Autonomous Community Spotlight: Murcia

Not one to make travel goals, I did make one when coming to Spain: visit all 17 autonomous communities at least once before going home. While Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are the stars of the tourist dollar show (and my hard-earned euros, let’s not kid around here), I am a champion for Spain’s little-known towns and regions. Having a global view of this country has come through living in Andalucía, working in Galicia and studying in Castilla y León, plus extensive travel throughout Spain.

spain collage

 The ride out to Murcia is a long one – close to six hours and all across Andalucía – and it took me five years in Spain to make it there. Taking advantage of the Novio’s training course in Cartagena, I braved a six-hour solo bus ride back to be able to tick this far-flung region off of my list. Wedged between Andalucía, Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha and with poor connections to larger cities, Murcia is often an afterthought for tourists.

Name: Murcia

Population: 1.4 million, nearly a third of whom live in Murcia capital

Provinces: Just one, with the administrative capital located in the city of the same name.

When: 16th of 17, May 2012






About La Región de Murcia: The Carthaginians put the region on the map, founding the city of Cartagena, which would become a strategic naval city and home to the production of the world’s first submarine. Known as Cartago Novo, the city’s influence diminished under the Roman occupation of Iberia before the Moors introduced large-scale irrigation.

Nowadays, Murcia has more than earned the moniker of Spain’s Fruitbasket (La Cesta de España), due to its high production of fruits and vegetables.

Once the caliphate of Córdoba fell in the 11th Century, Murcia – then called Todmir – became an independent taïfa, or self-governing state. A century later, the Moorish king surrendered the area to Ferdinand III, making Murcia a part of the Castillian kingdom and therefore protected from the Moors in Granada and the Aragoneses. In turn, Castilla has a Mediterranean port.

Murcia cathedral

Still, this treaty was not met without strife, and small battles broke out between the descendents of the Moors, mudéjares, and Christians. At the end of the 13th Century, revolt had been squashed by Jaime of Aragón, and he took possession of the Kingdom of Murcia. Oh, but then the Black Plague reached Spanish shores, but thanks to Castilla and Aragón uniting under the matirmony of the Catholic Kings, population – as well as agriculture and ship building – again surged.

The Rennaisance, Golden Age and Baroque periods were relatively peaceful, and arts and sciences flourished. After the Guerra de Independencia and a heavy favor towards Madrid, Murcia became an independent region, encompassing parts of Albacete, Almería and Alicante, and finally an autonomous community in 1982 under the current constitution.

Even today in Spain, it’s widely unknown and thus a budget traveler’s dream (and you get free tapas in many cities!).

Must-sees: Murcia capital is a bustling university city and Spain’s seventh largest urban area. It has Moorish and Baroque flavor, a tangle of lovely streets and plazas and braised octopus dishes on offer in its bars. 

Wine Tasing in Jumilla

Winos will appreciate the region’s budding wine industry, which shares a DO with Madrid. Jumilla, Yecla and Bullas feature family-run bodegas with cheap and plentiful tastings.

Tourism in Murcia is largely outdoor draws – the Costa Cálida and its beaches, golf resorts, hiking and the Vía Verde. 

Holy Week processions in the capital and Carnaval festivities are huge draws for tourists, particularly in coastal Águilas. The Veracruz de Caravaca also highlights the skirmishes between the Moors and Christians during the Reconquist. And, who wouldn’t want to see the birthplace of Charo?!

My take:  Should Murcia be on your must-see list while visiting Spain? That depends.


If you’re looking for monumental Spain, this is not it: a handful of crumbling castles dot the landscape and Murcia’s university presence runs deep, but Murcia is most attractive for its cheap and unspoilt resorts and low cost of living. Still, I’d like to see more of the region and eat more baked octopus!

Have you ever traveled around the Murcia province? What do you like (or not) about it?

