The beautiful blue-and-white tiled church dome peeking out among the glistening white houses in Altea’s old town has become an icon of the Costa Blanca.
Sitting between the busy resort of Benidorm to the south and Calpe with its majestic Ifach rock to the north, Altea is a beautiful little resort to explore the 200 kilometres of the Costa Blanca coastline and its mountains.
Although Altea is just 10 kilometres from Benidorm it is a world apart in terms of its beauty, culture and visitors. It’s much quieter for a start and appeals to people seeking a tranquil holiday amid beautiful scenery. There are two main areas – along the beach and up in the old town.
Altea old town looks typically Spanish with its pretty, narrow cobbled streets with white houses leading up to a beautiful central square. The whitewashed houses provide a clean canvas for the flowerbeds bursting with Mediterranean colours.
It’s no surprise that Altea attracts artists and photographers who are drawn in by the town’s charm, fantastic light and natural beauty.
There is so much to inspire someone with a creative eye from the cobbled streets, magnificent sea and mountain views, historic buildings or simply a cat lazing in a flowerbed in the sunshine.
It’s a steep climb up to the old town so we’d advise you to take your time to catch your breath and enjoy the views over the beach and the sea.
Charming narrow, cobbled streets of Altea
It’s a charming place to wander through the little streets finding fabulous, family-run shops and restaurants while stumbling across some historic buildings which have made their mark in life in Altea.
Along the way you will see remains of the ancient walls and gateways which protected the hilltop town from pirates.
In the 16th century the upper part of the old town was built to protect it from attacks. A castle was built on what is now the Plaza de la Iglesia with the upper town being surrounded by a wall with three gates. Today, just two of these gates remain – Vell Portal and Portal Nou.
Your tour could start at the Plaza del Convent just off the N332 main road running along the length of the Costa Blanca. Here you will find the Iglesia de San Francisco, an old Franciscan convent.
If you walk up from the Plaza del Convent, to the corner of the streets Calle Pont de Moncau and Calle La Sequia, you will find examples of two grand houses built for 19th century landowners – Casa Beneyto (casa de cultura) and the Pharmacy, which was the old chemist shop Farmacia Martinez.
Opposite are the pretty Escaleras del “Mestre de la Música”. This is where the climb really begins but it’s so beautiful to wander along the lovely cobbled street lined with whitewashed houses and shops with steps taking you up to the main square.
These steps are dedicated to the composer and musician Francisco Perez Devesa who directed many musical bands in Altea, Alfaz del Pi and Calpe. There are 255 wooden steps in the characteristic dark colours of Altea old town.
Before climbing the steps, go a little further up the road to the Barrio de Bellaguarda district to see where the defensive walls were built in the 14th century to protect the coast from marauding pirates. A few more steps and you get to the Plaza de la Cruz which is another pictuesque little square.
Off this plaza, turn up the Calle Costeros del Matxos road for the Portal Vell gateway, providing further evidence of the old walled city.
Dream scenes for artists in Altea
This is another dream for artists with the patterned cobbles and archways making a frame for the pretty buildings and squares.
Now we go through these charming streets to the beautiful Plaza de la Iglesia with its church, the Virgen del Consuelo, taking pride of place. This is a lovely, traditional Mediterranean square and it’s well worth grabbing a coffee in one of the bars so you can relax and take in the atmosphere.
It’s a superb church at the highest point of Altea with its famous blue-and-white tiled dome. The church was built in the 19th century in the style of a Latin cross with a stunning interior of classic gold and floral motifs. Look out for the ceramic shapes and dragons sculpted within the church.
Although the church itself was built in the19th century with work being completed in 1910, there has been a place of worship here for more than 900 years. It also bears the battle scars of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s when one of the bell towers was destroyed by Franco’s men.
The Virgen del Consuelo church dominates over one of the most picturesque squares on the Costa Blanca. It’s lined with bars, restaurants and shops so you can easily spend an afternoon here while enjoying the fabulous views over the Mediterranean and towards the hulking skyscrapers in Benidorm.
Look towards the sea from the square and you can see further evidence of the ancient walls which used to protect Altea.
Head for the hilltop church of Altea
It’s certainly worth popping in to the church to see the beautiful stained glass windows, the expansive use of gold, and the sculptures.
In and around the square, you will find little shops selling crafts, jewellery and paintings so you can pick up a unique souvenir of your time in Altea. There’s a lovely little art gallery in Calle Sant Josep and you can also check out cultural events in Altea at the Palau Altea with live music, theatre and exhibitions.
The beach resort’s place as a haven for artists has been given a further boost with a Fine Arts department of the Miguel Hernandez University in Elche setting up in the town, so bringing even more talented artists to Altea.
Don’t forget the beaches in Altea
While in Altea, also visit the lovely beaches and seafront promenade brimming with cafes, bars and restaurants for refreshments.
You can get to Altea via the N332 coast road linking the Costa Blanca resorts which cuts through the middle of the town. The Denia to Benidorm train also stops at Altea station or you can get the tourist bus from Benidorm.
Mountain wines and cherries
Sierra Bernia is a beautiful mountain stretching 11kms from the coast between Callosa d’EnSarria and La Punta de Toix.In the 16th century Felipe II ordered a fort to be built on the mountain to protect it from marauding Moors and pirates. Today, it is prime wine country with vineyards dotted around the mountain.
It’s a popular challenge for walkers and cyclists who are rewarded with fantastic views when they reach the higher points. The cherries grown in the area are also said to be the best in the region. The locals argue that the higher the cherries are grown, the better they taste. The same argument could also be applied to the wines.
How to get here: Take the Jalon (Xalo in Valenciano) turning off the AP7 or N332. In the centre of Jalon, there is a roundabout with a signpost to Bernia, follow the Carretera Xalo-Bernia, which can be winding, up the Sierra Bernia.
The Sierra Helada, separating the bays of Benidorm and Altea, attracts thousands of visitors each year. Many make the journey to enjoy the fabulous views of Benidorm’s skyscrapers and beaches. The mountain juts out to sea with an impressive cliff face and caves where you may find prehistoric fossils.
It’s particularly interesting for its rich flora including many rare and protected species. Many seabirds including shags and gulls live on the mountain, making it the second most important bird reserve in the Valencia region. In the rocks and coves at sea level, are a wide variety of fish and crustaceans, so it’s worth exploring by boat as well as on foot.
At the top is a large cross where you can enjoy 360º panoramic views. It may look familiar as it’s also featured in the ITV comedy Benidorm.
How to get here: From Benidorm, you can walk to the far end of Levante beach (going away from the Old Town) to start your walk up to the cross. Although uphill, obviously, there are good paths and there are good tracks. It will take about 90 minutes each way.
Time to climb
A favourite drive is up the Sierra de Callosa with gorgeous views over the valleys, rugged cliffs and out to sea.Historic landmarks on the Sierra include a 10th century Islamic castle,Diablo reservoir, and the Eye of St Bruno burial ground.
It’s a favourite spot for climbers with three areas to tackle including La Escuela for beginners and El Poligono for experienced climbers, which are in the Cueva Ahumada.
There’s very little water or soil on the mountain so plants have had to adapt to the harsh environments, particularly in the rocks. Wildlife includes lizards,snakes, eagles, falcons, owls, foxes, wild cats and hares.
How to get here: Leave the AP7 at junction 733 and take the CV913 to Callosa de Segura.