A visit to the Real La Joya boutique hotel, close to the sleepy seaside village of Agua Amarga on the shores of the Mediterranean, is to discover Andalucia as it once was, writes Andrew Forbes.
Impressive gardens of date palms, towering euphorbia succulents, cactus and colourful bougainvillea surround this twelve-suite boutique property, with an art gallery, secluded terraces shaded by carob trees; a gourmet restaurant overlooking the all-year heated pool; and spectacular views out across the two mountains and the Mediterranean.
Coastal Natural Park
Real La Joya boutique hotel is in the coastal hamlet of La Joya, a small cluster of rural adobe homes, surrounded by fruit orchards set within a beautiful semi-arid landscape. This is the heart of the Cabo de Gata, an extraordinarily beautiful coastal natural park, unique in Europe. This is a protected haven for wildlife and rare plants; boasting one of the most striking coastlines in Andalucia. This is truly the hidden Spain.
A few minutes’ drive further down the road from Real La Joya boutique hotel is the seaside village of Agua Amarga. Here the coast is undeveloped, thanks to strict building regulations that protect these striking shores which have been shaped by a volcanic past that has created a rugged shore line of hidden sandy coves and stunning hiking routes.
Hotel, Villas & Beach Club
The boutique hotel has sister properties in this peaceful fishing village including a bijou beach club, ‘Real Beach’; as well as seven family-friendly villa apartments, ‘Real Las Villas’, built around a shared pool and overlooking the village and the sea.
Together, they complete the Real Agua Amarga offering, with different dining options and accommodation suited to solo travellers, couples, and families. This is the all from the vision of Swedish lawyer Lennart Tengroth who came to Cabo de Gata in 1999, and was seduced by the whitewashed village of Agua Amarga, the pristine beach, and the clear waters. With the support of his wife Anki, Lennart founded Real Agua Amarga in 2013 together with hotel manager Isabel Cazorla.
Regular UK Flights
Now, thanks to new, regular flights from the UK to Almeria, this special corner of the Mediterranean is more accessible than ever. You too could be one of the ‘in-the-know’ visitors to enjoy this privileged destination.
Real La Joya is a place to disconnect, to unwind and truly relax. It’s something about the landscape too that is just so still, so peaceful – and the Real La Joya makes the very most of this with its capricious private suites, that have large open terraces, just perfect for private sunbathing in total tranquillity.
Arrive & Unwind
The hotel is about 35-40 minutes from Almeria’s small, and user-friendly airport. Once leaving the motorway, one takes a quiet road through the Cabo de Gata reserve, towards the coast. This road passes through the hamlet of La Joya on its way to Agua Amarga. It’s here one finds the sweeping drive way that takes you right up to the hotel.
We were personally met by Isabel Cazorla, the general manager, whose warmth of welcome and natural, relaxed style immediately makes you feel at home. As a small rural hotel, Isabel and her team really understood the right balance between relaxed, friendly service and the professional standards and procedures of a well-run boutique property. Isabel’s background is actually in design, having worked for Inditex, one of Spain’s biggest companies. Yet she is a natural within hospitality – caring, fun, professional and with a superb eye for detail.
Blending within the contours of the landscape, Real La Joya offers rooms and suites that are slightly elevated, so the private terraces, accessed by a private entrance of a custom-crafted rustic iron door, provide privacy yet also views.
Accommodation ranges from 25 sm superior rooms to 40 sqm suites. There are two superior rooms on the ground level, suitable for guests with limited mobility – although these rooms also have roof terraces with jacuzzi hot tubs that offer 360 views. Then there are 6 junior suites, 3 suites and a Suite Royal.
All have King sized beds, with soft linens, complimentary Wi-Fi, mini bar and complimentary bedside mineral water, complimentary tea & coffee service in the room (suites have Nespresso); well-presented bathroom with bathrobes, hairdryer and amenities by Rituals.
Thoughtful touches include slippers, wrapped in tissue paper; turn-down service with chocolate, and a poem, cookies with the Nespresso and a generous selection of capsules.
Walking a few metres from the lush terraced gardens one is straight into the countryside of feathered wild grasses that dance in the warm breeze, twisted olive trees and huge agave plants, with their iconic towering flowers that cast long shadows as the sun sets. Right there, on the outcrop of rock overlooking the dry river bed below, the hotel has thoughtfully placed two teak steamer loungers, making this a special place to sit and just be in the moment. Head out there in the evening and you will be amazed at the clear skies – just lay back and star gaze!
There are also hot tubs and spa baths on the edge of the garden, overlooking the countryside – a wonderful place to end the day and relax.
Before dinner Isabel left out two of the hotels bicycles for us, so we could explore. The surrounding trails take one through fruit orchards, past crumbling old fincas from centuries before, along the dry river bed to one of the oldest olive trees in Europe. It’s a special place.
As the sun set, the tables around the pool were set. The candles were lit in the lanterns along the pathways, and a warm glow came from the lights strung between the palm trees.
Under the Stars
The evening atmosphere is magical, just perfect for a romantic meal.
Chef David Sorroche creates dishes that celebrate the richness of the Almeria produce; with a strong focus on local fish and seafood. The fruit and vegetables here are of course, superior, as Almeria is one of the biggest suppliers in Europe.
Our dinner was excellent. A small chef starter of scallops was followed by a superb tartar of local white prawns and fish (like a ceviche); and a splendid Andalusian salmorejo with a prawn skewer. The main dishes of red prawn and white fish were a delicious reminder of the hotel’s coastal location; and the pork with Pedro Ximenez sauce was rich and satisfying.
The team is immaculately presented in crisp uniforms and their Andalusian warmth of character makes for a relaxed and fun evening.
I just love hotel breakfasts and at Real La Joya boutique hotel it’s a real pleasure. Firstly for the delightful presentation. Each morning the ceramics differ, creating a subtly different look and feel for the day.
There is a varied cold buffet including local cheeses such as the smoked El Pericho. Hot dishes are prepared to order, complementing the generous buffet.
In addition to the bicycles available for guest use, there are plenty of hiking routes, and jogging trails in the surrounding countryside. The hotel also has spa therapists that can be booked for in-room treatments or massage etc. at the beach club.
Cabo de Gata
Cabo de Gata Natural Park, Andalucía’s largest protected coastal area, was a land of volcanoes and is now home to some of the best beaches Europe. The nearby fertile coastal plains are covered in greenhouses, the ‘market garden of Europe’, yet here things remained untouched – nature is the protagonist. It’s one of the most compelling landscapes you will see in Europe and it is truly relaxing – it feels meditative.
However, if you can bring yourself to leave the property, there is plenty to do nearby, beyond the beautiful beaches and the charming fishing villages. Isabel can arrange horse riding, or private excursions. One can even visit the lighthouse and tower at Mesa Roldán – and meet the keeper, Mario.
Even for a short stay, Real La Joya will leave a lasting impression. I can’t wait to go back.
Real La Joya Boutique Hotel
T: +34 664 712 066
Paraje los Moralicos, la Joya, 04149 Agua Amarga, Almería
Boutique Hotel Real La Joya – a gem in Cabo de Gata, Almeria | Andalucia DiaryJanuary 9, 2020 at 10:40 am
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