sunset over the town of caravaca
Sunset at Caravaca de la Cruz

Five Days in Murcia, Spain

Murcia, a beautiful, charming, and underrated region of Spain. If you’re looking for a hidden gem, somewhere away from the overcrowded tourist areas of Spain, this might be the place for you.

Back in November 2016, I spent five days in the Murcia region of Spain where I found it to be a diverse region for sun and beach holidays, food and wine, culture and shopping, and plenty of stunning scenery.

Here’s the five-day journal of how I spent my time in Murcia, Spain.

Sunset in the background over the sea and coastline, there is heather in foreground.
The sunset in Murcia region of Spain

Day 1 – Travel to Murcia

It was an early flight from Birmingham to Alicante (ALC) but thankfully with Birmingham International (BHX) being a local airport to me it really wasn’t too long a journey. Once we had arrived in Spain we made the 1-hour car journey down to the Mar Menor coast of Murcia

Mar Menor is a coastal saltwater lagoon on the east coast of Murcia with a high level of salinity and low waves so not only is it picturesque but it’s also great for water sports.

Mar Menor salt flats
Mar Menor salt flats
Still lake with a single white flamingo standing in the middle
White flamingo in Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar
The sky is reflected in the still water
Salt reflections in Murcia

There we checked out white flamingoes on the Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar, which is a protected wetlands area with salt flats. It was pretty quiet at this time of year but I can imagine it’s super popular in the summertime. There’s even an area where visitors can take a mud bath in the mineral-rich ponds!

Spanish first aid building
Spanish first aid building

For lunch, we visited the Miramar restaurant at Cabo de Palos, a harbour area that doesn’t actually host any hotels as such so it has a charming local vibe. Our lunch was delicious and possibly my favourite food of the entire trip.

Murcian salad of tomatoes, eggs, olives
Murcian salad of tuna, tomatoes, eggs, olives
Bowl on the table with mixture of seafood
Murcian seafood
Murcian rice dish in a large pot
Murcian rice dish

We tried traditional Murcian salad, a mixture of tomatoes, tuna, olives, egg, and olive oil. We also ate grilled cheese, seafood, fresh bread, and another local specialty including slow-cooked fish and rice. It was rich, creamy, fresh, and unlike anything else, I had tried before.

After an epic 3-hour lunch we took a walk along the nearby cliffs as the sun set over the horizon making for some rather special photo moments.

Lighthouse in Murcia as the sun is setting with woman wearing wooly hat smiling in the foreground
Lighthouse in Murcia
Lighthouse at Cabo de Palos
Lighthouse at Cabo de Palos
Epic sunset at Cabo de Palos
Epic sunset at Cabo de Palos

We happened to be there on a rather windy day so I was wrapped up in my ‘English weather’ clothes of wooly hat and scarf as we battled the high winds to get around the cliffs. But it was totally worth it. At the end of our walk, we found a striking 18th-century lighthouse looking rather majestic against the red and purple sunset sky.

That evening we drove over to Cartegena to stay at the Hotel NH Cartegena, ready for our walking tour the next day.

Day 2 – Cartegena to Aguilas

We were up bright and early for a guided walking tour around Cartegena, a historically significant city with a natural harbour. It has been home to Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, and Byzantine civilizations over the last 2000 years.

Roman Theatre Cartegena
Roman Theatre Cartegena

The Roman Theatre was a fascinating sight to behold as Roman ruins. It was only discovered as recently as 1988 and it took until 2008 until it was fully opened as an attraction.

Roman mosaics in Cartegena
Roman mosaics in Cartegena

We also visited the Roman baths and even watched as archeologists continued their excavation work. Cartegena is home to extensive Roman ruins still to be discovered and excavated.

Cartegena Town Hall, Murcia
Cartegena Town Hall, Murcia

After a short walk enjoying some of the Baroque architecture we hopped back in the car and headed down the coast to the beach-side resort of Águilas.

We checked into Hotel Puerto Juan Montiel, one of only three hotels in this town, before heading out to join our tapas tour.

Rooftops of Aguilas, Murcia
Rooftops of Aguilas, Murcia

The tapas tour took us to three different tapas restaurants in the city of Aguilas, where we sampled a range of delicacies from octopus tentacle to tuna tartare, and homemade potato crisps to pork lollipops, Russian salad, and classic croquettes.

