Weaving magical carpets in Crevillente, Alicante

 

The Arabian influence can be seen – and tasted – in many corners of Spain but nowhere more so have the Moors made their mark than in the rural town of Crevillente.

This small town produces some of the finest carpets in the world. Visitors to the top five-star hotels or plush restaurants will undoubtedly have walked on carpets made in Crevillente. Although many carry a very strong Arabian or Persian influence, other designs are bold, abstract statements.
Moorish influence

For hundreds of years until the Reconquest of Spain in the 15th century, the Moors ruled much of the Iberian peninsula.

They introduced orange and olive trees, rice fields, saffron, spices, vineyards and new methods of agriculture to the region.

Many of their farming methods and traditional cuisine are still very much in evidence today from the use of saffron and rice in paellas to the types of wines served with it.

In one small town, the Moors left another legacy – making carpets.

carpets. Weaving magical carpets in Crevillente, Alicante

Close-up of a carpet in Crevillente, Alicante

Carpet weaving in Crevillente

In Crevillente, at the foot of beautiful mountain ranges, the craftsmen turned their attention to weaving quality rugs and carpets.

Although it is believed to date back to Roman times, the first documented evidence of carpet weaving dates to 1411 when an agreement was signed giving the Moors permission to mow the reed beds of the nearby Vinalopo and Segura rivers. The reeds were dried and woven to make mats.

From these humble beginnings, the craft grew with Crevillente becoming a byword for quality rugs and carpets.

c Weaving magical carpets in Crevillente, AlicanteThe industry boomed at the beginning of the 20th century when the first power looms arrived.
Many of these family firms are still thriving in Crevillente, known as the city of carpets.

Crevillente city of carpets, Alicante

It is possible to visit their factories just off the N340 main road on the outskirts of town, close to the train station, to see the craftsmen at work and to order your very own carpet made in Crevillente.

Make sure you visit a recognised manufacturer and your purchase bears the Alfombras de Crevillente logo with a white flower on a green background. Cheap imitations can be found but they will not be of the same high quality or made with natural fibres.

Today, there are about 40 firms carpeting the world, including major businesses such as hotels, trains, and company headquarters.

The rugs are still made with natural fibres such as wool, but the firms use the latest looms and technology.

Crevillente manufacturers include Alarwool, which supplies prestigious hotel chains and casinos; Alfombras Iberia, which offers guided tours from its headquarters on the Ctra Murcia-Alicante road; Lledo Carpets, founded by Antonio Lledo Martinez in 1942; and Unitex, which you can also phone ahead and visit.

Things to do in Crevillente

At the foot of the Sierra de Crevillente and just a few kilometres south of Alicante and Elche, Crevillente is a traditional rural town.

As well as its major carpet industry, Crevillente also has a thriving farming community producing pomegranates, almonds and olives.

Despite its humble appearance, the little town has an expansive culture especially in the world of music, art and fiestas.

fiestas. Weaving magical carpets in Crevillente, Alicante

Welcome to Crevilliente carpet city, Alicante

The town houses a museum to the Valencian sculptor Mariano Benlliure. His public monuments and religious sculptures can be seen throughout Spain. One of his most famous works is of King Alfonso XII on horseback which stands in the Retiro park in the centre of Madrid.

Famous faces in Crevillente

The town also has a museum dedicated to Madrid artist and adopted son of Crevillente, Julio Quesada, whose forefathers were from the Alicante town.

Julio Quesada Museum is in Calle Corazon de Jesus 17-19, Crevillente
Open during weekdays from 9am to 2pm and 5pm to 7pm. To visit outside these hours call 666 674 508

Crevillente is also the birthplace of the famous doctor Mas Magro, who was a leading light in the field of haematology in Spain. His laboratory is in the Casa del Parque, which also houses the town’s archaeological museum and art collection.

collection. Weaving magical carpets in Crevillente, Alicante

Obelisk by Parc Nou park in Crevillente, Alicante

The Casa del Parque is in the large Parc Nou where a large blue obelisk dominates the skyline. The monument’s granite base marks Crevillente’s most important achievements.

The town hosts two noteworthy fiestas – during Holy Week and a re-enactment of the Moors and Christians battles held at the beginning of October. If you can’t get to Crevillente for Easter, in the Semana Santa museum you can see some of its magnificent sculptures which take centre stage during the Holy Week processions. Semana Santa Museum is in Calle Corazon de Jesus, CrevillenteOpen Tuesdays to Fridays from 6pm to 9pm, Saturdays from 10.30am to 1.30pm and 6pm to 9pm, Sundays and fiesta days from 10.30am to 1.30pm. Entry is free. 674 508.Click here for further informationCrevillente Cuisine Like all Alicante towns, rice features heavily in many dishes. The paella from this town is made with rabbit and snails while on the coast you are more likely to eat it with fish and shellfish. In winter, you can try the ‘gachamiga’ of cod and garlic, ‘arros caldos’ made with rice, vegetables and pulses, or the ‘cocido con pelotas’ which is meatballs served with chickpeas, potatoes and vegetables. Crevillente also serves a variety of tasty cocas, which are like mini pizzas. Traditional cocas include cod, anchovies, sardines, tuna or vegetables. More than 41,000 cocas are made each year in the town, of which about 12,000 are eaten at Easter.

Easter Weaving magical carpets in Crevillente, Alicante

Crevillente street resembles an Arabian bazaar Attractions near Crevillente

Cave houses

At the end of the 18th century, Elche’s population rocketed and houses were scarce. People took to the nearby hills where they created cave houses. By 1970, there were about 900. Cave houses provided cheap accommodation with the advantage of staying cool in the hot summer months and warm in winter. The caves maintain an average temperature of about 24º throughout the year.

year. Weaving magical carpets in Crevillente, Alicante

Flamingos in El Hondo, Crevillente El Hondo nature park The El Hondo nature park is one of the most important wetlands in Spain. Between Crevillente and Elche, it has two lagoons, several ponds and salt marshes with crops and palm trees. This natural oasis is a protected area for birds with about 170 species including the rare marbled teal and white-headed duck as well as herons, other duck species and flamingos. There are several walks in the park where you can find out more about the flora and fauna here. A good time to visit is in the evening where you can see amazing sunsets while observing the birds’ activities. Crevillente mountain The gentle slopes with tracks and paths mean the Crevillente mountain can be tackled by most hikers – or on horseback. Places to visit on the mountain include the shady spot of El Pi de L’Alivi, the 70 or so dry-stone huts, the Cati slopes to enjoy wonderful views, the attractive Castell Vell and ravine, the Pouet of Mel with a well between the limestone rocks, and the iconic Pixatco of San Cayetona standing 815 metres high.

