Visitors to Torrevieja who are keen to discover the history of the area can brows its museums, monuments and historical buildings. For those with access to a vehicle, a visit to the historical port city of Cartagena is a must, and only takes around 50 minutes. Founded in 227 BC, Cartagena has played an important role in Spain’s military history due to its strategic defensive port, one of the most important in the Mediterranean. To this day the city remains the capital of the Spanish Navy’s Maritime Department. Many famous people have claimed Cartagena as home and maybe the most notable of these is one of the worlds most brilliant military commanders, Hannibal.
Today Cartagena’s port, which is the third deepest in the world, receives regular visits from cruise ships. The city is easy to explore on foot, although there is a tour bus and tour boat which are both very informative. One of the most striking features of the city, and surprisingly only discovered in 1987, is the Roman Theatre, now partially restored to its former glory and showcased as a museum. There are many other interesting museums to visit, as well as historical buildings, churches, monuments and archaeological sites. For great views and information on the city, the Centre of Interpretation of the History of Cartagena is located at the top of Conception Hill. The walk to the top of the hill offers other interesting places to see although there is a handy lift that will whisk you to the top in no time, with panoramic views on the way through its glass walls.
When Rome declared war on Carthage in 218 BC, it was from here that Hannibal set out on his famous journey across the Alps to conquer his enemy. With a force of 94,000 men including cavalry, siege engines and, famously, 36 war elephants he set off on what is generally regarded as a masterpiece of military strategy, the crossing of the Alps. Such were the rigours of this epic journey, coupled with countless skirmishes along the way, by the time Hannibal finally reached Rome he had lost all his elephants, siege engines and the vast majority of his army. With only 6,000 remaining soldiers from his original force of 94,000 and no siege engines to penetrate Rome’s fortifications, Hannibal’s last remaining hope was for reinforcements from Carthage. When these did not arrive due to appalling weather conditions, he was finally defeated by his worthy opponent Quintus Fabius Maximus, and was forced to retreat.
Throughout the city there are shady parks and plazas to escape the midday heat, and an excellent selection of air conditioned shops and boutiques. The gastronomy of the region can be sampled in a number of quaint tapas bars and top class restaurants, and the fresh fish and seafood that features highly on most menus is not to be missed. Although a port city, Cartagena’s coastline is mainly made up of small bays, rocky coves and one main beach, Cala Cortina. Just a short drive from the city there are many more superb beaches including the ones at La Manga which is a favourite destination for water sports.