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Deserted villages of Almería

Located within the spectacular karst landscape of Sorbas, in Spain's southern Almería province, the deserted village of El Marchalico Viñicas is as much of a curiosity as its name suggests

  • El Marchalico Viñicas hangs above the Autovía del Mediterráneo in the Aguas River Valley, near Sorbas. The area is famous for its karst landscape, filled with caves and sinkholes created by water erosion in the surrounding gypsum.
    1El Marchalico Viñicas hangs above the Autovía del Mediterráneo in the Aguas River Valley, near Sorbas. The area is famous for its karst landscape, filled with caves and sinkholes created by water erosion in the surrounding gypsum.
  • Not much is left of a village of some 15 homes divided into two clearly divided sectors. The last inhabitants left around 1969, according to Faustino Calderón, who has researched many of Spain's deserted towns and collected the information on lospueblosdeshabitados.blogspot.com.es
    2Not much is left of a village of some 15 homes divided into two clearly divided sectors. The last inhabitants left around 1969, according to Faustino Calderón, who has researched many of Spain's deserted towns and collected the information on lospueblosdeshabitados.blogspot.com.es
  • The arid landscape, typical of Almería (which is also home to the Desert of Tabernas), is a reminder of the tough living conditions that the villagers had to endure.
    3The arid landscape, typical of Almería (which is also home to the Desert of Tabernas), is a reminder of the tough living conditions that the villagers had to endure.
  • The inside of one of the homes still left standing. Nearly 50% of all Spanish villages with fewer than 500 residents (3,938) are are risk of being completely abandoned, according to the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEDEMP).
    4The inside of one of the homes still left standing. Nearly 50% of all Spanish villages with fewer than 500 residents (3,938) are are risk of being completely abandoned, according to the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEDEMP).
  • The town could easily be the setting for a western, and indeed Almería has often been the location of choice for movie directors like Sergio Leone. During the 1960s, the nearby village of Los Albaricoques featured in films like "A Fistful of Dollars."
    5The town could easily be the setting for a western, and indeed Almería has often been the location of choice for movie directors like Sergio Leone. During the 1960s, the nearby village of Los Albaricoques featured in films like "A Fistful of Dollars."
  • The area is a hotspot for amateur and professional cave exploration. There are over 1,000 interconnected caves around Sorbas alone, and several companies that organize guided tours. The Cueva del Agua has a length of around 8,500 meters, making it one of the world's largest explored underground gypsum cave systems.
    6The area is a hotspot for amateur and professional cave exploration. There are over 1,000 interconnected caves around Sorbas alone, and several companies that organize guided tours. The Cueva del Agua has a length of around 8,500 meters, making it one of the world's largest explored underground gypsum cave systems.
  • Despite the difficult conditions, several hardy plant species still manage to thrive here. There are few which are endemic to this area, including Helianthemum alypoides, known popularly in Spanish as jarilla de Sorbas, and Teucrium turredanum, or romerillo de Turre.
    7Despite the difficult conditions, several hardy plant species still manage to thrive here. There are few which are endemic to this area, including Helianthemum alypoides, known popularly in Spanish as jarilla de Sorbas, and Teucrium turredanum, or romerillo de Turre.
  • The area is filled with Lapis specularis, a type of shiny, transparent gypsum that can be cut with a knife to the desired thickness and was used extensively by ancient Romans to make windows. In Spanish it is popularly known as espejuelo, or little mirror.
    8The area is filled with Lapis specularis, a type of shiny, transparent gypsum that can be cut with a knife to the desired thickness and was used extensively by ancient Romans to make windows. In Spanish it is popularly known as espejuelo, or little mirror.
  • A sign showing suggested foot paths across Karst en Yesos de Sorbas, which was designated a Natural Area in 1989 by the regional government of Andalusia to protect its uniqueness. There is a warning alerting trekkers about the numerous sinkholes in the area.
    9A sign showing suggested foot paths across Karst en Yesos de Sorbas, which was designated a Natural Area in 1989 by the regional government of Andalusia to protect its uniqueness. There is a warning alerting trekkers about the numerous sinkholes in the area.