Murcia is a small region, but with large geographical variety within its borders. Perhaps best known internationally for the Mar Menor, a 170 square kilometer salt lagoon separated from the ocean by a narrow twenty-two kilometer long sandbank, it is also home to mountains rising to over two-thousand meters, and a fertile strip of valleys where vegetable production dominates.
Evidence of a Roman presence is most notably present in the restored Roman theatre in the coastal city of Cartagena. But it was under Muslim rule that Murcia gained a level of independence, when it became a seperate taifa, or Kingdom State, upon the breakup of centralized authority. It was eventually conquered by Castilla, but Arab forts and castles still dot the landscape around the region.
The eponymous capital was also founded by the Moors, set in the valley near the intensive production of fruits and vegetables. The entire Southeast corner of Spain, Murcia and further south, devote large areas of land to this industry, and large swathes of terrain are covered in tarpaulin greenhouses. The production conflicts with one of the regions main difficulties, water scarcity. This is a problem for the country as a whole; figures from the ministry responsible for the environment for the year 2007 show almost 18 percent of the country at a high or very high risk of desertification, but in Murcia this rises to over 40 percent of the territory.
Tourism in the region is centered around the coast, known as the costa calida, or “hot coast,” where tourist resorts dominate. La Manga, on the Mar Menor, is the most well known. These resorts too, and their landscaped gardens and golf courses, contribute to the water scarcity issue. Less popular attractions in the region are the inland cities of Murcia and Lorca, and the woody mountains which are popular locally for hiking and hunting.