Costa Blanca South

 The Costa Blanca is known as ‘The White Coast’ and is one of the most popular areas of Spain enjoying 320 days of sunshine every year and is currently the most healthy place to live according to the World Health Organisation.

ALICANTE: Alicante has about 310 000 habitants (2003 numbers) and lies directly by the Mediterranean sea. The Alicante weather in winter is around 16 ºC. In summer the average is around 32 ºC. Alicante is the dividing city of the coast and regional capital, providing the transport hub with its modern international airport which serves the Costa Blanca exceptionally well, hosting numerous flights daily to all major European destinations.. The historic town is a mixture of historic buildings in palm-lined boulevards, with sophisticated shopping and restaurant facilities. The seafront and harbour provide the main area of relaxation with dozens of bars and restaurants providing a vantage point to witness the many strollers by.

With many historical buildings around the entire city, Alicante offers countless sightseeing attractions, from cathedrals to churches and of course a wonderful harbor area.

CASTALLA: Castalla is located approximately 30 km north of Alicante along the A-36 highway at an altitude of 675m in picturesque mountain surroundings. This is a rich agricultural area, famous for its olive oil, wine, fruit and vegetables and there are excellent views with greenery as far as the eye can see. An important fortress town throughout the ages and steeped in architectural history, Castalla stands tall above the Vinalopó valley.

The town of Castalla is quaint and old with narrow streets and a traditional Spanish feel about it, far away from the busy tourist places and has a historic medieval castle at its highest point that was built on a mountain top during the Moorish occupation, and rebuilt by King James I the 13th century. The most important monuments in Castalla are the walled castle from the 11th Century which is placed at the top of a hill, the Hermitage of the Blood (from the 13thC) the Catholic church of La Asuncion (from the 16thC) and the building of the town hall (from the 17thC).

Castalla is very well serviced with the motorway to Madrid, and Alicante and its airport via the new road A-36. The nearest towns are Onil, Tibi, Ibi and Biar, all of them within 10 kilometres. Castalla town has all the modern facilities that you would expect whilst retaining all of it’s charm. It has become an ideal location for those that want to live in country surroundings but within easy reach of the sea. Ideal area for horse riding, walking and other sporting activities.

The economy of Castalla is based on farming (almonds, olives and grapes) and the industries of toys, construction materials, furniture and textiles. The Moors and Christians festival is celebrated here in September.

Moors and Christians is a set of festival activities which are celebrated in many towns and cities of Spain, principally in the autonomous community of Valencia, to commemorate the battles, combats and fights between Moors (or Muslims) and Christians during the period known as Reconquista (from the 8th century through the 15th century).

The festivals represent the capture of the city by the Moors and the subsequent Christian reconquest. The people that take part in the festival are usually enlisted in filaes or comparsas (companies that represent the Christian or Moor legions) and, for several days, they parade with costumes inspired in Medieval fashion: Christians wear furs, metallic helmets, armors, ride horses and shoot with loud arquebuses; in contrast, Moors wear ancient Arab costumes, scimitars and ride real camels or elephants. The festival develops among shots of gunpowder, medieval music and fireworks, and ends with a simulated battle around a castle that the Christians win.

The most well-known Moros y Cristianos festival is the one which is celebrated in Alcoy, around San Jorge (Saint George) day, in April. As the legend is told, when James I of Aragon reconquered the city of Alicante, the Moors got quite angry and tried to recover it some years after. But, when they were about to start the battle again, Saint George miraculously appeared to the Moors, who ran away scared.

Other remarkable Moros y Cristianos festivals are celebrated in the towns of Biar, Cocentaina, Crevillente, Elda, Muro de Alcoy, Onteniente, Orihuela, Petrer, Villena and some districts of Alicante city. The most ancient festival is celebrated in Caudete (Albacete), dated from 1588.

GRAN ALICANT:

ELCHE: This inland city is a world of contrasts, a combination of historic buildings where you can witness a glorious past and modern buildings typical of a flourishing city. The city’s industries produce footwear, soap, olive oil, and palm products. Elche preserves a North African atmosphere. Many Iberian, Greek, Roman, and Moorish artifacts have been found in the area, notably the Lady of Elche, a stone bust (presumed to date from the 5th cent. B.C.) now in Madrid’s National Museum of Archaeology. With over 2 thousand years of history, Elche, Elx as it’s known in Valencian, is well-known for its palm grove, the largest in Europe and which liberally cover the city. The Elche palm groves are famous for their uniqueness and beauty. Unesco placed them in the world heritage list for the year 2000. To date, there are more than 200,000 of the trees over a surface of 430 hectares.

The Phoenicians created the palm grove in the 6th century BC, taking advantage of a warm climate and an ingenious irrigation system. The female palms produce dates in the winter, and the bleached palms of the male trees are used for handicrafts and in festivals all over the region. The pruning and upkeep of palm trees that can be as tall as 30 meters requires a very skillful hand. Specialists are needed for the job. These men climb to the tops of the trees to cut off the damaged palms. Not to be missed without a doubt, is the Priest’s garden: a magnificently cool haven of tranquility, with its great variety of cacti, including the infamous ‘mother-in-law’s cushion’, and especially the imperial palm tree with its seven branches.:The municipal park: The archeological museum and the basilica Santa Maria.

SANTA POLA: Santa Pola is about 18km south of Alicante. The airport is located just 8km away. The town is on the southernmost stretch of the province of Alicante, lying on a calm bay. It’s mild climate and the hospitality of it’s people make this major fishing port a must. The tourist office is at the end of Ctra, Elche, next to the Parque El Palmeral.

Whilst in this area, explore the park behind the tourist office. There is a wonderful Roman mosaic on display, and the park is a cool place to rest under the tall palms.

