The Murcia to Caravaca de la Cruz railway was built with public funds at a time when private enterprise saw little profit in railways. Work on the railway started in 1925 and because of the amazing terrain between Caravaca and Murcia,
numerous bridges and viaducts were constructed along the route. It was eventually completed in 1931, although it was not opened until May 28th 1933. It was never a very successful venture as the roads improved and eventually on April 15th 1971, all services to Caravaca were withdrawn. The rails and sleepers were removed and it is this railway track that serves as the basis of the Via Verde.
The Via Verde was completed in 1998. The trail is well signposted and easy to follow. It is only when the path get diverted through built-up areas that there is a slight risk of getting lost. You can travel either by cycle or by foot and can travel the whole length of the Via Verde, or just part of it.
A good place to start is at the charming village of Los Baños de Mula. This is the easternmost end of the route, although there are plans to extend the Via Verde for a further 10 km as far as Campos del Río. At Los Baños de Mula, travellers can enjoy the thermal waters in a number of baths at a simple but very attractive spa. The railway itself starts about a kilometre from the village, alongside the ruins of the old “apeadero” station where a small rest area has been set up.
The first major engineering feature is a 200m long viaduct which crosses high over the Rambla Perea. Soon after you need to take special care in crossing the C-415 rural road, a road which will be our travelling companion for the entire route, before arriving at La Puebla de Mula railway station (Km 3). Once through the station you cross the Rio Mula by another spectacular viaduct.
The next part of the Via Verde passes through a particularly arid landscape, that geographers call ‘badlands’ an area with no vegetation and whose chalky top soil has been eroded by the infrequent, but torrential, rainfalls in this area. The chalky aridity of these badlands contrasts with the valley bottom, which is covered with lush vegetable fields irrigated by the Rio Mula.
At Km 5 we reach the outskirts of the town of Mula. From here the C-415 motorway has invaded the former railway track to create a bypass road. There is a purpose-built track through an industrial estate (careful at those crossroads!) which avoids the main road. The houses of the town of Mula are close by, making this an ideal place to stop and look around.
At Km 8.4 we rejoin the road which is built on the original route of the railway, so we need to make use of some rural tracks. There are one or two short climbs as you make our way towards the Santuario de El Niño. You eventually join the old railway line at the Apeadero de El Niño.
After the station, follow the railway through a number of tunnels (between 60m and 200m in length). After the first two the landscape changes abruptly as the Via Verde makes its way between pine woods and scrubland, dotted with orchards of almond and other fruit trees irrigated by water drawn from the Rio Mula.
After two more tunnels (200m and 100m respectively) you reach the Apeadero de La Luz (Km 17.4) before crossing the Rio Mula by means of another impressive viaduct with eight arches. This leads to the highest spot in the route, at Bullas (630m), which is after a short distance along the watershed of the Rios Mula and Rambla de Codona.
The trail begins to drop gently towards Caravaca. In Bullas, it is the same situation as in Mula with the railway line being taken over by the road. Make good use of the well signposted route through the higher part of the town (where there are a number of steep hills). Following the signs, climbing up to the top of the town, past the “La Rafa” campsite and the cemetery (Km 27.4). This is a good opportunity to take a stroll through the historic town centre of Bullas and sample the produce of the local wineries.
From the cemetery, take a dirt track which first drops down to the watercourse of the Arroyo de Los Muleros before meeting the C-415 yet again. Here a tarmacked cycle path of some 700m takes you (at Km 30.6) to a level crossing hut which lets you know that you are back on the old railway line again.
Having negotiated the town of Bullas you arrive at one of the most impressive sections of the route. You travel between steep hillsides covered with pine trees and cross two spectacular viaducts over the Arroyo Burete (Km 31.3) and the Rio Quípar (Km 34) respectively. Just before reaching the second of the two viaducts the Via Verde passes by the remains of the ancient Visigoth city of Begastri, precursor to present day Cehegín. This area is gradually being excavated.
After crossing the C-415 once again, at Km 40.5, you reach the town of Cehegín whose railway station (Km 40.9) is in a good state of repair. From here the historic town centre with its monuments dating back as far as the 15th century is in easy reach and again is well worth a visit. About 800m past the station, the road once again converges on the Via Verde and you are forced to make a small, perfectly signposted, detour through the outskirts of Cehegín. At Km 42.4, having left the streets Cehegín you rejoin the Via Verde once again, and just a little further on, at Km 43.5, you pass through the last tunnel on our journey.
From here there is a clear run into Caravaca through a leafy grove of trees. The final stretch to the old station (Km 50.)