10 Majestic Spanish Castles

History lessons are fun in Spain when you visit a castle. Kids will love imagining themselves as princes and princesses or knights and damsels. Learn something old on holiday.
Castillo de Manzanares El Real

Real 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Manzanares el Real Castle – Madrid Province

You might well have seen this castle on the big or small screen, in 1961’s El Cid starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. It’s relatively straightforward to view in real life too. A 50-minute journey by bus transports you from Madrid’s Plaza de Castilla on the 724 line, although note the castle is closed to the public on Mondays.
Alcázar de Segovia

Segovia 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Segovia – Alcazar

Buy a postcard in Segovia and it’s bound to feature its famous castillo. This the sort of castle you’d imagine Rapunzel being imprisoned in. Featuring classical towers, it would come as little surprise to see a window being opened from up high and a beautiful maiden letting down her hair so that you may climb the golden stair.
Castillo de la Mota

Mota 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Castillo de la Mota -Medina del Campo, Valladolid (Castilla y Leon)

Built on the site of an 11th-century fortress, this Valladolid castle owes its 20th-century reconstruction to one Francisco Franco. The dictator took a fancy to any constructions with links to the Catholic Monarchs. The heraldic shields of Ferdinand and Isabella above the main gate date back to 1483.

Castillo de Almodóvar del Río

Río 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Cordoba – Almodovar del Rio castle

The Córdoba province is home to this imposing Moorish fortress. Constructed in 760, this Berber-designed castle was built on the site of a previous Roman fort. Which only goes to emphasize its strategically-important location.
Castillo de los Templarios en Ponferrada

Ponferrada 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Castle of Ponferrada in the Camino de Santiago, Castilla y Leon

A landmark on Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago, this León castle was originally a hill fort and then a Roman citadel. Before the Templar knights took possession of it in the 12th century, transforming it into a refuge for pilgrims progressing to Santiago de Compostela. A proper castle of the old-school variety, there’s even a drawbridge and moat.
Castillo de Javier

Javier 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Javier castle – Navarra

Another to offer hospitality to pilgrims, Javier Castle stands on a rock in the town of the same name. Originally constructed in the 10th century, this Navarra citadel became a museum in 1901. Of especial interest is the Torre de Cristo, Tower of Christ, which houses a Gothic chapel.
Castillo de Xátiva

Xátiva 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Xativa Castle, Valencia province

Not one but two interconnecting castles, Xátiva’s location on the Roman Road, Via Augusta, made it of vast strategic importance. And so capturing the castle was key to triumphant campaigns by the likes of Hannibal, Scipio, and Sertorius. Near Valencia, it links Rome via the Pyrenees with Cartagena and Cádiz, further along the Mediterranean coast.

Castillo de Gibralfaro

Gibralfaro 10 Majestic Spanish Castles
Castillo de Gibralfaro in Malaga

Sitting 130 metres above sea level, Gibralfaro Castle enjoys a commanding position. Overlooking Málaga’s city and port, it also takes pride of place on the province’s flag and seal. Dating back to the 10th century, it was constructed on the orders of Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Cordoba.
Castillo de Olite

Olite 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Navarra – Olite castle

Also known as the Palacio de los Reyes de Navarra de Olite, this castle really is fit for a king. Built during the 13th and 14th centuries, it was one of the seats of the Court of the Kingdom of Navarre. Its first occupant was Carlos III, nicknamed Charles the Noble.
Castell de Tossa de Mar

Mar 10 Majestic Spanish Castles

Tossa de Mar castle

The Costa Brava isn’t only a place to go to top up your tan. This castle is the highlight of Tossa de Mar old town, a location which was declared a National Historic and Artistic Monument back in 1931. Situated in the south of Girona province, it was constructed by Abbot Ramon Dezcatlar back in 1387 and has survived pirate raids and even a French invasion.

Visit Alicante’s most beautiful waterfall

 

The Fuentes del Algar will take your breath away in more ways than one. They are spectacular with natural waterfalls and pools which are picture-postcard perfect. The water is also freezing, so be warned!warned Visit Alicante’s most beautiful waterfall

Algar Waterfall in Alicante

You may be thinking these fountains look familiar. They featured in the TV comedy Benidorm and are also said to be the fountains for the famous (although now quite old) Timotei shampoo advert when a beautiful woman washed her long blonde hair under the waterfall.

This main emblematic waterfall is a compulsory stop for photographs. The fall is more than 15 metres high with a clear stream of pure water tumbling down through the rocks into an impressive pool. You would be hard pressed to find a finer location for swimming, bathing and enjoying nature at her very finest.

The waterfalls cascading down the impressive grey and green rocks are spectacular. You can take a refreshing – although freezing – swim in the crystal-clear pools of water. Visitors can also enjoy a 1.5 kilometre walk through the Algar riverbed to enjoy all the waterfalls, springs and natural pools. There is also an old dam, canal and ditches, which are still in use today.

used Visit Alicante’s most beautiful waterfall

You can also find out more about the natural flora and fauna as well as visit the arboretum with typical Mediterranean trees.

The waterfalls are great to visit at any time of year, although the icy cold water is particularly refreshing on those long, hot summer days. There is also a lifeguard on duty in the summer and at Easter. You can either walk along the riverbed to see the rock pools, take a picnic and simply enjoy the views, or go for a swim. The walk along the natural pools (known as tolls) is stunning as you will see five crystal-clear pools before arriving at a little oasis. The higher you climb, the colder the water in the pools so be prepared!

The natural park is a haven for water lovers and nature lovers who will come across cascades of tiny streams and springs cutting through the rocks can be seen as you climb the wooden steps and bridges to the top. It’s perfect for a day out for all the family, although you will need to take care as the rocks can be slippery. This natural park is also a photographer’s paradise with perfect scenes of waterfalls, turquoise pools, a green oasis and views of the neighbouring mountains. Alongside the path to the entrance is a canal and 100-year-old irrigation ditches which are still being used today.

Algar Waterfall in Callosa d’en Sarria, Alicante

There is an exhibition of native aromatic plants and herbs such as lavender, thyme and rosemary as well as the local nispero fruit. You can buy a gift as a souvenir of your visit as well. Stalls are set up selling local vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, oranges, lemons and nispero by the entrance to the waterfalls. Callosa d’en Sarris is the best place to buy succulent nispero (loquat). The natural conditions of this mountainous region are ideal for growing nispero because of the mild weather and excellent quality of the water. It is now the main producer of nisperos in Spain, which is indigenous to south-east China. Alongside the roads around Callosa you will see massive sheets of netting in the fields protecting the nispero trees. The fruit is picked in April and May.

There are five restaurants here so you can sample local cuisine from the Alicante region, including many rice dishes such as paella or fresh fish from the bay. Being between the mountain and the sea, Callosa picks the best dishes from both areas. As well as rice dishes, you can try Minxos, which are baked fish and vegetables; putxero amb pilotes, which is a meatball and vegetable stew; arros amb costra with rice and egg; sweet pastries and nispero, of course.