Kebab skewer hanging over plate in restaurant
Tapas in Aguilas
Octopus Tapas
Octopus Tapas
Glass of white wine held up against a backdrop view of the town of Aguilas
Wine in Murica

It was epic, to say the least, finishing with a rather stunning view over the town and towards the mountains that flank this part of the coast.

View of Aguila in Murcia. The mountains can be seen in the background.
View of Aguilas
woman sits on steps painted with bright coloured mural
Colourful mural steps in Murcia

As the sun was setting we went for another short drive around the coast to check out the iron bridge built by the British in the 19th century.

Sunset over the sea and coastline in Aguilas
Sunset over the coastline of Murcia
Small islet set just off the cliffs with sun setting behind it
Sunset point Aguillas

Plus we found a perfect viewpoint and some darling ‘calas’ (coves) all around this part of the coast. I bet they would be lovely for summertime sunning and fun. 

Day 3 – Aguilas to Murcia to Archena

It was a sunny morning when I awoke so I popped down to the beach outside the hotel for a gentle walk along the sand and rocks. I adore mornings by the sea, something incredibly therapeutic about that quietness.

woman walks over the rocks at the beach, the sea is in the background
Beach at Aguilas
woman sits in the hot tub looking out the window of the spa
Spa at the hotel

I finished my time at the hotel with a quick session in the spa on the top floor, soaking in the hot tub whilst gazing out to the mountains. With such a busy itinerary on this trip, it was good to take the morning for a bit of relaxation and self-care.

Next, we drove to the city of Murcia (there’s the city and the region of the same name) where we embarked on another epic tapas lunch at one of the best stops in town, La Tapa.

plate of russian salad
Russian Salad Tapas
Plate of patatas bravas
Patatas Bravas Tapas

We opted for a bar side spot so we could indulge in some people watching whilst sampling plate upon plate of delicious food. This was some rather high-end fare as we tried low-temperature egg, Russian salad on pretzels, and some of the most succulent pork medallions I’ve ever tried. All washed down with delicious wines.

Top of the cathedral with blue sky
Murcia Cathedral
street view of Murcia city at night
Murcia City

As we were losing daylight we dragged ourselves away from the food and set off on a walking tour of the old quarter of Murcia. The city features some glorious Baroque architecture amongst its many squares. Think quintessential European city with restaurants flowing out onto plazas as locals catch up over coffee, wine, and tapas. It has a casual vibe that was ever so welcoming.

woman wears black floppy hat sitting on an ornate sofa in an ornate gold room
Casino in Murcia

As we were visiting the ‘Casino’ which is not a casino in a gambling sense but more of a members club with insanely beautiful interior design, we were called out to be featured on live Spanish television.

A reporter and cameraman appeared and for 5 minutes we were broadcast out across the local News programme. It was so surreal.

screenshot of three women reporting on the news on tv
Staring on Murcia television

For our next stop, we drove about half an hour out to Archena to stay at Balneario de Archena, a spa hotel situated above Roman thermal baths. We quickly changed into our swimmers and were given a guided tour of the thermal complex which included a sneak peek at some Roman ruins underneath the 19th-century complex. My favourite part was the natural sauna room, it’s heated by the thermal waters without any intervention!

woman in spa robe stands in the underground arched hallway of the spa
Archena Spa

We were short on time so we didn’t have long to enjoy the modern spa circuit area which was next door to the hotel complete with its various steam rooms, floatation pool, igloo, rapids, and hot tubs. But we made the most of it, staying until the lights were switched off on us!

Day 4 – Archena to Caravaca del a Cruz

I started the day bright and early with a mud treatment down in the basement of the spa hotel in Archena. The entire floor was built in the 19th century complete with tiled rooms and corridors. The air smells mildly sulphuric and the water is entirely from the natural thermal waters coming from the local springs.

view out of hotel window to lush trees
View from the hotel in Archena

I was guided into a small tiled cubicle, told to strip down to my bikini bottoms, and lay half-naked on a bed of hot mud. The mud therapist takes large lumps of mud and packs them around my shoulders, hips, feet, and hands. She then wrapped me up like a cocoon and left me to bake for 20 minutes.

