The Isla del Fraile: An oasis of biodiversity and archaeology of the Roman Empire off the coast of Murcia

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Shrouded in mystery and majesty, the Isla del Fraile stands as a hidden gem in the vast blue of the Mediterranean, off the coast of Aguilas, Murcia. This small but significant islet holds within it stories of ancient civilisations and trade in Roman times, a living testimony to the rich cultural tapestry that has woven the history of this region.

Thus, the island represents a symbol of natural beauty and cultural richness for Águilas and the entire Costa Cálida. With its rugged rocky landscape, native vegetation and crystal clear waters, it is the perfect setting for lovers of snorkelling, history and archaeology. Moreover, its uniqueness attracts visitors from all over the world, especially those with high purchasing power who wish to explore or even settle near this unique location.

Do you want to know the secrets of Fraile Island? Delve into this Quadratia article and learn about the mysteries that lie in its rugged geography and marine depths.

What is the Isla del Fraile in Águilas (Murcia)?

Isla del Fraile in Águilas (Murcia) in aerial view.

Isla del Fraile is an islet of 6.3 hectares declared Heritated Asset and is one of the emblems of the coastal town of Águilas, in the Region of Murcia, Spain. This islet, characterised by its transparent waters, has a steep and rocky topography that gives it a unique landscape and a silhouette that is recognisable from afar.

In addition, this “small” piece of land stands out for its strategic position in the Mediterranean. Although its rich history and archaeological finds have caught the attention of researchers, it is its geological composition and location that make it a place of special interest to both visitors and scholars of geography and marine geology.

Why is it called Isla del Fraile (Friar’s Island)?

Monk seal (friar seal).

Maybe this is one of the first questions that has crossed your mind, and it has nothing to do with its history or cultural legacy. In fact, there is no record of a friar actually living on the islet as such, in case you were wondering or taking it for granted.

Rather, the island adopted this name, as it was a monk seal colony until the last monk seal was sighted in 1979. Fascinating, don’t you think?

The Isla del Fraile and its interesting history: vestiges associated with Roman times

If there is one thing we are sure of, it is that Isla del Fraile is deeply rooted in the Roman period. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed fascinating treasures from that period, such as amphorae or plates from the 4th century, valuable coins and even the base of what appears to be a Roman column.

Among these dishes there is a unique piece of pottery(grey sigillata), only seen in Spain in places such as Ampurias and now, surprisingly, on the Isla del Fraile. In addition, in some of these amphorae, traces of “garum“, a coveted sauce made from the brined entrails of certain fish, have been found.

All these findings shed light on the vital role of the Isla del Fraile as a lively trading centre in the heart of the Roman Empire, pointing to the existence of a Roman factory dedicated to the production of garum (a luxury condiment).

Following Roman abandonment, the island underwent a change of ownership in modern times. In 1899, it was purchased by John Gray Watson and subsequently sold to Hugh Borthwick, a Scottish diplomat of distinguished aristocratic descent.

Borthwick’s failing health led him to move to Águilas on the recommendation of Gray himself, seeking refuge in the climate and serenity that the town offered. On his death, with no direct heirs, the island became the possession of the municipality, marking another chapter in its fascinating history.

Biodiversity: Flora and fauna on Isla del Fraile in Águilas

Woman diving in Águilas (Murcia).

Isla del Fraile is a natural treasure known for its rich biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial. Authorities have recognized this enclave as a crucial habitat for several species and designated it as a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA), underscoring its importance in conserving birdlife, including a remarkable colony of seagulls.

The crystal clear waters surrounding the island are home to extensive meadows of Posidonia Oceanica, an indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem and essential for underwater life in the Mediterranean. Offering a natural spectacle for snorkellers and divers and allowing the observation of a wide variety of marine life in an unparalleled environment.

Dolphin sighting at Isla del Fraile in Águilas (Murcia), an example of its biodiversity.

In addition to all this, Isla del Fraile is a popular spot for dolphin sightings, which adds a special attraction for those visiting the area in the hope of encountering these fascinating marine mammals in their natural habitat.

Have you been itching to visit the area? Don’t worry, we explain how to get to Isla del Fraile.

How to get to Isla del Fraile in Águilas (Murcia)?

