The long stripe of the Costa Blanca (White Coast) is one of Europe’s most heavily visited areas. If you’re after a secluded midsummer beach, stay away – or head inland to enjoy traditional villages and towns that have scarcely heard the word tourism. Then again, if you’re looking for a lively social scene, good beaches and a suntan… It isn’t all concrete and package deals.
Pinched between the more-trodden beaches of Almería to the south and the heaving resorts of Valencia’s Costa Blanca to the north, Murcia is one of Spain’s least visited and, the peninsula of La Manga apart, least touristy corners. Its name derives from the Latin murtae (mulberry).
Around Murcia City
The Murcia region offers a tantalising choice of landscapes and sights, ranging from the chill-out beaches of the Costa Cálida to the medieval magic of its towns and a wealth of reminders of the Roman Empire. To appreciate fully the unspoiled hinterland, you will need your own wheels.
Thanks to the nearby airport and proximity to a large number of major beach-resort towns, Alicante (Valenciano: Alacant) has been tarred with something of a tacky package-tour reputation. In reality, though, this is a dynamic, attractive provincial city that lives for much more than just tourism.
Inland from the Costa Blanca
The borderline between the holiday costa and the interior is, perhaps appropriately, a motorway. Venture away from the Med, west of the AP7, to find yourself in a different, truly Spanish world. By far the easiest way to explore this hinterland is with your own transport.
Officially twinned with Miami, Murcia is the antithesis of the city of vice; it’s a laid-back provincial capital that comes alive during the weekend paseo (stroll). Bypassed by most tourists and treated as a country cousin by too many Spaniards, the city nevertheless more than merits a visit. In AD 825 Muslims moved into the former Roman colony and renamed it ‘Mursiya’.
Torrevieja, set on a wide coastal plain between two lagoons, one pink, one emerald, is a through and through resort town. There is also a very large, mainly British, expat population. The beaches are good and in summer the nightlife fairly busy, but the town itself has no real soul or character. Sea-salt production remains an important element of its economy.
Precisely 23km southwest of Alicante, Elche (Valenciano: Elx) is split by the channelled trickle of Río Vinalopó. It’s a Unesco World Heritage site twice over: for the Misteri d’Elx, its annual mystery play, and for its extensive palm groves, Europe’s largest, planted by the Phoenecians and extended by the Arabs.