A summer at your property at La Manga Club means days and nights of leisure, sports, and community. Our golf resort is nothing if not a place to keep busy. But with the long days stretching before you, it’s wise to arm yourself with some exploratory missions around the Region of Murcia as well. This is a trove of cultural treasures waiting to be discovered. Today’s suggestion: Caravaca de la Cruz.
Whether it be The Knights of Templar, a magical healing cross or just visiting quaint Spanish towns that piques your interest, Caravaca de la Cruz won’t fail to deliver. With a myriad of untold delights to be found in the city, and less than a 90 minute drive away, an outing to Caravaca offers residents of La Manga Club a perfect day trip featuring local Spanish traditions and customs.
Most visitors come to Caravaca de la Cruz for either its world-famous Running of the Wine Horses attraction or to see the La Real Basílica-Santuario de la Vera Cruz. Opening hours can be consulted here. Access is by streets as narrow as they are steep. In high season, a little tourist train trundles up to the top. The city’s Medieval District, which circles the Basilica, is notable for its winding streets and significant historical highlights, so it is well worth the trek.
Caravaca is a Holy City of Catholic Christianity; a title it shares with only four other cities in the world including Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Camaleño (Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana). Owing to this, it is a centre for pilgrims but also to many other tourists curious about its past.
The medieval Santuario de la Vera Cruz (Sanctuary of True Cross) comprises several convents and a parish church, inside of which a miraculous cross is housed. The True Cross of Caravaca (Lignum Crucis or Vera Cruz) is celebrated for its healing powers and said to contain pieces from the cross upon which Christ was crucified. Legend has it that whilst the town was under Moorish rule, the king decided that he wanted to witness a re-enactment of the celebration of the Last Supper. Reluctantly, a captured missionary, Don Gínes Pérez Chirinos de Cuenca, finally acquiesced and set about collecting all the items needed for the ritual. However, the missionary found he was unable to perform it owing to the absence of the most crucial object: the cross, essential for the Eucharist. When he informed the Muslim King that he could not proceed, the King asked the priest, “What is that, then?”, pointing to a cross that had appeared at a window, apparently carried by angels who placed the cross on the alter and returned to the heavens. The King witnessed other miracles throughout the mass and subsequently asked that he and his family be baptised into the Cristian faith.
This story is largely responsible for the rich tradition of Moor and Christian celebrations that take place in Caravaca every year during the first week of May (May 3rd being the date in 1231 when the King witnessed the apparitions). Festivities include: April 30th, the Noche de las Migas; processions accompanying the Cruz de Moros y Cristianos (2 and 3 May); the Fiesta de la Santisima y Vera Cruz (May 3); the Moors and Christians parade (May 4); and the Procession of the Holy and Vera Cruz. (May 5).
The week’s activities range from flower offerings, to bareback horseriding contests and the Exhibition of Capes, in which elaborate locally-crafted equine garments that adorn the horses the following day are displayed.
The early morning of May 2nd sees the Running of the Wine Horses, a spectacle not to be missed. The race is said to recall a tradition which dates back 700 years. Popular belief has it that the Templar Knights saved the sacred city from being poisoned by the enemy, via a contaminated water supply, by bringing in on horseback saddlebags of wine and thus averting the death of the city folk. A sea of red meets the eye on the 2nd as locals don red and white bandanas and sashes. This spectacle, along with the elaborately decorated horses thundering past spectators within inches of their cameras, cannot but leave magical memories for anyone lucky enough to witness it.
The week culminates on May 5th with the Ascent Procession of the Holy Relic to the Basilica Sanctuary, wrapping up an unforgettable week of fun, local food and historical representations.
But the city has other charms as well. Caravaca’s history dates back nearly 3,000 years, and remnants of its past are scattered throughout its streets. Other points of interest for your day trip include:
Fuentes del Marqués
These water springs offer one of the most beautiful landscapes in the region. While there, you can also visit the old Tower of the Templars and the Nature Interpretation Centre.
Caravaca has several museums, too, among them one dedicated to the True Cross (the Museo De la Vera Cruz) and another detailing the festivities in honour of the Santisima y Vera Cruz de Caravaca. A sculpture museum and the Archaeological Museum La Soledad, which features a variety of archaeological exhibits, are other good stops, as well as the Museo de Música Étnica de Barranda, the Museo de Miniaturas de Angel Reinón, and the Museo Carrilero.
Enjoy hiking or biking in the Vía Verde (the abandoned Murcia-Caravaca railway line), or Caravaca’s many other small trails, ecotours and various pilgrimage routes. Vias Verde: www.viaverdedelnoroeste.com.
Find treasures in the Pilgrim’s Medieval Market, the best place to buy crafts and typical products of the area. The Artists Market craft market it is held on the third Sunday of every month in the Plaza del Arco between 09.00 and 14.00. The first week of December is the town’s Medieval Market, which arrives replete with goodies to stock up upon for either self-indulgence or as gifts.
Whether visiting for faith or simply for a look into its rich cultural heritage, Caravaca has plenty in store to satisfy an excursion from your property at La Manga Club filled with world-famous tourist attractions and landmarks at any time of the year.