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There are places that radiate a unique light, that dazzle you with their colours, and that you want to remember in your mind's eye, forever.
In the Region of Murcia, we're sure that everything will soon be fine, and it's clear to us that the best way to help that happen as soon as possible is by staying at home.
5 recipes to savour the Region of Murcia
Getting to know the Costa Cálida in the Region de Murcia is not only about exploring its streets, visiting museums or discovering monuments.
Welcome to Murcia, one of the most comfortable capital cities you can imagine. We will let you know about what you shouldn't miss in this multicultural city, where life is in the streets, and where tradition and modernity harmoniously coexist.
TO ONE'S HEART'S CONTENT
Going from one terrace to another, from one square to another, walking about the streets and enjoying life in the open air is one of the best ways of blending in with the Murcian atmosphere. The good climate, together with cultural blending, have made Murcian people learn how to enjoy the hubbub to the full. Having some 'cañicas' -small draft beers- while chitchatting is here a real pleasure. If you add a couple of typical tapas from the region, we're talking about luxury. You won't be able to say 'no' to marineras, caballitos, matrimonios or pasteles de carne. Other typical dishes are michirones, Murcian salad, pisto and even some raw broad beans from the huerta with dried and salted bonito or some tomato slices. If you have a sweet tooth, try the paparajotes: lemon tree leaves coated in a dough made of flour, eggs, milk and grated lemon peel, which are fried and then dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Having them with a little glass of sweet wine is an authentic Murcian pleasure. But don't let anybody kid you: you DON'T have to eat the leaves.
In May, two giant festivals take place in Murcia: WAM and Murcia Tres Culturas, which are two very different but just as appealing musical adventures, with music and arts for tolerance, social harmony, solidarity and sustainability. In July, Murcia proves to be a capital blend of refined sensibilities from all over the world with the Mediterranean International Folklore Festival, which is Spain's oldest festival. Cinema enthusiasts are in their element at Ibn Arabi International Film Festival, a little jewel in the Olympus of young, promising film festivals which takes place in March, offering a week of independent films and additional activities; it resuscitates some film treasures that are usually swallowed up by commercial film producers. In November, Murcia celebrates the Region of Murcia International Puppet Theatre Festival, Títeremurcia, a stunning display of creativity offering sentimental, romantic people and children the opportunity to enjoy stories and puppet shows, and filling the city with the best audience in the world.
GO FOR A STROLL
Murcia is perfect to walk around: wandering through Trapería and Platería -two charming streets in the old part of the city- and following the scent of fresh coffee, enjoying its nice squares, and watching the sunset from Paseo del Malecón, surrounded by gardens and orchards, really are priceless. Another good idea is to rent a bike and roll; you'll definitely come across something interesting which doesn't appear in any guidebooks. Whatever the reason for your stay, we suggest you make space in your diary and spend some time in the city centre's commercial districts, boutiques, marketplaces, street markets... And of course, at the Centro de Artesanía -Craftwork Centre-, where you will find your very own 'little piece of Murcia' to take home.
A GREAT SQUARE
Cardenal Belluga square, commonly known as the Cathedral's square, brings together some of the city's main symbols, such as Santa María Cathedral, the Bishop's Palace and the Moneo Building. You'll find it inevitable to visit the Cathedral's Museum, go up the Cathedral's tower, go through the arcades, and sit down at any of this emblematic square's terraces to watch the hustle and bustle while you enjoy the view and the typical cuisine.
MUSEUMS FOR ALL
Coming to Murcia and not visiting its museums is a crime. They are so different from one another that you can spend a whole day visiting them without getting exhausted. The city's most outstanding museum is probably the Salzillo Museum, which houses the most important and complete collection by this brilliant Murcian sculptor: it includes the Holy Week floats, the 556 pieces nativity scene, and a set of original sketches. Also outstanding are the Santa Clara Museum, housing the region's best Islamic art collection and the valuable historical and artistic heritage owned by the nuns of the Order of St Clare, and the Ramón Gaya Museum, an intimate gallery with the main works by the 20th century's most distinguished Murcian painter. Other relevant museums are the Cathedral's Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the San Juan de Dios Museum... In case you want to spend the day with children, we recommend the Science and Water Museum and the University Aquarium too.
