La Manga Strip
Located on the Costa Calida coastline within the region of Murcia, the Mar Menor is Europe's largest salt water lake, having an area of 170km2 and a depth no greater than 7 metres it is a unique location. The salt pans to the north of the Mar Menor are some of the most important wetland areas in Europe with a rich and varied wildlife, and are particularly important for bird species of which there are many.
The Mar Menor was known to the ancients and was in fact settled during the Palaeolithic Era. The Phoenicians and Greeks knew of the Mar Menor and would have probably stopped off there whilst trading along this part of the coast.
The Romans established settlements along the coast and were the first to understand the importance of the huge salt deposits to be found in this part of Spain, they began the salt extraction industry which is still important to this day. The Romans called it Belich and used the Mar Menor as a harbour (it is believed to have been deeper at that time) and built Spas to make use of the healing powers of the salt water.
Over time there were further settlements during the Arab occupation of Spain (8th to 13th Centuries) and the Moors were well aware of the healing properties of the salt water and founded some resorts (for instance Los Alcazares) as places of relaxation and recuperation, the Moors also introduced some excellent irrigation systems which allowed the hinterland of the Mar Menor to become an important area for agriculture. The Arabs also introduced some unique fishing methods which resulted in the Mar Menor having a successful fishing industry.
San Pedro del Pinatar at the northern point of the Mar Menor was home to the HQ of the first 'Brotherhood of Fishermen' for the Mar Menor and the first fishing co-operative was also founded there in 1918.
The Mar Menor is formed by a narrow strip of land known as La Manga (The Sleeve) and in recent years this strip of land has seen massive development and is now covered with high-rise apartment blocks and hotels, the La Manga Golf Club is a famous sports resort linked with La Manga but not actually on La Manga and can be found a few kilometres before reaching the famous sleeve when driving in this direction.
The Mar Menor is renowned for having a water temperature some 5º warmer than the surrounding Mediterranean Sea and many go to swim there all year round. Many others go for the healing mud baths located at Lo Pagan near the beach close to San Pedro, which have become famous worldwide for their healing properties.