When my time was up I was unwrapped, told to stand in the corner of the cubicle, and was hosed down, half-naked with the curtain open. Shyness was not an option! But my skin felt soft and it was certainly an experience I’ll never forget.

arched tiled hallway in the spa
Archena Spa Balnerio
view of outdoor swimming pool with hills in the background
Outdoor area at Archena Spa

After breakfast at the hotel, we were back in the car and we took a drive through the Ricote Valley, something our guide referred to as ‘Little Palestine’. It is a stunning landscape of dramatic hills, lush valley, and a river meandering through the scenery.

hills in the background with blue sky and valley of vegetation
Ricote Valley

We also stopped in the small village of Ojos, a picture-perfect place that had a quiet and serene atmosphere.

quiet village round with quaint yellow spanish houses
Ojos, Murcia

And finally, we found Blanca, a small town with a great viewpoint bridge looking out across the lush valley.

valley of rivers with large hills rising in the background
Blanca, Murcia

We headed back through the valley and on to Bullas, another local town and home to a wine region. First, we checked out the Wine Museum and learned about the wine provenance of the area, and then we headed out to a local vineyard, Bodega Balcona, for a short talk about their wine along with some wine tasting.

vineyard with blue sky
Bodega Balcona, vineyard in Murcia

The air was warm, and the colours of the vineyard were vibrant with autumn colours. It truly was one of those special moments of relaxation as we sipped on delicious red wine. I particularly liked the Casa del a Cruz variety.

hand holds up a glass of red wine against the backdrop of the vineyard garden
Wine tasting in Murcia

After a quick late lunch stop at Entretempos we drove on to Caravaca de la Cruz, the fifth holiest city in Catholicism and one of my favourite stops.

church at sunset in the background
Basilica Shrine of La Vera Cruz

We immediately met with our local guide and walked up to the church on the hill, Basilica-Shrine of La Vera Cruz, to take in the sunset and visit this most spiritual of places.

I found it most calming and one of the loveliest churches I’ve visited in Europe. I don’t think you need to be of the faith to appreciate the atmosphere, architecture, and significance of a spiritual place like this.

sunset over the town of caravaca
Sunset at Caravaca de la Cruz

We took a further walk around the old part of this town which, again, was charming and relaxing to be in. We were given a further guided tour of the Wine Horses Museum which celebrates the unique horse festival the town celebrates each year and brings the entire community together.

Finally, to round off this full-on day, we relaxed our way through an epic meal at El Arco restaurant which included course after course of tasty Spanish food.

nightime quiet street with empty tables and chairs on the pavement
Night time in the city of Caravaca de la Cruz

We spent the night at the guest house, Hospederia Almunia, which I must say had such welcoming staff and felt like a home from home. A lovely base from which to explore this important town.

Day 5 – Back to Murcia City

Our last day in Murcia didn’t have a set itinerary as such so we were able to take it slow. We began the day with a gentle walk to another part of the old town of Caravaca del a Cruz to take in the morning view as the mist lifted over the city.

Morning view over Caravaca
Morning view over Caravaca de la Cruz
Morning view of houses on the hill in Caravaca
Morning view of houses on the hill in Caravaca

Our final stop was back in Murcia city again for another walk around the old quarter during daylight hours.

Tall trees line a wide pavement
Murcia City
Stall of meat at the market
Market in Murcia

We ended up in a local food market, eyeing up rows upon rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meat.

Just as we were leaving I spotted a small bar in the corner of the market. There were several stools with local people eating tapas, drinking beer and wine, and chucking their dirty napkins on the floor.

woman holds a glass of red wine as she leans on the bar of a tapas bar
Tapas and Wine at the Market in Murcia

I asked our guide about the bar and as soon as she explained that the locals were having their market purchases cooked up at the bar in front of them … well, we had to try it out!

We hot-footed it up to the seafood counter and I accidentally ordered the most expensive prawns on their stall (oops!). With bags of prawns, octopus, and sardines we nabbed the best spot at the bar to place our order for beer (wine for me) and watched as the bar owner cooked up our seafood.

It was wonderfully fresh and casual to eat this way. My prawns were, thankfully, the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. The atmosphere was jovial. And we left feeling we completed our trip on a high with a truly authentic Spanish experience.

Street view of tapas restaurants
Tapas restaurants in Murcia

Final thoughts on my travel around Murcia

Murcia is a diverse region with scenery and culture to rival the more popular tourist destinations of Spain. I would happily head back, hire a car, and explore the place in more detail.

If you want to get off the tourist trail Murcia is an ideal Spanish experience for you. It’s just a 2-hour flight from the UK and there is something for everyone, however, you best like to travel.

This is my travel journal from the trip to Murcia I took in November 2016.