The south of the Levante region brings to mind the idea of the Spanish summer in the 1960s: sizzling heat, crowded beaches full of thousands of tourists from all over Europe, snack bars with the sun beating down on the chairs and summer hits of all time playing at maximum volume, one after another, on the transistor radio. Now more and more people are discovering the value of the Levante’s nature reserves and its potential as a top-quality holiday destination with guaranteed relaxation. After Cabo de Gata, today we travel to Murcia, as far as Sierra de Espuña, a garden in the Mediterranean summer.
When the steep Betic mountain range reaches the east, it opens up into this impressing natural site. We leave Andalusia behind and enter Murcia to explore one of Spain’s oldest nature reserves: it was declared a protected site in 1917, with the inclusion of Sierra Espuña in the National Catalogue of Wilderness Areas. Later on, it was declared a “Natural Site of National Interest” in 1931 and then a “Nature Reserve” in 1978. The Regional Park of Sierra Espuña was established in 1992, followed by the Protected Landscape of Barranco de Gebas in 1995, both of which cover a total area of more than 25,000 hectares.
The park is divided into three areas:
The north area, located in the basin of the Espuña River, which crosses the park from east to west. There are two deep ravines in the east, formed by the Espuña River and Leyva River, separated by a line of crests of Collado Blanco, Morra del Majal and Morrón de Esuña (the highest point in the park with a height of 1,580 metres), Collado Bermejo and Peña Apartada.
The second area begins to the south of Peña Apartada and is made up of the basins of Barranco de Enmedio and Rambla de Algeciras. The two basins are separated by a dividing line linking Peña Apartada, Puntal del Campanero and Los Abaricoqueros.
The third area is made up of Barranco de Gebas, in the eastern limit of the mountain range; visitors find its scenic value breath-taking, with its desert-like “bad-lands.”
Sierra Espuña’s vegetation is made up of classical Mediterranean forests: we find large Aleppo pine forests, although black pine is the dominant species in high areas. There are also small pockets of holm oaks, gall oaks and maples.
Elms, black poplars and white poplars grow near humid areas, along with a gallery of shrubs: honeysuckles, rose bushes, sarsaparillas and others.
However, a surprise awaits us on the mountain range’s summits: there we can find old snow pits, which were the source of ice, a luxury product, for centuries.
There are numerous possibilities for adventure tourism: trekking, cycling, potholing, canyoning, orienteering or canoeing.
In relation to sports activities, this mountain range has the advantage of a mild climate in summer, especially if we compare it with the high daytime temperatures found in localities along Spain’s Levante coast. It is therefore a privileged place in summer with cooler temperatures.
And for resting.
Hospedería Bajo el Cejo represents the spirit of the small villages dotting the mountain range. Located on the site of former coalbunkers, the hotel prioritises integration with and respect for the environment. Clay, iron, wood and glass –warm, natural materials– are the main elements used in its refurbishment.