With its salt water lagoon, hot springs, forests and high mountains, Murcia is the perfect place to nurture mind, body and soul. By Heidi Fuller-Love
Blessed with sparkling clear seawater and its unique salt water Mar Menor lagoon, Murcia also boasts dense forests, high mountains, hot water mineral springs, several nature reserves, superb golf facilities and a string of glorious beaches, making it an ideal region for an exciting range of sports, leisure and wellness activities.
Healthy hot water and mineral-packed mud
Averaging nearly 2,800 hours of sunshine per year, Murcia’s climate offers a healthy dose
of vitamin D, but there are also a range of natural treatments that will have visitors returning relaxed and restored from their holidays.
Popular since the Romans came here to take the waters back in the first century AD, Murcia’s hot springs packed with health-giving minerals feed a series of thermal baths in the villages of Mula, Mazarron, Fortuna and Archena, where state-of-the-art facilities – including hotels and indoor and outdoor pools – make it one of the best spa resorts of Spain.
Less hot, but equally renowned for their healing properties, the balmy waters of Mar Menor – said to be good for everything from exhaustion to arthritis – are rich in therapeutic minerals: magnesium,
calcium, sodium, bromide and iodine. Just breathing the briny air is said to cure respiratory problems, but there are also a full range of treatments on offer in gleaming modern thalassotherapy centres clustered around the lagoon.
For a slightly more messy therapeutic experience visitors should head for the pretty fishing town of San Pedro del Pinatar, where mud baths packed with calcium, magnesium and potassium are said to ease bone and joint pains, remedy skin ailments and provide relief from rheumatism and arthritis. Health seekers can slap on the mud for free along the seafront, or get professional supervision in one of the specialised thalassotherapy centres.
Sea, sun and aquatic fun
With several hundred kilometres of coastline boasting fine sandy beaches and sheltered coves, and dotted with centres offering world-class aquatic facilities, magical Murcia is ideal for water babies of all ages and abilities.
Mar Menor’s shallow buoyant waters are perfect for young families, but they also attract water sports professionals who come here to train, which means that the facilities for aquatic activities in centres such as Mar Menor Nautical Centre at Cabo de Palos and Puerto Deportivo Juan Montiel in Águilas are top notch. Adrenalin-sports lovers can learn to sail a catamaran or drive a speed boat here, while more leisurely activities on offer include paddleboarding and kayaking. Europe’s largest salt lagoon is also ideal for scuba divers, who can head out to explore countless shipwrecks, or get up close and friendly with local marine life in the warm and prolific waters of Cabo de Palos-Islas marine reserve. The resorts of Hormigas, La Azohía, Mazarrón and Águilas also have well-equipped diving centres.
Visitors seeking less strenuous fun in the sun can top up their tans on one of Costa Calida’s superb beaches. Families should make a beeline for child-friendly sand havens such as Calabardina or Playa de Mar de Cristal, while clothes-free sun worshippers will want to laze on the silky sands of naturist-friendly Calblanque.
Rural delights, wildlife sites and adrenalin activities
Visitors seeking to sample Murcia’s most authentic charms should head inland, staying in rural campsites or cottages and enjoying activities such as white water rafting or canyoning in the Cañón de Almadenes, descending the Segura river by inflatable boat or kayak near Calasparra, or going underground to discover prehistoric rock art in caves and gorges close to Isla Plana and Cieza.
Hikers and mountain bikers will also have fun in the glorious, pine-rich Sierra Espuña regional park – home to a host of endangered wildlife including golden and booted eagles and wild cats – where a web of trails lead out to reveal panoramic views and wild scenery. Closer to the coast, the regional park of Las Salinas y Arenales is the perfect destination for twitchers, who come here to spot flamingos and other migratory birds.
This palm-tree-lined coast is also a hotspot for golfers, who can play on one of 22 signature golf courses designed by renowned players. These include the world-famous La Manga Club whose facilities include not one, but three 18-hole courses.