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Guide for Good Hikes in Torrevieja & Around

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About Torrevieja

Unless you are an ex-pat or looking for a warm place by the Mediterranean to become one, the only reason you’d know the name of Torrevieja is its Salty lagoons, locally known as “Salinas”. Technically, it only concludes of two large water bodies: Laguna Salada de Torrevieja and Laguna Salada de La Mata, but I see many bloggers including the salt lagoons of Santa Pola, Elche, and even San Pedro del Pinatar, which is located in a totally different region – Murcia.

Though they don’t add up as the local Torrevieja lagoons, it defines the area in which the fifth largest city in Valenciana Community is located. The area might not be as straight-out beautiful as it is when hiking in the north of Costa Blanca, but nature around Torrevieja has its own flavor of experience and tranquility.

The southern part of Costa Blanca might not have as many advertisement as the northern counterpart, but for sure it has its own pearls. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Torrevieja Details

Map of Hiking Routes

Hiking Torrevieja and La Mata Salt Lagoons

Despite what people might say, neither Torrevieja Salt Lagoon nor La Mata Salt Lagoon has flamingos walking around, with the minor exceptions in the first one. Despite that, the Park of Natural Salt Lagoons is a true refuge for the wildlife, especially birds. Many birdwatching is definitely among the top hobbies of the local communities. I have to admit, with such a big variety it is hard not to fall for it.

Flamingos might be majestic but just one of many bird species in Costa Blanca. Photo by A.L. [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Torrevieja Salt Lagoon

Sometimes it is possible to see one or two flamingos, near the salt mine in Salt Lagoon of Torrevieja but getting near them is virtually impossible because that part of the lagoon is private property. There are holes to enter the area but I haven’t seen anybody trying to approach the spots. Generally, people come in to get to the nearest spot of the Lagoon to get awe-inspiring sunsets shots on the glassy surface of Torrevieja Salt Lagoon. Due to exploitation, it is much saltier than the counterpart in La Mata.

One could be forgiven for mistaking this view with a sunset on Titan Moon of Saturn. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Generally, there are no official hikes around this Lagoon and all of the official hiking is done around the wild neighbor.

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La Mata Salt Lagoon

Though most of the hiking and bird-watching is done on the side of La Mata salt Lagoon, facing the sea, it is possible to walk around the whole water body if you’d like. Officially, there are three hiking routes in the park, offering great diversity among them – if you prefer a minimal dose of this natural bird haven – these hikes are just for you. If you feel more adventurous – there are things to see beyond the routes and even some bird watching towers.

Water flows to La Mata Lagoon driven by gravity – the lake is below sea level. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Yellow Hiking Route

I highly recommend taking the yellow route to explore most of the natural ecosystems typically found in wetlands. That includes a wide variety of plants and the protagonists of this type of areas – birds. During the bird nesting season between April and July, you might consider taking the cycling (red) or wine (green) hiking route. Overall, the Salt Lagoon of La Mata is a great example of the natural salty wetlands of Costa Blanca. The park is a great place for bird-watching, but most importantly – the lagoon offers a peaceful area to hike further away from the noisy coastline.

Hike Details

La Mata Salt Lagoon i a true protected haven for various bird species. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Salt Lagoons of Santa Pola

This is where you can see flamingos – at the salt lagoons of Santa Pola. They are so abundant that it is hard to miss them even when simply driving-by. Despite the high numbers, getting close to these majestic birds is not simple. I’ve marked several parking lots on the map along the road throughout the salt lagoons, but have in mind that flamingos prefer privacy. Most of them feed in the ponds further away from the road, where people cannot disturb them. It is almost impossible to make a good shot of the pink birds without professional gear. Personally, I’ve simply learned to enjoy the fact of being surrounded by these beautiful birds without trying to make the moment last forever.

The 2470 ha area of the salt lagoons is an exemplary coexistence between traditional human cultivation and the conservation of nature. These old salty ponds look like they have an entire series of bird species, specialized in these unique natural conditions. This is because some parts of the salt lagoons are no longer in use for the salt extraction, but the whole salination mechanism is still in place. Apparently, birds really like that, thus countless species could be found within the salty ponds including flamingos, egrets, avocets, and many other bird species.

The flamingos are not the only pink things in the area. Thanks to the salt, a wide variety of plants and the ground itself have some amount of pink coloration, which grants the park some exceptional beauty. There is probably no better place to learn about the flora of the park than the hiking route in the Salt Lagoons of del Pinet. This 4 km / 2.48 mi hiking route will uncover all the secrets of this landscape: from the practical use of local herbs in ancient medicine to the mechanics of producing salt in these ponds.

Hiking route of del Pinet goes through old salt lagoons and sand dunes next to the Mediterranean. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Hike Details

If you want to learn more about salt cultivation in these areas, consider taking either red or green hiking route in the Nature Park of Salt Lagoons of Santa Pola.

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Sierra de Santa Pola – Santa Pola Lighthouse

From the first sight, the lighthouse of Santa Pola and the cliff on which it stands might seem mediocre, but in fact, there is much more hidden beneath the surface. First of all, Santa Pola Lighthouse is actually a medieval watchtower – Talaiola Tower. It was used to observe Tabarca or the Mediterranean for pirate ships and signal it to the people inside the fortress of Santa Pola. Such towers could be found across Costa Blanca. In fact, Torrevieja is named after one of such towers: Torre (eng. Tower) and Vieja (eng. Old). The actual tower is located on a hill, close to Cabo Cervera.

