When people visit Spain the top 5 places they go are usually Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, the Costa del Sol or the Costa Blanca, but Spain has so much more to offer! Off the beaten track, away from your fellow tourists, you can discover the real Spain.
Lorca is small city situated in the region of Murcia surrounded by mountains which provide a stunning backdrop on a sunny day – of which there are many.
With roughly 300 days of sun a year, Lorca is perfect in any season. But, perhaps, the best time to visit Lorca is in spring, especially in the weeks leading up to Easter (I will tell you why later).
Having suffered a major earthquake in 2011, you would think the city would be abandoned. But the Lorcinos stood strong in the face of Mother Nature, and rebuilt the city. The result: a beautifully quaint Spanish town with stunning traditional architecture and an atmosphere of community.
Despite Murcia having its own airport, the easiest way to get to Lorca is to fly into Alicante airport.
From there you can take a train to Lorca-Sutellena (€5,75) changing at the region’s capital, Murcia.
The train takes approximately 2 hours, but with spectacular views of mountains and farms out of the window, you almost wish it took longer.
You can also hire a car from the airport and drive to Lorca using the new motorways and toll roads. Having a car would provide you with the opportunity to visit Lorca’s beach in the outer suburbs, or the neighbouring beach town, Aguilas.
Lorca’s tourist office, located in Plaza de España, can provide you with a detailed map and seasonal opening times of the local museums, but here are few of the cities highlights.
Lorca’s tourism board promotes the castle as a main attraction to the city. The castle is located at the top of a small ‘mountain’ overlooking the town. Walking there takes approximately 20-30 minutes up a small incline but the journey is worth it. In return for a little sweat, you are rewarded with a wonderful view of the city and the sprawling suburbs and farms surrounding it. On a clear day you can see right across the valley to the mountains used as a backdrop for old Spaghetti Westerns.
The castle itself, a monument of strategic importance in wars against the Moors, contains towers and gardens that are wonderful to stroll around whilst learning more about the history of the city. But it isn’t all the city has to offer.
If you visit Lorca in the weeks leading up to Easter you will see blue or white flags flying from every balcony, shop front and car. You may hear shouts of ‘VIVE EL PASO AZUL’ or ‘VIVE EL PASO BLANCO’. At night, you’ll definitely hear drums and trumpets as marching bands practice for the Easter Week celebrations. This is because Semana Santa (Easter Week) is the most important week in the city’s calendar. And here’s why:
The population of Lorca is divided into 5 ‘brotherhoods’, the two main ones being ‘The Blue Brotherhood’ (El Paso Azul) and ‘The White Brotherhood’ (El Paso Blanco). On the Thursday and Friday of Semana Santa, these brotherhoods put on spectacular processions along the main street which include re-enactments of stories from the Old Testament, chariot racing, and acrobats on horses. The city divides itself into the White side and the Blue side for the entire week. Even some of the local restaurants side with one brotherhood or the other – if it gets a little too much, don’t worry, you can always go to the neutrally named café ‘Blanco y Azul’.
During the rest of the year the rivalry between the Blues and the Whites isn’t as intense, but the flame of competition is kept alight in the brotherhoods’ museums. On opposing sides of the historic centre, (but a mere 10 minute walk apart) you can live the excitement of Semana Santa all year round. The museums contain the hand-embroidered costumes from the processions and tell you the history of the famous Semana Santa processions. My advice to you is to visit the Paso Blanco Museum on Calle Santo Domingo first and then walk along the road to Calle Lope Gisbert where you will find the newly renovated Museo Azul.
Each brotherhood is connected to a church. The churches are very impressive with alters adorned with statues of gold or silver and ancient paintings that were somehow preserved during the earthquake.
However, there are two other churches of note you should visit whilst in Lorca. The formidable Inglesia de San Patricio in Plaza de Espana, and Inglesia de San Mateo on Calle Lope Gisbert. San Patricio’s re-opened on St Patrick’s day 2017 after 6 years of restoration after the earthquake. San Mateo’s also had to be restored after the earthquake caused the bell tower to crumble. Inside both churches, you will find an atmosphere understated reverence that is lacking in extravagant Blue and White churches.
The Way of the Cross
If museums and churches aren’t your thing, another walk containing breath-taking views of the city is ‘The Way of the Cross’. This short walk on the west side of the city takes you through the barrio and up a small hill to reveal a panoramic view of the city and the castle. It’s a great photo opportunity. Luckily, as it is so close to the city centre, after your walk you are only minutes away from a refreshing beer and tapas.
If you walk away from the city centre and over the train tracks, you will find yourself in the Alemedas de la Constitucion. These pedestrianised lanes are not only home to summer mansions but also Lorca’s worst kept secret. In the spring and summer months a large outdoor restaurant and grill opens to the public. It serves food typical of the area and the atmosphere is electric – no wonder it has returned year after year since 1969.
Another important local secret is the Thursday market. Held in an empty car park beyond the Alemedas, the market becomes a hive of activity every Thursday morning. The city centre is a ghost town while hordes of people barter for new clothes, accessories, meats, cheese and vegetables. If you find yourself exhausted at the end of the morning, don’t worry there are vans selling churros and chocolate at the entrances and exits.
Shops are closed between 14:00 and 17:00 every day and they aren’t opened at all on Sundays. The same goes for places of interest.
If you want to visit during Semana Santa you have book your accommodation about 6 months in advance. If you want to eat at a restaurant on the Thursday or Friday of Semana Santa you may have to book up to a year in advance. Tickets for the processions can by bought 1-3 months in advance.
Neighbouring places worth a visits: Aguilas, Mazarron, Cartegena, La Manga and Andalusia.