Anything But Paella

Adventure and Urbex in the Sierra Espuña

Sierra Espuña is a small range of mountains in the Murcia region. It is well signposted from the A7 / E15 motorway between the cities of Murcia and Lorca. We entered at Alhama de Murcia, which is also worthy of a few hours of your time. There are many reasons to visit and fans of action, adventure, urban exploration (urbex) and nature will find more than enough to justify a few days away.

We decided to bite the bullet and have a couple of nights at the La Mariposa hotel. So soon after the end of lockdown, the swimming pool was still closed but it is up and running now for your enjoyment. The hotel itself was wonderful and the food they serve up (but not on Wednesdays!) is top class. It would be worth visiting just for their menu del día but if you are not staying there, it’s probably best to book as word has definitely got out about their talent in the kitchen. There is a good circular walk exploring the countryside from the hotel, and they will point you in the direction of The Loop if you ask. It’s not particularly difficult and will take you an hour or two depending on how often you stop to enjoy the scenery.

The hotel also organise adventure activities in conjunction with Espuna Adventure. They have frequent rafting excursions and downhill mountain biking. We chose quad biking though. A two hour trip includes a dip in the electric blue waters of the nearby reservoir and a full four course lunch. The bikes are easy to handle, even for a novice with an injured elbow – yes, me! Within a few minutes I felt I had mastered the basics and gained confidence and speed with every passing dusty track, twist and turn. We had such a good time that we will definitely be back for more, and we say this honestly, not having been paid or encouraged to write this report.

You will definitely need your own transport to head up into the mountain range itself. Even on a cloudy day the views are spectacular. There are various walks to do but that wasn’t the reason we were there. If walking IS your reason for visiting, check out The Dinosaur Route, Walks in Spain, and Paths of Sierra Espuña for excellent information in English.

We, however, were there for a bit of Urban Exploration. Now, we are not the most adventurous or rebellious of urban explorers and a good padlock is enough to stop us from trespassing. I know others see this as more of a challenge but we do our best to respect the law whenever we can. The abandoned sanatorio (there’s no phone signal up there so get the location in your SatNav before you set out!) was a TB clinic in the early 20th century and was in operation until the 1950s. It was then repurposed as an orphanage until 1962 when its doors closed. In the 1980s a plan was put forward to convert it into a mountainous youth hostel, but the state of disrepair meant this project never got going. According to Atlas Obscura it is also haunted which no doubt has its own attractions for some. Getting inside was impossible because in addition to a sturdy padlock on the gates, a high fence has been constructed all the way around. Some of the outer buildings are accessible though, and the old leisure complex including the swimming pool needs, ahem, a new fence!

If you really want to venture inside the old sanatorio, you can do it virtually instead. It’s much safer and you won’t be breaking any laws in doing so!

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