Algar Waterfall in Callosa d’en Sarria, Alicante

course Visit Alicante’s most beautiful waterfall

A picnic site has been set up near one of the entrances, so you can bring your own food. About 500 metres up the hill from the Algar waterfalls is a campsite and barbecue area, if you want to extend your stay to explore this beautiful mountainous area of Alicante. Dogs are allowed on leads except during high season, although they cannot go in the water. They are not allowed in the waterfalls at all from mid-June to mid-September.

The Algar waterfalls are about 15 minutes from Benidorm on the CV-715 road to Callosa d’en Sarria. Entrance is €4 for adults, €3 for seniors and students, €2 for children aged 4 to 10, and free to children under 10.

From the Algar waterfalls, you can also enjoy a walk to the Bernia Fort, where you will discover a cave and a cattle corral. Information panels line the route to explain the sights along the pathway. Walkers will enjoy fabulous views of the coast stretching from Alicante in the south to Calpe as well as mountain views. You will also go past the Bardalet Cave

The Bernia Fort was built in 1562 and is a magnificent example of Renaissance architecture. It was built to help the area stand firm against threatening invasions from the sea. However, it was demolished in 1612 because it was useless, being so far from the coast. You can still see the wall, well and a few arches. The 5.5-kilometre walk will take about 2 hours 30 minutes and is fairly easy, although you’ll need to take plenty of water if you are walking in the summer months,

Time permitting, a visit to Callosa d’en Sarria is highly recommended. It started life as an Arab farm which was taken over by Admiral Bernat de Sarria in 1290 after the Christian Reconquest when the Moors were overthrown. You can see the Arab influence in the terraced farmland as you drive through the countryside to the town. Callosa has a beautifully-preserved historic quarter where you can visit the St John the Baptist church, the Calvary or Stations of the Cross, the public washhouse and an archaeological museum to find out more about the region. In the old town, you can pass through one of its medieval gateways, El Portal.

Portal Visit Alicante’s most beautiful waterfall

Algar Waterfall in Callosa d’en Sarria, Alicante

Also worth visiting, is the Cactus d’Algar botanical garden, which is about 1km from the waterfall. The landscaped area is home to more than 500 different species of cactus and other Mediterranean plants.

plants Visit Alicante’s most beautiful waterfall

Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

 
The Spanish islands are some of the most popular destinations for tourists. But if you’re looking for some peace and quiet rather than a party, you won’t have to look hard. It will be as easy as finding a (Spanish) island in the sun.
El Hierro

El Hierro Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Golfo Coastline, El Hierro, Canary Islands

Welcome to the Wild West, Canarian style. The furthest Canary Island from Africa is unsurprisingly one of the most verdant. It’s also subject to a mighty wind that blows the juniper trees this way and that, to give the impression they’re bowing to you.
Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Fuerteventura – windmill

Think of Fuerteventura and you think of mile after mile of sand. Its interior, though, is mountainous, populated by goats which outnumber humans on the island. So, it’s a fantastic destination to explore by mountain bike if you ever tire of lying on a beach of white Canarian sand and then beating the heat by splashing about in the ever-so-inviting turquoise waters.
Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Amadores beach, Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is the island of contrasts. The developed south of the island is where the majority of the resorts are. Whereas the north coast is more rugged and resembles the Caribbean as banana plantations flank the Atlantic.

Elsewhere, the east is where you’ll find the main archaelogical remains of the canarii, the Berber tribes who occupied the islands before the 15th-century Spanish invasion. The west, meanwhile, is best for isolated beaches like Guigui. Finally, the interior is perfect for hiking with caminos reales allowing you to get up close and personal with such landmarks as Roque Nublo (Clouded Rock).
Ibiza

Ibiza Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Ibiza – Eivissa view

Party by night, sleep by day doesn’t have to be the way on Ibiza. Discover pretty-as-a-picture-postcard villages away from the excesses of San Antonio where every building’s the colour of ivory. They don’t call this Balearic island the White Isle for nothing.
La Gomera

La Gomera Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Los Roques, La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain

The highlight of a trip to one of the lesser-spotted Canaries is visting the Parque Nacional de Garajonay. Whose 40 square kilometres will transport you to a South American rainforest. Whose trees, despite the odd forest fire, have stood tall for the last 11 million years.
La Palma

La Palma Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Caldera de Taburiente, La Palma

Visit La Palma’s world-famous Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos during the day and an astronomy tour by night. On a good evening, about 3,000 stars are visible with the naked eye. Recently, La Palma became the world’s first Starlight Reserve as well as Starlight Tourist Destination. For the non-starstruck, hiking around the Caldera de Taburiente will result in some unique holiday snaps.
Lanzarote

Lanzarote Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Timanfaya – Lanzarote

Brace yourself for a moonage daydream on Lanzarote. Especially if you visit this Canary Island’s Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, whose landscape is more lunar than earthly. And a bottle or two of wine from the celebrated La Geria wine region makes for the perfect souvenir.
Mallorca

Mallorca Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Mallorca – Son Marroig, Sa Foradada, Valldemossa, Deia

For generations of holidaymakers, it’s always been Majorca. Think Majorca, though, and you think hedonists’ playground, Magaluf. However, Mallorca, the local spelling, is the Balearic island of glamorous capital Palma de Mallorca and glorious hidden coves.
Menorca

Menorca Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Menorca, Cala Tortuga

If Mallorca is just too hectic for you, how about its smaller neighbour, Menorca? Aka Minorca but not in the native Catalan, this Balearic isle is perfect for families. There are also more beaches to explore than are on Ibiza and Mallorca combined.
Tenerife

Tenerife Discover 10 idyllic islands in Spain

Masca Village, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Tenerife, much like life, is what you make it. If you want banging beatz, head to the clubs of Las Américas and Los Cristianos. If you want something milder, the stunning village of Masca, one of the most picturesque of all the Canary Islands, is a must visit on any tour of the island. And if you’ve got a head for heights, how about scaling Spain’s highest mountain, Teide?

Who’s the King of the Castles in Alicante?

 

Wherever you are in the Alicante province one thing is certain – you are never going to be far away from that most romantic of buildings – a castle. The Alicante region has always been one of the most coveted in Spain. The Moors conquered it and ruled for 700 years turning it into one of the most fertile and productive in the country and to hold it against the various northern kingdoms who sought it the Moors fortified it. Thus any visit to a castle in the region is likely to reveal that the original castle on the site or in the town was founded by the Moors although in some parts the Romans had a hand in the fortifications.

For those with a romantic streak the best way to see the castles of the region is to hire a car – and there are many reasonably priced car hire companies in the resorts of Alicante.

resorts Whos the King of the Castles in Alicante?

