Pop quiz! If you’re looking for an excursion from your La Manga Club property, in which destination can you find: virgin beaches, a sun fortress, a recovered synagogue, the ancient Via Augusta road, embroidery museums, a stunning archaeological museum, and a multiple, diverse and historical world?
Answer: a city known by many names, including The City of Sun, The City of a Hundred Shields and more, but officially called Lorca. At a mere 100km from your La Manga Club residence, Lorca provides the perfect day outing where you can pack in numerous visits to Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque monuments and still have sights left for repeat visits to this historically rich city.
As the frontier town between Christian and Muslim Spain during the middle ages, this rich cultural city is one of Spain’s largest municipalities. Spreading over 1,675 square kilometres, it has a range of geographical features that create an extraordinary variety and richness of landscapes, including 9kms of unspoilt beaches on the Mediterranean.
Falling within the Cope Cape and Puntas de Calnegre Regional Park, these beaches cannot, by law, be developed, and so provide serene and quiet coast lines and coves for your appreciation. As access is not easy, the best way to approach them is to leave your car and complete the last leg by foot. A few of the must-see beaches are Calnegre, Baño de las Mujeres, Siscal and San Pedro and an afternoon walk around the coves, cliffs and trails is truly enjoyable.
Should an inland walk be more the order of the day, there are numerous hiking trails dotted about the region. Some starting points begin in the town itself, such as the short walk from the centre to the Ermita del Calvario. Built in 1695 by the Franciscan order for religious practice, nowadays the collection of 14 buildings that make up the compound not only serve as tribute to Christ’s procession to Calvary but also as a reminder of the devout faith of Lorcans over the century. Offering a great walk, a slice of history and spectacular views of the city and surrounding countryside, this is not to be missed.
But if taking in the history of the city is more your cup of tea, there are a plethora of historical gems to pay a visit to. The rich and extensive history of Lorca has left a legacy of archaeological sites that spans centuries, and evidence of this can be seen throughout the town.
Dating back to the 13th century, the Porche de San Antonio served as the gate of the medieval wall of the city and is beautifully preserved. Another must-see is the Ex-Collegiate Church of San Patricio (the only church in Spain dedicated to this saint), built upon the old church of San Jorge between 1536 and 1780. The name of the church comes from a victory by the people of Lorca over the Moors of Granada in 1452. Due to its long construction period, a diversity of styles are presented, ranging from Renaissance in the vaults of the ambulatory to the Baroque style of the main façade. The interior of the church is made up of three naves, lateral chapels, a choir and a retrochoir, a transept, an ambulatory with radial chapels and a tower at the head that shelters the sacristy in the interior.
Dating back centuries and also well worth a visit is Lorca Castle, locally known as Castillo de Lorca or La Fortaleza del Sol. It is the hallmark of Lorca and is situated on a mountain next to the city and features both the Espolón Tower and Alphonse towers built during the final stages of the Christian reconquest. Right next to the castle is the Lorca parador which, unlike the castle, is of recent construction, but is built in a style that mimics the ancient castle and boasts a restaurant for those wanting lunch with a magnificent view.
Of Baroque significance is the newly opened Palacio de Guevara which has been partially reconstructed after a 2011 earthquake forced its closure. Other historically significant Baroque monuments include:
- Lorca City Hall, 17th/18th century (initially a prison)
- The complex of Santo Domingo, 16th/18th century
- The Palace of the Counts of San Julián, in the Baroque-Neomudéjar style, 17th century
- The Pósito de los Panaderos, a granary house, 16th century
- The Antiguo Colegio de la Purísima (18th century), now housing the Conservatorio de Música Narciso Yepes
- The churches Iglesia del Carmen, Iglesia de San Cristóbal, Iglesia de San Diego and the Iglesia de San Mateo (all 18th–19th century)
If your stroll around the city happens to take place on a Thursday, head to the weekly market held in the Huerto de la Rueda next to the Santa Quiteria fairground and conference centre. The weekly market has been part of the city’s history since 1465, when Enrique IV granted a free market on Thursdays which was later reapproved by the Catholic Monarchs in 1495 and by Carlos II in 1685. The market is a real gem, and vendors compete with each other proffering good deals and special offers. There is an abundance of produce, fresh flowers, roasted chickens, olives, capers and nuts sold by weight, spices, salted fish and cheeses on offer at reasonable prices.
Winding down after a day filled with sightseeing, sit back and treat yourself to one of the locally produced wines or to one of the specialities for which Lorca is famous. You can choose between a crespillo, tortada or picardia. The crespillo is a crunchy, salted wheat flour dough with a thickness of less than half a centimeter. Lorca’s are made of salt dough, flour, oil and paprika, which gives them a slightly orange tint, and they can be found in bakeries throughout the town. If it is sweetness you are craving, then tortada is for you. Essentially a sponge cake dowsed with syrup, covered with meringue and filled with custard and jam, sampling one is a fine way to enjoy a sit-down in a local bakery. Lastly, picardia is a sweet made with a hazelnut coated with caramelised sugar, sometimes dipped in lemon juice. These in themselves could be worth the journey!
Tastebuds and monuments aside, mention must also be made of the festivities surrounding Easter week that make up part of Lorca’s vivid culture and heritage. Declared a Festival of International Tourism Interest in 2007, their origin dates back centuries and they are simply an unmissable experience. Depending on the day, there are a variety of events that can be enjoyed on a day trip from your La Manga Club property. The main brotherhoods of the city are identified through their dress: the Paso Blanco (The White) and the Paso Azul (The Blue). Scenes of the Old and New Testaments are performed, with the overall theme being the triumph of the Christians over other religions. Complete with chariot races and showings of opulent embroideries made of gold and silk, for which Lorca is famous, the Semana Santa festivities have to be seen to be believed. If an Easter visit does not fit into your agenda, there are many museums showcasing the unbelievable embroidery craftmanship used in the Easter processions, including the Museo de Bordados del Paso Blanco and the Museo Azul de la Semana Santa.
Whether it is a day trip with a focus on cultural experience or adventuring in the countryside or on the coast, a visit to Lorca will fit the bill.