The Mar Menor is -in spite of its name- Europe's biggest salt water lagoon, and it is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by La Manga, a strip of land which is 22km long. This natural setting has an idyllic microclimate and perfect conditions to enjoy nautical sports. Moreover, here you will find a very particular combination of fishing traditions and modernity, impossible to find anywhere else.
Large pond, Small sea, throughout history, the so-called Mar Menor has had different names, all of which coincide in the description of a phenomenon that nature designed as a great coastal lake (originally, an open bay) of 170 km2 of warm saltwater.
Since distant times, the wealth of its water, the kindness of the climate and the beauty of the area as a whole attracted many people. The Iberians and Phoenicians and, later, the Arabs have a part in the history of the Mar Menor. In the Moslem period, it was known as the Mar Chico, and the place known today as Los Alcázares (from the Arabic Al-Ksar, literally translated as "place of residence") was chosen for their recreational houses. The continuous skirmishes with pirates from Algeria led to the need to construct watchtowers, some of which are conserved today, such as that of El Ramé or Rami. Until the 18th century, the area was occupied only by inhabitants dedicated to fishing and to the exploitation of the salt flats. From the 19th century, these centres gradually became centres for recreation and relaxation for the inhabitants of La Huerta, who established their summer residence next to the coast, attracted mainly by the curative properties of its brackish water.
Even today, the Mar Menor remains faithful to the concept of "residential area" characterised by rest and tranquillity. The warm waters of the Mar Menor, with a maximum depth of 7 metres, hold the ideal conditions and means for those who enjoy open or group sailing. Furthermore, visitors to this area can enjoy all the advantages of the Sailing Station of the Mar Menor, which in keeping with the ski station concept, offers a set of sailing, sports and tourist infrastructures together with hotels, accommodation and establishments for leisure and learning grouped together in one place: the entire Shore area of the Mar Menor and La Manga. This large saltwater lake has ideal climatic conditions (315 days of sunshine per year and an average annual temperature of 18ºC) for the continuous practice of water sports.
Las Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro Regional Park is an unblemished paradise of primitive nature, perfect for those escaping from overcrowding and tourist resorts. At this migrating water bird reserve you can watch flamingos, walk along tracks, take a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean and admire one of the most outstanding coastal sunsets.
The Mar Menor dish par excellence is caldero, a truly marine dish made with rice, good fishand a secret ingredient: ñoras. As appetizers, nothing better than salted fish such as hueva -roe- and mojama -salted tuna-, or the exquisite Mar Menor langostines. As a dessert, we suggest pastel de cierva, so that you can try a delicious contrast between the sweet and salted tastes; if you have a sweet tooth, we recommend tocino de cielo. Don't forget that you can enjoy them at restaurants and pastry shops in the area and, in addition, you can buy them as souvenirs. When you're back home, they will make your mouth water and you will definitely miss our region a little bit.
The Mar Menor is a big open-air spa. Its mild temperatures throughout the year, its many hours of sunshine and its high mineral concentration make it the perfect place for treatments against physical and psychological exhaustion. The coastal thalassotherapy centres offer a wide range of personalised treatments based on sea water (hydrotherapy), sea air (airtherapy) and solar radiation (heliotherapy). Europe's biggest open-air mud therapy area is in San Pedro. It is a big mistake to come here and not to cover oneself with the famous mineral medicinal muds. It is your decision to do it by the lagoon or at the hotels or centres that offer specialised treatments. If you wish to take paradise home, don't forget that you can purchase some mud at thalassotherapy centres.
Mar Menor destinations have various museums from which culture, history and creativity spread in all directions. Among them, for instance, Los Alcázares Aeronautical Museum stands out: it was Spain's first seaplane base and one of the pillars of Spanish Military Aeronautics during the first half of the 20thC; it houses one of the most comprehensive collections related to military aviation, including weapons, military clothing, airplane propellers, antiaircraft guns and hundreds of pictures. In San Javier, the Local History Museum shows objects related to people's family, social and cultural aspects, to the agricultural and fishing traditions and, of course, to the development of aviation. Last but not least, the Barón de Benifayó Palace in San Pedro del Pinatar, housing San Pedro Municipal Museum, is a must. It has exhibitions concerning terrestrial and underwater archaeology, fossils and ethnography. Nevertheless, the most touching elements which are shown belong to the old toy collection and the film material.
Very popular festivities such as the Semana Internacional de la Huerta y el Mar -International Week of the Orchard and the Sea- are celebrated at Mar Menor: this festivity takes place on the second fortnight of August in Los Alcázares, paying homage to the connection that has always existed between the huertanos and the sea. In the same locality, now with a secular character, the Berber Incursions are celebrated in April, and the Day of Caldero -typical rice dish- is celebrated October 12th. In San Pedro del Pinatar, the Holy Week and the Virgen del Carmen Festivities stand out. The second ones are celebrated on August 15th, revealing the connection between the people from this town and the sea, as well as their worship of this virgin that protects fishermen and seamen. The virgin is taken on a procession on the Mar Menor waters; carnations are thrown to pay homage to seamen who never arrived in port. On February 3rd every year, San Blas pilgrimage takes place in San Javier, including a carriage parade and a typical rice contest.