Almonaster is the ideal local centre for off-grid life. Close enough to walk to yet small enough not to spoil the surrounding natural landscape.
Families have grown up and lived here their entire lives for centuries, so everyone knows everyone. And the few incomers there are, welcomed as one of their own.
Currently there are 800 all-year-round residents. Though at weekends, and during the numerous public holidays, this number can increase considerably as children return from working away. Also most days there are tourists too, drawn either by the authentic Moorish architecture (including a mosque), to set out on one of the numerous (guided if required) walking/ mountain bike routes in the surrounding countryside, or to hunt for mushrooms and sweet chestnuts.
Facilities therefore have developed to cater for these diverse needs.
● nursery/ primary school
● alternative school (15kms away)
● sports centre
● health centre
● outdoor swimming pool
● grocery shops
● banks and ATM
● post office
● social services office
● builders merchants
● car mechanic/ workshop
● all the building trades
● alternative medical practitioners
● self-catering accomodation
● camping (in nearby Cortegana)
● a small weekly market (Tuesday morning)
● computer repair
● daily bus service to Sevilla and Portugal
● town hall
● bodega (under construction)
Annual festivals worth attending in 2017 include:
CRUCES DE MAYO 5-10 May
ROMERIA DE SANTA EULALIA 20-22 May
ALMONASTER LOCAL FIESTA 11-13 August
CULTURAL WEEK end of August
ISLAMICAS 13-15 October
Within 30 minutes of Almonaster by car are also most of the other essentials for resident and tourist Including: vets/ 24hr emergency health care/ dentists/ opticians/ farming supplies in bulk/ etc.
It is also possible to hire horses for riding and partake in any number of other outdoor pursuits.
A major supermarket (MERCADONA) is in Cortegana, about 8 kms away, as well as a petrol station (which sells bottled gas).
Sevilla (airport/ AVE train) is 120kms (72 miles) away. The beach 140kms (84 miles). Border with Portugal 45kms (27 miles).
GETTING TO ALMONASTER
From FARO airport (in Portugal) there are very cheap flights from the UK and other EU countries (as low as 24 euros return), however there is no direct public transport link here, so you really need to hire a car, and it is about a 3hr drive (220km).
From SEVILLA (120 km) there is a bus to Almonaster, but only ONE a day, at 4pm (except Friday when there is another later). From the airport to the Plaza de Armas bus station it’s a 10 km (35 minutes) bus ride (4 euros), then you buy a ticket (at the DAMUS bus company window) for ALMONASTER LA REAL (about 12 euros), remembering to change buses at the ARACENA bus-station.
The weather forecast can be checked by clicking here, though it is most reliable only for the next two days.
This map can be downloaded by clicking here.
Eating out. In a bar/ restaurant basically there are two options. You can either choose tapas (small plates of one thing, at around 2-3 euros each), which is cheap and sufficient to fill you up. Or courses, which can turn out very expensive, typically 30+ euros a head. Bars serve tapas all year round, but restaurants only outside the main seated part usually, and from around 1pm to 3pm.
What to see. Almonaster is a very old town, people have lived here since pagan times. It has also remained true to its past in the restoration, so walking around the streets is like going back in time. Most of the houses inside are like this too. The church/ mesquita at the top of the hill gives a really good idea of all the different historical periods. Next to it is an ancient bullring too.
There are three other churches/ chapels also. Plus a communal fountain/ spring and washing area.
From the town you can head off set straight into the countryside, with many circular routes and others to towns nearby, mostly off-road. The Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park stretches for 184,000 hectares, most of it forested hills and mountains.
This part of Spain, being one of the lowest populated and least unspoilt regions, is in many respects pretty much unchanged from the days not so long ago when there were no roads and the only way of life was a rural self-sufficient one. Still there exists a vast array of diverse plant and wild life. Including 189 types of bird (for example: eagles/ hawks/ vultures/ peregrine falcon/ osprey/ kite/ kestrel/ owls/ and griffin). As well as the more usual other creatures: frog/ toad/ newt/ dragonfly/ butterfly/ salamander/ lizard/ otters/ snakes/ mongoose/ wild boar/ deer/ goats/ cattle/ pigs/ beech martens/ polecats/ genets/ weasels/ badgers/ bats/ wild sheep…..From the top of nearby peak San Cristobal you can see a 360 degree panorama that stretches as far as the coast (on a clear day) and Portugal.