If you want to enjoy a top-notch visit in Murcia, don't forget to go up to the Quitapesares terrace. Its viewpoint, next to La Fuensanta Sanctuary in El Valle y Carrascoy Regional Park, is even more perfect in the moonlight. You should complete the experience by trying some tapas or a glass of wine. If you go there during the day, you will be jealous of Murcian people for living next to this magnificent mountain range, which is fabulous for sports such as hiking, climbing, cycling and orienteering. On a small vantage point to the north, with opposite but quite as interesting views, is Terra Natura: a theme park with recreated natural habitats from throughout the world as well as a water park with toboggans, swimming-pools and an artificial river. One of its highlights is swimming with sea lions. Ideal for home-loving adventurers.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
If you enjoy staying out late during your holidays, we are pleased to tell you that Murcia's nightlife is one of the best among Spanish destinations. You'll find all kinds of nightclubs and bars, as well as restaurants opening till late, chiringuitos and affordable hotels. Most Murcian people enjoy being at a terrace in the city centre when dusk is falling: you can try it anytime throughout the year because of the city's mild weather and open character.
When was the last time you went to the theatre? Coming to Murcia and enjoying a great show at the legendary Romea Theatre is a winning bet: just sit down while the lights are switched off and start dreaming. Other relevant stages to get away from routine are the Víctor Villegas Auditorium and Conference Centre, the Teatro Circo, and the Puppa Clown Performing Arts Centre.
I spy with my little eye something beginning with...'C' for 'Cathedral' and 'Casino' -meaning social club-. The Cathedral is the region's most important temple and one of its main symbols too; it has more than 600 years of history and was built on the city's old Great Mosque. It is the perfect example of a monument with superposition of styles, from Gothic to Renaissance and impressive Baroque architecture. You will find it inevitable to go up its tower, admire its facade, and visit its museum and the Vélez and Junterón chapels. As a curiosity, Alphonse X the Wise's heart lies within an urn next to the High Altar. The Casino, as a social club, has been Murcia's social crossroads since the 19thC. Visiting this emblematic building, at the capital city's heart, is a real delight for elegance enthusiasts. It has become quite an institution in Trapería street, and is nowadays a culture and social harmony revitalising centre. You won't forget its Louis XV-style ballroom.
VISIT US IN SPRING
Visiting Murcia during its Fiestas de Primavera -Spring Festivities- is highly beneficial for your health; since the weather is simply perfect at this time of the year, and squares and parks are filled with colours, scents, barracas huertanas where you can taste the typical cuisine, and traditional events such as the Murcia en Primavera Parade, the Tunas -student music groups- Contest, and the Testamento Sardinero -Testament of the Sardine-. The two most important days within this week of festivities are Tuesday, with the Bando de la Huerta parade, and Saturday, with the Entierro de la Sardina -Burial of the Sardine- parade, both declared to be of International Tourist Interest. The day the Bando de la Huerta takes place, Murcian people as well as visitors go out in their traditional huertano costumes and enjoy a celebration which culminates in a great costumbrist parade. The Entierro de la Sardina is a spectacular parade, an unseasonable mixture of myth and carnival including floats from which thousands of toys are thrown to the little ones. The funniest funeral you can ever imagine.
Cartagena, with more than 3,000 years of history, has been the scene of some of the most outstanding passages throughout time. This Punic, Roman, military and art nouveau city offers nowadays so many things to see and do that it has become one of the most appealing destinations in the Mediterranean area.
On the top of one of the five hills of the city, in the Concepción Castle, is a good -possibly the best- starting point to visit this millenary city: the Interpretation Centre of Cartagena's History. Three thousand years of knowledge and history, together with the heritage from the most relevant civilisations from the past, in an hour's visit.