Denia castle in Alicante province
Denia’s Moorish roots

Denia, the capital of the Marina Alta area at the northern end of Alicante province has had a castle since Roman times when the town was known as Dianum but its main development came with the conquest of the area by the Moors. Built on a rocky promontory overlooking the town and the sea, the castle can be seen from anywhere in town. The impressive arched entrance dates from Moorish times but inside various buildings date from the castles development over the centuries. The castle also houses the Denia Museum of Archaeology which is well worth a visit. Opening times vary according to the season and there is a small entrance fee.
Oh Villena

Inland from Alicante, taking a pleasant drive along country roads, is the town of Villena which is home to one of the best preserved castles in Alicante province. Known as La Atalaya, which means watchtower, the castle’s role in bygone days was to defend the rich agricultural lands surrounding it. It stands on a hill above the town and has a ring of solid walls before you find the defensive walls. It has a great keep, the Torre de Homenaje, which stands more than 200 feet high. Another castle that owes its origins to Islamic times in Spain, Villena developed in the 12th and 13th centuries but what remains was built in the 15th century.
Sax in the city

No one with an interest in castles and history should miss the impressive castle of Sax, which lies north of Alicante city just off the A31 road. The castle stands, as usual, high above the city and can be seen for miles around in all directions. It is believed the original was built in Roman times but again it was the Moors who developed it to protect the lands they conquered in the region. But the Moors were eventually defeated when the armies of the Crown of Aragon seized the castle in 1239. The crowns of Aragon and Castile were rivals for the domination of the area but castle was finally ceded to Castile under the Treaty of Almizra in 1244. What remains now is the keep and the bastion tower.

bastion Whos the King of the Castles in Alicante?

Moraira castle in Alicante province
Mini castle in Moraira

A few kilometres down the coast south from Denia, a charming little castle can be found in the seaside resort of Moraira. It is an 18th century fortress on a small rock at l’Ampella beach and over the entrance door is the coat of arms of the Bourbon family, the rulers of Spain at the time of the completion of the construction in 1742.There is evidence that the fortress was developed by Felipe II, who ruled in the 16th century, to protect the coast from the ravages of the Barbary pirates. The castle has two floors and three wings and stands 10 metres high. Lookout was kept from slits in the walls and cannon were mounted on the roof. The fortress was badly damaged by the British navy in 1801.
Twin towers

Just south of Sax are the twin cities of Petrer and Elda, both with remnants of the mighty castles that towered over the countryside in the region. Parts of Elda castle have been reconstructed and a pleasant open space has been created. Again both had Islamic or earlier origins but with Reconquista in the 13th century the castles reverted to the Spanish kingdoms of the time, with Jaime II incorporating Peter into the kingdom of Aragon. For the castles, admission is free but opening times vary according to the season.

season Whos the King of the Castles in Alicante?

Cannon on Alicante castle
Guarding Alicante

No trip to the castles of the region would be complete without a visit to the mighty fortress of Santa Barbara that looks down 500 feet on to the city of Alicante. Take the lift from opposite Postiguet beach (2.50 euros, pensioners and children free) and hours exploring the castle that dates originally from Roman times and has guarded the city for centuries.
Novelda’s unique castle

Also within easy reach of Alicante city, just 24 kilometres north on the N330, is the unique Castle of Novelda, La Mola. What makes it unique and so special is that it is the only castle in Europe with a triangular-shaped tower, the Torre Triangular. The tower was built in the early 14th century to fortify what remained of a Moorish castle from the 12th century after the Reconquista. It is one of the Valencia Communitat’s best examples of a Gothic civil-military building. It has been extensively renovated and its interior is well worth the visit. The castle stands on a hill surrounded by the river Vinalopo. Next to it a short distance away is the church of the Sanctuary of St Mary Madalena, whose architecture is reminiscent of that of Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona. Ancient Orihuela South of Alicante city is the ancient city of Orihuela, which has some of the most fascinating architecture in the province. The castle, was of Moorish origin and what remains of it, stands high on the Sierra de Orihuela in the area known as the Monte de San Miguel. The ruins overlook the city but these days, without a fertile imagination, there is little that indicates the former glories of the fortifications whose walls originally enclosed the whole city. Visitors can climb to the top of the ruins and enjoy the fabulous views over the Vega Baja (the plain of the river Segura. The climb is quite steep so good footwear and a reasonable state of health are needed but for those who make its worth for the amazing views from the top.

top Whos the King of the Castles in Alicante? Elche castle in Alicante provinceElche prison Also worth the journey is the university city of Elche with its marvellous architecture, massive palm groves and cultural centres, not to mention its castle that was built in the 12th century and then renovated in the 15th. In recent times it has been used as a fabric plant, the city’s town hall, and as a prison during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39. 936-39.

Slow Train To Denia

Although the journey only takes about 30 minutes by car, the train takes a scenic meander along the coast and into the countryside. It makes for an interesting and inexpensive day trip where you can explore other Alicante towns.For the best views, sit on the right side of the train if you are going from Benidorm towards Denia.
You will enjoy fantastic coastal views before the train makes its slow way through the mountains amid the rural countryside. You can make a game for the children to see how many sheep, goats and birds of prey they can spot. You will also see terraces of vines, olive groves and orange trees.There are also some fabulous bridges and viaducts which are worth looking out for,especially when you get close to Gata de Gorgos and Benissa.
The track is pretty high up along here with some sheer drops, which add to the overall excitement of this train trip.The best days to take the train to Denia are on Mondays and Fridays, which are market days. The Monday market sells everything from household goods and clothes to leather items. On Fridays, there are two markets – one selling fruit and veg, with the other selling second-hand goods.The 50-kilometre journey will take about 77 minutes and a return ticket is just€6.40 with a 50% discount for pensioners. It is advisable to take some water with you and maybe a snack.
a snack. Slow Train To Denia
First stop- Benidorm
The journey begins at the bustling resort of Benidorm. The first train is at 6.26am so you could catch this after a very good night in the entertainment capital of the Costa Blanca! Benidorm’s skyscrapers remind many people of the great US city of New York. It’s fabulous skyline, great beaches, superb nightlife including the award-winning Benidorm Palace with its cabaret acts and music, and microclimate have kept Benidorm at the top of the tourism league for many years now. Benidorm also has some top theme parks such as Terra Mitica with its great rides, the Aqua Natura water park, Terra Natura wildlife park and Mundomar for marine life and exotic birds.
All aboard for Altea
All along Slow Train To Denia
All along this part of the train ride, you will enjoy breathtaking coastal views of the magnificent yachts and harbours all the way to Altea. Cross the main N332 road and you’re on the beach within a couple of minutes. Altea is one of the prettiest towns in the Alicante region with two main areas to explore. First stop, the beautiful little beaches and coves which stretch for about eight kilometres. It’s a perfect place for snorkelling, sailing or surfing. The beachfront promenade has plenty of restaurants and bars with many shops along the busy N332 road. From here it is a steep climb up the narrow cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses to the picture-postcard old town with its iconic blue-tiled church dome. If you like curries, the next stop of Olla de Altea has an Indian restaurant, Saffron, on the platform instead of a traditional station café.
Rocking our way to Calpe
The train continues its journey alongside the crystal-clear Mediterranean so you can enjoy far-reaching views as the train gets higher and higher above sea level.The impressive Ifach Rock, standing at 332-metres high, dominates the skyline as it juts out to sea at Calpe. The Ifach attracts serious climbers as well as walkers who can enjoy an easier route to the top where they can stumble across wild flora and fauna as well as being rewarded with fabulous views. Calpe is a vibrant coastal town with sandy beaches, a salt lake where many flamingoes have settled and a pretty little marina.
Onwards and upwards to Benissa
The train now starts to weave its way inland so you can enjoy great rural views. The countryside around here is very fertile with plenty of fruit orchards – especially oranges and lemons, vineyards and olive groves. The mountain views are spectacular with jagged grey cliffs and some hairy sheer drops! This is the best place to see animals such as goats,sheep, rabbits and birds of prey. The next stop of any note is Benissa, which is a pretty, historic town between the cliffs and the sea. It is a popular spot for snorkellers who enjoy the private, little coves and clear waters. Other visitors enjoy strolling through the old town centre which has some beautiful historic buildings such as the monastery, town hall and old council rooms, while the more adventurous can head for the Bernia, La Solana, Olta or Malla Verda mountains, either on foot or by bike.
by bike. Slow Train To Denia
Making tracks to Teulada
The train continues its journey through the green, fertile land to Teulada, a region which is well-known for its wines, particularly the sweet mistela wines. Teulada has a pretty, historic walled town centre with some impressive Gothic buildings.During a gentle stroll through the old streets, you will come across the parish church, several chapels and the courts of justice. In the 19th century, Teulada’s agricultural products were transported by sea from Moraira.Today Moraira is a popular coastal town with pretty beaches, particularly El Portet which is a rocky cove with sparking turquoise water. Moraira also has a pretty marina and old town with some fabulous seafood restaurants.
restaurants. Slow Train To Denia

