La Manga, which means "sleeve" or "arm" refering to the shape of this strip of land, was formed from the sediment accumulation of sand transported by sea winds which was forced to the surface when it encountered the volcanic formations below the sea. This created a barrier which gave shape to the Mar Menor.
Although La Manga acquired its present form and structure in the 17th Century, the first human habitation in the area is thought to have been Neolithic Man. Remains have been found dating back some 5,000 years of a village which was built in the area of Las Amoladeras, what is now the entrance to La Manga.
This settlement was in the form of huts built in a protective circle and were made from wattle and reeds. The settlement did not have any form of fortification and the villagers lived from the sea, by fishing and collecting shell-fish. Hard to imagine today, the area was supposed to have been surrounded by forests which reached to the edge of the sea.
Many aspects of this area attracted settlers from all over Spain and other countries. The richness of the mountain range above La Union, now called the Sierra Minera, plus the exceptional advantages of the Mar Menor, and together with the Carthaginians and the Romans, they began to exploit both the silver mines and the fishing trade.
It has been established from the sunken ruins at "El Estacio" that La Manga was used in pre-historic times as a "fish factory".From other treasures discovered at the bottom of the seas which skirt La Manga, the remains of various vessels can be traced to the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans and these were used to transport ingots of silver and lead, in addition to ceramic pots containing a variety of merchandise.
The Arabs brought about the introduction of a form of fishing known as "las
Encañizadas" (cane enclosures), a method which is still in use today and can be seen in many areas of the Mar Menor. After the expulsion of the Moors, La Manga was constantly attacked by the Magrebs who patrolled the coastline. To help defend themselves from these attacks, the emperor Carlos and his son Felipe II ordered the construction of three "watch towers" on La Manga and another at Cabo de Palos.
The vast forests of pines, plus the different varieties of oak and yew were gradually reduced during the Middle Ages and in the 18th century their exploitation for fuel and brushwood, aided by the strong winds from the Mediterranean, contributing to the gradual deforestation.
La Manga is situated in the Province of Murcia in a coastal area which
boasts one of the most moderate climates in Europe, with more days of sunshine than other mainland areas and water temperatures higher than average. As a result, it has become known as the "Costa Calida" (the "WarmCoast"). It is a strip of sand, approx. 22kms. long, which forms a "barrier" and encloses the "Mar Menor" (MinorSea) and separates it from
the "Mar Mayor" (the Mediterranean Sea). At it's narrowest parts it is only 100 metres wide and the maximum width is 1.5km.
There are four canals along the length of La Manga which allow the water to flow from one sea to the other and at the two extremes of the strip there are two protected natural spaces. At the northern end is the "Parque Regional de las Salinas (salt flats) y Arenales de San Pedro, and to the south are more salt flats known as "Las Salinas de Marchamalo y Las Amoladeras". There are over 44km. of beaches, protected bays and coves on the side of the Mar Menor and longer, wider expanses of pure golden sand fronting the Mediterranean Sea.
La Manga over the years has become home for a large cosmopolitan society made up of all nationalities and this mix means that the services and amenities on offer is more varied than would normally be found in Mediterranean resorts. There is a complete mix of nationalities, including many English, German, Swedish and Belgian business owners, to name but a few, which means that everyone has the opportunity to try different cuisines and sample different atmospheres created by these intrepid settlers in Spain.
There are three open air cinemas offering different programmes each night, where young and old alike grab their popcorn and their own plastic chair to settle in for the nights entertainment. It should be said that the films are normally in Spanish which might make it difficult for the average tourist.
There really is something for everyone - cocktail bars, live-music, jazz, rock, blues, etc. The choice is fantastic. For those with the stamina, a trip to one of the "discos" will round off the evening.