The coast of Alicante province is one of Spain's most popular holiday
destinations; known as the Costa Blanca due to its miles of white sandy beaches,
many of which have been awarded the prestigious EU blue flag. The region boasts
a wide variety of sports facilities, the most popular being golf and sailing,
and for families a visit to the Terra Mítica theme park near Benidorm
is recommended. Be warned, the coast gets very busy especially in the high season
and some areas are very built-up, but Little Hotels has gone to great lengths to find hotels away from the madding crowd.
You can always head inland to the quieter
non-touristy villages or head north to the coast near Dénia to
find picturesque hidden coves. It features an 11th/12th century castle on a
steep cliff-top which overlooks the city. The castle is also home to the Palau
del Governador which has a museum of archaeology, divided into four eras:
Iberian, Roman, Moorish and Christian. The city also has an ethnological museum,
a toy museum and the Cervantes Esplanade in honour of the famous writer who set
sail in 1580 from here after his imprisonment in Argelia.
Going south, we
can look at some of the other towns and cities that make Alicante so attractive.
A little inland (around 30km from the coast), Benimaurell is
notable for being the last bastion of the descendants of the Moors when they
were expelled in 1609. In fact, legend has it that these moriscos threw
themselves from the precipice of Cavall Vert, preferring that to being captured
by Spanish forces. The village is surrounded by excellent mountain scenery, superb
for hiking (with various marked routes), abseiling and caving (there are several
with prehistoric paintings). 275 metres above sea level and one of the oldest
towns on the Costa Blanca, Benissa is a fine to spot to relax
and take in the scenery, and the Fuentes Del Algar waterfalls
are not far away. Calp in Catalan or Calpe in
Spanish is in the Marina Alta comarca, and sits at the foot of the Peñon
de Ifach (Ifach Rock). The ruins of Los baños de la Reina (the
Queen's baths) are well worth a look. There is also a Gothic Catholic church
and the 18th century tower La Peça. There are some excellent
beaches along this stretch of Alicante. It is not far north of Benidorm, so it
is within range of the attractions that this has to offer, whilst being comfortably
away from the tourist hub, in a more scenic and less-discovered spot. All around
here, there are some fine landscapes to explore. Guadalest ( El
Castell de Guadalest is its full name) is a picturesque mountain town
south of Alicante city and in the comarca Marina Baixa. Here, visitors can go
to see a 12th century jail with a dungeon. There is also a museum of torture
instruments! Outside the Ribera Girona Museum, there is a 'magic garden' of figures.
There is a also a museum of doll houses, an ethnological museum displaying ancient
tools and musical instruments, and the Museum of Miniatures of Manuel Ussa, featuring
such oddities as the Guernica of Picasso painted on a seed and the Statue of
Liberty in the hole of a needle.
Also inland, Bolulla is often
the venue for one of the stages of the Vuelta de España cycle
race. Naturally then, there are some excellent cycling roads, and there is plenty
of good countryside for mountain biking too. This area has a profusion of golf
courses- nine in total. Just five miles away is the former fishing town of Altea,
endowed with a church which has a marvellous blue Byzantine-style dome, found
in the old quarter. There are plenty of whitewashed buildings and limited large
hotel development, keeping it beautiful for those who wish to appreciate Spain
as it long has been, with all the benefits of Costa Blanca sun, but away from
soulless resorts. This town has become particularly known for its art and artists,
with plenty of exhibitions and galleries there. The Terra Mítica theme
park is not far away either.
Further inland are the towns of Biar and Petrer.
The former has a walled castle from the 12 th -13th century Almohad dynasty's
era, plus a mediaeval aqueduct to be seen. Meanwhile, of interest to visitors
to Petrer are the Catholic church, Arab castle and hermitages of San Bonifacio
and Christ. The Moors & Christians festival here also attracts a lot of people
to the area.
As for the city of Alicante, it is one of the most popular
along the Costa Blanca with its Moorish Castle of Santa Barbara dominating the
town. It has an impressive seafront promenade stretching around the harbour shaded
with palm trees and lined with shops and cafes. There are a number of interesting
museums to visit, one of which is the Hogueras Museum which is dedicated to Alicante's
most famous festival, the Hogueras de San Juan (St. John's Bonfires).
It is a little bit like Falles in the way that papier mâché and
wooden figures are burnt at the festival's conclusion. The event takes place
in June with colourful processions, marching bands and dancing, culminating in
a huge fireworks display and the bonfire at midnight.