Weaving along to Gata
Fans of bridges and viaducts will enjoy this stretch of the journey the most. On the way to Gata there are some interesting stone viaducts and bridges taking the train on its final leg towards Denia. The town is full of character with traditional crafts dominating the shop window displays. The local grasses and reeds are dried to make cane furniture, baskets and hats. The displays spill out on to the pavement, giving Gata the name of the ‘bazaar of the Costa Blanca’. There are also two talented guitar makers in the town – Joan Cashmira and the Francisco Bros -and you can visit the workshops to see the musical instruments being crafted by hand.

by hand. Slow Train To Denia

Dining out in Denia
Now the train makes its way around the Montgo mountain, which is a popular challenge for walkers and cyclists, to its final stop at Denia. Denia is the dining capital of the north Costa Blanca region with hundreds of restaurants including Quique Dacosta, which has three coveted Michelin stars. Denia is a delightful coastal town with an impressive castle where you can enjoy far-reaching sea views. The town has 15 kilometres of golden, sandy beaches, a large marina which is home to some expensive yachts, and a pretty old town. It puts on some magnificent fiestas throughout the year, especially fallas where large satirical statues are put up in the streets and burnt, and Moors and Christians, which involves running battles, gunpowder and fireworks.
fireworks. Slow Train To Denia

Getting to know Alicante’s grand castle

Alicante castle is the beach city’s main emblem. A glorious golden fortress standing 166 metres above sea level, the Santa Barbara Castle makes a stunning backdrop to the city centre.

It’s a magnificent, well-preserved castle on top of the Benacantil mountain and it dates back to the 9th century, although older artefacts from the Bronze and Roman eras have been found there. In the 9th century, the Moors ruled the peninsula so you may see some Arabic influences in the architecture and layout. The Santa Barbara castle is one of the best examples of medieval fortresses in Spain as well as being one of the largest. It’s a great place for letting your imagination run wild while you explore the dungeons, towers, palaces, cannons, churches and a moat.

moat Getting to know Alicantes grand castle

View of Alicante marina from the castle

The climb to the very top is definitely worth it as here you will find the iconic tower which stars on many photos with its fantastic views down to the marina. The paths up to each level are steep so flat shoes or trainers are advisable. Luckily there are seats to stop for a rest as well as a restaurant and café.
Who was King of the Castle?

The castle has a rich, chequered history and has served many purposes. In 1248, it was captured by forces led by Alfonso XI of Castile, who renamed it Santa Barbara as it was conquered on her feast day, December 4. The Aragonese won control in 1296 during the reign of James II, who was also King of Valencia, and he ordered it to be rebuilt. More reconstruction was ordered during the next four centuries.

centuries Getting to know Alicantes grand castle

Santa Barbara Castle, Alicante

The castle fell into foreign hands in 1691 when it was bombarded by a French squadron. It was then held by the English during the War of Spanish Succession. The war, at the start of the 18th century, was fought between European countries in a bid to decide who should succeed Charles II as King of Spain. It lasted from 1701 until 1714 and was concluded with the Treaty of Utrecht which recognised the French candidate as Philip V of Spain. The war produced famous generals, most notably John Churchill, whose victories for the British at Blenheim and Ramilles saw him created the first Duke of Marlborough. Its military role to protect the city became less important and it was used as a prison in the 18th century.
Breathtaking beach views

The iconic castle was abandoned until 1963 when the city opened it up to the public. It is now a great place for a healthy walk, a meal in the restaurant or to simply enjoy the far-reaching views over Alicante marina, Postiguet beach, the city centre and the nearby mountains.

mountains Getting to know Alicantes grand castle

Alicante Castle

There are three main areas from different epochs. The top level, La Torreta, where you can enjoy fabulous views over Alicante bay, is where you will see the keep and where the oldest remaining parts of the fortress are found. Much of this dates from the 14th century. The governor’s house, impressive towers and old hospital are among the buildings to be explored up here.

On the next level down are some of the castle’s most important buildings. These date from the 16th century and include the Felipe II salon, ruins of the Santa Barbara church, guardhouse, barracks and parade ground. The lower level dates from the 18th century. You can park here and walk up to the top or take the lift. There are large cannons poking through the thick castle walls, the exhibition centre and the dungeon on this level. Also the Alicante museum MUSA can be found in the castle with information and artefacts about the city’s rich and interesting history and people.
Concerts by starlight

In the summer evenings, Alicante council organises special concerts on Fridays and Saturdays in the castle courtyard. They start at about 10pm so you can enjoy a star-lit, outdoor concert with the castle in all its majesty in the background. The castle also has an exhibition centre and this year you can see a fabulous Star Wars exhibition with a collection of hundreds of figures and memorabilia from these sci-fi films.

films Getting to know Alicantes grand castle

Views of Alicante bay from Santa Barbara Castle

It is possible to walk up to the castle but this is a long, hard slog. You can drive up as there is parking on the first level but it may be difficult to find a space in the summer. Otherwise, take the lift from opposite the Postiguet beach, a suntrap for the citizens of Alicante and tourists alike. The elevator costs €2.50 but is free for young children and retired people.Walk through the tunnel carved out of the rock and you will find the lift. Don’t forget to buy your ticket in the machine just inside the tunnel.

