As holidaymakers start to make plans for their post-summer travel, Murcia authorities are promoting the region’s lesser known attractions for those seeking something a little different in the evolving tourism market.
Maintaining the focus on outdoor pursuits – in an area enjoying year-round sunshine – they are following their “Summer Special” campaign by highlighting the area’s potential as a major religious and pilgrimage destination – and premier sports venue for European football teams and aficionados.
Pilgrimage Routes and Religious Relics
During an online workshop this summer with specialist tour operators in Europe, Murcia’s ministry for tourism highlighted the region’s religious attractions and its potential as a pilgrimage destination.
One of the key objectives is to promote events that are associated with international “spiritual tourism” tours, including the 2024 Jubilee Year of the Santísima y Vera Cruz and the Caminos de la Cruz trails.
The Basilica of Vera Cruz is a Roman Catholic church in Caravaca de la Cruz, in the north-western corner of the region. It is the fifth Holy City of Catholic Christianity (together with Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Camaleño), and in 1998 Pope Paul II granted it the privilege of being able to celebrate the jubilee year in perpetuity. These jubilees are held every seven years, and the first was in 2003.
In addition to the mediaeval Santuario de la Vera Cruz basilica, Caravaca is home to several convents and a parish church with a cross celebrated for its reputed healing power.
Other popular places of worship in the region include the Santa María Cathedral and La Fuensanta Sanctuary (both in Murcia city), the Santa Eulalia (Totana), La Esperanza (Calasparra) and Santa Ana del Monte (Jumilla) Sanctuaries, and the Royal Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación Convent (Mula).
The region also has numerous sacred relics and museums, and an extensive calendar of religious festivities, five of which have been declared as being of “International Tourist Interest”: the Holy Weeks of Murcia, Cartagena, Lorca and Jumilla, and the Fiestas of Santísima y Vera Cruz de Caravaca.
Other non-Christian monuments include the Archaeological Park in Lorca’s Jewish Quarter, and the town’s synagogue – the only one preserved in Spain that was not desecrated by a subsequent dominant religion.
Top Football Amenities
Unrelated but also capitalising on the region’s incomparable weather and modern tourist infrastructure, the ministry is showcasing its credentials as a major destination for professional football club training camps and visits by groups of amateur footballers.
During the Soccerex Connected forum, Murcia noted that the region is one of the world’s premier destinations for high-performance sports and advanced technical training. “An exceptional climate allows groups to arrange winter stays when it is impossible to play sports outdoors in their own countries, there is a wide range of quality accommodation and complementary services, and we offer a rapidly expanding sports infrastructure, with 18 football pitches between La Manga Club and Pinatar Arena.”