Almeria Province - Níjar

© Michelle Chaplow Funete de la villa de Nijar 1859
Fuente de la villa de Nijar 1859

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In the province of Almería between the Sierra Alhamilla and the far south eastern Spanish coastline is the very beautiful little Moorish town of Níjar. Renowned over the years for its superb handcrafts in pottery, ceramics and textiles, this exceptional corner of Andalusia is a stunning natural enclave, right on the edge of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park.

Níjar has been described as one of the most picturesque towns in the whole of Spain. It therefore comes highly recommended as a place to see and should be on any self respecting visitor's itinerary. The visit is made all the more pleasant thanks to the many reasonably priced bars and restaurants offering delicious local dishes. There are also affordable hostels and hotels in and around Níjar. A visit to Níjar guarantees the traveller a flavour of 'real' Andalusia without the need to overspend on the trip - unless of course, you are tempted to buy up all the brightly coloured rugs and blankets and the beautifully glazed traditional pottery.

© Michelle Chaplow Two charming local ladies in Nijar
Two charming local ladies in Nijar

Agriculture & Fishing

As well as the famous crafts and ceramics of Níjar, there is also a strong agricultural economy. Citrus fruits and especially oranges are cultivated in abundance, adding a wonderful fragrance to the air when the orange blossom is in full bloom. Other crops are potatoes, broad beans, garlic, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes and peppers, many of which are still grown in the ancient channels and with the irrigation systems left by the Moors centuries ago. The watering systems are controlled rigorously to make best use of the precious water in this area, where severe drought conditions and not unknown. Across the surrounding countryside there are commercially grown, green house fruit and vegetables which are mostly bound for exportation. The landscape is generally one of farm houses and mills in amongst this hive of agricultural activity.

© Michelle Chaplow Iglesia de la Encarnación, Nijar
Iglesia de la Encarnación, Nijar      

Local farmers also have sheep, pigs, chickens and goats, adding to the overall farming society in Níjar.

With the sea as well as the land offering a living, there is also an active fishing culture, which adds to the rich tapestry of life in and around this small town. The craft fishing industry is popular in Agua Amarga, Las Negras, La Isleta, La Fabriquilla and San Jose with its small but active leisure port.

Local Crafts

All of the above, together with a good tourist trade, keep the population of around 15,000 busy and fruitfully employed within a buoyant economy. It is not unusual to hear the familiar clattering sound of the weaving machine making the blankets and rugs that have become so typical of the area. The people are particularly proud of their Níjar pottery, which still carries the remarkable Arabic design and colours from centuries gone by. There are five ceramic workshops in the lower part of the town and such is the fame of this time honoured tradition that many artists and craftsmen have come from many parts of the world to live and work here. This influx of outside creative talent has had the effect of inspiring local potters to experiment with new designs and colours, which is bringing even more success and popularity to this flourishing industry.

Literary Fame and Changing Times - 'Campos de Nijar' by Juan Goytisolo

Níjar was not always the lively and prosperous town that it is today. To enrich your visit and understand something of the hardships and misery that people suffered during the time Franco's dictatorship until his death in 1975, it is worth reading the short book, 'Campos de Níjar' by Juan Goytisolo. Born in Barcelona in 1931, Goytisolo, one of Spain's finest writers, wrote 'Campos de Níjar' after travelling to Almería during the 1950's. His description of the people and their life during those very difficult times is a stark contrast to the way things are today. This book is a fascinating insight into the incredible changes that have taken place in a very short time in Spain and especially Andalusia. The book is available in English translation from major UK book shops and at (Paperback version (92 pages), published by Grant & Cutler (1996) ISBN: 0729303799).

© Muchelle Chaplow Fashionable ceramics from Nijar
Fashionable ceramics from Nijar

Historic Buildings

In the main square, La Plaza de la Constitucion, is the Mudejar style 16th century Parish Church of Santa Maria. The tower which was built for defence rather than for religious reasons was constructed first, followed later by the rest of the building. Inside the church is a fine example of the Mudejar woodwork craftsmanship, as well as a wonderful image by Alonso Cano of 'la Purisima Concepcion Inmaculada'. The impressive stone eagle on the back wall of the tower was commissioned by Carlos I.

Bars and Restaurants

Amongst the many bars and restaurants in Níjar are; Restaurante La Glorieta or Bar/Restaurante El Pipa, both in the Plaza de la Constitucion, for excellent 'tapas' and many tasty local dishes.