It is free to walk around the castle but you may wish to take a guided tour, which is conducted in Spanish and English, for €3 or €1.50 for children, pensioners and people with disabilities. On Saturdays, there are dramatised guided tours so you can really immerse yourself into the spirit of medieval life. It is also possible to hire an audio guide so you can discover the history of the castle at your own pace.

pace Getting to know Alicantes grand castle

Postiguet beach from Alicante castleAt the foot of the castle is the Ereta park, a beautiful green space in the city centre with a restaurant and exhibition hall. It is a great place to relax and have a picnic or meal in the café after spending time walking around the castle. The park has some beautiful native flowers.You could also treat yourself to a meal in La Ereta restaurant, where you can enjoy fine cuisine with fantastic views of the castle and Mediterranean. Star-crossed loversMany people have remarked that the mountain on which the castle sits looks like a person’s face when seen from Postiguet beach. It has been called La Cara del Moro (The Moor’s face). It is said that many years ago a princess lived in the castle and fell in love with a Moor. Her father disapproved and forbade her to marry her sweetheart. She was so heartbroken that she threw herself over the castle wall, down the mountain and died. When her Moor found out, he did the same for love. It is his face that you can see on the side of the castle. Whether or not the legend is true is debatable but no castle is complete without legendary tales of star-crossed lovers.

Top 10 Alicante icons

 

Alicante is famous for its long, sandy beaches and beautiful seaside promenades. Some, like Benidorm, are instantly recognisable. But the region has dozens of emblems which show the diversity and amazing beauty of this popular region of Spain.It’s a dream destination for photographers and artists who have so many great buildings and natural scenery to capture. As well as the beaches, there are dramatic castles, chic marinas, mountains,natural parks, historic buildings and lakes to grab the attention.Spain-Holiday has picked 10 amazing Alicante icons, although there are many more that we could have chosen.
Alicante castle Top 10 Alicante icons
Alicante castle
Looming over the Alicante skyline is theSanta Barbara Castle, which is one of the largest and most impressive of Spain’s medieval fortresses. Much of its magnificent structure is thanks to the Moors who ruled Spain until the 13th century. One of the most photographed views is of the top tower looking out over Alicante marina and the Mediterranean. During your trip you can explore the many dungeons, towers and cannons lining the thick castle walls.You can also catch your breath while enjoying those far-reaching sea views.
Castillo de Santa Barbara Opening hours: Open every day from:July to September, 10am to 12pm, September, 10am to 10pm, October to March, 10am to 8pm, April to June, 10am to 10pm
Further information on Alicante castle
Benidorm skyscrapers
One of Alicante’s most famous shots is of the regimented Benidorm skyscrapers looking out to sea. These buildings first started going up in the 1960s when tourism took off in this former sleepy fishing village. The idea was to build tall hotels and apartment blocks so that everyone had a view of the sea. Many people have remarked that Benidorm is the Spanish Manhattan with about 400 high-rise buildings.
Benidorm skyscrapers Top 10 Alicante icons
The tallest hotel is the Gran Hotel Bali at an impressive 186 metres while the tallest residential building is InTempo, which is still being built, and stands at 200-metres tall. Benidorm cross, at the end of Levante beach, and the Balcon de Benidorm, separating the Poniente and Levante beaches, are two great places to get a panoramic view of Benidorm’s buildings.
La Granadella beach
Often voted Spain’s best beach, La Granadella is a beautiful little beach with crystal-clear turquoise waters.It’s only a little horseshoe-shaped cove flanked by rocks with calm water. The beach is small pebbles rather than golden sand (so no gritty sandwiches). It is surrounded by a pine forest to add to the tranquillity of this amazing beach.However, it does get very crowded in the summer so you are advised to get there early to grab a spot. It is great for snorkelling among the seagrass beds or enjoying lunch in the beachside restaurant.

More information on Granadella beach

Ifach at Calpe Top 10 Alicante icons
Ifach at Calpe
One of the best-loved symbols of the Costa Blanca is the Penon de Ifach. This huge rock rises out from the sea at Calpe.It stands 332 metres high and one kilometre long. It’s a very unusual but beautiful natural feature by the Med. The rock is said to have been formed by a landslide from the Sierra de Olta mountain. Climbers enjoy tackling the challenging rock face while divers explore what lies beneath. There are easier paths up the Ifach, although you do need to take care. It’s certainly worth the climb as you will see plenty of wildlife, birds and flowers as well as get to enjoy fabulous sea views.

Further information on the Peñon de Ifach rock, Calpe

Alicante promenade Top 10 Alicante icons
Alicante promenade
Taking a stroll in the sunshine is one of the delights of Spanish life. Alternatively sitting outside a café sipping a coffee or cool lager while people watching is another favourite pastime. One of the favourite places to go is the Explanada de España, alongside the port and marina. The marbled street is 500 metres long with a mosaic designed to look like waves from the Mediterranean using 6,500,000 red, blue and white tiles.Shaded by four rows of palm trees, it’s a fabulous place for a morning or evening paseo (leisurely walk). The promenade is lined with pavement cafes and bars as well as stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs. It’s the place to go in Alicante to meet up with friends, mingle with the locals and enjoy the party atmosphere.

Further information on the Explanada de Espana promenade
Denia marina

Denia marina Top 10 Alicante icons
Most beach resorts in the Alicante region have stylish marinas lined with impressive yachts where you can enjoy a drink or meal in an open-air café or restaurant. One of the most scenic is Denia marina where you can enjoy a walk soaking up the views of the yachts, old town with its iconic castle and the magnificent Montgo mountain providing a beautiful backdrop. It’s the perfect place for a meal or cool drink. One of the best views is from the Zensa open-air chill-out bar with pool, especially at night. The marina also hosts the annual Denia boat show in May.

More details about Denia marina, restaurants and events

Altea old town Top 10 Alicante icons
Altea old town
Standing tall above Altea beaches are the bright white hilltop buildings in the old town. The dazzling blue-and-whilte tiled dome of the church is a familiar sight to visitors. Altea old town has a lovely laidback Bohemian feel. It has been a favourite spot for artists throughout the ages who are inspired by the buildings, pretty square, cobbled narrow streets and incredible views across the bay. It’s a bit of a climb to the top but well worth it for the fine views. Although the Nuestra Senora del Consuelo church looks very old, it was only built about 100 years ago.

Further information on Altea

Gorgeous Guadalest Top 10 Alicante icons
Gorgeous Guadalest
Definitely one of the most wonderful landscapes in the Alicante region, Guadalest is a magnificent mountain village about 30 minutes – but a world apart – from the bustling beach resort of Benidorm. The white bell tower on top of the granite mountain 600 metres above sea level features on many Costa Blanca postcards and is the emblem of the town.This is a top tourist spot so can be very busy in the summer months. There’s also a tunnel carved through the rock which splits the village, views down to the turquoise lake (where you can enjoy a boat trip), far-reaching views of the mountains, valleys and out to sea, plus pretty cobbled streets to explore.

