Villaricos - a real live Spanish fishing village
Villaricos is a simple fishing village, perched precariously between the Sierra Almagrera and the sea and flanked by the Almanzora River.
Dating from Neolithic times, Villaricos was once a great Phoenician port. Forgotten by history for thousands of years, it resurfaced as a silver mining boom town in the 19th century before finally becoming the pleasant fishing village of today, with a special identity all of it's own.
Every morning early, the men go out to sea to fish, farm the land or to work in local marble quarries. Women take their children to school and chat. Life has a very traditional rhythm. Every weekend its people meet in the small old village square where, each Sunday, a colourful market thrives.
The real charm of Villaricos lies in its old fashioned simplicity and warmth of spirit and it is this lack of pretension that catches you in the end.
The village sits at the very top of El Playazo, the 7 km long great sandy beach of the Almanzora coast, to which it is connected by the Boca del Rio beach that stretches across the mouth of the Almanzora River.
Villaricos has several beaches along its seafront, all within a few minutes walk:
- La Fabrica del Duro - The closest part of El Playazo, named after the “money factory”, the mint that was situated here in the time of the silver mining boom. Very tranquil and little frequented, with a series of small sandy bays.
- La Boca del Rio – This is the broad stretch of sand that cuts across the mouth of the summer dry Rio Almanzora, again very quiet with few tourists, but popular for beach fishing.
- Las Brisas Beach – This long curved sandy beach is more frequented being closer to the village and being served by the popular Las Brisas Beach Bar, which is great for paella, sardines and long relaxed beach lunches. There is a children’s play area near the Castillo de Cristal at the village end.
- El Castillo de Cristal Beach – Just the other side of the Castillo and reached from the Maritime Paseo, is this small sand beach, bounded by rocks on one side and the tiny La Balsica harbour on the other, where there is a delightful “chiringuito”, serving excellent tapas.
- Cala Verde – This is a black pebble beach, right in front of the village, with exceptionally clean bright water. Somewhat uncomfortable under foot, it is nevertheless the beach of choice for the local villagers. Excellent for snorkelling, the remains of the old iron “embarcadero” of the mining days are still visible on the sea bed beyond the mirador.
There are a myriad of other beaches small and large, popular and less frequented, with beach bars and without, stretching to the north and to the south of Villaricos, all within easy reach by car.
Bars and Restaurants
At the latest count, Villaricos had some eight restaurants and eleven other cafes and bars. They vary from modern to traditional, from Spanish to English and from very economic to relatively expensive; without exception they offer good value for money.
Las Brisas Beach Bar
Owned by Almanzora Bay and run by Patrique, Las Brisas, on the sandy Villaricos beach, generally opens before Easter and closes towards the end of October. Besides generous “cuba libres”, it serves good simple food throughout the afternoons. It is a popular spot for Sunday paella amongst the local Spanish population, but Almanzora Bay clients are always well looked after and it a very relaxed and happy place to while away those holiday hours, while the kids enjoy the beach.
Restaurants in Villaricos
The best located restaurant in the village is La Esperanza, overlooking the harbour and with surreal views down the coast to Mojacar, it has a great terrace and inside it is light and airy. There is an extensive menu of really good meat and fish dishes. Playa Azul, owned and run by a local fishing family, also offers a wide choice of quality Spanish food, including many tasty local dishes. Don Tadeo’s is excellent, specialising in fish, for which it is justly famous throughout the region. There are several other restaurants to choose from some specialising in paellas, others providing English food for the less adventurous.
Cafes, Bars, & Late Night Spots
The choice is extensive, catering for most tastes. It includes the charming La Balsica, with super tapas, down by the tiny fishing harbour of the same name, the ice cream shop in the village centre, El Galeon, the morning coffee shop of choice, El Gato, favourite of local Spanish and best Sunday Market coffee meeting place, La Plaza Sports Bar, with internet booths for those who must keep in touch, etc.
