From our home base here in Spain we are less than an hour’s drive from the ancient city of Cartagena.
Cartagena is a port city located in the southeasterly coastal area of Spain. It has been inhabited since 227 BC. Being a most advantageous Mediterranean seaport helped to grow Cartagena’s importance to the local economy of the region and also helped to make it the epicenter of the Spanish Navy. Even present day this is still an important naval seaport, the main military haven of Spain, and home to a naval shipyard.
With such a long history and being such an important port Cartagena was conquered by many people such as the Romans, the Phoenicians, the Byzantines even the Moors.
Cartagena was limited in its boundaries by five small hills which also acted to protect the city from attack. So important was Cartagena to Roman expansion that Julius Caesar gave the town Latin Rights and the city was central to the Carthaginian and the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
In 298 AD Diocletian (famed for Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia) constituted a new Roman province in Hispania called Carthaginensis and made Cartagena the capital.
During the turbulent years to come this region of Spain was ruled by many factions. In 1245 King Alfonso X of Castile (Alfonso the Wise) conquered Cartagena. In 1270 he created the Order of Santa Maria de Espania for naval defense of the Crown of Castile and established its headquarters here which is where it still remains. Cartagena is also a cruise ship port. One to three ships dock here every week from March until about November. Cartagena also has 10 beaches, the most of any Spanish city.
For the princely sum of 12.50 Euros a person, a tourist can get a three for one all day tourism ticket. Included in the price is a visit to the Roman Theatre, a ride on the Cartagena tourism bus (a 40 minute ride around the city with recorded commentary on the city’s history) and entrance to Concepcion Castle, which is today the Centre for Interpretation of the History of Cartagena. If you have one day to spend in the city and you don’t mind walking a bit this inclusive tourism ticket is well worth the expense.
Not included in the ticket is entrance to the Naval Museum and other items of note around the city but all of the main attractions of the city are located within a few minutes walk of each other. You can literally see all of old Cartagena in a day’s time.
Before returning home we stopped in the tiny town of Los Nietos and walked the short distance to the Mar Menor beach front. The Mar Menor is a salty lagoon separated from the Mediterranean by a sand bar. It has warm and clear waters with high salinity, and incredibly high winds perfect for wind surfing. This inlet has been sanctioned by the United Nations as a protected area and along its coast line you can see the five volcanic islands (Perdiguera, Mayor or del Barón, del Ciervo, Redonda and del Sujeto).
The Mar Menor is Europes largest salt water lake. It has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic Era. Today the Mar Menor is a major tourism center and many of the hotels found along the inlet are first class resorts.