Treasure of the Spanish southeast coast, with an area of 170 km2, the Mar Menor lagoon is the largest salt lake in Europe. Located on the south-eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, it is separated from the Mediterranean by La Manga, a strip of land on which channels or river mouths open connecting both seas.
The Mar Menor has 73 kilometres of coastline, and on its shores you will find a succession of beaches, with transparent waters and a maximum depth of 7 meters, tempered by the sun and very rich in salt and iodine.
The climate is mild and privileged. So much so that there has always been talk of the permanent spring of the Mar Menor, reaching an annual average temperature around 17ºC. I has the warmest winters in the Peninsula with average temperatures that never drop below 10ºC, conducive to enjoy a sunny calm, and the mildest summers of the Mediterranean coast thanks to the light breezes of Levante (“east”), which provide a monthly average temperature of 25ºC. Another remarkable virtue of this Mediterranean land are the 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, which provide 320 days of excellent weather to enjoy life to its fullest.
This ecosystem is of a noteworthy visual and biological uniqueness, which also has been classified under various protection categories. It is considered a Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) and Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR), as well as a Site of Community Importance (SCI). The most important protected species include the Spanish toothcarp, an endemic fish of the Iberian east, and the seahorse, while in wild flora there is the African wolfbane. Its islands of volcanic origin are also remarkable habitats thanks to their ecological value, including La Perdiguera, Mayor, Redonda, Ciervo and Sujeto, which have the declaration of Protected Landscape of Open Spaces and Mar Menor Islands.
Regarding its history, the first settlements date from the Palaeolithic, although the population concentrations on which more information is available and of which more vestiges have been found are from the Roman and Arab times.
The Romans called it Belich and greatly appreciated the area, where they developed an important salazones (“salted fish”) industry. There was also significant maritime traffic, which suggests that the settlement was fundamentally industrial. They used to mention it as a port of refuge even for heavy ships, because it had much more depth. This traffic was possible because in Roman times, the Mar Menor was virtually joined to the Mediterranean sea. Over time, it suffered a slow and gradual closure and its appearance began to be similar to the current one about 1,000 years ago.
In the same way, Arab and Carthaginian writings of the time spoke of the importance of the salt flats located in the north, today one of the most important wetlands in Spain, as well as the fishing gears called Encañizadas, which are preserved today once they have been restored.
Ancient chronicles, such as the Libro de Montería de Alfonso X (“book on hunting”), speak of the rich wildlife and the beautiful landscapes of this area. The Isla del Ciervo (“island of the deer”) retains the toponym of the animal that once inhabited it, while in the neighbouring town of Pinatar there were once wild boars and there are still thrushes, guinea fowls, ducks and other waterfowls that do the winter in the warm waters of this unique sea.
The past presence of all these civilizations in our Mar Menor brought, for centuries, a sense of tourism both to its people and lifestyle and for more than a hundred years it has been considered as an important international tourist centre.