Walking in Sierra Espuña
Sierra Espuña Regional Reserve
José Luis Montero
Sierra Espuña Regional Reserve (Murcia province).
José Luis Montero
Murcia is well known for the beaches of its Costa Cálida coast and for the beneficial properties of the waters of the Mar Menor. Nevertheless, beyond the coastal areas, in inland Murcia you will find an area of countryside and contrasts: Sierra Espuña Regional Reserve.
In south-east Spain, washed by the Mediterranean Sea, you will find Murcia, a great destination for lovers of the beach and also for those who prefer to be surrounded by forests and mountains. For this last group, the Sierra Espuña Mountains await in the inland part of the region. These are the region's "green lungs", where you can enjoy countryside, history and sports in the open air. Located less than 40 kilometres from the city of Murcia, the wide range of landscapes to be found here is just the first reason for visiting.
Exploring the Sierra Espuña Mountains will reveal a wide range of environments: from high-mountain areas, luxuriant forests and steppe, to rivers and reservoirs, dry crop and irrigated farmland. Nevertheless, it is the rugged, mountainous scenery that stands out most, offering stunning, unusual views. This is the case, for example, of the Paredes de Leyva, an impressive area of limestone walls; the Barrancos de Gebas canyons, a unique “lunar” landscape; the deep Barranco de la Hoz canyon, or the Barranco de Malvariche canyon.
The Snow Wells
In Sierra Espuña there is an especially unusual place to see: the Pozos de Nieve (snow wells). These are 26 circular structures, dug out of the ground, which once served as refrigerators. They date back to the 16th century, and are located between 1,100 and 1,400 metres above sea level. Every winter, local workers would head up to the mountains to store and compress the snow they had previously collected. With the arrival of spring, they would go up again to remove the blocks of ice, that they then supplied to nearby cities such as Murcia and Cartagena.
Sport and activities
The Paredes de Leyva are considered one of the best climbing areas in Spain on account of their profile and quality of rock. The area is 3 kilometres across with a vertical drop of 150 metres, and attracts climbers from all over Europe. You can also do other sports in the area, such as kayaking on the Barranco de Gebas Reservoir, or paragliding in the Sierra de la Muela Mountains, close to Alhama de Murcia. For those who prefer to explore the region more peacefully, there are well-signed hiking and mountain biking routes. The “Ricardo Codorníu” Visitor Centre, the Las Alquerías teaching room and the office in El Berro are good places to get information on the reserve's characteristics, as well as the activities and routes available.
In the Sierra Espuña region there are also interesting monuments to discover, with castles and fortresses dating from the Hispano-Moorish period, such as Los Fajardo Castle in Mula, Las Paleras Castle in Pliego, the Keep at Aledo, and the castle in Alhama de Murcia. The tourist offices in each town/village will also give you information on other cultural attractions in the region. There are the Roman baths in Alhama de Murcia, with more than 2,000 years of history; the 16th century Santiago Church in Totana; “Los Villaricos” archaeological site in Mula and the museum of Iberian art in Cigarralejo. These are just some of the visits not to be missed.
More information: Sierra Espuña Tourist Board