|Castillo Vélez-Blanco – Juan José Rodríguez|
Los Vélez is situated in the Sierra de Maria in the north of the province of Almería. Within this area is the impressive Parque Natural de María-Los Vélez as well as the twin towns of Vélez Blanco and Vélez Rubio.
Vélez Blanco is a typical pueblo blanco with its whitewashed houses nestling at the foot of a rocky outcrop. At the top of this prominence, a majestic castle looms over the town. It was built in the 16th century on the orders of the first Marquis of Vélez. Unfortunately, only the impressive exterior of the fortress remains – the insides are in New York, on display in the Metropolitan Museum.
There are a number of fine religious buildings in the town. The 16th century parish church of Santiago mixes Gothic, Renaissance and Mudéjar elements. The Church of Magdalena was built on the ruins of an old mosque whilst the Convent of San Luís was also built in the 16th century.
A few miles away is Vélez Rubio. It is a small town with several mansions and a number of religious buildings. One of the churches is quite magnificent – the Baroque Church of La Encarnación which was built in the 18th century. The twin bell-towers dominate the town’s skyline.
Another important building in Vélez Rubio is the former 18th century Royal Hospital, which houses a museum, dedicated to local history.
Despite the historic monuments in the two towns, Los Vélez is better known for its caves, which have UNESCO World Heritage status, particularly the Cueva de los Letreros which is situated between Vélez Blanco and Vélez Rubio. It was here that prehistoric wall paintings were discovered in the 18th century. The cave was declared a National Monument in 1924. One of the paintings, the Indalo, is the symbol of the province of Almería.
Roquetas de Mar