In the far northwest of the Region of Murcia lies Moratalla, the site of the ancient legacy of the Order of Santiago knights. The silhouette of its castle stands out in a landscape of valleys and its identity has remained almost intact for centuries. Cave paintings and the remains of Iberian, Roman and Medieval settlements add to the beauty of the woods and hills of one of the noblest lands in the Region.
A GREAT DEFENSE
The castle is the key point of the urban landscape of Moratalla. The original Islamic construction was erected in the 9th century over Neolithic and Iberian remains, making it an important point for the Al-Andalus defence. In the 15th century, the Order of Santiago rebuilt it. Nowadays, the Homage Tower in Gothic Levantine military style stands out, including its voluminous throne hall, the well and the weapons room. The fortress was surrounded by five towers: Redonda, Blanca, La Magdalena, Quebrada or limones and Los Cuatro vientos.
THE DRUMS ARE RUMBLING
The Holy Week of Moratalla is probably the most diverse, distinct and unique around the country. You'll be astonished by the apparent disorder of its Nazarenes, their tunics and multicoloured "capirotes" (pointed hats), the variety of tapas offered by the bartenders and, above all, the spectacular Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday "Tamboradas" (Spanish drum procession).
THE BULL WILL CATCH YOU
Moratalla begins its Major Festivities in honour of Cristo del Rayo on June 15th. Tradition says that on the 15th June in 1621, a bolt of lightning hit the statue of Christ on the cross without anyone being injured. On that day the Parade, the Floral Offering, the Religious Function and the solemn Procession are held in remembrance to the miracle. The festivity continues from the 11th to the 17th of July, during which the running of the bulls and cattle releasing take place.
ROCK ART HERITAGE
The origin of Christ's House, hermitage-sanctuary, which you¿ll find just 4 miles away from the town centre, is related to the tale of the shepherd Ruy Sanchéz to whom Christ appeared on April 19th 1943. Its architectural ensemble consists of a Church and a Sacristy, a restaurant, a hostelry and an important Rock Art Centre dedicated to the dissemination and conservation of cave paintings, which were declared to be a World Heritage Site. As a piece of information, every first Sunday of May, a "romeria" (religious festivity with a short pilgrimage) is held in honour of the patron saint of Moratalla, the Appeared Jesus Christ, which goes from the parish church to the Sanctuary.
REACH THE SUMMIT
One of the reasons why you should visit Moratalla is to climb the highest peak in the Region, situated in the Revolcadores Massif. The road has a medium difficulty and from the top you'll see breathtaking views. If you don't fancy going hiking, you could also gaze at the beauty of these landscapes from nearby villages while tasting some rural rice, or from the Rogativa hermitage, a popular pilgrimage destination built in the 16th century and one of those places whose charm will fascinate you.
SWEETER THAN HONEY
One of the most valued things in Moratalla is its handmade marzipan. This mouthwatering bite, filled with delicious yolk, is so exquisite that you'll want to taste it again. Cut it into thin slices and allow this sweet with its yellowish center melts in your mouth. There will be no better way to remember your trip than taking home one or more of these moreish treats.
WALKER, THERE IS NO PATH TO FOLLOW
Moratalla is one of those places where walking is a gift. Guided and multiple routes will offer you the possibility to discover the secrets of some of the most beautiful natural spaces of the whole province, like those created by the Alhárabe river. Among these we find the setting La puerta and Campo de San Juan, with streams, free range animal flocks, cornfields and groves which reveal the abundance of water. A great option for recharging one's batteries.
We recommend you to go on an excursion to the rocky shelters of Calar de la Santa and appreciate the large cave paintings which are still preserved in this environment. A good way to get closer to human history without having to hop in a time machine.
OVERLOOKING THE VALLEY
Do not forget to wander through one of the most charming towns in Murcia, between staggered houses that crowd the hillside, narrow passages, and picturesque places, all under the watchful eye of an omnipresent castle. It is an attractive and charming promenade. During the tour you'll see La Asuncion church, a beautiful temple with colossal columns inside that houses the Arte Sacro Museum and the viewpoint, from where you'll see breathtaking views of the valley.
A LEGENDARY PLACE
If you want to forget the noise, get away and enjoy picturesque views and a good cuisine, we recommend you to visit Benizar, Moratalla's district. Its impressive castle sits on a huge rock that overlooks the whole valley, serving as a lookout and guardian of its surroundings. The fortress dates from the Islamic period, specifically the 12th century, and today several legends surround it. This is one of the few places in the Region where, in winter, you'll enjoy the snow, which is used to make a typical local drink with anise and lemon called "chapurrao".