Source: Instituto de Turismo de la Región de Murcia/Azalea Group
It's Holy Jubilee Year again in the beautiful, historic town of Caravaca de la Cruz, in the north-east of Región de Murcia, in Spain - one of just five holy cities in the world. Each of the five holy cities - the others are Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela and Santo Toribio de Liébana - are, by Papal authority, allowed to celebrate the Perpetual Jubilee - a celebration every seven years at the town's Sanctuary of the True Cross.
Legend has it that, in 1232, the Moorish King Abu Zeid was converted to Christianity when he saw how two angels brought a cross down from heaven to a priest held prisoner in the castle, in order for him to celebrate Mass.
Almost 400 years later, inspired by the legend, on the site of the fortress, the Sanctuary of the True Cross was built, with its spectacular red marble façade and its fascinating Holy Art and History Museum. Created by the Knights Templar to house a fragment of the True Cross, it is now, primarily a shrine to which thousands of pilgrims pay their respects every year.
The Camino de Levante connects Orihuela with Caravaca de la Cruz, and is a popular route of pilgrimage. On foot, by bicycle or on horseback, each chooses the best way to experience the spirituality of their own voyage as they complete the 120km journey to the Sanctuary of the True Cross. It consists of five stages, during which, apart from strengthening one's faith, there is also time to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the gastronomy of the region.
But Caravaca de la Cruz is steeped in history throughout. Down the centuries, the town has been visited by Iberians, Romans, Muslims and the Knights Templar.At a distance, the town takes on the appearance of a film set - exactly as a director may have imagined an old Spanish town, with narrow streets and small squares, its baroque and renaissance buildings all overlooked by the castle and church at the top of a hill. Yet for all its apparent other worldliness' Caravaca de la Cruz remains a living town, with its sun-bleached houses and towers seemingly defying the onset of the 21st century.
All these historic and emblematic buildings provide the perfect milieu for one of Spain's most recognisable festivals, the colourful, loud and internationally-renowned festivities of Santísima y Vera Cruz de Caravaca', from May 1-5.
The Caballos del Vino (Wine Horses) takes place on May 2, the most intense day of its festivity, where thousands gather each year to watch the horses race up the old streets to the castle, the majority of spectators wearing white shirts, with a red neckerchief, as they commemorate a legend dating back 700 years to when the castle of the sacred city was besieged.
Caravaca de la Cruz's privileged position also ensures a variety of rural activities with many people visiting for the opportunities it offers for relaxed bike rides, horse-riding or simply hill walking. Small wonder then, that it's not just those of a religious persuasion who make regular pilgrimages to Caravaca de la Cruz. A three-night, B&B break, from May 3-6, at the two-star Hotel Malena - only a 10-minute drive from the town centre - in a twin or double room, costs just £58.17 per room, per night.
The Murcia-San Javier Airport lies just over an hour's drive south-east of Caravaca de la Cruz, and flights are available from Luton, Gatwick, Stansted, East Midlands, Manchester, Bournemouth and Glasgow Prestwick airports.
To view a video on Caravaca de la Cruz's Holy Jubilee year, visit https://youtu.be/ZpHH_z6tjZE.
About the Region of Murcia
The Costa Cálida, Region of Murcia is an ideal leisure and sport destination for UK travelers. The area offers year-round sunshine with an average temperature of 19.4c and 315 days of sunshine per year.
The picturesque region is just two hours from the UK by plane, in the south-east of Spain. The Region of Murcia is in a privileged setting within the Mediterranean basin and includes 252km of coastline, known as the Costa Cálida' or warm coast.
Visitors can take their pick from numerous sandy beaches; a variety of water sports and diving locations; 22 top-quality golf courses, all within easy reach of each other; delicious culinary delights; relaxing spas; and the opportunity to explore the beautiful countryside and regional parks.
The Mar Menor is a saltwater lagoon with warm shallow waters, gentle wind, sheltered coastline and many hotel facilities and sports infrastructures, which make it the ideal setting for water sports at any time of year, for all tastes and ages. Here, visitors can enjoy kite surfing, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, water skiing and much more.
They can also enjoy diving in the marine reserve of Islas Hormigas, settled in Cabo de Palos, which has been recognised as one of the best places for diving anywhere along the Mediterranean and where you can explore everything from historical wrecks to amazing underwater landscapes.
The port of Mazarrón offers visitors a rich artistic heritage and a range of interesting leisure options, with more than 35km of beaches, unspoiled coves and rocky sea beds. Mazarrón Bay is sheltered by the foothills of the Sierra de la Almenara, while the port offers visitors many opportunities to learn about the town's seafaring tradition.
And just half-an-hour along the coast, another delightful port city, Águilas, blends a tradition of seafaring with a wide range of tourist facilities, making the most of one of its main attractions, the extensive coastline. There is much to remind visitors of its 19th-century heyday, when it was a major mining enclave, such as the Hornillo jetty, where iron, lead and silver were loaded on to ships.
There is always something going on in the region with a host of big events and festivals taking place throughout the year, including the international music festival SOS 4.8' in Murcia at the beginning of May, or the varied summer festivals including La Mar de Músicas' in Cartagena, or the International Jazz Festival in San Javier, both in July. And visitors can also enjoy August's El Cante de Las Minas Flamenco Festival' in La Unión.
For more information, please visit www.murciaturistica.es/en