To get to Isla del Fraile in Águilas (Murcia) you have several options, depending on your starting point or means of transport:

  • By car: the most straightforward way to get there is by car. From the centre of Águilas, head towards Calabardina. There is an access through a luxury hotel complex after which the road descends to a small area where you can park. From there, you can walk to the island or the surrounding area.
  • By bus: although the bus routes available in Águilas might limit direct access, local or regional bus services can still take you to the area. We recommend using public transport apps or checking with the Águilas bus station for the most suitable lines and timetables for your trip.

Is it possible to visit Isla del Fraile?

As we have already mentioned, Isla del Fraile is considered an Heritated Asset and therefore cannot be freely accessed for direct visits due to the restrictions imposed to protect its historical and natural value. However, there are ways to admire and enjoy the beauty of this place without setting foot on it directly. How?

One option is to skirt the Isla del Fraile using a boat, kayak or paddlesurf. This option allows visitors to get close to the perimeter of the islet and appreciate its natural and scenic wealth from a unique perspective, while at the same time allowing them to respect the rules for its protection and that of its marine environment.

Another alternative is to contemplate it from Playa Amarilla, a nearby location where you can enjoy impressive views of the islet, which we will tell you about below.

Playa Amarilla in Isla del Fraile

Playa Amarilla in Isla del Fraile in Águilas (Murcia).

A visit to Playa Amarilla next to the Isla del Fraile is an absolute must for lovers of the sea and nature. Even at the busiest times, the unique beauty of this place fully deserves the visit.

Renowned for its natural splendour and peaceful atmosphere, Playa Amarilla provides the perfect setting for relaxing in the sun. Its clear, calm waters invite snorkelling, allowing visitors to marvel at the vibrant underwater ecosystem that resides in the depths adjacent to the fascinating Isla del Fraile and its underwater secrets.

Tips for visitors to Isla del Fraile in Águilas (Murcia)

Now, if you plan to visit Isla del Fraile in Águilas, Quadratia has prepared some practical tips to ensure you have a great experience and fully enjoy this picturesque location:

  1. Limited access for people with reduced mobility: although they have improved access to Isla del Fraile’s Playa Amarilla with stairs, it remains inaccessible for people with reduced mobility. We recommend using suitable footwear.
  2. Visit in low season: if you prefer to avoid the crowds, plan your visit outside weekends and the high summer season. You will enjoy a quieter and more personal experience
  3. Photography: To capture the best photos, visit the beach near the islet during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset, when the light is at its softest and the views are spectacular. Don’t forget your waterproof camera for stunning underwater images.
  4. Services available: although Isla del Fraile’s Playa Amarilla offers an almost virgin natural environment, in the surroundings of Aguilas you will find restaurants, bars and other services. Plan ahead to bring what you need, especially water, food and sunscreen.
  5. Local gastronomy: don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the rich Murcian gastronomy in Águilas. From delicious seafood dishes to the traditional Zarangollo or Michirones, there are options for all tastes.

Have you already visited the city of Murcia? If you haven’t yet, discover all the corners and places you should not miss.

Isla del Fraile Urbanisation: Isea Calma, the tranquillity of the sea in your home

Map of services near Isea Calma, new housing development in Águilas (Murcia).

Would you love to live in a natural environment like this? Quadratia introduces Isea Calma, a development in Isla del Fraile that promises to become the perfect retreat for those seeking the peace and quiet of the sea at home. This exclusive development situates new-build homes on a hillside, providing breathtaking views towards Isla del Fraile and blending nature, comfort, and modernity seamlessly.

At Isea Calma you will find a wide range of penthouses, duplexes and flats in Isla del Fraile with up to 4 bedrooms. Designers have maximized comfort in each property and made the most out of natural light, ensuring that all rooms are exterior and offer magnificent views of the islet and the Hornillo de Águilas Bay.

Enjoy its communal areas, sports areas and restaurant areas, all with private security, in a secure and exclusive environment. Choose quality of life in an incomparable setting that combines the beauty of the Costa Cálida with the design and comfort of a modern home.

However, if the city of Águilas (Murcia) does not convince you, there are other exceptional cities to live in Spain, such as Alicante (Costa Blanca) or Málaga (Costa del Sol) that also await you with open arms.

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