Late night spots are definitely “village” in style and include late night bars at Casa Verde, a romantic and enchanting spot to sit out of a warm evening by the church, Tadeos, more of a drinkers bar and Los Vampiros, the village kids disco. More sophisticated late night entertainment for the “yuf” is found at El Porton, in the hinterland behind the village and for grown ups at Garrucha and Mojacar, along the coast.
The Sunday Market and Village Fiestas
Villaricos being a real village, it has its own Sunday market for the local people from the interior of the Almanzora Valley, the “domingeros”, who traditionally come down to the coast on Sundays. Likewise, being a real Spanish village with a history, it has its own particular fiestas.
The Sunday Market ebbs and flows according to the season, smaller in winter and larger in summer; overall in recent years, it has been growing ever larger, more extensive and interesting. The heart of the market is of course the superb sun ripened local fruit and vegetables; grown for local consumption and not for northern European super markets, they have to be tasted to be believed. You will never have enjoyed such juicy sweet oranges nor such flavourful broccoli or tomatoes elsewhere!
The market also attracts a whole variety of other stalls, lots of unbelievably economic, but good quality attractive clothing, accessories, gewgaws and other fun items. The market is where the whole village meets every Sunday, takes a solo or a café con leche and a cognac and tapas, in preparation for that all important Spanish custom, Sunday Lunch!
In Villaricos, the outstanding fiestas are:
- The Dia de la Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of the Villaricos, fishermen. The revered Holy Virgin is taken down from the church to the Esperanza Harbour to be embarked on a tiny fishing boat and is sailed out to sea to bless the village fishing grounds. The virgin is kept company by a colourful flotilla and some extremely lively frivolities unfold, featuring the village youth, lots of noise and a very greasy pole over the sea.
- The Dia de la Virgen Maria, this is the occasion of the Villaricos Village Summer Fiesta, lasting three days in mid August. A stage is set up in the ol village plaza, the local bars set up their tables outside and the nights are set aside for celebrations and dancing. The whole village has a real buzz about it.
- Times Not Long Gone. In the fiestas of the past, the after midnight hours of Villaricos used to be tense with growing anticipation and trepidation, as the crowds awaited the dramatic appearance of the Torres del Fuego. These terrifying Bulls of Fire were chariots, spitting fire crackers in all directions, but mostly horizontal! They suddenly materialised from nowhere and everywhere at once, charging directly into the middle of wherever the waiting crowds were thickest, scattering young and old in all directions.
Health and Safety have put paid to this customary local escapade, spurred on no doubt by the foray, one year, of a Bull of Fire onto the flat roof of one of the bars, where revellers had gathered in hope of safety, only to find themselves having to leap from the roof to save themselves. Even there theywere not safe, in that time, not so long ago before the square had been paved, some local wags had had the bright idea of burying thunder-flashes under the square!
So no bull of fire anymore … but then less frightening one eyed, one legged villagers!
In Cuevas del Almanzora – Semana Santa – Holy Week
The Holy Week processions of the local market town of Cuevas del Almanzora have been declared of National Touristic Importance and rightly so. It is a strangely emotional and striking experience, even for the most agnostic, to be present during these colourful processions. The crowd, packing the narrow streets of the old town, becomes totally silent with respect and the atmosphere becomes electric with passion and faith.
Villaricos has two scuba diving operations, which reflects its special diving qualities, with exceptionally clear warm waters, creating good visibility and the opportunity to see unusual and some unique species. There are also several interesting structures, including the underwater cavern of La Catedral and the remains of the old loading structures from Villaricos’s mining past, now submerged off the village.
Molasub are based in the small Esperanza Harbour in Villaricos. Affiliated with the Proffesional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) for diving trips; including introductional/discovery, open water and dive master courses.
Full equipment hire is also available.
Enjoy a great morning out fishing for all ages, from beginners and for the more experienced, any day of the week. Our local fisherman has many years experience and will even show you how to prepare the fish you catch the Spanish way!
Fishing as a sport is in its infancy in this previously un-touristy region. However, the fish are there and we have organised a local boat from Garrucha, 10 minutes away. It is best to reserve in advance.