Cabo de Gata is located in the most southeastern end of the Iberian Peninsula, on the territories of Almeria, Nijar and Carboneras. It extends from the Bay of Almeria in the south, Sierra de Cabrera in the north, and meets its western limits between the Sierra de Gata and the Serrata de Nijar.
Cabo de Gata is a zone that emerges from a huge volcanic chain that runs between Spain and North Africa and it currently appears submerged almost in its entirety, emerging only in the Cabo de Gata and Alboran Island. The erosion on its lava and ash deposits has been creating these amazing landscapes for millions of years.
Cabo de Gata was known by Phoenician navigators as the Charidemo Promontory. Later, the Greeks built a temple dedicated to Aphrodite in which perpetual fires were lit.
Later still, it was known by the Romans as the Venus Promontory. Finally, in the Middle Ages it took the name of Cabo de Agatas, from which its current name derives.
The Romans had some settlements in the area, mainly dedicated to the fishing of tuna in tuna traps and salted fish, as well as the extraction of minerals. In the area of Carboneras there were projects dedicated to the manufacture of coal, which gave the town its name.
Subsequently, the Muslims settled in small villages in the most fertile areas, especially in the interior, dedicating themselves mainly to agriculture. The coast remained sparsely populated because of piracy.
After the conquest of Almeria by the Catholic Monarchs, the coast was depopulated. The continuous attacks of Berber pirates made the coasts too insecure to settle on them. Little by little, old watchtowers were restored and defensive castles were built, which enabled small settlements to be made around them.
At the castles of Saint Francis of Paula (the current Cabo de Gata Lighthouse), San Jose (the current barracks of the civil guard of San Jose), Alumbres Tower in Rodalquilar, San Pedro and San Andres de la Carbonera, among others, they managed to establish population centers of different sizes around them.
Some of these population centers grew to become the current towns, such as Carboneras and San Jose, while others were simply abandoned, as in the case of San Pedro.
In 1863 were the inaugurations of the Cabo de Gata Lighthouse, located at "Punta del Cuchillo” and built on the ruins of the Saint Francis of Paula Castle, and the Mesa Roldan Lighthouse, located at the northern end, on the limestone plateau of more than 200 meters that gives it its name.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the fields of Cabo de Gata were a huge estate with plantations of wheat and barley, which explains the large number of flour mills that can be found throughout the Natural Park. Subsequently, the cultivation of cereals was changed to the cultivation of other plants that were less dependent on water, such as esparto grass or “pita”.
During the first quarter of the 20th century, a mining town was built in Rodalquilar, and gold was extracted from its mines until 1966.
Due to the lack of roads and communications, Cabo de Gata was saved from the unrestricted development of the sixties and seventies, which saturated all the Spanish coasts with buildings; preserving its sub-desert landscape almost intact.
In 1987 it was declared a Natural Park, including 375 square kilometers of land space and 120 square kilometers of maritime zone, along its more than 50 kilometers of coastline.