Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park

Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park

Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in the southeastern corner of Spain is Andalusia's largest coastal protected area, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe's oldest geological features. Spain's southeast coast, where the park is situated, is the only region in mainland Europe with a true hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification: BWh).

The eponymous mountain range of the Sierra del Cabo de Gata, with its highest peak El Fraile, form Spain's largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks and crags in red and ochre hues. It falls steeply to the Mediterranean Sea, creating jagged 100-metre (330 ft) high cliffs riven by gullies, creating hidden coves and white, sandy beaches.

Offshore are numerous tiny rocky islands and extensive coral reefs teeming with marine life. Its climate is the driest in Europe, with rainfall below 160 mm (6.3 in) a year and average yearly temperatures above 19 °C (66 °F). In 1997 it was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In 2001 it was included among the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance. Due to the adsorptive properties and low permeability of its clays, the area was studied as a possible place for deep storage of sealed radioactive waste.

The name Cabo de Gata could be derived from the agate rock formerly mined in the area.