Mountains, the River Segura and a glimpse into the Moorish roots of Murcia
The municipality of Abarán occupies an area of 115 square kilometres and is sandwiched between the two other municipalities which comprise the Vega Alta del Segura area: these are Cieza to the north-west and Blanca to the south-east.
Most of the 13,000 inhabitants live in the town of Abarán itself, with the rest of the municipality consisting of the mountains and the valley of the River Segura, which loops around the western side of the town. The mountains reach a height of over 1,200 metres above sea level – that’s only slightly lower than Ben Nevis – and the wooded Sierra de la Pila is a regional park. Among the outlying villages in this green, hilly countryside which is often considered to be part of the Ricote valley are San José Artesano, Hoya del Campo and Venta de La Aurora.
A good indication of the characteristics of Abarán is that four of the seven water wheels still in use in the Region of Murcia are within this municipality, and the Noria Grande is claimed to be the largest of its type still in operation in Europe. The beauty of the surrounding countryside can be enjoyed either on foot or by car, with favourite viewing points ncluding the Mirador de las Ventanas opposite the Cabezo de la Cruz.
The location of Abarán on the eastern bank of the Segura has made it an attractive location for settlers from as long ago as the Bronze Age, with the earliest archaeological evidence of human occupation dating from around 2,000 years BC.
Both the Iberians and Romans occupied the area, and the Moors then colonized this part of the modern-day Region of Murcia for many centuries (See History of Murcia City for history of this area) until the town came under the control of the Crown of Castile in 1238. Since then the town has grown under Christian rule, obtaining its town charter in 1483, although many Moors still lived here until the 17th century. The remains of 12th century Moorish fortifications have been found on the Cabezo de la Cobertura, on the opposite bank of the river from the modern town.
As is so often the case in the Region of Murcia, the main monuments in the town of Abarán are religious. These include the church of San Pablo, the Church of San Cosme and San Damián and the Santuario de la Virgen del Oro in the mountains outside the town. The church of San Pablo, which dates from the 16th and 17th centuries, contains a figure of Christ as a child created by Francisco Salzillo.
Other constructions of interest include the Teatro Cervantes, the 19th-century bullring and the Chimenea de Félix Cayetano, which was built in the early 20th century when the local economy was stimulated by the arrival of the railway.
Visitors to Abarán enjoy not only the monuments and the spectacular countryside, but also the local gastronomy, which includes a wide range of pot meals (such as olla gitana), rice dishes and the roast lamb so favoured among the inland areas of the Region of Murcia. The fruit and vegetables which used to form the backbone of the regional economy are also popular here, and the locals are especially proud of their apricot and peach jams.
The countryside of Abarán attracts visitors all year round, but more come to the town itself during the fiestas. Apart from Holy Week, special times of the year in Abarán include the last fortnight in September, when fiestas in honour of San Cosme and San Damián are held, and 6th January, when images of the young Jesus Christ are paraded through the streets of the town to coincide with Twelfth Night. This celebration is a tradition which dates back to the early 1700s.
Abarán is not a large town but it lies in a fascinating and beautiful area, providing visitors with a glimpse of the “other” region of Murcia, where agriculture has prospered for centuries in the fertile lands alongside the River Segura, where the mountains are covered by vegetation and where the Moorish population remained later than in almost any other part of Spain.
Where is Abarán?
Click for map, Abarán Murcia