The warmest of welcomes at Spain’s Costa Calida
The Costa Calida may not be the most well-known of the Spanish costas – Brava, Blanca and Sol would beat it hands down in a vox pop – but it might well be the most welcoming.
Calida means warm - and that goes for both the welcome and the temperature as Murcia enjoys more than 320 days of sunshine a year.
You won’t need an umbrella or an extra layer in case it gets chilly, but you might want to pack your hiking shoes to enjoy the area’s terracotta cliffs and aquamarine seas as well as your most forgiving trousers to accommodate the food.
Surprisingly the local people don’t want to keep all this bounty to themselves - they want to share it with tourists.
And they’ve spent millions on a brand new airport to do just that.
Murcia’s multi-million pound airport, which opened its runways in January, has flights from across the UK and jetting out from Stansted, you land at the shiny new Region de Murcia International Airport in two hours and 45 minutes.
The region of Murcia, which has the city of Murcia as its capital, is in the south east of Spain, sandwiched between Andalusia, Castile – La Mancha, Valencia and the Mediterranean.
The area has none of the worst bits of its coastal rivals – all day Full English fry-ups and burnt Brit tourists – but is packed full of history, culture, watersports and sumptuous food.
After an overnight stay in the city of Murcia, we set off for Cabo de Palos the next day to enjoy a plateful of the local speciality caldero (a rich mixture of rice and fish) at a quay-side restaurant, a climb up the towering 51-metre lighthouse and some snorkelling courtesy of Planeta Azul in the gin-clear waters off the coast.
The quirky hotel La Encarnacion in Los Acazares, which put us up for the night, boasted a central courtyard festooned with wisteria, fairy lights and a flock of birds which circled wildly as the sun set before settling in for the night.
The next day we set off bright and early for Mazarron and a trek through the towering grey Sierra de las Moreras, led by a local guide.
Birds of prey wheeled overhead and the only sound was the relentless, soporific chirping of cicadas as we wound our way along a path through the rocks before emerging on a deserted beach.
Back in civilisation, a sumptuous lunch at La Meseguera restaurant (at the Playa Grande hotel) awaited – plates of garlicky clams, tender beef and fresh fish.
Luckily, considering the quantity of food we had all just polished off, the transport after lunch was e-bikes – bikes with a bit of battery-powered oomph to get one up the rocky hills.
It’s an odd feeling when you grit your teeth ready to power up an incline and find the bike doing all the work. Odd, but very welcome when the sun is splitting the rocks.
For those wanting a bit more action, there was jet-skiing from Playa del Alamillo, although a stiff breeze put paid to thoughts of kayaking.
That evening we stayed at the Hotel Playasol, quiet, with huge rooms and a sapphire pool.
The pleasures the next day were more historical than physical, with a trip to the ancient city of Lorca – the epicentre of Spain’s Easter celebration Semana Santa – and the nearby medieval castle, one of the largest in the country with majestic views over the plains of Murcia, and the remains of an ancient Jewish synagogue dating from the 14th century nestled into the cliff edge.
Lunch was an impressive buffet (packed full of locals, which is surely an excellent sign) at the Hotel Puerto Juan Montiel.
After a tranquil boat trip along the coast, our last stop was the charming small town of Aguilas for a history lesson with a local guide, a drink by the town square and a leisurely walk up the winding path to the castle to end our trip dining on tapas and succulent sea bass at the Zoco del Mar restaurant as the sun set and firework started to sprinkle the sky.
The residents of Murcia was getting ready to celebrate – and who could blame them?
For more information, visit www.murciaturistica.es/en or look or look for #VisitMurcia on social media.