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Murcia Project

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The Murcia region, located in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, is a region consisting of a single province and its capital Murcia. It lies between the community of Andalucia (between the provinces of Almería and Granada), Castilla La Mancha (Albacete) and Valencia (Alicante).

The total population of the region is about 1.500.000 inhabitants, distributed mostly around the cities of Murcia, Cartagena and Lorca.

The flag of this region consists of seven crowns and four castles. These last elements on the flag evoke the frontier character of the region along its history; while on the other hand, the seven crowns evoke real concessions granted to the region as a sign of appreciation for the loyalty of the region.

The Region of Murcia has a characteristic dialect, of Romance origin, which emerged during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, with large distinct peculiarities.
On one hand, we find variants that come from Arabic to Aragon, through the Andalusian romance.

The most important resources of this region are quite varied. It is among the largest producers of vegetables, fruits and flowers of Europe, like wine, being Yecla the city's largest exporter.
In turn, the tourism sector is of great importance in the region, as the region's coast has pristine spaces and the largest salt lake in Europe, the Mar Menor.
Finally, industry production in Murcia that stand out are petro-chemical and energy (Cartagena).

GOVERNMENT

Transportation in Murcia is divided into air, sea and road.
By air is the airport of San Javier, located in the town with the same name, and in turn are negotiating the construction of an airport in Murcia in 2030.
By sea we find a large number of ports, all encompassed in the province of Cartagena, and in turn are among the towns of Aguilas, Mazarron, Cartagena and San Javier.
By land, the region has a large network of motorways despite its territorial size. It also has a large network of rail which is rather outdated. There is Renfe long distance communicating from Madrid to Cartagena, Cartagena and Barcelona, and Montpellier-Lorca. The Middle Distance train connects Cartagena, Torre-Pacheco, Balsicas-Mar Menor, Murcia del Carmen and Beniel with Alicante, Valencia and other intermediate destinations.
Finally, there is a network of neighborhoods, commuter Murcia / Alicante, where the lines C1 (Murcia del Carmen - Alicante) and C2 (Murcia del Carmen - Eagles) serve a total of 16 stations in the region.
Starting with the main geographical features of the region, there is a distinction between relief, hydrography and climate.

To speak of the relief, we must say that the region is situated at the eastern end of the Betic Cordillera. The relief is ordered by a series of mountain ranges and isolated hills or so that are distributed from South to North, East-West direction.
These ridges are mainly divided into three areas that one way or another are represented in the region. They are, from north to south, the Prebetico, Subetico and Betic and descend in altitude from the northeast end of the peak maxima Revolcadores with altitude, to the southeast of Cabo de Palos.
Note that, besides this described structure, regional geography is replete geological characteristics that would categorize strings out above, due to their origin and formation characteristics. The Geological sights are areas or areas showing features considered important within the geological history of a natural region.
First, we will talk about the Subbético system. The mountains of this area are separated by the river Segura, differentiating central eastern sector and western center. The western highlands comprise of volumes Villafuerte, the Hawk, Vulture, Mojantes, the Almirez, Quipar, Burete, Cambron and Lavia. Among these mountains lie the basins of the Argos, Quipar and Moratalla, which drain into the Segura. To the east lie the mountains of Ricote and Gold, south of which extends Mula basin.
Second, the Prebético, Northwest sector succeed saws La Seca, Taibilla, on the border with Albacete, the Zacatín, the Tooth, The Algaidón, of Cherry, Head of the Ass, the Mill, Los Alamos, depressions left by descending to the Segura to be drained by tributaries of the rivers Moratalla and Argos. To the southwest, the basin of Cieza, surrounded by reliefs of Sierra del Puerto, Picacho, Long, Ascoy and Sopalmo, are characterized by large areas of weak slope, glacis that the link to the altarpieces mountain that closed and directed toward the Segura.
Finally, the Betis, is represented by the mountain ranges of Espuña precoastal, Terce, Enmedio, Alporchones, Carrascoy and its extension in the port and Cresta del Gallo, and coastal reliefs of Carrasquilla, Almenara, Muela and Cartagena. The latter resulted in sea coastal features such as the ends of Palos, Negrete, San Julián Galeras, Tiñoso, Azohia, Calnegre and Cope.
From what is found on the Murcia coast, the 250 miles of coastline, 73 belong to the Mar Menor. This is a lagoon, rest without colmatar Neogene basin of the Mar Menor. The threshold Miocene southeast of the basin, and volcanic outcrops that are hidden, have favoured the construction of the levee of the Manga. This closes the gap and is the highest expression of the low and sandy coast of the coast of Murcia.
Two sectors can be distinguished on these shores. From the cairn (limit with Alicante) to Cabo de Palos is low coast. And from here to Cala Reona (border with Almeria) alternate sectors cliffs, where the mountains plunge into the sea by fault lines, as in the Sierra de Cartagena and Lomo de Bas, and a lower coast of beaches, coves and Neogene basins inlets where the sea reach (Mazarron and Aguilas) or wide mouths drain bodies like Hunted Brusca, etc.

The hydrography of the Murcia region consists mainly of the Segura River and its watershed and its tributaries.
Virtually the entire territory of the Region of Murcia is under the hydrological unit Segura Basin, except a small part of the northern town of Yecla belonging to the Jucar, and the westernmost part of the terms of Moratalla and Caravaca discharging to the Guadalquivir.
Due to the shortage of runway gets insurance basin due in turn to the lack of rain, has led over time various government initiatives that have sought to solve or at least alleviate the deficit. Some of the most significant are: the Tajo-Segura, the Water Program, currently underway, which was proposed as an alternative to transfers under the National Hydrological Plan.

Finally, the region's climate, typically Mediterranean, is amended by the influence of topography and is characterized by an arid landscape with an average annual sunshine hours than 3000, one of the highest in Spain and with a difference across Europe. There has been a distinction between mountain climate, cooler and drier, and the coast, softer. The rainfall is scarce, with annual averages in the coastal areas of 300 mm and is concentrated mainly in the autumn, when heavy showers can produce up to 200 mm rainfall in a few hours. This causes rapid runoff (stream of water is poured to exceed its natural course), severe floods and frequent flooding in the lowlands. The annual temperature averages 18 ° C in areas near the coast, so we cannot speak of winter there itself. In contrast, in the interior districts, more mountainous, may have suffered winter frosts and cold spells.

The Region of Murcia is characterized by very strong tourism. Topping the list of beach tourism as Murcia has impressive and beautiful beaches, nightlife apart from that is included in these tourist destinations. In turn, we develop tourism aimed at water sports.
Murcia also found a very important cultural tourism in the interior locations, due to its cultural, historical, artistic and architectural.
Finally, one of the most important types of tourism in this region is tourism dedicated to health and wellness, it has a number of resorts and spas, and thanks to the Mar Menor is also the possibility to go to the Thalassotherapy centres.

Important tourist destinations in the region are around the cities of Murcia, Cartagena, Caravaca de la Cruz and Lorca.

The city of Murcia, whose history begins with its founding in 831 by the Arabs, is characterized by an architecture which can be seen in its history.
Within the city see his legacy in the cracks left alongside the city wall that surrounded it. Besides, of what the city began to be Christian found mostly baroque churches, except for the Cathedral of Murcia, must see in the city, whose predominantly Gothic architecture.
It is a city that keeps its traditions, such as the celebration of Holy Week, with influences of the Murcia’s orchard, a very famous festivity.
On the other hand, is a city with a large university tradition, thanks to which the city also has a great nightlife at any time of year.

The second most important city and a major tourist focus is Cartagena. It is another of the capital of the Murcia region of seafaring and industrial relevance. It is a city with important historical legacy and strategic location for centuries. It is an important city that focuses to the services sector, principally to the commercial and touristic services, because has important and interesting places in Costa Calida.
The city, apart its dilated historic past, has a dynamic present that is manifested in a great artistic activity, for example in the ceramic, pictures or sculpture items.
Cartagena, that in the latest years has trying improvement the services and the tourism, offers and important offers a numerous places dedicated to the leisure and recreation, as bars, pubs or cafeterias, most of them situated in Calle Mayor.

Near to Cartagena we found Mar Menor, with 170 km of surface and 73 of coasts, is the largest salt lake of Europe. The climatologic conditions make Mar Menor like a thermal.
Is an important enclave where are situated a lot of touristic places as, for example, La Manga, a place with great tourist offer, whose fame is produced for its geographical situation, between the Mediterranean Sea and Mar Menor. We can denominate La Manga as a city, although its social activity is only activating in vacation time (summer, Holy Week, and other festivities). La Manga is prepared for the touristic activity, because has a great numerous hotels, leisure places, and tourists can realize many types of aquatic sports.
Around Mar Menor there are other cities that also attract tourists, although not in the same proportion than La Manga, as Los Alcazares, San Javier or Cabo de Palos.

Caravaca de la Cruz is another city with great importance in the Region, situated in the west, and the visit is obligatory. This city raise its past in the medieval times, is situated in north western of the region. The principal attraction of the city is its religious importance, and the festivities of the same character, as the appearance of the cross of double arm in May.

For last, Lorca, the third most populated city, is another population with a medieval past, presented in the architecture. A quiet city, chosen by tourists for this calm, offers an ambient suitable for families.

The region is being promoted as a cultural destination with a lot of highlights for visitors: monuments, gastronomy, cultural events, museums, historic remains, festivals etc. The Region of Murcia is one of the Spanish autonomous communities that has grown the most in the last years, and this has conferred it the character of an ideal destination of services, shopping and for the organization of cultural events and conventions.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES

The so-called Mediterranean Art Cave Paintings of the Iberian peninsula is home to numerous examples of rock paintings and etchings. These works of art dated from thousands of years ago, share a common style and characteristics which make them genuinely exceptional. That is why they have been declared a part of our World Heritage by UNESCO.
The region of Murcia is particularly outstanding for the number of representations of schematic art it contains. A good example can be found at the sites of Barranco de los Grajos gorge (Cieza), Cañaíca del Calar (Moratalla), El Milano (Mula) and Monte Arabí (Yecla).

LOS GRAJOS GORGE- The Dance of los Grajos

The Los Grajos Gorge is one of the 11 most important monuments in Murcia region and among the 918 most important monuments in Spain. Los Grajos Gorge is home to works from the post-Palaeolithic era, in what is known as the Levantine-Naturalist style. The dance scene found at this site is one of the most complex of its type that has been discovered to date, not only because of the variety of gestures seen in the male and female dancers, but also because of the variety of other elements portrayed.

ABRIGOS IN MORATALLA

This place is really interesting because of its large quantity of shelters, named “Abrigos” which are located in the territory. There are 65 Abrigos of Rock Art with different styles, from the Levantine Rock Art, to the Schematic Art, until the Historic Art.
Actually we can only see those ensembles: La Fuente del Sabuco y La Cañaíca del calar, both situated near the country of Calar de la Santa, from where it starts the visit to the Abrigos.
In the first Abrigo of Fuente del Sabuco there are 72 depicted figures in which we can see men, women and animals. In the second one, human figures are depicted in a parade. In the Cañaíca del Calar the first Abrigo has 53 representation in a very good state and really gorgeous. We can admire the high level of details in animals and men. In the second one, there is the most complex panel of Schematic Rock Art.

EL MILANO ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

Located in Mula the Abrigo del Milano contain prehistoric rock paintings and burials. The site is of particular interest as the rock paintings date to a considerably earlier date than the burials inside, which have been dated to around 3235BC, at the end of the Neolithic era. There are several different burials in this location, the most important being a group of 5 individuals, lying in a foetal position, all with the same orientation.

ROMAN THEATRE- CARTAGENA

The discovery and excavation of the Roman Theatre of Cartagena is one of the most surprising archaeological discoveries of the city. This site has remained hidden for centuries because of its location in an area of the city uninterruptedly inhabited. An example of this inhabitation was the partial superimposition of the Old Cathedral on the top part of the Roman Theatre. It is an imposing building with a capacity of 6000 people whose particular characteristics certify the important role played by Cartagena in the history of the Ancient Hispania. The theatre was built between 5 and 1 BC, as it has been proven by the dedication of the edifice to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, grandsons of Augustus, who had designed them as his successors. The cavea was carved directly on the rocks in its central part, and tops a series of vaulted galleries. It was divided horizontally in three parts (ima, media and summa cavea), in turn divided into radial sectors by the staircases (five in the upper part, seven in the medium and upper ones). The public entered from two side passages (aditus), where the dedications have been found. The orchestra had a semicircular plan and housed three rows of wooden seats for the authorities (proedria). The stage (proscaenium) had a length of 43.60 m. The scaenae frons had three semicircular exedras and decorated by two orders of columns, with bases and capitals in Luni's marble, and shaft in pink travertine of Mula. It have been found three round altars dedicated to the Capituline Triad and to the divinities of Apollo (Graces, Muses and Horae), as well as a statue of Apollo with lyre and one of Rhea Silvia. Behind the stage building was a portico (porticus post scaenam) with a double porticoed gallery revolving around a central room housing a garden.

MUSEUMS

MURCIA CATHEDRAL MUSEUM- Murcia

The museum is set in the old Cathedral cloister, built in the 14th century. Its permanent exhibition contains a broad array of religious objects and many archaeological remains that have come to light during successive reformation works on the building. The museum has Moorish remains, mural paintings, part of a residence from the 11th and 12th centuries and one part of the prayer room from the 13th century mosque.

MURCIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS- Murcia

The museum offers a journey through the history of art since the 15th century, and includes works from various different periods and styles. The Museum of Fine Arts is home to a major collection of paintings, with works dating from the Middle Ages through to the Costumbrista and decorative styles. On display are pictures by Joaquín Sorolla and Romero de Torres, as well as by other Spanish painters from different periods and origins.

CARTAGENA ROMAN THEATRE MUSEUM- Cartagena

The museum is part of an integral project carried out by architect Rafael Moneo that comprises the restoration of part of the city of Cartagena and its Roman Theatre. The museum is divided between two buildings and contains archaeological items accompanied by panels explaining the Theatre’s restoration, permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as archive and study rooms. The visit to the museum includes a guided tour of part of the city and inside the Roman Theatre itself.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGY- Cartagena

Particular highlights include a collection of elephants' tusks with Phoenician inscriptions, unique in the world. Amphorae, lead ingots, anchors... even a life-size model of a Roman merchant ship. This is just a part of the collection on display in this museum dedicated to the exhibition of objects found in underwater archaeological excavations. The visit offers a journey through the history of maritime activities, trading and transportation, with particular emphasis on the Phoenician and Roman times. There is also an outstanding collection of seven scale models of ancient ships, and even an exact replica of a galley ship.

BULLFIGHTING MUSEUM- Murcia

For most of people, Bull fighting is the most fascinating landmark of Spain. Although Bull fighting is controversial tradition of Spain, even just to learn more about Spain culture, it truly is a spectacle.
Bull fighting is held at the Murcia bullring on Ronda de Garay in La Manga, the land that separates Mediterranean from Mar Menor. Viewing a bullfight in Murcia is one of many activities available when vacationing in La Manga.
To learn even more about the ancient tradition, visit the Bullfighting Museum of Murcia, located nearby. Its collection includes bullfighting posters, costumes and equipment. The museum also contains a library and video collection devoted to the sport. The museum has been in operation for nearly 90 years.

CHURCHES
MURCIA CATHEDRAL Murcia Cathedral has many Renaissance and Baroque elements, although its interior is fundamentally Gothic. Created in 1394 on the site of a former mosque. It was bishop Fernando de Pedrosa who placed the cornerstone. The façade is Baroque and was built according to design by Jaime Bort. It has a 95-metre tower that took more than two hundred years to build with the involvement of many different architects, of whom Ventura Rodríguez stands out especially. The interior is made up of three naves with an apse and twenty-three chapels. The chapels are dedicated to the patron saints of the labor unions and to the burials of the bishops and nobles that fomented or collaborated with the construction of the cathedral. Some chapels can be emphasized: those of Los Junterones and of Los Vélez is Hispanic- Flemish Gothic and the choir stalls. Los Vélez Chapel is Flamboyant Gothic and has a vaulted ceiling with star-shaped skylights, while Los Junterones Chapel is in Renaissance style. The architectural gradueur and profusion of works of art combine to make the Cathedral of Murcia into the monument par excellence of the City on the Segura.

LA VERA CRUZ SANCTUARY FORTRESS- Caravaca

It has Moorish origins and has undergone many transformations. Inside you can see the Santísima Vera Cruz de Caravaca. The Vera Cruz Sanctuary is outstanding for its Baroque façade, added in the 18th century and made from local marble. It is located within the walled enclosure of the Real Alcázar, which served as a fortress for the Temple and Santiago Orders alike. It now has 14 towers of different shapes and sizes.

THE COLLEGIATE CHURCH OF SAN PATRICIO- Lorca

The Collegiate Church of San Patricio is a Renaissance-style building situated on the Plaza de España. It was declared a National Historic-Artistic site by decree of January 27, 1941. The Collegiate is the only one in Spain which is under the patronage of St. Patrick. The dedication to the Irish saint, has its origins in the Battle of Alporchones, fought on March 17, 1452 (St. Patrick's Day) against people of the city of Granada. The church began construction in 1533 under Pope Clement VII on the spot of the old church of San Jorge. Construction, however, was delayed until 1704. The church features a baroque façade with Renaissance interiors.

FESTIVITIES

Cartagena’s and Lorca’s Holy Week’s processions have been declared of International Tourist Interest, together the Murcia's "Bando de la Huerta" and "Burial of the Sardine", included in its Spring Festivities. Murcia’s Holy Week is also interesting since its processions include Murcian sculptor Francisco Salzillo's statues. Cartagena’s main festivities are the Carthagineses y Romanos, re-enacting the Punic Wars. They all have been declared of National Tourist Interest.

SPRING FESTIVALS IN MURCIA

April sees some of the most important festivals of the region with week long colourful processions in Lorca, Cartagena and Murcia to mark Holy Week. After Holy Week comes the Fiestas de Primavera or Spring Festivals which celebrates nature's products and gives locals the opportunity to show off their regional clothes. The streets are full of locales in their embroidered skirts and zaragüelles trousers. It starts with a blessing to the patron of the city, the Virgin of Fuensanta, and is followed by a week of flamenco dancing, eating and parades of wildly adorned floats, stilt walkers and brass bands.
Possibly the most bizarre highlight of a festival though comes on the final Saturday with the El Entierro de la Sardina. This is a procession through the street where toys are distributed to the children and ends with an effigy of a giant sardine being burnt.

THE "ENTIERRO DE LA SARDINA" (BURIAL OF THE SARDINE)

The "Entierro de la Sardina" (Burial of the Sardine) is a flamboyant parade which normally closes the Carnival celebrations. In Murcia, this event stands out for certain characteristics that make it highly original. One thing that makes it unusual is the late date it is held, after the Easter celebrations - right at the end of the following week. These festivities date back to 1850, when a group of students decided to form an entourage presided over by a sardine, symbolising fasting and abstinence, to relive the fiesta celebrated at Carnival.
Thirty or so "sardinero" groups make up the enjoyable "Entierro de la Sardina" parade. These groups also liven up the city with street entertainment on the days before the parade. The night before, the Testament of Lady Sardine is read from the balcony of the town hall. It takes a humorous look at current political and social issues.
The following day is the big cavalcade, which has two different parts: the "cabecera", with "giants and big-heads", carnival groups and brass bands; and the floats, dedicated to the gods of Olympus, where thousands of toys are thrown out into the crowd. They all accompany the sardine to the place where it is burned, with a firework display and a huge people's fiesta that lasts into the early hours.

FESTIVAL OF THE HOLY CROSS

In the year 1231, when Caravaca figured prominently in the siege to the kingdom of Granada, the Moorish monarch Ceyt Abuceyt accompanied by all his court commanded the priest Father Gines Perez Chirinos to demonstrate his ecclesiastical activity. Just before the celebration of Mass, the priest realized that he forgot to ask for a crucifix which was an essential object to be placed on the altar. Having prayed to God for help, to the surprise of all present, there was the miraculous appearance of the double-arm cross, brought by two angels. This amazing apparition brought about the conversion of the Moorish king to Christianity. This appearance of the Cross is remembered by the people caravaqueño each year in acts that constitute a real festive tradition supported by a legend with historical foundation, recalled from the Middle Ages. Indeed, the May festivities in honor of the Blessed and Vera Cruz are a perfect combination of color, culture, religion and entertainment in which all citizens participate unconditionally, inviting visitors to share the celebrations.
On the second day of this 5 day fiesta, the race of the "Wine Horses" (Caballos de Vino) takes place where horses adorned with brightly embroidered coats are raced through the streets, although they have no riders. Instead two people lead the horse, one either side, as fast as they can up to the finishing point, the Castle de Santa Cruz, cheered on by the crowds. Dating back to 1250, this tradition is based on actual practice when the Templar Knights used to sneak across Moor territory to bring wine to the guarders of the True Cross (Vera Cruz).

THE BANDO DE LA HUERTA

The Bando de la Huerta is the name given to the great day of the celebrations of the city of Murcia , taking place on Easter Tuesday. It is part of the so-called Spring Festival, held the week after Easter . The day itself is an exaltation of huertanas traditions so closely linked to the history of city. The vast majority of Murcia will take to the streets all day, dressed in the local costume. In 2012 was declared International Tourist Interest Festivals .
The celebration begins with Mass Huertana against the Baroque facade of the cathedral, which is a colorful procession with the image of the Virgen de la Fuensanta, patron of the city. Meanwhile, parks and squares are being slowly invaded by the crowd, who wanders from side to side, tasting bars and rods in street (arranged for the occasion) the food typical of the area. Youngsters get together to make "botelleo" allowed on this day.
In the most important squares and gardens, every day of the Festival, the rocks huertanas installed the famous barracks, where traditional cuisine is offered Murcia, and folk performances are held recreate ancient dwellings and customs of the orchard. In an effort not to forget our past huertano have a role huertanas these rocks, significant names such as silk, the Tablacho, the Esparteña , the Zaragüel, the Azahar etc.

EASTER WEEK IN LORCA

The highlight of this Holy Week is its ostentatiousness.
This fiesta is also known as the 'Whites and the Blues'. Although there are other fraternities in Lorca, these two are the most important and there is a clear rivalry between them. The grand procession takes place in what is known as 'La Carrera'. There are people dressed as Roman emperors, Egyptian troops, Roman gods in heavy carriages, chariots and on horseback, and sculptures of virgins with rich embroidered robes, luxurious standards, and so on. The standard of the 'Prayer in the Garden' (white), better known as 'the floral cloth', is noteworthy. The most highly anticipated floats include Cleopatra, carried on the shoulders of Egyptian troops, or the Antichrist, with its demonic appearance. There are also chariot races. On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the town is a splash of colour, gold and sliver in a Baroque procession where the Brotherhood (white and blue) try to be the best. The Whites gather round the Virgin of the Affliction, while the patron saint of the Blues is the Virgin of the Suffering.
THREE CULTERES INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
Murcia's Three Cultures International Festival happens each May and was first organized with the intent of overcoming racism and xenophobia in the culture. The festival seeks to foster understanding and reconciliation between the three cultures that have cohabited the peninsula for centuries, if not millennia: Christians, Jews and Muslims. Each year, the festival celebrates these three cultures through music, exhibitions, symposiums and conferences.
FESTIVAL DEL CANTE DE LAS MINAS
During August (from the 2nd to the 11th) the Festival del Cante de las Minas gets underway in La Unión and comprises a competition where aspiring flamenco dancers and singers battle it out in the Public Market to win the coveted trophy. This has been declared a festival of International Tourist Interest.
CARTHAGINIANS AND ROMANS FIESTA
September is when Cartagena holds one of the biggest festivals of the region, The Carthaginians & Romans Fiesta which goes on for 4 days. Around the outskirts of the city Roman campsites are erected and hundreds of people dressed as either Roman soldiers, Cartaginians or barbarians and march through the streets, staging events.
FESTIVAL OF MOORS AND ROMANS
This is a great theatrical performance where the actors are archetypal Murcia locals themselves. The streets are used as stages to celebrate the patron saint of the town and to commemorate the times of the Reconquest.
Most of the acts take place in the Mediaeval Encampment in San Esteban garden. Although the festival runs over several days, the main events take place on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the town's Patron Saint Pilgrimage to the Virgin of Fuensanta.

Murcia has just over 170 km of coastline: coves and small beaches alternate with rocky shores and sheer, craggy cliffs. The Murcian littoral offers on the one hand unprotected shores with wild seas and on the other small coves with calm, placid waters. Sand-dunes, beaches, salt-water lagoons, mud-flats, the Murcian coastline includes numerous places of unquestionable interest to the naturalist. Not surprisingly many of these have been declared Protected Natural Areas, spots where even in our times you can find autoctonous species of flora and fauna, such as the Sabina mora, an autoctonous tree variety, or the fartet, a tiny, unique species of fish.
There are more than three hundred plant communities, of which three-quarters of them are covered by habitat types of European interest. These are submitted under the supervision of the Habitats Directive. Finally, there is a varied fauna, with over four hundred species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Specifically, birds represent three quarters, and are especially abundant in marine ecosystems.
There are fifty-two proposed SCI (Site of Community Importance), three of them in the marine environment (16% of the regional area), some in salt marsh and other with protected species. SPAs include twenty-two natural areas (18% of the regional area), with representative birds. The places are profuse in landscape interest and high environmental value. There are seven Regional Parks, eight Protected Landscapes, a Nature Reserve and three natural areas which are Protected Natural Areas.
The region of Murcia has 19 areas under different statutes of protection, representing 6% of its territory. One of the most important areas is:

The Sierra Espuña
It is located on the Baetic Cordillera within the basin of the Segura. This Regional park is centred around the 1,583m Sierra Espuña mountain. Sierra Espuña houses over 1.000 species of flora, almost 50% of the floristic diversity of Murcia, so their conservation is of great importance not only for the high number of existing species but also for their qualitative importance. Out of these species, more than 10% are contained in the ‘Regional catalog of endangered wild flora'. Besides, Sierra Espuña contains almost 20 species of plants unique to the Region of Murcia.

In order to protect these values, among other treasures, Sierra Espuña was declared Regional Park in 1992 and Site of Community Importance (SCI) in the regional territory in 2000. One programme in the area establishes the creation of the ‘Plan for the conservation and restoration of natural and cultural values of Sierra Espuña', which ensures the preservation of biodiversity and preserves ecosystems and species of high ecological value. Likewise, the basic strategy of management and conservation of species of flora in the park provides information on the most threatened species: location, ecological requirements, current status of their populations, degree of threat or detailed mapping, among others.

Cabo Cope-Puntas de Calnegre:
Another important natural resource is Cabo Cope-Puntas de Calnegre which lies between Águilas and Lorca, by the Mediterranean sea. Rare species of animals (Bonelli's eagle, Greek tortoise) and plants are threatened. It is a protected area. It is currently threatened by the proposed development of Marina de Cope. It is an area of 17km of unspoilt coastline along the bay of Mazarron. In 1992, the area was turned into a Natural Park and a Site of Community Importance due to the fact that the unique landscape creates very different and rich bio diverse habitats.
Among the wildlife that lives in the park are Moorish tortoise and Eagles which in Spain are considered endangered species. There are also Wild Boar and Fox and plenty of Rabbits. Furthermore among the reptiles to be found are Natterjack Toads and Iberian Skinks. In the skies above you may see Owls and Peregrine Falcons and along the coast itself Shearwaters and Shags.
Cerro de Cabezo Gordo:
Some other important resources in Murcia are the Cerro de Cabezo Gordo, there is the archaeological site of Sima de las Palomas, a cave where the second oldest human remains in the Iberian Peninsula were found. This area was declared a protected landscape in 1998, and the flora and fauna are very special to the area.
In 1990 an ecologist from the town climbed down into a number of caves in the Cabezo Gordo region. There he found a jawbone which belonged to a Neanderthal man. Over the next twelve years hundreds of pieces of hominid remains have been found in these caves. Many animal remains have also been discovered, including panthers, lions and even sharks.
La Muela y Cabo Tiñoso:
There is also a group of islands and islets on the Murcian Mediterranean which have a high ecological importance. La Muela y Cabo Tiñoso is a very beautiful national park. Some of the birds that are protected in the National park are the Eagle owl, Bonelli´s Eagle, Golden Eagle, Peregrine falcon, Red-billed chough and the Common kestrel. They are in danger of being wiped out due to the dangerous, overhead, power lines. Reptiles and plants are also protected there.
Espacios Abiertos e Islas del Mar Menor:
Mar Menor, a salty lagoon separated from the Mediterranean sea by a sand bar 22 km in length and with a variable width from 100 to 1200m. It has a surface area of nearly 170 km², a coastal length of 70 km, and warm and clear water with relatively high salinity, which does not exceed 7m in depth. It belongs to four municipalities including Cartagena. In 1994 it was included on the list of the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. It is also a one of the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) by the United Nations. Its five volcanic islands (Perdiguera, Mayor or del Barón, del Ciervo, Redonda and del Sujeto) just like the Carmolí and San Ginés mountains, the Hita and Amoladora beaches, the Lo Poyo salt marsh and the salt mines of Marchamalo are protected as well. The area is important for aquatic birds, Isla Grosa is the most important colony of Larus audouinii, in the world.

Salinas de Santa Pola:
South of Santa Pola (Alicante), on the Mediterranean coast. Here there are areas for watching birds of great ecological and recreational interest: flamingos, marbled teal, shelducks, and many others. There are observatories and organized activities to enable you to make the most of the natural features of Salinas de Santa Pola.

El Hondo:
El Hondo is a marshland of extraordinary importance, not only in Spain but in Europe. Many different types of birds can be seen from the observatories. El Hondo lagoon, which is only 6 metres above sea level, is an ecological niche of enormous interest, declared a Nature Reserve, where species such as the purple heron or the flamingo can be observed.
Sierra De La Pila Regional Park:
Regional Park Sierra de la Pila is situated between the towns of Jumilla, Abarán, Blanca, Molina de Segura and Fortuna. It has a total area of approximately 8,836 hectares. It has been proposed as an SCI (Site of Community Importance), and is also capable of being incorporated into the Natura 2000 network. Most of the park is designated as SPAs (Special Protection Area for birds) such as eagles, hawks and owls.

Isla de Tabarca:
The Island of Tabarca is the only uninhabited island in the Region of Valencia. Declared a Marine Nature Reserve, it is renowned for its great seafood and fish. Surrounded by crystalline waters packed with natural riches, which lap one of the beaches awarded the E.U.’s blue flag.

The Calblanque Regional Park:
The Calblanque Regional Park, which has been a Protected Natural Area since 1987 and Nature Reserve since 1992 makes for a great day out. It covers an area of 2400 hectares and has 13 kilometres of coastline. Within its boundaries is an awe inspiring collection of wonderful sand beaches, sandbanks, arid hills, cliff tops and salt flats all of great ecological value. Calblanque is also one of the top-favourite beaches for the Murcians. Thirteen kilometres of quiet coves, sandy beaches and rare fossilized dunes are set against a backdrop of pine forest and craggy hills, criss-crossed with excellent walking trails that offer beautiful panoramas at every turn. Salt lagoons attract a wealth of bird life, while the cliffs and hills are home to several unusual species of flora and fauna. The beaches are one of the main attractions - the most popular being Playa Calblanque, Playa Larga and Playa de las Cañas. Calblanque has a wide variety of wildlife and you may get to see an endangered species which survives in the area - the sea turtle and other rare species which include the eagle owl. It has been a protected natural area since 1987 and a nature reserve since 1992.
Carrascoy Regional Park:
An abrupt landscape with marked slopes, tree-lined avenues, and ravines. Vegetation of special interest includes the aleppo pine forests with an undergrowth of dwarf palms, perennial gramineae, mastic and kermes oaks. In the sunny areas, you can find thyme, rosemary, esparto grass and other vegetation typical of Mediterranean scrubland. The vegetation changes to other species alongside the streams, with reeds and oleander. It is interesting to note that this park has sixteen different flora species listed, that are protected on a regional level. A typical reptile is the striped necked terrapin. Five species of bats are found in this park and some easy to recognise birds of prey, namely the booted eagle, the kestrel, and the eagle owl. It has been a protected area since 1917 and was declared a regional park in 1992.

The El Valle Natural Park:

The El Valle Natural Park is east of the city of Murcia. It covers an area in excess of 16000 hectares and reaches heights of 1000 meters. It has been a protected area since 1917 and was given regional park status in 1992. The park has an abundance of fauna and flora and includes such things as the natterjack toad, Montpellier snake, striped necked terrapin, red squirrels and wild boar. Sparrow hawks and Golden eagles can also be seen gliding through the skies. Over 600 species of plants can be found here including Aleppo Pine, Evergreen Oak and Rosemary, Thyme, Esparto Grass and Oleanders.

Humedal del Ajauque and Rambla Salada:
This protected landscape has a surface area of over 1600 hectares. It starts in Baños de Fortuna (is famous for the abundance of its hot springs. Water, scarce in this area, flows freely in Fortuna, giving rise to a number of fountains such as la Higuera, la Cueva Negra or los Baños). There is a wide variety of animal life as follows: Mallards, grey herons, Kentish plover, black-winged stilt, black-necked grebe, shoveler, reed warbler, great reed warbler, reed bunting, chiffchaff, bluethroat, Cetti"s warbler, serin, cattle egret, crested lark, stone curlew, spectacled warbler. Montagu"s harrier, stonechat, fan-tailed warbler, great tits, long-tailed tits, short-toed eagle, Iberian pool frogs, mosquito fish, carp, natterjack toad, red-tailed spiny footed lizard, Hares, Spanish shrews and weasels.
Cañón de Almadenes:
Cañon de Almadenes is a rich biodiversity in terms of flora because we can find poplar, ash and willows, and secondly where we highlight special wildlife with owls, short-toed eagle and even otters.

MAJOR TOURIST DESTINATIONS

Murcia
Is the capital city and offers the facilities, equipment and services of a large city. Murcia's sights include a very tall belfry and its famous Cathedral. The building was started in the fourteenth Century (1394) and was constructed in several phases by different architects. The cathedral is a good example of the use of various styles of architecture: the tower which is 300 feet high is a combination of Tuscan and Baroque architecture. The main entrance, called “Puerta del perdon”, the north door, “Portada de las cadenzas” and the “Portada de los apostoles” lead you into the impressive capilla mayor decorated with lots of gold.
The cathedral can be visited daily between 10.00 – 13.00 and 17.00 – 19.00 hour.

Another important building that you have to visit during your holidays in Murcia is The Casino, which dates from 1847 and different architects spent about 50 years on the construction. The Casino is not a casino as we know it; it has a lot of different functions like a library, congress-room and art-gallery. Very impressive is the ballroom (see photograph) which was built between 1870 and 1875.
Opening Time: 11.30 am to 9.00 pm
Entrance Prices: 5 Euros Standard - 4 Euros retired

The Convent of San Esteban (16th century), today the seat of the Regional Government, was the first Jesuit school in Spain, and its church, which serves as a secular building today, houses magnificent temporary exhibitions within a unique setting.

The Salzillo Museum is a building which was founded in 1941 and exhibits currently the work of the famous Spanish sculptor Salzillo Alcaraz (1707-1783). His work shows his passion for religion.

Opening Time
-WINTER
Monday – Saturday from 10am to 5pm
Sunday from 11am to 2pm
-SUMMER (From 15th June to 15th September)
Monday-Friday from 10am to 2pm
Saturday and Sunday – CLOSED

Entrance Prices
Individual » 5 euros
Reduced* » 4 euros
Groups (min. 20 people) » 3 euros/person
*Reduced: students, unemployed, retired, disabled and families.

Cartagena
This is the region's second largest city and one of the main Spanish naval bases. It’s a three thousand years old city with a rich past. Started as settlement, it is in 223 B.C. founded by the Carthaginians as “Quart Hadas”. Then the Romans came for five hundred years during which the city was in making as commercial center. After the Romans were chased, the city was successively ruled by the Byzantinians, the Arabs and the Castilians. During this period the city declined. Only in the eighteenth Century the city started flourishing. The port of Cartagena is already for more than two thousand years a considerably strategic point. Admiral Nelson praised the port as one of the safest of the Mediterranean Sea. Even nowadays the port of Cartagena is the naval Port of Spain and is also seen as one of the most beautiful natural ports in the world. The city has a lot of archaeological sites but the most important is The Roman Theatre dates from the first century B.C. and is seen as one of the most important Roman theatres of Spain. The theatre was discovered in 1987 and the excavations are being proceeded with until this day. The theatre can be daily visited (a guided tour is possible).
Museum and Roman Theatre
Individual: 6 Euros
Reduced: 5 Euros
School: 3 Euros

Roman Theatre (for groups)
Groups: 3 Euros
School groups: 2 Euros
* Reduced: Youth Card, students, unemployed, retired, disabled, families and groups over 20 people

VISITING HOURS
-Winter season: 1st of October to 30st of April (Easter is not included)
Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 18:00 h.
Sunday 10:00 to 14:00 h
Monday closed.

- Summer season: 1st of May to 30st of September (Easter included)
Tuesday to Saturday de 10:00-20:00
Sunday 10:00 to 14:00 h
Monday closed.
The National archeological naval museum opened in 1982 at the same time with the National center for archaeological underwater investigations. The visit offers a journey through the history of maritime activities, trading and transportation, with particular emphasis on the Phoenician and Roman times. There is also an outstanding collection of seven scale models of ancient ships, and even an exact replica of a galley ship.
>Prices
General: €3
Reduced: €1,5
Admission free

Lorca
It is a large medieval town at the foothills of where its famous Castle of Lorca stands. It is a medieval town built in the shadow of the Islamic fortress; it has many beautiful building of architectural interest as well as many fabulous shops. Lorca is known for its fine buildings and one of the most interesting is the Town Hall. It started off as a prison in 1678 and fifty years later it was enlarged. The interior was remodeled in the 20th Century and contains paintings by local artists.

Caravaca de la Cruz
It is a beautiful medieval (12th and 13th century) town, with many historic, traditional properties alongside the narrow roads that lead up to the Sanctuary Vera Cruz.
The Legend says that in the year 1231 the Moorish monarch accompanied by all his court, commanded the priest Father Gines Perez Chirinos to demonstrate his ecclesiastical activity. Just before the celebration of Mass, the priest realized that he forgot to ask for a crucifix which was an essential object to be placed on the altar. Having prayed to God for help, to the surprise of all present, there was the miraculous appearance of the double-arm cross, brought by two angels. The town has been declared by the Vatican as one of the world’s five Holy Cities, along with Rome and Jerusalem and is a fascinating place to visit. Since 1998, Caravaca shares a permanent Jubilee Year with Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Santo Toribio of Liebana. The Municipal Archaeological Museum is found in what used to be the Church of Our Lady of Solitude with its arched columns.

Los Alcazares
A seaside town with calm warm waters and sandy beaches where the fine sandy stretches for many miles and it is possible to walk from one end of the Los Alcazares to the other along the promenade. The beaches are lined with sun beds & parasols, bars and restaurants and is a great place to spend the day. Just a short walk inland leads you into the town centre area of Los Alcazares. Along the beach you will find water sports centres offering a range of sports including pedalos and jet skis. The Autocine is an open air cinema where you can watch the latest Spanish film alfresco style and also hosts market days on Saturday and Sunday mornings. As well as enjoying the marvelous sea promenade, we can also admire the Tower of El Ramé (16th century), the Municipal Aeronautical Museum and the Hotel Spa of La Encarnación (19th century), which is equipped with a peculiar thermal system.

Mar Menor & La Manga
The Region of Murcia lies has 170 km of coastline which are part of the Costa Cálida or Warm Coast, which faces the Mediterranean Sea. A long, thin strip of land called La Manga -literally meaning the sleeve - separates the Mediterranean from the Mar Menor, which is Europe´s largest salt water lagoon. The actual entrance of the Manga strip starts at the lighthouse called Cabo de Palos; this is a charming port area situated as you first approach the strip. There you can observe the fishermen preparing the boats in this charming location, then later on sample there fresh catch of fish at one of the many restaurants overlooking the sea. Now a days the place basically lives on tourism that feeds its beaches during the whole year thanks to its warm climate, and it forms part of the Estación Náutica Mar Menor, which secures and offers the visitor sports activities, most specially sailing because of the Mar Menor’s excellent condition for this practice. The Nautical Centre offers lovers of water sports, in fact, all types of visitor, a diverse range of activities and facilities that are perfectly coordinated and specially designed for you to enjoy a pleasant stay. The centre provides more than 20 nautical bases for those who wish to learn, improve or simply have fun sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, jet skiing or scuba diving. Package holidays include chosen accommodation and nautical activity in any of the schools, together with the possibility of hiring equipment.
The Mar Menor Nautical Centre offers:
Nautical Christenings: a first-time experience in any of the nautical activities.
Courses: for beginners, those with some experience and experts.
Nautical activities: We provide the necessary equipment. Cruises. Scuba diving. Canoeing. Jet skiing. Sailing.
La Manga has become one of the most important resort areas; here you can find the famed La Manga Club - an exclusive all-round sport and leisure centre. If you want to learn how to play golf or improve your skills, La Manga Club is just the right place as well. The golf academy provides group and private tuition of the highest standards for all levels, from complete beginners to the most experienced players, as well as special junior golf academy courses for children and teens. Offers also SPA, Restaurants, Golf courses, lot of different kind of sports and different kind of accommodation, like Hotels, Villas and Villages.

THE CASTLES ITINERARY

The interior of the region of Murcia has plenty of castles and fortifications showing the importance of these frontier lands between the Christian Castile and the Muslim Andalusia. They include:

Castle of Jumilla
It’s a former Roman fortification turned by the Moors into an Alcazaba. The Castilian Kings and the marquis of Villena gave it its appearance of Gothic royal residence.

Castle of Moratalla
It’s one of the largest castles of the province, built to defend the town of Moratalla from the invaders from the nearby Muslim Kingdom of Granada.

Castle of Mula
Of Muslim origin, but as with many castles, eventually restored and renovated.

Castle of Lorca
Also known as the Fortress of the Sun, it is a 13th-century castle located in a strategic position overlooking the city. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista. It has a long, narrow shape with a polygonal floor plan and is divided into three areas, one of which contains the rectangular Alfonsí Tower, with three sections covered by Gothic vaulted ceilings. This tower was rebuilt in the 15th century. The castle has been restored as a themed area dedicated to visitors and to the interpretation of heritage, under the name of the Fortress of the Sun. This initiative has earned Lorca a place on the shortlist of the European Commission's EDEN programme (European Destinations of Excellence), in recognition of its sustainable tourism proposal.
Prices: General: €5 - Reduced: €4

Real Alcázar of Caravaca de la Cruz
Here the Holy sanctuary was built, also of Moorish origin, then conquered by the Christians and finally home of several noble families.

Concepción Castle
It’s build on one of the five hills of the old Carthagena, following the Roman taste. Now is home of the Centre for the Interpretation of Cartagena's History.

DIFFERENT KIND OF ACCOMMODATIONS
Inner lands of the region offer a number of rural accommodations and facilities, where visitors can engage in activities related to excursions, day trips, sports, sightseeing. For example:
-Hotel
-Hostal
-Rural Hotel/House
-Rambling House
-Charm Hotel
-Cottage, is usually a modest building in a rural or semi-rural location
-Farmhouse, a type of building or house which serves a residential purpose in a rural or agricultural setting. Most often, the surrounding environment will be a farm
-Resort, a place used for relaxation or recreation, attracting visitors for holidays or vacations. Resorts are places, towns or sometimes commercial establishment operated by a single company.
-State Run-Hotel or Paradores, are a kind of luxury hotel, usually located in a historic building such as a monastery or castle. Remark the magnificent Parador of Lorca located within the ancient Castle of Lorca, a meeting point of three cultures (Islamic, Jewish and Christian). The Parador is newly-built on a vast archaeological site, which was discovered during the preparatory excavations for the construction. The archaeological site is partially embedded in the building, while another part lies outside the building's walls. The Parador has a splendid restaurant, bar, meeting centre and plenty of parking. Prices may vary depending on the treatment and holiday’s length.

SAFETY
Taking into account the importance that tourism has in Spain, the security of the tourists is a true priority for the country. However, some general recommendations are given to the visitors like carrying the required money when going out and not the total amount taken for the holidays, also precautions need to be taken in busy places to prevent possible thefts.

VISA
The European Union tourists do not need a visa to enter Spain. Neither those citizens of the United States, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and the rest of the Latin American countries, though a return ticket must be bought. Tourists from other parts of the World do not need a visa providing that they do not stay longer than 90 days in Spain.

HEALTH CARE SERVICES
The health care services in Murcia, as well as in all Spain, offer a permanent health assistance to all the population. These services give a direct and comfortable care to the user. Spain has signed a reciprocal health assistance agreement with the rest of the countries of the European Union in order to provide health care to all the EU tourists just showing an E-111 document. This document must be done before travelling.

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