The Roman Theatre Museum is the city's undeniable symbol. It is a wonderful architectural ensemble, designed by Rafael Moneo, where every space is even more amazing than the previous one. It integrates Pascual Riquelme Palace, Santa María la Vieja Cathedral and, after the last corridor, the Roman Theatre, which is the most impressive part. An interesting detail: Carthago Nova Theatre, built in the 1st century BC by Emperor Augustus, was not discovered until 1990.
FEEL LIKE A ROMAN CITIZEN
If you enjoy reliving history and stepping over the floor on which some important events took place in the past, you will feel like a child in the old Carthago Nova's Roman Forum district. It is a real privilege to visit this site, hidden underground for more than 20 centuries, where the thermal complex and the atrium building stand out. If you come with your family, we recommend dramatised visits.
The Underwater Archaeology National Museum houses the famous 'treasure of Nuestra Sra. de Las Mercedes frigate', a booty including 570,000 gold and silver coins from the 18th and 19th centuries. The visit also includes many other elements which are maybe not as well-known but quite as valuable. We suggest you discover them step by step and then 'digest' the whole experience at the museum's restaurant, at a restaurant at the port, or at Santa Lucía fishing district. If you keep wanting more, the Naval Museum is another interesting visit; its most outstanding parts are the exhibitions on navigation and shipbuilding and Isaac Peral Hall, where you will see the famous submarine which has been the symbol of this port city for more than 80 years.
This boat ride will take you to the most haunting spots in the inner harbour, bordering the bay's fortifications. By admiring this wonderful view, you will be able to feel like general Scipio Africanus and imagine what he saw before the landing which made him conquer the old Qart Hadast. The itinerary includes a visit to the Centre of Interpretation of Cartagena's Defensive Architecture, where you will learn about history and legends of both the trade and military role played by this Mediterranean junction for more than 2,000 years of history.
A CHARMING BEACH
Cala Cortina is Cartagena's urban beach. To get to it you just need to go through a tunnel and there you go! A wonderful Mediterranean cove will appear in front of you, with children's play area, seafront promenade, restaurant, loungers and sunshades. Besides having a refreshing swim, you can dive and enjoy the area's underwater life.
HIKING OR DIVING?
If you're keen on hiking, the PR-1 route will take you from Cala Reona to Calblanque: an easy walk at the end of which you should definitely have a swim in the crystal clear waters of this nature park's beaches. You will need a cap, a pair of binoculars and a camera. Essential stops are Playa del Portús and Cabo Tiñoso, since the beauty and diversity of its seabeds have turned this area into one of divers' favourite destinations. You will like it so much that you won't feel like rising to the surface, but... Don't worry. When you do, you will be able to admire the magnificence of one of the Southeast's most important ecological landscapes.
FESTIVITIES AND FESTIVALS
Among Cartagena's many different treasures, one of them is irresistible: its Holy Week. The Passion Week in Cartagena has been declared to be of International Tourist Interest. Its processions are hypnotic due to the rhythmic movement of thousands of hoods and the polychromy created by flower ornaments and small lamps, an effect that is even more impressive in the small hours. If you arrive in summer, we have a special suggestion for you: spend the day at Calblanque idyllic beach, and the evening at La Mar de Músicas festival in Cartagena, where you will enjoy art and musics of the world. And remember: the scenes are placed at strategic spots by the Mediterranean seaside with amazing views.
UNDER THE LIGHTHOUSE
On Sundays, the street market takes place in Cabo de Palos, a picturesque fishing village next to La Manga del Mar Menor and less than 30 minutes away from Cartagena by car. Walking about the stalls, finding some bargains, enjoying the sea atmosphere and tasting a typical, delicious caldero rice dish -a fish rice dish cooked in a pot- at Paseo de La Barra, in front of the sea, is a perfect plan. Our advice: follow the seafront promenade and you will get to this locality's impressive lighthouse, which used to be a lighthouse-keeper school and is one of the best places to stare at the skyline by the Mediterranean.
