Life and Leisure in Murcia

By: Matthew J James

Murcia, in South East Spain, has not had the same publicity, or prosperity, as other regions of Spain, but improved air services, thanks in part to low cost airlines, rail and motorway links, and property development, ensure this is set to change. This traditional region is now appealing to visitors who wish to enjoy the real Spain, and Spanish culture such as food, architecture and the pace of life. No longer do visitors to Spain want English style pubs near the beach, or English newspapers available in the local shop. The Mediterranean diet is both cheap and healthy, whether you choose to cook, or to eat out. There is plenty to choose from and most of the fruit and vegetables will be grown locally. The "package holiday destination" image that Spain previously had is on the decline.

The Costa Calida (Warm Coast) runs for over 170km and has blue seas and a range of coastal resorts, and traditional Spanish fishing villages. The winter temperature of around 11 degrees and a summer temperature of up to 34 degrees give the region an average annual temperature of 18 degrees. Combined with over 300 sunny days a year, it is not hard to see why this region is so tempting. The Costa Calida has something for everyone, from unspoilt beaches and fishing villages, to fine golf courses and excellent water sports facilities.

The region is also well known by golfers, and the La Manga resort is the most famous golf course in Murcia, if not Spain. As well as La Manga, the Club de Golf Altorreal and the Mosa Golf Club are popular courses, and there are many other courses being developed. Some property developments are designed to appeal to golfers, and are located near golf courses, and new dedicated golf resorts are being built.

At 170km square, the Mar Menor is the Europe's largest saltwater lagoon. As well as a fantastic place to learn to sail, windsurf, water ski, and jet ski, the high salt content means that the lagoon is safe to swim and paddle, making it popular with families. The Mar Menor has also become a conservation area and home to a huge number of different species of birds.

If the beach, water sports and golf don't appeal to you, there are many other reasons to visit Murcia. The city of Murcia itself dates back to 825, and has been described as the most beautiful city in Spain. With excellent shopping and dining in tapas bars and restaurants, as well as Moorish architecture, the City of Murcia has lots to offer. The university and student population, as well as many festivals and celebrations mean that there is always plenty to do. There are also castles and historic buildings to be found in the towns of Alamha, Mula and Lorca, and the port of Cartagena is a popular stopover for cruise ships. San Javier, could possibly be the perfect location: near the airport, less than half an hour from both Murcia and Cartagena, and within easy reach of several golf courses.

The region of Murcia is traditionally agricultural, and grows a lot of olives, citrus fruit and vegetables. With over 100 000 hectares of vineyards, this region has a tradition of winemaking. The wines have not always been of the best quality, but thanks to new technology and techniques, the wine is rapidly improving and becoming more commercially successful. Why not sample some wine while you are there?

Nature lovers are well catered for in Murcia, and there are many nature parks that are well worth the visit. Calblanque, south of Mar Menor has been a protected natural area since 1982, and a nature reserve since 1992. This nature reserve has high dunes, sandy beaches and many species of birds and plants. Visitors can enjoy the park on foot, bike and horseback as well as by car.

San Pedro del Pinatar is home to the regional park of Salinas y Arenales, the most important wetlands in the region. Flocks of flamingos rest here each year before their journey to North Africa.

The Sierra Espuna regional park has amazing scenery including dramatic peaks, forests and many species of plants. Wild boar, goats, mountain cats and tortoises can all be found here. This park is popular with organised walking tours, and the peak of Espuna at 1579m can be seen from miles around.

The warm climate and coastal activities usually initially attract visitors, and once there, they discover there is a lot more to the region than just beaches and golf. From a hike through a national park to a round of golf, from a day on the beach to a day sightseeing, Murcia will appeal to everyone.

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