Escaletes Watch Tower could be easily reached on a short hike from the northern part of Santa Pola. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Second, the whole Sierra de Santa Pola is actually a fossil of approx. 5-million-year-old coral reef atoll. Taller than any of its surroundings, the 5 km diameter rock has slowly risen from the sea like a newly formed iceberg in slow motion due to the continuing collision between African and Eurasian plates. The evidence of this is so apparent that on the parts of the rocks, where erosion has opened the atoll, a good geologist could feel like diving in a sea. If you consider wandering off the road to explore the atoll and look for fossil, be sure to wear a good pair of sturdy hiking shoes.

There are quite a few hiking routes in Sierra de Santa Pola but the trail Connecting Escaletes Watch Tower to Talaiola Tower (Santa Pola Lighthouse) is the best way to experience everything this ancient place has to offer. The 3 km / 1.86 mi one-way hike will provide some glimpses of the local history, great views of the Mediterranean and New Tabarca island, and some insight into the park itself, which will unveil the distant past to any keen eye.

One doesn’t need a PhD in geology to tell that these rocks are somewhat different. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Hike Details

The main reward of Santa Pola Lighthouse hike is a skywalk, facing Tabarca island. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Salt Lagoons of San Pedro del Pinatar

That is right, more salt lagoons. Though it is located in a different region – Murcia – San Pedro del Pinatar is about the same distance from Torrevieja as Santa Pola. The salt lagoons are situated just next to the largest salt Lagoon in Europe – Mar Menor (Eng. Minor Sea). Regardless of that this large body of water feels like freshwater, compared to the salt lagoons of San Pedro del Pinatar.

Though flamingos are also present in these salt lagoons, to me the most distinctive feature of the place is the mud baths. Thanks to the high salinity and fairly large amount of sunlight in the region, Mar Menor muds are suitable for therapeutical treatments. In fact, the salt lagoons of  San Pedro del Pinatar are the biggest open-air mud therapy area in whole Europe. They might be too shallow to be drifted upon like in the Dead Sea but it is enough to get the same SPA procedure the famous sea provides, just for free.

In a fairly short distance, Los Encanizadas has plenty of different terrains to offer. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Once you look at the map, the uniqueness of this area is obvious. The narrow passage between Mar Menor and the Mediterranean catches the eye. Thanks to the unique traits and no urbanization, this is where most of the hiking is done. The obvious hiking trail to beat is the round route along the coast of the peninsula, though due to its length it might be wise to pick up a by cycle for the task.

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To sum things up, the salt lagoons of San Pedro del Pinatar have flamingos, sand dunes, the sea, dead-sea-like SPA mud, and the largest salt lagoon in Europe. Sounds impressive, right? Just have in mind that these are also the most urbanized salt lagoons on the list as well.

Las Encañizadas Hike Details

Even in urbanized salty ponds, flamingos are flamingos. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Playa de Calblanque

Located beyond even the large Mar large in Murcia, the hike to Playa de Calblanque (eng. White Street beach) starts at Cala Reona on the edge of Cabo de Palos. Though the route is located a bit further from Torrevieja, Playa de Calblanque is a good alternative destination to expand your exploration of the gorgeous Spanish Mediterranean coast. Situated in a regional park with the same name, the pristine beach and its surroundings is a wonderful quiet getaway to nature, undisturbed by the noisy urbanized coasts of Costa Blanca.

The hike to Playa de Calblanque provides
a great variety of landscapes. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

What I love about the coast of Calblanque Park is the impression of being alien in this part of Spain. The dark stones of mountains and cliffs give an impression of being of volcanic origin. As a matter of fact, these dark rocks are ancient relics from the pre-dinosaur times, formed due to certain extreme conditions, close to the melting point. These types of natural stones are called metamorphic rocks. To my experience, they are much rarer at the surface than sedimentary or volcanic counterparts. They were unearthed for the same reason as all Betic Mountains in southeast Spain – the collision of African and Eurasian plates. One can really learn to appreciate the topography of scenery with the help of geology.

The cliffs between Cala Reona & Playa de Calblanque unveils ancient metamorphic rocks. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Because of the very old nature of this landscape, many mining shafts could be found along the hiking route. If it was not for the formation of Calblanque Regional Park in 1992, these magnificent lands would be exploited to this day. Thankfully, the reality is quite opposite. Calblanque Regional Park offers a great refuge not only to many plant and bird species but helps nature lovers to escape from the otherwise noisy neighborhood. It is considered to be among the best-preserved such geological coastlines in the whole Mediterranean. If nothing, hiking along it is a pure joy.

Hike Details

Some parts of the hike require extra attention and a good pair of shoes. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Personal Experience

It is a popular notion that the Southern part of Costa Blanca is not as pretty as the northern one. While I agree with the statement due to personal liking of the mountains, not everybody might have the same opinion. The matter of fact is that the areas, surrounding Torrevieja in South Costa Blanca have a different type of landscape. Instead of mountains, cliffs, and rocky beaches of the northern part of the region, the south has sandy beaches, much smaller cliffs, and wetlands. On top of everything, the region around Torrevieja has its own unique climate zone compared to the rest of the Iberian peninsula. The hot semi-arid climate might sound a bit extreme in summer but in turn, it makes every winter trully pleasant not only to humans but birds as well. As the result, the southern part of Costa Blanca doesn’t look like semi-deadlands at all.

..and then again – the sunsets and sunrises on the salty lagoons are just mesmerizing. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Given all of that, hiking in the area around Torrevieja is just different from hiking in the upper part of Costa Blanca. To some, it will provide a more desirable and accessible landscape than the mountainous one, to the others – at least some unique variety in Spain. One thing is for sure, if you learn to appreciate the wonder, the regions around Torrevieja are, the rewards are going to be immense.

All content and photos by Alis Monte. If you want to collaborate, contact me on info@ctdots.eu Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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