The Altiplano Region takes us into Castilian Murcia, an area of sprawling fields that betoken the proximity of the plains of La Mancha. This landscape meets the eyes of the visitor with its ubiquitous vineyards (the winegrowing areas of Jumilla and Yecla), towns steeped in history and tradition such as Abanilla, or the generous hot springs of Fortuna. The possibilities offered by this region are plentiful. One option is to visit the archaeological sites from the Bronze and Middle Ages, and Roman times, as well as a curious collection of Iberian artefacts. The breeze from the nearby Sierra de El Carche refreshes the heat of Jumilla’s vine-covered territory, with its fiestas such as the Vendimia, or Grape Harvest. Yecla too, in the shadow of its emblematic Monte Arabí, is drawn into this festive tradition when in December the town pays homage to the Virgin, or Purísima, amidst the purifying rituals of gunpowder and harquebusades. Everyone is welcome.
Some Information about the major towns in the North East.
Not far from the capital of the Murcia Region, Fortuna is famous for the abundance of its hot springs. Water, scarce in this area, flows freely in Fortuna, giving rise to a number of fountains such as la Higuera, la Cueva Negra or los Baños, thermal springs that were already popular in Roman times and which have today converted Fortuna into an important spa town.
The history of the town goes back to Iberian settlements, the remains of which can still be seen in outlying districts such as Caprés, Castillejo or Cortao de las Peñas. The Arab domination is still visible in the Castillico de los Moros (Moors Castle). The town’s cultural heritage is enriched with the Baroque-style Parish Church of La Purísima, the Convent and the Town Hall (which conserves some beautiful panneaux), all constructed in an aesthetic modernist style.
Regarded by many authors as the “Palestine of Murcia”, this municipality, thanks to its climate and the good work of its inhabitants, has come to be an oasis in the Murcian desert. Its situation between Aragon and Castile made it a strategic location during the Reconquest; the festival of the Holy Cross in May evokes these battles between Moors and Christians. To walk around Abanilla is like going back to the Middle Ages: the monuments lining the streets, its ancestral homes, etc. Numerous hermitages evoke the piety that prevails in this municipality, particularly the Church of San José, the patron saint of Abanilla, which was consecrated by Cardinal Belluga in 1712. Visitors to Abanilla can see the tradition of the town’s water mills and oil presses, the legacy of its forefathers, as if the town were wishing to recover its past. Nature spots include an attractive landscape, where you can enjoy a pleasant swim in the waters that flow through it. The surrounding countryside (at times desert-like) is covered with the water that flows from its thermal springs. Visitors can admire the Cortao de las Peñas (two mountains split apart by the movement of the earth), or the Humedal del Ajauque and Rambla Salada, protected wetland areas of great beauty.
Yecla is a town with a singular spirit, due mainly to its enclave situation, and is the living image of Castilian Murcia, the area of transition between the coastal zone and the plains of La Mancha. Preceded by the fame of its inhabitants, it is naturally a town of enormous character which has impressed such writers as Azorín or Pío Baroja. The town is watched over by the Castle and the Sanctuary of La Purísima, which locals troop up to every 7th December the day of the Alborada firing volleys of gunpowder with their ancient harquebuses.
Yecla has some rather unique sights, such as the Church of La Purísima or the Plaza Mayor; others of great beauty, like the Church of El Salvador, the Marketplace and the Clock Tower. This region offers a number of hiking, cycling and potholing alternatives. Take a bike along the track that leads to Monte Arabí (a mountain propitious for fables and legends) to see the Neolithic rock paintings that decorate the caves of the Canto de la Visera and Mediodía. A long-distance hiking trail (the GR7), which comes down from the North of Spain to the Levant, passes through the region.
Aside from these attractions, Yecla has a very intense economic activity, based mainly on the manufacture of furniture, which is the object of an important world-famous fair. Also of note are the local wines, which have their own Denominación de Origen and have won numerous awards in competitions both in Spain and abroad.