Any time is a good time to pamper the palate. Typical from Cartagena are grilled fish, roast fish or fish baked in salt, michirones, the famous caldero rice dish, and rabbit, either with rice or ajo cabañil. The most typical salad is the cantonal salad made with smoked fish, including salmon, cod and harvestfish, together with capers, onion and olive oil. As a dessert: melon, prickly pear, arrope and tocino de cielo. To top it off, the famous asiático coffee, made with condensed milk and a little Licor 43, cinnamon, lemon peel and several coffee beans. The asiático cup is so original that it has become one of Cartagena's most singular souvenirs.
Bringing back a T-shirt as a souvenir is great, but to actually take a piece of Murcia away with you is so much better. Typical products of the region are the best way to remember your trip, or make those that could not go with you feels as if they were there too. Make space in your suitcase!
WINES OF DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN (PDO)
Because our wines just love dressing up their labels, we not only have three wines with PDO affiliation, but also other awards that praise the quality of each and every one of them. There's a wide range of possibilities to choose from, each one leaving you with a lasting impression. Three main wines are produced in the Bullas municipality: white, rosé and red. Their quality is such that it is said the god Baco is thinking of moving to the area! In Jumilla, a variety of ten wines are produced: four red, two rosé, two light red, one white and another natural sweet wine; if you try to taste them all, you'll be there til' the cows come home! In Yecla, they produce seven wines for seven brothers... or was that the film? Drop everything, try these seven varieties, and take your hat off to them. But don't forget that there is life outside of PDO... and great wines too. A good example of this is the wine of El Campo de Cartagena, wines whose taste, colour and aroma are so wonderful that they have no reason to envy the produce of their neighbours. For us their sweet wine is love at first sight... or, should we say, love at first sip.
In the Bronze Age there were no freezers, nor Tupperware, nor vacuum-packaging... Therefore, in order to conserve food, salting was created. Nowadays, and although it is no longer required, this technique remains popular. Why? Well, because salted food is scrumptious. Mullet roe, ling, salted tuna, cod, mako shark, sardines, smoked herring or salted bonito make delicious souvenirs that will keep you licking your lips, even once you get back home, and start to miss us a bit.
PASTRIES AND CAKES... BUT NOT AS YOU'D EXPECT
For those with savoury rather than sweet tooth, don't worry, we have many more temptations that will keep you finger licking right up until you get back home. Pastel de carne (meat cake) is made from puff pastry, meat, chorizo, hard-boiled egg and spices, and is considered to be the typical delicacy of our region. Its lid, which consists of concentric circles of puff pastry, resembles a felled tree trunk revealing its history within; perhaps you will be able to find the recipe by reading between its lines. Okay, we can't deny pasties are commonly known worldwide, not just in our region, but here we add our own special touch - pepper, tomato, hard-boiled egg and tuna: a well-rounded recipe, much like its shape. Pastel de Cierva (a typical pastry from Mar Menor), named after the inventor of the autogiro, is a mix of sweet and savoury flavours, made even more delicious with the addition of chicken. Continuing on with the theme of sweet and savoury, try our Salteadores or Exploradores: puff pastries filled with veal and dipped in sugar. Until you try it, you won't understand just how delicious this flavour combination really is.
The first rice worldwide to obtain the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) affiliation has been traditionally cultivated for centuries, and irrigated with clean fresh water free from chemical insecticides. The Bomba or Balín varieties, which come in both wholegrain and white forms, are so fantastic to cook with that, before throwing it at the newlyweds, just think what a crime it would be to waste it!