More details on Guadalest

Torrevieja casino Top 10 Alicante icons
Torrevieja casino
A beautiful white building with intricate patterns which look like lace, the Casino is often said to be the jewel in Torrevieja’s crown. Many Spanish towns have casinos, which are not gambling dens, but social and community centres where groups and societies can meet. The 19th century casino in Torrevieja is an interesting mix of architectural styles including Arabic and Andalucian. It’s a beautiful building with wooden panelled ceilings with large chandeliers and tiled floors. It has a pavement café, library, games and billiards room.

Further information about Torrevieja casino

Benidorm old town Top 10 Alicante icons
Benidorm old town
Linking Benidorm’s magnificent sandy beaches, Levante and Poniente, is the Balcon del Mediterraneo with views over the beaches and across to the grand skyscrapers for which the resort is so famous. Cafes and restaurants line the square where you can enjoy a coffee or ice-cream while enjoying the amazing vista.
amazing vista. Top 10 Alicante icons
The cobbled streets and pedestrianised areas around the square form Benidorm’s Old Town, where you will find tapas alley (Calle de Santo Domingo) which is a favourite spot for going from bar to bar trying different tapas dishes such as squid, ham, prawns or sausages with wine or a cool glass of lager. The old town is bustling day and night as it has great shops, a market and fabulous nightlife venues, including the well-known Rich Bitch show bar with internationally-renowned female impersonators.

Top 10 Theme Parks In Alicante

Alicante and the Costa Blanca is geared up for family holidays. Its fabulous theme parks with rides that seem to defy gravity, theatrical shows and wild animal parks are among the best in Spain.

1 Top 10 Theme Parks In Alicante

Terra Mitica
Terra Mitica in Benidorm is the most popular theme park in the Alicante region. If you love the adrenalin rush of white-knuckle rides, this is definitely for you. You can zoom through the air at 90km/h, upside down, while 35 metres off the ground, or you can enjoy the views of Benidorm beaches and Terra Mitica while swinging in the breeze. There are rides for all the family as well as many spectacular shows to make a great day out for all the family. The park is divided into ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome, Iberia and the Mediterranean islands, so you can expect to come across Roman gladiators, an Egyptian Phoenix and a Greek labyrinth during your trip. Open April to October. Every day of the week from mid-June to the first week of September.
Terra Natura
Terra Natura is an entertaining wild animal park where the animals live in a specially-designed version of their natural habitat. Huge elephants, camels, tigers, poisonous snakes, and very chatty monkeys live here. In all, more than 200 species, including animals in danger of extinction, form part of the collection. The park is divided into different continents such as Africa and Asia with natural plants and shrubs to create a home from home for the animals. You can watch the elephants being fed, see majestic birds of prey in flight, and meet a variety of animals up-close during your visit. Open all year.
2 Top 10 Theme Parks In Alicante
Aqua Natura
Want to know what it’s like to experience zero gravity? Next door to Terra Natura is Aqua Natura water park, where you can cool off after your visit to the zoo. Aqua Natura says it is the only water park to have The Crest – an enclosed water slide – where you can experience the feeling of weightlessness. The Benidorm theme park has slides and water attractions to suit all ages. You can also watch the sea lion show, where the little creatures are so full of character and fun, or even get the chance to swim with them and have your photo taken. You can buy a joint ticket for Terra Natura and Aqua Natura to save money. Open from May to mid-September.
Rio Safari
Further south, between Elche and Santa Pola, is the fascinating Rio Safari park. Sheltered by 4,000 palm trees, Rio Safari has animals from around the world including lions, elephants, zebras, crocodiles and tigers. Make sure you have time to see the chimpanzees on their special Primates Isle with swings and hammocks for them to play on and rest. During the day is a special sea lion exhibition when they show off their skills, in and out of the water. You can enjoy a camel or pony ride, swim with the sea lions, or talk to the lemurs. In the summer there is a free swimming pool on site and also a karting area. Open all year.
3 Top 10 Theme Parks In Alicante
Safari Aitana
Chance to get up close and personal with the animals, enjoy a private tour of Safari Aitana or even become a keeper for the day. Safari Aitana is an oasis for wild animals from five continents. During your wildlife adventure, you can see giraffes, buffaloes, donkeys, camels, monkeys, elephants, tigers, Vietnamese pigs, jaguars, wolves, snakes, emus and so much more. The park is 1,000 metres above sea level in the Aitana mountain on the Villajoyosa to Alcoy road. It’s a lovely drive up through the mountains too. You will either need your own car to drive through the safari park or go on an organised tour. Open every day.
Aquopolis
A visit to a water park is definitely a great idea for the family during the summer holidays, Aquopolis Torrevieja has challenging slides and chutes as well as gentler rides for the little ones. There’s also an exclusive VIP zone where you can enjoy the peace and quiet to read a book or listen to music from your sunbed. If you’re feeling active you can join in Aquagym or Steps while the younger children can head to the MiniClub for organised games in and out of the pool. Open in the summer months.
4 Top 10 Theme Parks In Alicante
Mundomar
Swimming with dolphins is on many people’s bucket lists. There’s something magical about dolphins, the way they chatter or seem to smile. At Mundomar in Benidorm, you have the chance to get to know these incredible animals, to swim with them, to stroke them and have your photo taken with them. At this amazing marine animal park, you can also watch the dolphins perform in a fantastic show, watch an entertaining parrot show and sea lion show, or see spectacular birds soaring in flight. You could also be a keeper or trainer for the day. Cheeky meerkats, lemurs, giant tortoises, flamingos, macaws, storks, penguins, prairie dogs and owls are among the other creatures to learn about during your visit. Open every day.
Aquapark Rojales
Sliding down a magic carpet, taking up the kamikaze challenge, discovering the secrets of the Amazon, heading down the rapids of the Yucatan River or simply splashing around in the swimming pool are some of the attractions. There’s also a large lawn for relaxing as well as a restaurant offering typical Alicante cuisine including paellas. Aquapark was the second water park to be built in the Valencia province and is found in a natural valley in Ciudad Quesada, near Torrevieja. Open in the summer months.
Pola Park
So many things to do inside one theme park, Pola Park is the ultimate attraction for families with different interests. Enjoy a visit to the Russian mountain – with fabulous views of the Santa Pola salt lakes – feel the thrills of racing on the karting track, avoid getting bumped on the bumper cars, become a superhero on the bouncy castles, head for the merry-go-rounds, beat dad at golf and enjoy all the thrills of fairground rides at the Pola Park in Santa Pola. Open from March to mid-October (weekends only) although open every day In July and August.
Aqualandia
5 Top 10 Theme Parks In Alicante
No fear of heights? How about testing your nerve in the highest capsule slide in the world on the VertiGo toboggan? Aqualandia in Benidorm has some fabulous chutes, slides and waterfalls so you can keep your cool . Some are high action to test your nerves, while others, like the Niagara, are much more relaxing. Aqualandia was the first water park to be built in Spain and is still one of the largest in the world. All the family will be able to enjoy the water rides, splash pools and other great attractions. You can buy tickets for Aqualandia and MundoMar or Terra Mitica, or for all three to save money. Open from May.

