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Guide to Villaricos a small fishing village on the Costa Almería

Villaricos a small fishing village on the Costa Almeria in Andalucia, Spain was once the centre of a 'silver rush'

By Nick Nutter | Updated 26 Apr 2022 | Almería | Villages | Login to add to YOUR Favourites or Read Later
Torre de Cristal

Torre de Cristal

During the 19th century, Villaricos had a population at least five times that of today. The town was built on silver, the same silver that Hannibal used to pay his armies to march on Rome. Today, with a resident population of fewer than 700 (2020), Villaricos is redefining itself as a holiday destination on the Costa Almería.


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Baria - a Phoenician and Roman village

Puerto Esperanza

Puerto Esperanza

The story of Villaricos starts back in the Phoenician period. Iberians, native to the area, had already been mining lead from the surrounding Sierra Almagrera mountains, a small range that runs for 8 kilometres northeast from Villaricos. The lead ore also contained silver and it was this metal that made it so attractive to the Phoenicians who established a settlement at the mouth of the Rio Almanzora. Mining in the area really took off when the Romans arrived, they valued the lead and the silver, and they called the settlement Baria.


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Fish Processing Factory

Puerto Balsica

Puerto Balsica

The fish processing area and the Phoenician-Roman settlement are in the vicinity of Torre de Cristal, both are overgrown or beneath the present town, with nothing to see. The necropolis is just inland from the settlement and that is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.


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Muslim watchtower

Necropolis Fenicia

Necropolis Fenicia

After the Romans left there seems to have been little activity at Baria. It resorted to being a fishing village. The only sign that the Muslim period had any impact is a watchtower that now stands derelict above the village.

Silver Fever

Villaricos

Villaricos

In the 19th century, this peaceful scene was shattered after argentiferous lead ores were rediscovered nearby. The ‘Silver Rush’ that followed saw the mines at Villaricos named on stock exchanges throughout Europe. Flues from the smelters located on the coast near Villaricos can still be seen snaking up the hillsides.

When the silver ran out

All good things come to an end, and the end came for Villaricos in the early 20th century when the mines became too expensive to operate. The village again resorted to being a fishing village.

Villaricos - Tourist Destination

Today Villaricos is rebranding itself as a tourist destination. The small, town beach is sandy although those to either side are black rocks and stones. The quartz veins in the soft, dark, micaceous schist, glitter between the waves. Villaricos has two small marinas, Puerto Balsica to the south of the village and Puerto Esperanza to the north.

Torre de Cristal

At the mouth of the Rio Almanzora, a horseshoe-shaped tower, Torre de Cristal or Cristal Tower, guards the southerly marina. Built between 1763 and 1772, during the reign of Charles III, it is a typical coastal defence installation. Originally the entrance was on the first floor, accessed by a rope ladder. The lower room was storage for the gunpowder and provisions. The gun emplacement on the roof carried two 24 pounder cannon. In the 19th century, the tower was garrisoned by the Carabineros Corps and after 1941 by the Guardia Civil. In the early 1990s the tower was restored and is now the tourist information office on the ground floor and a small display of photographs of the finds from Baria on the first floor. Access to the Baria archaeological site is through the tower.

Tranquility

What makes Villaricos special is its tranquility. A small square has a few restaurants, serving fish of course. There are a number of fishing cottages and some low rise apartments, a bar or two, a couple of local shops and a pharmacy and – peace. No noisy bars or discos, only the sound of the waves hitting the coast.


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Tell Us What You Think about Villaricos

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Comments

  • Tonya - 30 Aug 2020
    Sorry hate was too strong a word, that reads better thanks. Tranquil it certainly is.
    • Tonya - 30 Aug 2020
      Hate that last paragraph, Villaricos does not have a lack of facilities? It has bars/restaurants/chiringuitos, 2 mini markets, Doctor, pharmacy, Sunday market.
      • Nick Nutter - 30 Aug 2020
        Hi Tonya, yes I see what you mean. I did not express myself as well as I normally do. Take a look at the rewrite and see what you think - is that more accurate.
    • John dyer - 19 Feb 2020
      Great article so interesting to know sbout the area we live in lets have some more berfore its too late and all is forgotten
      • Nick Nutter - 19 Feb 2020
        Hi John, Working at it. Check out Explore/Almeria, new town, village, place to go every 2 days.
    • Sharon Webb - 10 Feb 2020
      Very interesting articles on Villaricos and Cuevas. Any similar history on nearby Palomares which is where I’m based?
      • Nick Nutter - 13 Feb 2020
        Hi Sharon, Thanks for the comment. I am working on a piece about Palomares. Should be published early next week. Just need to get decent photos.
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