A PRESENT FROM OUR PIGS
Our cold meat comes in a great variety of forms, yet they have one thing in common - once you start you cannot stop. Whether it be sausages, black pudding, fresh or dry sausages, or even Morcón (large blood based sausages), ask for it to be vacuum packed and it will remain delicious throughout even the toughest journeys back home. Above all, the varieties which stand out are those with a base made from Chato. Its name deriving from the shape of its snout, Chato is a type of pig whose local authenticity is evident in its charm and, as many say, its Murcian accent! Imperial from Lorca is equally as famous, and although the name provokes images of Julius Caesar suddenly appearing, we are actually talking about a pork sausage; it is physically similar to Espetec®, but with the distinctive taste of our land. We know that if there is one product you associate Spain, it has to be Jamón Serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham). But here in Murcia, our variety made with haunch of Chato wins over everyone who tries it. Try a little cut and you'll fall to his hoof.
FROM PEPPER TO PAPRIKA
Pimiento de bola is a round pepper originating from America, but which has been cultivated 'Murcia-style'. If left to dry out, it becomes ñora, an essential ingredient in our dishes such as the fish and rice based Caldero. And, once the ñora is milled the pepper is much sweeter than its American cousin. Boasting the PDO affiliation, it adds colour and flavour to any dish, giving it that special Murcian touch.
FLEUR DE SEL
Originating from the sea, and collected using traditional techniques and under special weather conditions, our fleur de sel is a form of pure salt extracted in the protected salt mines of San Pedro del Pinatar. The salt does not get lumpy and dissolves easily in the mouth, giving it a distinctive flavour. And if you just can't get enough, try one or more of our flavoured varieties; as well as the more traditional flavours such as herbal, try the more original spicy, sweet, tuna roe, tomato, or olive varieties. Prepared to be amazed!
If you're on a diet or are planning to start one, it might be better to skip this section .Some people brand our sweet snacks as sinful or a naughty habit because they truly are a temptation. Typical of the entire region, our most famous desserts are Borrachos de Ojós, sponge cakes soaked in syrup and local wine. Literally translating as 'tipsy', don't worry, you won't need to hold back in moderation. When we speak of horns, there are those of the Vikings and those made from meringue. While we aren't sure how the first ones would taste, we do know that the second ones would make even the god Thor shiver with pleasure. Libricos, typical desserts from Yecla, are wafer sheets stuck together with honey as if they were books, a real bestseller. In Totana, Santiaguitos have become the hallmark of this town. Made with sliced almonds, butter, sugar and candied orange, even the box they are presented in looks good enough to eat! If you visit Jumilla, get your hands on Sequillos: sweets made with flour, egg and oil, decorated with meringue and hardened sugar. Naturally, simply reading a description like this doesn't do justice to their taste, so you'd better stop reading and take a bite. Yemas, from Caravaca de la Cruz, both covered with caramel or chocolate, have a monastic origin. These desserts, made from a base of sugar and egg yolk, delight children and adults alike; the truth is that there have always been amazing bakers living in the convents. If you visit Murcia at Easter to see our religious processions, you will pleasantly surprised to find that the members of the procession distribute typical sweets with biblical verses written on the packaging. You can also find these in sweet shops throughout the year; it is a gastronomic and reading souvenir, all in one!
Jams and chutneys, besides being extremely practical, are delicious. Disagree? You have obviously not yet tried these cravings in a jar. Delight yourself with classic preserves or branch out with others such as courgette, pepper, onion, tomato, or even orange blossom or jasmine petals. Created naturally using the best produce from our region, they contain no added preservatives or colourings.
Although most of these delicacies can be found throughout the whole year, the Christmas season is without a doubt the perfect excuse to indulge yourself, especially when you know how glorious it all tastes. Tortas de Pascua and Tortas de Recao are made in a similar manner primarily using a base of egg, flour and star anise. The Pascua variety has a surprising orange flavour, while the Recao variety comes with a hole in the centre ready to fill with honey. How do you fancy buying one of each and trying to guess all 7 different flavours? Cordiales are desserts for every taste: stuffed with sweet pumpkin filling in Murcia, with sweet potato cake or with yam in the Cartagena countryside, yet with nothing extra added in the Andean mountain ranges (here they are called cristóbalas), they are made from eggs and almonds. Forget the calories and enjoy! Moratalla's marzipan is a bar filled with egg yolk that will delight even the sweetest tooth. Cut it into slices and let the yellowish sweet treat take over your palate. Alfajores from Murcia have little or no reason to envy the Argentinian version: distributed between wafers you will find dough made from rosemary honey, almonds and hazelnuts among other ingredients.