Want more Spain? Andalucía | Aragón | Asturias | Islas Baleares | Islas Canarias | Cantabria | Castilla y León | Castilla-La Mancha | Cataluña | Extremadura | Galicia | La Rioja | Madrid

Murcia via Instagram

Lorca Castle

Liz of Young Adventuress recently tweeted, Am I the only one who doesn’t used what’s app or instagram? In short, yes. Social media has been taking its toll on my love life recently, as my boyfriend walks away from me any time I whip out my little htc hot mess of a phone (since my nice one was stolen in January). I squealed with delight when instagram became available for Androids just before Feria last month, and used the looooooong car ride from Sevilla to Murcia – last weekend’s destination – as a way to test it out. In short – I’m in love. While I preferred Pudding Camera for its crazy settings, Instagram’s ease with social media make it a bit more of a winner in my humble, html-challenged mind.

Nearing our final destination…

The Novio’s job takes him this week to Murcia, a strange, moon-like crater that anchors down the southeast corner of the peninsula. While I’d had little desire to ever travel there, I had a (nearly) free ride and a place to stay, so I jumped at the chance. We pulled up to Cartagena, a town rich in military history (and home to the first self-propelled submarine, who knew!) shortly after 9pm. The journey had been long, with bouts of natural beauty through the Sierra de Huétor and the green, green plains that run along its backside towards the coast.

Cartagena’s port stood quiet and still on a Friday evening, and even the Calle Mayor was lifeless. Our quick dinner of beer and ensaladilla was met with a good night’s sleep before we headed out the following day for Jumilla.

Souvenir shop in Cartagena, right off the dock

Murcia has few claims to Spain, apart from a few big cities, a bunch of expat enclaves and wine. Jumilla, a sleepy town that nearly reaches the border of Valencia, is home to several wineries, and I was dying to tour one. I had gotten in contact with Bodegas Silvano García, who graciously offered us a tour of their small, family-run bodega and a full cata de vino for only 5€. Even Mr. Grumpy, who wasn’t keen on making the drive, enjoyed himself and pumped some (grape-flavored) fuel back into the economy.

wine tasting at Bodegas Silvano García

Later that day, we headed down the coast to Águilas, where his Aunt Laura and her family live. The day was cool and drizzly, but the sound of the waves and the smell of salt somehow always makes me feel like Spain was a good, good choice. The day was far less than perfect, which made me eager to get on to Murcia.

Águilas beach

Finally, a sunny day. After a quick trip to the ER and our Sunday churros routine, The Novio and I wandered the central heart of Murcia. It was Mother’s Day, so people were overflowing the terraces in the square at the foot of the cathedral.

“Let’s go in,” I told The Novio, Camarón finally unglued from my face. The salmon and cobalt hues of the building were inviting, and I had a feeling of who I might find in the cathedral: St. Lucy, the eyeless one I chose for my confirmation name. Little known fact about me: I always add to the donation box when I find her in churches by surprise.

of course it’s sunny the day I have a seve´-hour bus ride to look forward to

We met Paco and Inma, two of his coworkers, in Plaza de Santa Catalina. Paco is from Murcia and invited us to have lunch with him and his brother, so we squeezed into the corner of El Pulpito, awash with cool grey tones and smelling of seafood. Carmen’s mother had told me to try pulpo al horno, an octopus that’s been baked, and I was not disappointed. The caldera de arroz, stuffed clams, ensaladilla and cold beer did not disappoint, either.

murcia’s finest: pulpo al horno

I was the bus a few hours later, crammed into a window seat. I watched the craters of Murcia eventually return to the flatness of the plain where Seville sits. I can’t say Murcia is my favorite part of Spain, or that I’d ever be willing to make the seven-hour bus ride happen again. Yet, somehow, I don’t feel like I got to see all it really has to offer. My Instagram photos reveal little more than the day’s main events (I let Camarón have all of the glory, afterall), but I’m anxious to see more – and, let’s face it – eat more octopus.

Have you ever been to Murcia? What were your impressions of it? Any place in Spain you’ve never been that you’d be willing to go if you had a free ride out there? And if you’re on instagram, let’s follow! I’m found at sunshinesiestas.

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