On a first superficial look at the province of Murcia in Spain, you might judge this as a place of little significance. Some parts are even ugly and I sure have mixed feelings about the area where I live.
If you are able to see the beauty in ugly things, there are a lot of places of interest in Murcia. If I look with my photographic eye, I see the beauty of the blossoms and (almost) forget about the poison that is sprayed on them.
No way to forget the ugliness of the chemical industry in the neighborhood of Cartagena but still I can enjoy the lines and colors of the machinery.
The mountains of Murcia hide the presence of great biodiversity, while the Mar Menor inland sea is the most polluted water in the area.
So yes, I am critical of this province and certainly of its inhabitants, but I appreciate the landscapes and especially the wonderful sun, which shines here 300 days a year. The coast is called Costa Cálida for a reason!
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The initiatives of tourist agencies
When we stayed in Puerto de Mazarrón for several months we discovered the guided walks the tourist agency organized. It was a marvelous way to discover the area, to see places of interest, and to hear about its history.
Ever since we make it a habit to visit the tourist agency first when we want to discover a place. Not every tourist agency has guided walks – I guess that also depends on the enthusiasm of the people working there – but we always have great conversations with them and learn a lot that way.
The places of interest I describe here are places we have visited and don’t belong to the common hot spots of Murcia.
Cieza, the village of the blossoms
Check the town’s website and they’ll be bragging about the cherry blossoms. But if you look at the English Wikipedia page, only the prehistoric sites are listed.
Somehow I understand that. The blossoms are only there for a month, while the excavations can be visited all year round. Next time we are in Cieza we will.
This time we had come for the blossoms. In one word: magnificent! The fruit trees produce cherries, apricots, peaches, and nectarines, all of which bloom at approximately the same time.
We ourselves live in an almond area, those trees bloom a month earlier.
The best time to see the Cieza blossom is between mid-February and mid-March. Info and map at the tourist office.
Aledo and the Estrecho de la Arboleja
We were in the Enchanted City in Cuenca in 2019. The Estrecho de la Arboleja in the neighborhood of Aledo is a little similar to that. Although on a much smaller scale.
It is a gorge of about 500 meters that resembles a tunnel. The rocks and mosses have special colors, which make the place extra interesting.
There is a 2 km circular walk from the car park, where whole families have a barbecue in summer and spend a quiet Sunday. LOL, as far as Spaniards can be quiet. The route is easy in itself, but there is some height difference and the bottom can be slippery.
Aledo played a role in the Reconquista, a period of nearly 800 years in which the Christians tried to reclaim the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.
The village is built on a protruding rock and has a deep gorge on 3 sides. That gave the inhabitants a distant view and the village was easy to defend. But it was just as easy to lay siege, which could starve the population because nothing more was transported to the village.
Miquel Bulnes has written a fascinating novel about that time, Reconquista, which features a mix of historical and imaginary figures. I read it when I just settled down in this region and was delighted to read about Aledo.
Info and map of both Aledo and the Estrecho de la Arboleja at the tourist office, which is located in the castle tower at the end of the village.
Sierra Espuña and its Pozos de Hielo
The first time we drove through the Sierra Espuña, I sighed that I would never want to live in this area. That’s how ugly I thought the nature park looked.
The Sierra Espuña is definitely an area you need to learn to appreciate and if you don’t like pine trees as we do then you need to put in more effort. Funny of course, that we found our dream house at the foot of this park.
In the meantime, I have discovered the beautiful places. The visitor center, which has a small interactive exhibition that our grandchildren really appreciate, the butterfly area and the Pozos de Hielo, to name a few.
The Pozos de Hielo were ice stores. These stone silos were built 4 centuries ago. Snow was shoveled into these – partly underground – silos. In the spring, blocks were chopped from the stock that was now compressed to ice and transported with donkeys to Murcia, Cartagena, and surrounding places.
Info and map of nature park Sierra Espuña are available in the tourist office of Totana and Alhama de Murcia, and in the Visitor Center in the middle of the park. There are many paths for hiking and routes for mountain bikes.
La Bastida de Totana
An area with an interesting archaeological excavation is La Bastida, a town inhabited between about 2200 and 1550 BC, in the Bronze Age.
In those days too, human habitation was devastating for nature, as it still is today. The clearing of trees for the construction of houses and to make way for agriculture has had a huge impact on the previously wooded landscape.
La Bastida can only be visited by appointment and with a guide. Usually, the explanations are in Spanish, although occasionally there is a guide who speaks some English. However, at each remarkable point, there are signs with both Spanish and English explanations.
Most of the former city is believed to be still hidden, so excavation work continues to this day. Info and appointments in the Tourist office of Totana.
Minas de Mazarrón
Going to these mines was one of the more interesting guided walks we did in that area. As far back as Phoenician and Roman times, there were mines here where lead, silver, and zinc were extracted. Those were used, among other things, in the production of soap.
Because of the soap, the girls of Mazarrón were therefore known as the fairest girls. It was rumored that this is why the Barbarian robbers preferred to kidnap the girls from this region.
After the decay in the Middle Ages, the mines were revived in the 19th century. The mines fell into disuse again after an explosion that left some people dead. Many ruins of the industrial buildings and homes for the miners remain.
The area is freely accessible, which unfortunately also encourages vandalism and graffiti. There are still mine-galleries and crevices you can fall into, so it’s important to be careful. But it’s definitely worthwhile visiting.
Info about the area and bookings for the guided walks, that are in Spanish or in English, is in the tourist agency in Puerto de Mazarrón.
(PS If I don’t add a link, it’s because lots of Spanish websites are not secure!)
La Batería de Castillitos
In the 19th century, many buildings had classical elements, borrowed from the Greeks and Romans. The disadvantage was that the function was no longer recognizable. Train stations, libraries, or government buildings, everything took on a similar Classicist appearance.
Although built in the 1930s, La Batería de Castillitos also has those classic features. The residential barracks for the soldiers have the appearance of a Greek temple.
Another part looks more like a medieval castle. Such a style that contains elements from all kinds of eras is called Eclecticism.
The battery was built during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. The cannons are enormous and were intended to defend the access to the port of Cartagena.
I have not yet dared to go here with my grandchildren because of the height and the lack of protective fences. The entrance to this castle is free. Be careful on the 8 km long winding mountain road that leads to it. It is narrow and can be busy.
Places of Interest in Murcia
Murcia has a lot to offer to tourists. It’s not as crowded as the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca and the temperature is fantastic most of the time. July and August are too hot to my liking, but if you like 40+ degrees C as Tom does, then even summer is great.
It is probably clear that I also think Murcia could use a sustainable injection. Fortunately, there are more and more organic farmers and organizations involved in sustainability.
And some tourists also have a positive influence on this. The Dutch and Germans are known for preferring organic products. For me, the group of people who care for the environment and prefer organic products can’t grow quickly enough. No matter what their nationality is.
Have you visited Murcia yet? Tell us in the comment box below.
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