If you ever need them be assured of a warm welcome here. The officers are very friendly and speak some English.
· THE MCINNES ENGLISH LIBRARY
Bequeathed by a former resident, this small library of 2000+ books (in english mainly) is a veritable treasure trove, which hopefully will be open to the public very soon.
· Moroccan café AL ANDALUS
The owners Malika (who is Moroccan) & Pepe (Spanish) have probably the best place in town for a drink/ snack, even a meal. Open every day and all day/ evening. The view from their terrace can’t be beaten. The Moroccan mint tea is to be recommended, and coffee is the Portuguese Delta brand (the best). Opens at 9am. Earlier breakfasts (to suit any diet) can be arranged by phoning the day before (00 34 627 794 162), same for full meals. Vegetarian friendly.
Small modern apartment block with everything you need for self-catering from 2 adults +.
· bar/ restaurant LAS PALMERAS
Opposite the holiday apartments. Can be pricey and service slow.
· bar/ restaurant/ hotel CASA GARCIA
The hotel is closed currently but hopefully will re-open soon.
· holiday house CASA LA TORRE
This is a lovely place to rent for a couple of days, except for one tiny thing, its proximity to the church and its clock/ bells, which chime every half-hour, deafening.
· butcher CASA LLANES
As a vegetarian can’t comment.
· bar CAFÉ CON ARTE
Going through a transition phase at the moment, so only open in the afternoons/ evenings. Nelson (the owner) is from Uruguay/ Argentina and speaks perfect english. He is also half of the band SWEET (their video has had over 2 million hits on YouTube). Best free wi-fi signal in town and there are power sockets for laptops.
· bar ALMONASTER
Very popular with locals, but the chairs are excruciatingly uncomfortable.
· newsagents/ shop MANUELA
Owner Manuela speaks excellent English, though very deaf so please speak clearly and slowly. Daily newspapers (9am-9.30am) and magazines, all sorts of household items/ stationery/ and clothes.
· post office
Note: ONLY open for one hour a day (9am-10pm).
· bakery/ grocery PANADERÍA
The best place in town for a wide range of fresh fruit & vegetables, but with only two deliveries a week (Monday & Thursday). Tiny choice of groceries + frozen food + alcohol. The bread is not good, but their cakes are, though buy twice what you need as they tend to be light on substance.
· bar SOCIEDAD UNIÓN AMISTOSA
Opens earliest and all day every day.
· chemist FARMACIA
Next-day or 48hr delivery of most things if not in stock, including homeopathic remedies.
· mini-supermarket TOVAR
This is an old photo, the supermarket has been totally revamped since. Very well-stocked (don’t forget to look downstairs as well), cheese cut to size at the vegetable counter, and super friendly owners, Juani & Evaristo.
· events venue PLAZA DEL LLANES
Where most outdoor concerts and half of the annual CRUZ DE MAYO take place.
If you have any problems using this during the bank’s opening hours, the manager Eduardo speaks perfect english. If your card doesn’t work come back later, as it is totally dependent on the internet signal, reception (as with mobile phones too) is not good here.
· tobacconist/ shop ESTANCO
Tiny and difficult to see what they have in stock, but as it is a little bit of everything well-worth asking.
· town hall AYUNTAMIENTO
Has copies of the local free newspaper VIVA LA SIERRA and the monthly what’s on guide for Sevilla EL GIRALDILLO. One of the staff speaks english.
· computer repairs S.I.S.H.
Rafael is a whizz-kid with new (and not so new) technology, so if you have any problems feel in safe hands. If the shop is closed ring the bell, he lives upstairs.
· grocery/ hardware CASA ALFONSO
A strange place, part old-fashioned grocers part hardware.
· bar/ restaurant MESÓN ISABEL II
This is the only restaurant I have eaten in, and the food is good (some of the menu is in english), but I have no idea about the prices. Vegetarians catered for.
· crafts/ gifts TALLER DE CERAMÍCA
An Aladdin’s cave of locally made things, if not open ask at MESÓN ISABEL II
·natural spring FUENTE DEL CONCEJO
If you don’t like the taste of mains water this is perfectly safe to drink.
· bar/ restaurant/ accommodation POSADA EL CAMINO
Rather out of the way to walk to the town but the bar has a nice atmosphere, especially in winter.
The two parking areas in town on the main road are both suitable for campervans.
Opening times of shops and bars is meant as a guide only, be prepared to expect changes daily and according to the season (including public holidays).