Cabo de Gata Natural Park

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The Cabo de Gata Natural Park is virtually the area shown on beach map covering a large area of South East Spain. It ranges from Retamar in the west along the coast to Carboneras and goes inland to Nijar, and sometimes is referred to as Cabo de Gata-Nijar National Park. It is Europe’s only area with a warm desert climate, as it has less than 200mm (7.9 in) rainfall a year and average temperatures above 18 °C. This makes it the driest location in Europe.
The mountains run down to the sea with cliffs over 300 feet high, making the coastline intriguing with lots of little hidden coves and beaches, whilst in other areas there are salt marshes with flamingos and other wildlife.
Within the park are deserted villages, old gold mines and there have been many films shot on location in the area (Sergio Leone’s being the most famous).
The most notable vegetation is the tall dry cactus type plant, seen everywhere throughout the park including west of El Toyo, a few minutes walk away. This is the Agave (Pita) Americana as it a native of tropical America/Mexico, and has a common name of the “century plant” as it takes a long time to flower. (See picture in Retamar under the Gallery.
The Salinas de Cabo de Gata is a saltwater lagoon located between San Miguel and the Cabo de Gata headland. It is one of Spain’s most important wetland areas for breeding and overwintering birds, and runs parallel to the beach and is separated from it by a 400m-wide sand bar. This lagoon is of outstanding ecological interest, particularly for its birdlife. The salinas (saltpans) are the only ones still in operation in eastern Andalucia.