One of four municipalities in the local area, San Javier’s popularity has grown thanks to its privileged setting on the edge of Europe’s most extensive inland saltwater lakes, the Mar Menor.
San Javier offers visitors the choice of bathing in two types of sea, with different temperatures and conditions: the calm warm waters of a shallow saltwater lake or the more dynamic Mediterranean Sea.
The saltwater lake has 73 kilometres of waterfront and 40 kilometres of beaches, protected by a 21-kilometre sandbank, which makes it especially popular among tourists with young families.
San Javier town has a much more modern feel than other villages in the area. It has existed in its current form for over 175 years, and retains the atmosphere of a fishing village while catering for the demands of modern tourism.
The Berbers were the first ethnic group of many to invade the area, attracted by safe moorings in the saltwater lagoon, but it was the Romans who developed salt extraction from the mineral-rich lake. During the time of the Moorish occupation the area was barely used, as salt extractions were carried out in other municipalities – so little evidence of them remains.
At the beginning of the 17th century a shrine in honour of San Francisco Javier (Saint Francis Xavier) was built in the locality and the town slowly formed around the shrine. In 1888 a further shrine was constructed nearby, dedicated to Santiago de la Ribera (Apostle St James). This nucleus of the municipality has developed into a spectacular tourist resort.
Visitors to San Javier will find themselves spoilt for choice as the area has 40 kilometres of beaches, some within the shallow protected lagoon and others facing the open sea, and they have received European “Blue Flag” awards in recognition of their fine sands and clean waters. Two of the most notable beaches are La Manga and Santiago de la Ribera.
Watersports enthusiasts will find sailing, windsurfing, kite-surfing and diving in many dedicated centres, including the popular Mar Menor Marine Resort.
The Murcia region’s mild climate makes this area an ideal destination for golf-lovers, who can enjoy playing at any one of 22 golf courses virtually throughout the year, with facilities to accommodate golfers of every level.
Close to San Javier is Roda, an 18-hole, par-72 course extending over 6,177 metres and designed by Dave Thomas.
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The fertile inland plains produce an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood is caught daily by the local fishing fleet, and farmed meat and game are brought down from the mountains, ensuring a rich culinary selection to suit every taste – with rice being prominent.
Traditional dishes include:
- Arroz y Conejo – Rice with Rabbit
- Paella Huertana – Vegetable Paella
- Arroz de Verduras – Rice and Vegetables
- Arroz Marinero – Seafood Rice
- Arroz y Costillejas – Rice and Ribs
- Potaje – Rich Stew Dish
- Menestra – Dish of Sautéed Vegetables
- Habas con Jamón – Broad Beans with Serrano Ham
- Caldo Murciano – Local Soup Dish
- Huevas de Mújol – Type of Caviar
The patron saint of the sea and fishermen is the Virgen del Carmen, also the adopted patron of San Javier. Each July the locals escort the Virgen for a procession out to sea.
The annual carnival provides a splash of colour in February, as does the San Blas Romería. San Javier also takes great pride in its Christmas tradition, constructing a huge nativity scene (belén) that is one of the largest in Spain. During this time The Three Kings arrive in San Javier by boat.