Peaceful retreats in the heart of the Alicante countryside

Waking up to the sound of birdsong with views of green and grey mountains or orange orchards conjures up pictures of a Spain far removed from the busy beach resorts in Alicante.

Yet, you only have to go a few kilometres inland to enjoy a traditional, peaceful way of life. A life where neighbours greet each other in the streets, and where the bread is freshly made in a 100-year-old wood oven each morning.
Mountain villages close to beaches

People visiting the towns and villages amid the mountains and valleys of the north Alicante region can discover life in the slow lane of Spain while also being within a few minutes of some of the best sandy beaches in the area.

Mountain villages close to beaches Peaceful retreats in the heart of the Alicante countryside

Benimeli village square, Alicante

The little towns of Benimeli, Benidoleig or Orba are great bases for exploring the countryside, either on foot or by bike. Many professional and amateur cycling groups base themselves around here to tackle the winding mountain roads or the more gentle coastal routes.

As well as being ideal for outdoorsy people, the towns in the Sierra de Segaria region are also popular with photographers, artists and birdwatchers.
Mallorcan flavour of Benimeli

Benimeli was founded by the Arabs, who called it Bani Malik – sons of the Malik tribe. The town sits at the foot of the Sierra de Segaria mountain whose peak still houses Moorish and Iberian remains.

When the remaining Moors were expelled and the village needed to rebuild. Many people from Mallorca settled in and around Benimeli bringing their culture and cuisine with them.

View from rural guesthouse in Benimeli, Alicante

You will find traditional Mallorcan food still available in many local butchers and bakers in the Marina Alta region, including types of sobrasada (paprika-spiced cured pork), sausages and the sweet ensaimada cakes.

One of the finest bakeries is around the corner from the church in Benimeli. The Forn de Pa in Calle Horno (oven street) still makes bread the old-fashioned way in a traditional wood oven which is more than 100 years old.

You may see locals popping in with trays of vegetables or a leg of lamb for the owners to cook in the oven. They are happy to oblige and charge just a small fee – possibly as little as €1 – for their trouble.

There’s a lovely central square, Plaza Mayor, where you will find one of the village’s two bars, a grocery store, the pretty church with bell tower and clock, plus a music school.

In April or May, Benimeli holds a cultural week celebrating art and music with concerts and exhibitions.

From Benimeli, you can walk up the Sierra de Segaria mountain to enjoy far-reaching views. There is a circular tour of about three hours, starting and ending in the village, or there is a direct route straight to the top, which is quicker, taking about an hour, but harder on the legs!

The town and surrounding countryside has fields of orange, almond and olive trees so you can buy great local produce as well as honey and jams from the area.

Mallorcan flavour of Benimeli Peaceful retreats in the heart of the Alicante countryside
Exploring caves in Benidoleig

Four kilometres south of Benimeli is the rural village of Benidoleig on the slopes of the Girona Valley. This area is popular with cyclists and hikers who enjoy the fabulous views from the winding roads around the mountains and valleys.

Farming is mainly orange, almond and olive groves, which produce a mass of pink and white blossom in springtime. The scene provides a perfect photo opportunity or inspiration for artists as well as providing a beautiful scent as you wander through.

Views across from Benidoleig caves

Exploring caves in Benidoleig Peaceful retreats in the heart of the Alicante countryside

Benidoleig has a popular restaurant, El Cid, with its own bowling green, tennis courts and swimming pool with wonderful country views. The restaurant serves Mediterranean and British food as well as the Sunday carvery for a great British roast dinner.

Just down the road from El Cid is the Calaveras cave, which means cave of skulls, so called because 12 human skeletons were found when the cave was rediscovered in the 18th century.

The cave is believed to be about 100,000 years old as Neolithic and Bronze age artefacts such as bones, flint axes and arrowheads were found here.

Take your time exploring the stalagmites and stalactites as many people find interesting shapes within the rocks including Sophie Loren’s bust, a map of Spain and an elephant’s head.

During the Spanish Civil War, the cave was used to store ammunition and explosives.

It is open from 9am to 6pm in winter and 9am to 8pm in summer. Entry is €3,50 for adults and €2 for children.

You can visit the official website here

To get to the Calaveras Cave

From the AP7 toll booth at Ondara, turn right on to the CV731. At the roundabout in Benidoleig by the Sabadell bank, take the third exit on to the Ctra Pedreguer and you will see the caves on your right after about 200 metres.

Four kilometres along the CV731 road is the town of Orba which has a few supermarkets, shops, banks, restaurants and bars.

Planting rice in Pego Peaceful retreats in the heart of the Alicante countryside

Pego-Oliva marjalPlanting rice in PegoThe Alicante region is famous for its rice dishes, especially the many varieties of paella. You can see the rice fields in the Pego marshes, 10 kilometres north of Benimeli.The marshlands lie in a scenic setting between the mountains and the sea so they enjoy their own microclimate which is ideal for growing rice. The production was started by the Moors and continues using very similar methods today.The Bomba rice from Pego is perfect for paellas and other rice dishes where you need to absorb the stock to pack in the flavours.You can learn about the history of rice cultivation in Pego at the Ethnological Museum in the cultural centre in Calle Sant Domenec in Pego town centre. It is open from 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm on Mondays to Fridays, Saturdays 10am to 2pm. July and August just 10am to 2pm too.View from the window of a rural guesthouse in Benimeli, Alicante

Best for shopping Peaceful retreats in the heart of the Alicante countryside

Best for shopping

Near to the motorway toll booths is the Portal de la Marina shopping centre on the outskirts of Ondara. There is plenty of free parking. Shops include a large Eroski supermarket, C&A, H&M, Lefties, Zara and Mango as well as opticians, mobile phone shops, pet store and more. The mall also has restaurants including McDonald’s and Lizarran tapas bar as well as a cinema.The shopping centre is open from 10am to 10.30pm Monday to Saturday.

Heading for the beach

Heading for the beach Peaceful retreats in the heart of the Alicante countryside

The Sierra de Segaria region is just 10 minutes by car to the beautiful sandy beach of Deveses, just north of Denia. This is perfect for practising water sports such as sailing, snorkelling, surfing or jet skiing or simply sunbathing. It can get windy so is a popular spot for kite surfers too.Denia, Costa BlancaBest restaurants to tryUn Cuiner A L’Escoleta, Carrer Calvari, Sagra, is a restaurant in the old school’s dining room. There is a short menu using local produce from the market cooked ‘with a twist’, including rice dishes, local sausages, meat and fish. Cal Morell, Carrer del Pi, Orba, is another traditional Spanish restaurant serving creative regional cuisine. El Temple, Jacinto Benavente, Benidoleig, also offers regional food cooked to gourmet standards but at bargain prices. There are also pizzas available, which is great if you want to take children who are fussy about their food.