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Mar Menor, Murcia, Spain

Mar Menor (little sea or small sea) is a salty lagoon, in the south-east of the autonomous Community of Murcia, in Spain, separated from the Mediterranean sea by La Manga, a sandbar 22km in length and with a variable width from 100 to 1200m.

It belongs to four municipalities: Cartagena, Los Alcázares, San Javier and San Pedro del Pinatar. With a surface area of nearly 170km², a coastal length of 70km, and warm and clear water which does not exceed 7m in depth, it is “the largest swimming pool in the world“ according to the opinions of the famous swimmer and Hollywood actress Esther Williams. Its relatively high salinity, which aids flotation, and remarkable sporting infrastructures make this one of the most popular places in Europe for the practice and training of all kinds of water sports. Phoenicians initially, then the Moorish Kings, chose this “small sea” to install their summer residences here. Today, this place attracts all those who seek a quiet place to rest and relax, with ideal climatic conditions all year round.

At the northern end there are salt-flats which include a wetland of international importance. This area is conserved as a natural park administered by the regional government. Its name in Spanish is “Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar”. In 1994 the Mar Menor was included on the list of the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. The Mar Menor is also part of a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance and is a Special Protection Area (ZEPA in Spanish) for bird-life.

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