Come and visit the most awesome natural spots in the region. Beaches, mountains, canyons, valleys... Here, we'll show you the best places to escape to, where to breathe clean air and to enjoy the amazing spectacles of nature.
MOUNTAIN OF ASHES
From the viewpoint of Monte de Cenizas, you can see some stunning views of Mar Menor, the Mediterranean Sea and even the coast of Africa. The Regional Park of Calblanque is located on the most easterly point of the coastline. Despite its small size, there are a variety of geological structures and materials that can be found in Calblanque. As a result, it is possible to find fossil dunes, cliffs, beaches, sedimentary rocks such as limestone or metamorphic rocks such as shales and phyllites.
In the Nature Reserve of Cañaverosa you could lose yourself in some of the best riverside forests in the Region of Murcia. Through the northwest of the region run the first few kilometres of the River Segura on its way to Murcia. This Nature Reserve is home to one of the best riverside forests of the region, it's a sort of 'ecosystem' of great value not only for its scarcity on a regional level, but also for the diversity of life forms that it welcomes.
The landscape of the Regional Park of Calblanque, is one of the best preserved in the whole region. It offers a great combination of beach and mountain. The Regional Park of Calblanque is located on the most easterly point of the coastline. Despite its small size, there are a variety of geological structures and materials that can be found in Calblanque. As a result, it is possible to find fossil dunes, cliffs, beaches, sedimentary rocks such as limestone or metamorphic rocks such as shale and phyllites.
Almadenes is one of the most incredible landscapes of our region - a deep canyon river ideal for the more adventurous. The Northeast retains the best network of river ecosystems in the region. Almadenes, in between Calasparra and Cieza, is an area where the River Segura excavates a deep canyon running along its floor, sometimes calm and sometimes rough. The dominant geological materials are limestone.
The Sierra Espuña Mountain Range is one of the greenest and most dense landscapes of Murcia. It's an ideal place to forget about problems and breathe pure air. Sierra Espuña has the largest forest of the Region of Murcia and one of the most emblematic natural environments; it is thanks to the efforts in afforestation and reforestation carried out at the end of the last century for today's green and dense forests.
SALINAS DE SAN PEDRO
Las Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro form the most important wetlands of the region. There you will be able to see flamingos and all kinds of birds. Las Salinas de San Pedro Regional Park, despite its small space, hides sedimentary rocks formations and sand dunes. It is a good example of the transformation of an old coastal lagoon into salt flats that are still active. This Park is located at the northernmost point of the Mar Menor.
THE RICOTE VALLEY
Valle de Ricote, with its Moorish air, is one of the best Spanish landscapes. You will be surrounded by palm trees, citrus trees and waterwheels. If any place exists where you can still feel the Arabic culture, it is Valle de Ricote. The following towns, Abarán, Archena, Blanca, Cieza, Ojós, Ricote, Ulea and Villanueva del Segura, have formed a dense vegetable garden, that meanders along the wetlands of the River Segura and transports you to an idyllic world.
FUENTES DEL MARQUES
Fuentes del Marqués is an ideal landscape to go with the family. It stands out for its water springs and abundant foliage. This Natural Reserve, one of the great attractions in the town of Caravaca, is listed as a historic site. This spot owes its name to its previous owners, the marquises of San Mamés, and of course to the birth of several springs of crystal-clear water.
The countryside in the surrounding areas of the River Chícamo is known as the Murcian Palestine for its abundance of palm trees and desert lands.
In the Erosiones de Bolnuevo, you will find one of the most unusual landscapes of the Region that has been shaped by water and wind. These erosions, located on the beachfront, set up an extraordinary natural landscape in which the wind and water erosion have formed whimsical shaped rocks.