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Abd-Al-Rahman II first founded Murcia, now Spain's seventh largest city, in 831. Despite its fairly large population of 439,000, Murcia still has a more tranquil atmosphere than the crowded beach resorts of the nearby Costa del Sol. Many visitors to this segment of southeastern Spain may head straight for the sand and sea, but those who drive their car hires to Murcia will not regret the journey. The city's surrounding orchards and mountains provide cool refuges from the nearby hot beaches.
Who to Book With
A Europcar outlet stands alongside Spanish companies Centauro and Goldcar Rental at the rapidly growing Murcia-San Javier Airport 56 kilometres outside the city. Car rental companies closer to the city centre include Avis, Hertz and a local Spanish company called Solmar. All of these companies allow online bookings.
Best Time to Go
Aside from the high summer Costa del Sol tourism season, Murcia's busiest time of the year is Easter, when the city hosts one of Spain's best-known Holy Week processions. Murcia's colourful orchard and sardine burial parades take place just a week after Easter. In May, the city celebrates its multicultural background during its Three Cultures International Festival. Visitors should anticipate higher vehicle and accommodation costs during these times.
Need to Know Essentials
Collecting car hires requires the following documents:
- A drivers license which has been valid for at least three years
- Official car rental documents
- A photocopy or original valid passport
Driving in Murcia is easier than in many other Spanish cities of its size. A7 is the main motorway leading north along the Mediterranean Sea to Barcelona, while A92 links Murcia to Granada, Málaga and the Costa del Sol. The biggest traffic jams usually occur during Sunday football matches and Saturday visits to the local IKEA shop. The town hall stands next to an underground car park.
In addition to its many modern and easily navigable roads, Murcia also has many public transportation options. Four additional lines are expected to be added to the tram line already in the city. Taxis and an interurban bus service are Murcia's two other main public transportation options. Murcia-San Javier Airport's growing number of budget European flights have made it a viable alternative to the larger, but more distant, Alicante Airport.
Murcia del Carmen, the city's rail station, is named after the neighbourhood where it is located. Renfe provides Murcia's long distance train lines to cities as distant as Madrid and Montpellier, France. Murcia's main regional train connections are the C-1 line to Alicante and the C-2 line to Aguilas, Lorca, and Alcantarilla. Two more regional rail routes lead to Valencia and Cartagena.
A new bus operator will soon replace the intercity bus service LatBus which presently provides service across Murcia. ALSA operates a bus service to the communities of La Manga and Cartagena. More detailed bus information and schedules are posted on the official Murcia bus station website in both Spanish and English. Eurolines is one of the bus companies running between Murcia and Malaga, a journey which lasts about six hours and costs roughly £25.
Taxi Silverio Murcia and Taxi Mercedes Murcia are two of the city's leading taxi providers. Taxis are also available at Murcia-San Javier Airport and a one-way fare to the city centre costs around £46. Like most other Spanish taxis, those in Murcia operate on metered systems where the longer the distance travelled, the higher the fare.
The best views of Murcia must be enjoyed by driving outside the city. The breathtaking sunset views from the La Fuensanta Sanctuary and El Valle lie behind the city in the mountains, but visitors can also gaze upon Murcia from its mountaintop Moorish castle, most famous for its giant Jesus Christ statue. The nearby beaches between Aguilas and Mazarron are far closer and far less crowded alternatives to the bustling Costa del Sol resorts. South of Murcia lies the popular Parque Regional de Carrascoy y el Valle regional park.
Parque Regional de Carrascoy y el Valle - The La Ermita de San Antonio, Santuario La Luz, and Santuario Virgen de la Fuensanta monuments are among the highlights of the popular Parque Regional de Carrascoy y el Valle, a regional park whose cycling and hiking trails are situated less 6 kilometres south of central Murcia.
Caravaca de la Cruz - People travel from throughout the world in search of the healing powers at Caravaca de la Cruz, a medieval castle with a large cross whose major festival is held during the first five days of May. However, the castle is just one of many historic landmarks in its namesake community, where 1,300 graves were unearthed during a January 2009 archeological exploration.
Sierra Espuña Regional Park - This is a scenic cluster of pine forests and about 20 towering mountains under 30kms outside of Murcia along the main motorway to Andalucia. A campsite with cabins and a renovated water mill are among the most popular accommodations at this park whose most unique attractions are a series of 16th-century sunken summer ice storage huts, a 16th-century monastery turned church and restaurant, and endless forested hiking trails.