Discovering The Costa Calida, Región de Murcia

4th November 2018

There is more to Spain than idyllic days resting on the sun lounger in Costa Brava or Costa del Sol. There are less well-known regions that deliver more action, more adventure and more culture than your typical packaged holiday. Case in point is the region of Murcia which has over 300 days of sun a year and 19 degrees average temperature, but the many famous resorts there are relatively unknown even to the Spanish public which means the region is comparatively unspoiled.

For hiking enthusiasts, a visit to Sierra Espuña Regional Park is a must. This region is one of the greenest and thickest mountainous forest areas in the southeast of Spain. It is a haven for sports aficionados with outstanding areas for paragliding and rock-climbing. During our visit, we hiked along to the Collado Bermejo lookout to admire the breathtaking scenery as well as the famous snow wells, which were used in ancient times to supply ice for the local communities nearby.

This region wasn't always so green and was largely due to the philanthropic work of Murcian, Ricardo Codorníu who initiated an extensive reforestation programme and you can find out all about his work in the Ricardo Codorniu Visitor Centre. The ideal hotel to stay when visiting this region is Hotel Los Jardines de La Santa with its stunning architecture and the famous Santa Eulalia de Mérida is merely yards away with the most spectacular coloured murals you are likely to encounter inside a chapel.
For those seeking nautical excitement, you should head to the town of Águilas, it is at the southernmost tip of the region and is the kind of seaside resort popular with local Spanish people but as of yet, been untouched by the uncouth foreign tourists. Hotel Puerto Juan Montiel is a great base for a stay at Águilas as it is right next to the marina where most of the action takes place.

The marina offers a diving school as well as a sailing club or you can take part in activities that require less training like kayaking, paddle sup, sailing, windsurf or jetski. We chose the paddle boarding option on a sup, which was tremendously entertaining as we took turns to acrobatically dive off the boards like a professional premiership player. My recommendation? Best to learn paddle boarding on a more sedate river first rather than the open seas.

If you prefer to admire the Mediterranean from a distance rather than swimming in it, then the hotel's 6th-floor spa centre is the ideal retreat with 1000 metres square of jacuzzi, sauna, immersion pediluvium and ice fountain.
The final stop, I would recommend is the historic city of Cartagena. With over 3,000 years of history, locals have jokingly said if you kick a stone on the street, you are likely to unearth a new relic. Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine and Moorish architecture sit side by side with Art Nouveau buildings, whilst cruise ships sail alongside major Spanish navy ships (Cartagena is the capital of the Spanish Navy's Maritime Department).

We kicked off our tour with a visit to the ancient Roman theatre, which is undeniably a symbol of the city. The complex includes the Pascual Riquelme Palace and Santa María la Vieja Cathedral but the most spectacular highlight is seeing the magnificence of the theatre itself. The repair work that has gone into recreating this theatre is worthy of a Nobel prize and gives us a better insight into what life would have been like in the Roman times. The most interesting fact is the Carthago Nova Theatre, which was built in the 1st century BC wasn't discovered until 1990 and sits juxtaposed with a modern outdoor stadium nearby.

Compared to the other 2 locations, Cartagena has relatively more shopping options available and Hotel NH Cartagena is centrally located in the heart of the city and the gastronomic options are also more varied in the area. La Catedral restaurant in Cartagena offers contemporary Spanish cuisine in a homely environment littered with contemporary artwork from local artists.

Cabo de Palos, which is a cape in the Spanish municipality of Cartagena is another area where the history of the past collides with the present. It is one of the best diving sites in Spain because of the sheer number of shipwrecks off the coastline in this region as well as a fertile breeding group for the likes of groupers, barracudas and moray eels etc.

Sometimes, it does pay to take a trip off the beaten track and Murcia is one of those regions, you really should consider for your next holiday.
For more information on Murcia, see here.
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