the landmark Alhambra Fortress is, I decided to pay the mysterious ‘City of the Watchtower‘ a visit.
A Christian Stronghold With An Arab Heart
Like much of Andalusia, Almería was founded by a caliph in the early Middle Ages, and upon the Islamicization of the Iberian Peninsula, it became an important center for the culture and sciences, rivaled only by the likes of Seville, Granada, and Córdoba.
As I would learn in my readings and then bear witness when walking the well-preserved, neatly-laden cobbled alleys of the former medina, it was incredibly wealthy in medieval times, acting as a port where silk, oil, raisins, and other Mediterranean goods were traded.
Remnants of the Arab period can be found all over town, but most notably in the Alcazaba, a massive citadel perched atop the central hilltop, the Aljibes, formerly Arabic cisterns, and even an old mosque, later Christianized, now called Church of San Juan.
The most fascinating aspect about Almería is undoubtedly its two contrasting identities.
@yotengosuerte Vale la pena conocerlo 💐 #trabajarenelextranjero #vlogespaña #viajestiktok #dreams #mojacar #mojacarplaya #mojacaralmeria #mojacarpueblo ♬ Somewhere Only We Know – Gustixa
It was founded at the peak of the Islamic World, when African caliphs ruled as far as Southern Europe, yet later became a symbol of resistance for Spanish Christians upon the city’s takeover.
Buildings were crowned with Christian crosses, prayer rooms became Catholic shrines, and the occupant was swiftly cast out by native Spaniards, yet Almería’s layout remained that of an Islamic capital, with a maze-like complex of narrow streets surrounded by walls and protected by an Alcazaba.
Life Outside The Old Town
Away from the historic center, however, you will find a quintessential Spanish city, with a modern boardwalk lined by palms and an enviable collection of Baroque monuments.
The most striking monument in the more modern part of town is the ruined ‘English Pier’, an early 20th-century iron railway pier built for the transfer of minerals from the Andalusian hinterland, now considered a historical landmark.
The city’s cultural diversity and fascinating past are certainly some of the reasons why I was so quickly enamored with it, seeing I am a huge History geek myself, but there’s more to Almería than the medieval ruins and picturesque streets lined by colorful houses.
This is a Mediterranean city, after all, and other than the beautiful beaches and hidden turquoise coves, it has a rather youthful populace, with a large population of students from several different backgrounds, owing it to the well-reputed University of Almería.
I’m not sure about you, but vacationing in the likes of Marbella and Estepona, in Andalusia’s ‘Sunny Coast’, I have always felt like the youngest person in the room, as these seem to be a favorite among mature British expats and pensioners craving for sunlight in the dead of winter.
In Almería, it will only take you a short people-watching sesh from your cozy nook in an alfresco cafe at the Paseo, the main street in town, to realize the city just oozes vitality.
In fact, it has the youngest average age in Spain, at only 39.6 years. This is particularly impressive, seeing that over 23% of Spain’s residents are over 65.
A Youthful Provincial Capital
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The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed, and the social scene can feel livelier, especially when night falls at the Cuatro Cales, or ‘Four Streets’, the Bohemian part of the Old Town, filled with tapa bars and music venues.
For some reggaeton and top 40 radio pop, your best bet is Babilon, the top-rated gay venue in town, while electronic music enthusiasts would perhaps prefer Demodé Bar at Masnou 3.
Spain as a whole is one of Europe’s most LGBTQ+ friendly countries, and gay flags hanging from balconies or proudly displayed on building facades are generally not a strange sight. Almería is no exception.
The perceived tolerance towards diversity and its high levels of safety contribute to making it one of the most welcoming, tourist-friendly major cities on the Spanish coast.
Irresistible Mediterranean Vibes
When it comes to beaches, as this is Southern Spain, there are countless incredible options to pick from, whether you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon dozing off with your feet buried in the sand or you’re actively seeking some action.
My all-time favorite for taking in the subtropical atmosphere, going for a swim, and just basking in the Andalusian sun is the beach of Mónsul, popular among visitors and locals alike.
As part of the Natural Park of Cabo de Gata, it is surrounded by arid Mediterranean vegetation, and it’s distinguished for the ancient lava formations that dot the coast. The sands are golden and warm, and they run for an unruffled 300 meters.
Playa de San Jose also became one of my top spots for not only swimming but also experiencing life outside the provincial capital, as it is bounded by a small fishing community, with family-owned restaurants serving seafood and other Spanish delicacies.
Near Roquetas de Mar, one of the trendiest beach towns in the province, Playa de las Salinas is another strong contender for favorite, with shallow, tranquil waters, and a long stretch of golden sands, though I often found myself spending time instead in Vera.
A beach community roughly an hour’s drive from central Almería, it is best known for its secluded, naturist-friendly beach and crystal-clear waters.
This Part Of Spain Is Hot
The province is one of Europe’s hottest regions, with an extremely dry climate, due to its proximity to a small desert and geographical location, directly facing North Africa.
This means the weather is typically pleasant year-round, while summers tend to be scorching hot.
Having been to Andalusia both in the high season and low (June and February), I was surprised to learn winters can feel a lot more pleasant, as you’re still able to wear shorts and a light, long-sleeve shirt without rushing back inside wherever there’s an AC powered on every five minutes.
Trust me, you don’t want to get caught in a shadeless area in Andalusia in the peak of summer when temperatures can reach a dangerous 122 degrees.
In winter, the Med may not be exactly warm for swimming yet, but at least you can sightsee and take leisurely strolls while conserving your normal body temperature, as it will rarely go above 80, or below 68 degrees.
A Sunny Getaway That Won’t Break The Bank
Another important fact I should probably mention is how surprisingly affordable Almeria can be.
We know a majority of solo travelers out there are conscious about budget, and picking destinations that will not break the bank is important for some.
In Almeria, I would constantly find myself in awe of how reasonably-priced restaurants were, and how tourist attractions were not prohibitively expensive to visit, with my daily expenses totaling $40 on average.
As BudgetYourTrip reports, other travelers have spent an average of $43 on meals for one day themselves, and rest assured you will find no shortage of traditional tapa bars or Andalusian eateries where ordering a small starter, a main dish of the daily specials, and a tinto de verano will set you back by a mere $25, or less.
Hotels are incredibly affordable, too, with a median price of accommodation estimated at only $47 per night or $95 for a double-occupancy room.
BudgetYourTrip estimates that a single person’s weekly expenses will reach $741, but personally, I might not have spent more than $400 myself.
Granted, I was staying in a youth hostel and deliberately avoiding some of the most expensive restaurants in the Old Town, but the point is: if you’re usually traveling on a stricter budget, as I am, and you’re drawn to the culture, Almeria is the sunny getaway you didn’t know you needed.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com