Portmán is within the municipality of La Unión
Portmán lies within the municipality of La Unión and is located 7km to the south-east of La Unión and around 50 km from the capital city of Murcia. It’s around a half an hour journey to the regional airport of San Javier and is part of the area known as the Comarca del Mar Menor.
The village has a steady population of Spanish and foreign nationals, and has good basic facilities in the form of medical and community centre, and an active social calendar including Fiestas in honour of patron saint Santiago Apostól on 25th July, the Virgen del Carmen on the 16th July, carnival, Semana Santa ( Easter) and Christmas festivities.
Located in a spectacular south-facing bay, this small town (population approximately 1,000) is only a couple of kilometres from the vast La Manga Club to the east, one of Spain’s foremost residential tourism complexes, and behind it lies the Sierra Minera, which has brought wealth to Cartagena and La Unión at various points during the last two thousand years or so due to the mineral deposits being mined. This was especially the case during the Roman occupation and the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Mining has long been the principal activity in Portmán, although fishing has also sustained the local population during periods of mining inactivity.
Despite the advantages of its beautiful location and long history, though, the town has failed to capitalize on the growth of residential and beach tourism which has affected almost the whole of the rest of the Costa Cálida over the last forty years.
The reason for this lies almost entirely in the over-ambition of the miners in the second half of the twentieth century, when open-cast pyrite mining and the dumping of sterile substances all but destroyed the bay. What used to be a natural harbour which gave the town its name (from the Latin “portus magnus”, or large port) is now almost completely filled in with by-products of the mining, and despite concerted attempts on the part of the Town Hall in La Unión for regeneration to begin, all plans have so far been scuppered by lack of funds or other obstacles.
Nonetheless, the dark sandy beach which has been created next to a small marina and fishing port is a very attractive one, and the surrounding countryside, which includes part of the regional park of Calblanque, Monte de las Cenizas y Peña de las Águilas, is spectacular, the walk up to the former gun emplacements of Monte Cenizas, La Chapa and Negrete nearby well worth undertaking. Portmán is completely enclosed by mountains, the Monte de las Cenizas, Peña del Águila, Sancti Spiritu, Cabezo de las Lajas, Cabezo del Pino and Monte Galera surrounding the urban structure.
Visitors choosing a coastal route between La Unión and Atamaría at the southern end of the La Manga Club resort will be treated to a drive through the impressive and unforgiving landscape of the Sierra Minera before descending into the town, which although it includes townhouses and apartments like any other is still dominated by the remnants of its mining past. Abandoned installations like the Lavadero Roberto dwarf the housing, and although some attractive small chalets have been built it seems that residential tourists are intimidated both by the notoriety of the bay’s past and the possibility of major earthworks taking place if the regeneration scheme eventually becomes a reality.
After spending time exploring the beach and the town, those continuing eastwards along the RM-314 then climb over the mountains before emerging into a completely different world, namely the lush greenery of the Atamaría golf course on the La Manga Club complex.
Should regeneration of the bay go ahead as hoped for by residents, this then opens the door for the bay to be developed further for residential tourism, meaning the ambience of a sleepy coastal community will be replaced by an altogether more commercial atmosphere if the planned thousands of rental apartments, golf course and marina are constructed.
For now, however, Portmán remains a hidden enclave close to all major facilities while the battle to regenerate the bay continues.
Where is Portmán?
Click for map, Portmán La Unión