I’m hoping that if you’re reading this, you’re a soon-to-be expat in Murcia, Spain. You’re planning all of the details of your visa paperwork, starting to check out flats on Milanuncios, sifting through posts on the Facebook group for auxiliares in Murcia and thinking about all of the traveling you’ll do while living in Spain.
Before you get too excited about hitting the capital of Madrid, the the northern coast and international vacations… take a minute to look forward to Murcia. Not just the capital city, imagining yourself rolling Spanish cigarettes and sipping cañas after work, participating in the fiesta “Bando de la Huerta” and finding your favorite bar for tapas… but get excited about the gems you can reach outside of the capital – which don’t require a plane.
I never found a list like this before I came to Murcia, so every one of these trips was very spur-of-the-moment. I didn’t really have to do much research. Adventurous expat counterparts and local friends would mention a place and say ‘you should visit here before you leave’. I wish I had accomplished this with more locations, but I spent valuable time getting comfortable in Murcia and when I needed a day to breathe and switch up the views, I tagged along with friends or caught a train alone to one of these small escapes.
Elche is a small city near Alicante, which can be reached by train for about 8 euros round trip. Elche is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palmeral de Elche. In other words, a palm tree grove with countless varieties dating back to the 8th century. There are several park-like areas filled with these beauties that you can wander through in the shade and marvel at.
When you’re finished getting in touch with nature, check out the cute town of Elche. There’s a beautiful church, of course, and countless cafes to grab lunch at. The town wasn’t too exciting, especially when you’re there during siesta, but it’s quite charming and a nice getaway from the big city of Murcia. Oh, and those gorgeous mountain views on the train never get old, especially if you return to Murcia at sunset!
Cartegena is another city in the region of Murcia, about an hour by bus. Located on the water, there are great beaches as well as a small city filled with restaurants, bars and shops. I visited the main area of Cartegena as well as a small cape called Cabo de Palos, which was super picturesque with it’s marina and restaurants right on the water. The two beaches I visited, which I would highly recommend are Cala Cortina and Calbanque. Cala Cortina can be reached with a 5-10 minute taxi ride from the center of Cartagena. This beautiful cove has a small restaurant next to it, perfect for sipping a cafe solo and watching the waves. Calblanque probably requires a car to be reached, and is surrounded by hik-able hills and appears virtually untouched. It’s a larger beach where you’ll likely only encounter several other people sunbathing and swimming.
3. Cieza for the Floracion
Every year in the Spring, for about a month, the ‘floracion’ occurs, primarily in Cieza, Spain. The floracion or ‘flowering’ occurs in the spring, approximately between mid February and mid March when fields of soon-to-be peach trees bloom intense shades of purple-y pink magic.
There are particular routes one can drive to experience the best viewpoints. From a distance, the perfect square-shaped patches of color look almost artificial. Upon walking through the orchards, you’ll see that these are, in fact a real gift bestowed upon Murcianos from mother nature.
For more information on the floracion: http://floracioncieza.es/
Jumilla is a sub-region of Murcia that is famous for it’s terrific bodegas. There are many vineyards and wineries you can visit for tastings, purchases and events. A few friends and I rented a car and drove a little over an hour from the capital to check out one bodega in particular, Casa Hermita.
Every wine we tried was delicious and we all left with at least one or two bottles. Casa Hermita also shares it’s space with one of my favorite Spanish craft breweries, Yakka. Yakka offers tours about once a month, so naturally killing two birds with one bottle is a no brainer here. Note that you may need to make a reservation in advance. If you’re a serious wino, you may want to plan a longer trip along the ‘Jumilla wine route’ to taste from more than bodega.
If you have time, check out town of Jumilla. We visited for lunch at La Macarena Bar de Vinos and enjoyed some wild tapas. To our surprise, there were some interesting Asian culinary trends incorporated into their menu, such as bao buns holding sashimi tuna! We also would recommend trying the ‘queso explosivo’ – fried mozzarella cubes coated in Pop Rocks. Yes, it is that strange and yes, it is worth trying!
For more information on Casa Hermita: http://www.casadelaermita.com/en/casa-ermita-english/
For more information on the Jumilla wine route: http://rutadelvinojumilla.com/
For more information on Yakka Cerveza: http://www.cervezasyakka.com/
5. Aguilas for Carnival
I’ve written a post on Carnival prior to this, discussing the infamous Spanish party. It’s particularly famous in Aguilas, about an hour by bus from the city center. While you can take a train as well, especially for the all-night festivities, I would recommend heading there early in the afternoon to see the town and the beautiful beach. There are plenty of restaurants with Mediterranean views where you can sip Americanos or cervezas, gazing at sailboats passing through and enjoying the calm before the storm.