Níjar – Natural Park of Cabo de Gata – Níjar
Níjar municipality, the fourth largest in Spain, stretches from the Sierra Alhamilla to Cabo de Gata, in a straight-line a distance of 25 km, which gives an idea of the area and the diversity and variety of areas of interest that the municipality has for visitors.
Nijar sits at the foot of a mountain, being a very attractive and well conserved town of Arab origin, labyrinthine and narrow, with its traditional white houses, a Mudejar church, many local handicrafts, and known for its friendly and welcoming people.
Most important in the area is in the Natural Park Cabo de Gata-Nijar, Andalusias first protected area, with wide open spaces and beautiful landscapes: the only volcanic mountains of the peninsula, the coastal strip with rolling sand dunes, beaches and salt marshes, a true wealth of nature, and the protected sea area whose wealth of sea life is of great value for research.
As well as all these, the municipality boasts many places and of great anthropological value, such as Rodalquilar mines, Pozo de los Frailes, El Cortijo del Fraile, S. Jose, Las Negras, etc.
The town of Nijar is known for its pottery and textile crafts. Its major production activities are fodder, citrus fruits, sheep and pigs, along with traditional pottery. The resort has a protected nature, like the Natural Park.
As far as agriculture is concerned, together with the growing of fruit, especially oranges and also maize, barley, alfalfa, garlic, potatoes, beans, tomatoes and peppers, the system of “balates” has been retained, canals and ditches that the Moors built and left behind. The Irrigation is controlled by a watcher/caretaker who opens and closes the irrigation gates, in a landscape of farms, mills and many greenhouses. Because of the sustained agricultural production, there is little industrial production in the area.
Livestock, small herds of sheep, goats and pigs are kept in pens throughout the region, and the traditional system of slaughter is maintained.
Together with these industries, local fisheries, with few but skilled professionals, still exist in Agua Amarga, Las Negras, La Isleta, the Fabriquilla and San Jose, which has a small marina. Esparto grass, weaving and pottery, can be found in the bazaars and markets of Níjar and the rest of the region. These activities, along with coastal tourism services, were continued by a relatively small population, which is little more than the1900 level, with 14,400 inhabitants registered in 1995. These Industries are characteristic of the region, it being common to hear the unmistakable rattle of the production of cloths and blankets typical of the locality.
Nijar ceramics tell the story of the Arab presence throughout the centuries. The similarities in current production and Arabic production leave us in no doubt of this. Currently there are five shops which specialize in ceramics in the town. Artists and artisans who came from around the world have found here a place to live and develop their creativity, and their influence on the younger indigenous potters has had a great success, leading to new formats and patterns, which have been very well received.
The Municipality has had settlements since ancient times, traces of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages have been discovered (3000-2000 BC). The Phoenicians built a temple in Cabo de Gata, which they called the Promontory of Agates in honor of one of their goddesses. The Romans built salting factories and dug mines near Rodalquilar.
During the period of Al-Andalus, Níjar was of little importance because of the proximity to Pechina, but castles and defensive towers for surveillance were still built in the area.
The Christian conquest came in 1489, beginning near the villages of Lucainena and Turrillas. After the Moorish revolts of 1568 and their expulsion in 1570, Níjar became depopulated until the eighteenth century, the seventeenth century saw many raids by Berber pirates throughout the area.
With the Defence Regulations imposed by the Costa Carlos III, many castles and other defenses were built, these allowed the growth of villages which were mainly engaged in grazing and dry farming.
The nineteenth century was a golden age for Níjar after the onset of mining. Early in this this century the population grew to around 14,000 inhabitants, the main industry being lead mining until the 1930s followed by the Rodalquilar gold mines,these saw a gradual decline in the 60’s.
Nowadays the main activity is traditional agriculture and greenhouse farming, with tourism playing a large role. Many craftsmen and artisans still live and work in the area.
In 1987 the area was declared the sea-land Park Cabo de Gata-Nijar, this ranged from the Rambla de Retamar to Mesa Roldán together with a strip of sea of 12,000 hectares. The marine protected area has the largest land-sea and ecological relevance of all the European Western Mediterranean.
Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation, sixteenth century.
With beautiful Moorish craftsmanship, the tower is decorated with a double-headed eagle ordered by Carlos I. Inside, the image of La Purisima is attributed to Alonso Cano.
Goytisolo wrote ” Campos de Níjar” and Garcia Lorca was inspired by a local event for his “Blood Wedding.”
Archaeological Site of The Barranquete.
Cabarrus House (Late Modern, 1974, JR Sierra).
Noria del Pozo de los Frailes.
“Gurullos colorao” stew. Sopa de Almería (soup). Migas (made with breadcrumbs and meat). Partridge.
Sweets: cornmeal porridge. Oil bagels. Butter cakes.
Directions to Nijar
From Catalonia and the eastern coast, by the Mediterranean motorway (A-7) and Highway (N-344, E-15). Barcelona – Níjar. 777 km
From North, West and central Madrid via:
Madrid – Níjar via Alicante: 640 km, Madrid (exit N-III, E-901 to Valencia) Honrubia – Albacete (N-301, A-31) – Alicante – Murcia (A-7. E-15) – Níjar (N-340, E-15).
Highway – National roads:
Madrid – Albacete and Murcia Níjar: 569 km: Madrid – Albacete (N-III, E-901) – Murcia (N-301) – Níjar (N-340, E-15)
Joint Highway – National Road:
Madrid – Nijar in Andalusia: 540 miles: Madrid – Bailen (N-IV, E-5) – Bailen – Jaen – Iznalloz (N-323, E-902) – Guadix – (N323, C-336-N-324) – Guadix – Almería (N-324) – Almería – Níjar (N-344, E-15
Cabo de Gata 20km
San José 31 km
San Isidro 10km
Huebro 5.5 km