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Hiking in Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in Spain

Take a day to make the exciting trip to Spain's largest volcanic rock formation with its sharp peaks and crags in red and ochre hues

Best time: September–May

Hiking in Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park
Hiking in Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park

Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park is a really unique spot in the southern part of Andalucia. This is the largest coastal protected area featuring a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe's most original geological features. The territory is the only region in Europe with a true hot desert climate and is also the driest part of Europe. In 1997, this area was marked as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

As a result of the climate, the park has a spectacular range of flora and fauna. One of the most significant plants found here—the dwarf fan palm—is the park's symbol. The park is also rich in reptilian and bird life.

This beautiful place has plenty of unique features to observe: extensive coral reefs, castle ruins, tiny rocky islands, half-moon bays and volcanic rock formations. The tallest formation is also a popular trekking spot. Spectacular views hit you right upon arrival and will accompany you to the peak and back.

El Fraile, the highest peak of Cabo de Gata and its largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks, is only 493 m. It has a flat and quite large summit plateau. Climbing this peak takes one day and it is considered a very good start for beginners. Professionals can also find plenty of challenges and attributes. First of all, there is Spain's largest volcanic rock formation. Additionally, the scenery here is simply incredible with its jagged 100 m high cliffs, which are riven by gullies leading to hidden bays in the midst of white sandy beaches—some of the most beautiful in Andalucia.

Hiking in the Natural Park is available all year round, but summer is not the best time owing to the scorching temperatures that may reach up to 40 ºC. Thus, the recommended season is September through May. But if you prefer beach holiday, summer will do well.

Practical info

When is the best time to go hiking in Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park?

Hiking is available throughout the year in the Natural Park, but it's best to avoid the summer months as temperatures can soar to 40 ºC. The recommended season to visit is from September through May. Beach lovers may still enjoy the summer season though. Show more

What is the unique feature of the flora and fauna found in the park?

The Natural Park has a diverse range of flora and fauna, thriving in the true hot desert climate which makes it the driest region in Europe. Tourists will discover a wealth of significant plant and animal species, including dwarf fan palm, reptiles, and bird life. Visitors can enjoy other natural wonders such as coral reefs, castle ruins, tiny rocky islands, half-moon bays, and volcanic rock formations. Show more

Where is El Fraile peak located and how high is it?

El Fraile peak is situated in Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, which is located in southern Andalucia, Spain. It's the highest point in the park, reaching a height of 493 meters above sea level. It's the largest volcanic rock formation in Spain and boasts a large, flat summit plateau that offers breathtaking views on the ascent to the peak. Show more

What should beginners be aware of when climbing El Fraile peak?

Although El Fraile peak is an ideal starting point for beginners, they should still wear suitable footwear and carry enough water and food. Hikers should pay attention to potential weather changes, too. Climbing this peak takes a day, and it's the perfect way to elevate your hiking experience. Hikers will need to show caution, however, as with any mountain hike. Show more

How are the summer temperatures in the park and what is the recommended season to visit?

The summer months in the park are sweltering, with temperatures reaching up to 40 ºC. The recommended season to visit Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park is from September to May when the extreme heat has cooled. Nonetheless, visitors are welcome to enjoy the park's hiking trails all year round. Summer is still an excellent time of year for beach relaxation in the park. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin