The autonomous community of Murcia is Spain’s largest ‘one province’ community. Situated in the south-east of the country, it can be divided into very differing geographical areas. The largest river of the region, the Segura, acts as the main source of irrigation for Murcia’s best farming lands, the fertile plains, or huerta, but other parts of the province experience serious drought conditions; there is an annual rainfall of less than 300 mm.
The highest points of Murcia can mostly be found in the Parque Natural de Sierra Espuña and the Revolcadores Massif, with some impressive pine forests. The other main point of interest geographically is the impressive Mar Menor, a 65 square mile salt water lagoon separated from the Mediterranean by the long strip of La Manga. The 177 mile coastline known as the Costa Cálida, although becoming more popular recently, is still nowhere near as developed as some of the other southern Spanish costas.
Getting to Murcia
Things to See & Do
History of the Murcia Region
The Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Carthaginians all settled in Murcia at different times although there are cave paintings near Cieza, Jumilla and Moratalla which indicate a heritage even older than those. The Carthaginians established a permanent trading post on the coast which later became Carthago Nova under the Romans, who first fully established the region. The Arabs, under the control of Abdelaziz, seized the area in 713 after a battle at Cartagena bringing with them their systems of irrigation to enable the previously barren land to be farmed. After their defeat at the hands of Alfonso X in 1243 the region lost much of its significance and, indeed, much of its territory, which was annexed by its more powerful neighbours. It was in the 18th century that the city of Murcia and the province as a whole found their most glorious times, thanks mainly to the silk industry that developed there. The name Murcia itself is derived from the Latin word for mulberry, murtae, the tree that fed the silkworms in the region for hundreds of years.
Map of Murcia
The majority of Murcia experiences a Mediterranean-type climate of hot summers and mild winters. With about 2,800 hours of sunshine each year, the average annual temperature is 18°C. Apparently the official highest 20th Century temperature in Spain was recorded in Murcia in July, 1994 – a mere 47.2°C. The differences in temperature between the coast and the inland regions are much more pronounced in the winter with temperatures seldom falling below 10° on the coast but being much cooler in the mountains inland.
Generally, there is very little rainfall in the region, with hardly any in the summer period. In the coastal areas there are few days of rain throughout the year but the majority of the precipitation will fall in spring and autumn and is often concentrated into a few very wet days. The coast experiences about 300 mm of rainfall annually but the mountain areas can expect about twice this amount.
Murcia’s economy is very dependent on both agriculture and tourism. Oranges, lemons, grapes, tomatoes and lettuces are grown in abundance here and, largely thanks initially to the development of the La Manga Resort Club and other golf resorts, the area’s touristic appeal has increased dramatically during the last two decades. The economy of the region has undoubtedly benefitted from the numbers of Northern Europeans who now have homes here – either permanently or as holiday accommodation.
Although most of the population speak standard Castilian Spanish some of the isolated rural areas still have speakers of the old dialect known as Panocho, which has vocabulary more or less straight from the Arabic.