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Staycation in Spain: Five great reasons to visit Murcia

With two-week quarantines likely on arrival and departure from other European nations andwith no idea how long travel bans will be in place summer holidays this year look decidedly domestic.

Staycation in Spain: Five great reasons to visit Murcia
Photos: Felipe Ortega/ Aitor Aguirregabiria/ Lilliana Fuchs / Flickr

Travel restrictions pose a huge number of issues – not least how and when it will be possible to see family overseas. But when it comes to tourism, those who live in Spain find themselves at a distinct advantage. With its kilometres of coast, diverse cities, and mountainous areas to explore, Spain leaves you spoilt for choice.

One option often overlooked by holidaymakers is Murcia. The lesser known coastal cousin of nearby Alicante and Almeria, this south-Eastern region is rich in fresh food and sandy golden beaches, and is an inexpensive holiday destination well worth of consideration.

Eleanor Rosenbach, a Madrid resident who often spends her holidays in Murcia, shares her love of the region with The Local readers: Here are her five reasons why Murcia should be top of your list for holidays this summer.

Sun, sun, sun

If you’re a sun worshipper, look no further.

Rain in Murcia is as rare as three weeks of unbroken sunshine in the UK. Though in winter you’ll see residents eagerly rock out their furs and quilted jackets on the few days when temperatures descend below 8C, in summer sunshine is practically guaranteed.

Be warned, though – access to water is important in the Murcian summer. Temperatures regularly top 40 degrees, and the inland capital city turns in to a ghost town in August as residents flock to the relative cool of the beaches. For more than a few days in the region, proximity to agua is a must.

Comidas, meriendas y cenas


Murcia's famous marineras is the ideal accompaniment to a cold beer, or a glass of wine. Photo: Lilliana Fuchs / Flickr
 

Murcia is the ‘huerta de Europa’, producing vast quantities of fresh fruit and veg consumed throughout Spain and beyond. The famous Mediterranean diet – which when purveying tapas options in Madrid can feel elusive – is in full swing in Murcia.

Fresh fish, seafood and vegetable dishes abound, and after a few days in the region you’re likely to find yourself wondering why its gastronomy doesn’t have wider international recognition.

A must-try are marineras – a dish composed of a savory Murcian rosquilla topped with ensaladilla rusa (a dish of which the region is undisputed King) and an anchovy. A Murcian speciality, it should ideally be enjoyed with an ice cold cerveza.

Variety is the spice of life


Cabo de Palos is a snorkeler's paradise. Enrique Domingo / Flickr
 

One of the region’s primary attractions is its beaches  – from the expanses of golden sand towards the border with Alicante to the secluded bays flanked by rocky outcrops in Águilas, from the calm shores of the warm-watered Mar Menor to the snorkelers’ paradise of Cartagena and Cabo de Palos.

For fans of windsailing, kayaking and other watersports there’s no shortage of options, and the region boasts one of Europe’s best diving sites. But it has more to offer – Murcia city is a vibrant university town packed with tascas and terrazas serving inexpensive regional delicacies.

Cartagena is an historic gem, boasting well preserved Roman ruins, wide tree lined streets and an elegant port. Towards the north of the region, hilltop towns like Caravaca de la Cruz offer spectacular views and a wealth of archaeological, historical and religious interest sites to visit. For those who favour golf as an afternoon activity, the region’s 15 golf courses will leave you spoilt for choice.

Culture, and its remains


Cartagena with its Roman amphitheatre. Photo: Pablo Cabezos 
/Flickr

In Roman times, Cartagena was the jewel of the Iberian Peninsula. Though the city’s subsequent conquests and changes have remoulded it, relics of the time remain in the forum and the spectacular amphitheatre whose restoration at the close of last century marries careful preservation of the ruins with a stunning and respectful modern architecture. 

The wealth of artifacts found during the restoration can be seen in the nearby amphitheatre museum. Cartagena’s rich seam of modernist buildings rising from the port into the centre of the town – themselves a product of the mining boom in the 19th century – are also well worth a look. Murcia city has less to offer by way of archaeological sites, but its imposing baroque cathedral and historic casino offer more than enough to keep you entertained for a day trip.

The price


Photo: Roda Gold Info / Flickr

 

If the rest wasn’t persuasive enough, worth remembering is that Murcia is relatively inexpensive, particularly compared to other more well-trodden tourist zones of the eastern coast. Eating out – even in the most chic of areas – won’t set you back too much. There's also an abundance of accommodation options with prices to suit all budgets in towns and beaches, as well as golf courses and resorts. Should travel bans prohibit the use of northern Europeans using their holiday homes in the summer, there will likely be an even greater wealth of sleeping options and at great prices. 

If you believe your area of Spain deserves more recognition, drop us a line and tell us why! 

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COVID-19

Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

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