In the same area you will see the remains of the Portus Illicitanus, a Roman villa and the Roman fish factory. In the centre of the town stands one of the most impressive castles and fortresses in the area. It dates from the 16th century and is still used today. It now houses an impressive museum as well as a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Loreto..

Opposite the entrance to the castle is the Plaza de la Glorieta, a 20th century construction that offers shade and somewhere to eat and drink. At night the plaza comes alive as all the locals meet to chat.

The town also offers a marine museum, located close to the police station and the beaches, several towers and viewpoints and a boat ride to the nearby island of Tabarca. The resort has 6 beaches, all with golden sand and a fully operational fishing port and sports marina. All manner of water sports can be found here and because of the fishing industry, fresh fish can be found all over the town’s restaurants.

Santa Pola offers a wide range of delicious foods, mainly derived from the sea. It’s salazones are dried fish and are tasty appetisers, as are the fresh gambas or shrimps. A local fish stew, caldero santapoler is something you have to try. Arroz negro, rice with squid ink and Arroz a la marinera or sailor’s rice are both local favourites. Some of the popular local catches are Anglerfish and Cuttlefish as well as fresh octopus. Local bakeries churn out ample sweets and cakes.

Throughout the year Santa Pola has a number of important festivities in which locals and visitors participate with street processions, parades and giant parties.

Santa Pola has miles of golden beaches which stretch the full length of the town, the port is a hive of activity, day and night and the town has an ambience that suits all ages. Beautifully laid out squares intermingle with busy streets and historic ruins lay round every corner.

Outside Santa Pola salt has been mined since the beginning of the 20thC at Brac de Port, Pinet etc. contributing to a change in the aspect of the edge of these marshlands. Fauna and flora have adapted to the wet conditions and saltiness. Spectacular concentrations of greater flamingos, up to 8,000 birds, can sometimes be seen here. The dunes in the Pinet area are an interesting part of the park. Three miles off the Santa Pola coast is the island of Tabarca (Alicante) with attractive coastal and marine eco-systems, which have converted it into a Natural Marine Reserve.

GUARDAMAR DE SEGURA: The ancient town was built on a hill overlooking the river Segura. Still preserved are the ruins of a castle and other historic remains from Hellenic times, when the town was a port. Between the town and the beach lies the enormous Queen Sofia Park, thick with trees and plants. The park provides refreshing strolls, even on the hottest of days. To beautify the natural surroundings, ponds with aquatic fauna have been added. The dune area is the unique part of the town, wave and tidal deposits created these magnificent areas, which have been carefully preserved with hundreds of monumental dunes, pine, palm and eucalyptus trees.

LA MATA: Extending all the way across the municipal areas of Guardamar de Segura and Torrevieja are the La Mata and Torrevieja lagoons which are still used for salt extraction, as they have been for many decades. Salt water is drawn from the Cabec de la Sal in Pinoso and left to dry in the sun until the water evaporates. The marshlands here are an important wintering area for migratory birds. The fine, sandy beaches of La Mata stretch for miles.

TORREVIEJA: The city of Torrevieja lies about 50 km south west of Alicante. You can reach Torrevieja via the road N 332, a wonderful road along the costa blanca. Torrevieja marks a kind of language line between the traditional valencian/catalan in the north of the costa blanca and the spanish wide castellano spanish. Further in the south you will find more and more ‘spanish-only’ speaking people, while the area of Torrevieja and upwards is usually more bilingual

Torrevieja is surrounded by two large natural saltwater lagoons, which form the well-known ‘Salterns of Torrevieja’. It is an ideal location for a summer or winter sun holiday with an average of 320 days sunshine each year. It is said to be good for sufferers of arthritis, asthma and rheumatism. The area is regarded by the World Health Organisation as having the healthiest climate in Europe. Torrevieja is not a resort in the package holiday sense, there are only a few hotels and the area is much loved by the Spanish for their summer holidays.

Torrevieja beaches have fine sand and crystal clear waters, without doubt the most frequented along the Mediterranean coast along with the town of Benidorm. They have all held the European Blue Flag for Clean Seas for several years, awarded for their quality and excellent installations. La Mata, Los Locos, El Cura, El Acequión and Los Náufragos together make up the beaches of the Torreviejan coast, not forgetting the marvellous coves in the northern part, as well as the so-called natural swimming pools which are found beside the Juan Aparicio promenade right in the centre of the town.

Of course the seaside promenades and the fishing port are attractions in their own right for visitors to this part of the Southern Mediterranean. The Torrevieja micro-climate, brought about by the two salt lakes of La Mata and Torrevieja which occupy more than 55 per cent of the total area of the town, and with its 340 days of sun and an average annual temperature of 20 degrees centigrade, has meant that thousands of tourists from the north of Spain and northern Europe have decided to set up home permanently in the town. Torrevieja is famous for its salt flats, which have been mined since the Middle Ages. The salt flats are connected to the La Mata lagoon, which lies to the side of the town, fronted by a beautiful parkland area. Many visitors to the town make a special point of visiting the mud baths, which are known for their therapeutic value.

Every Friday Torrevieja holds one of the largest open-air markets in Spain and sells all kinds of food, textiles, clothes and accessories. A smaller market can also be found at La Florida on a Saturday. Street markets can be found every day of the week in different areas. The town has a good shopping area with lots of independently owned shops selling a variety of goods. There are no department stores or shopping malls. An indoor market is open daily where you can buy fresh produce; fish, meat, fruit and vegetables.

ORIHUELA: The coastline in this area combines sandy beaches and small cliffs, which are ideal for fishing and diving. The area is a favourite for golfers, having 3 top courses within easy reach. (Villamartin, Los Ramblos and Campoamor).

The city of Orihuela lies about 50 km south west of Alicante, just between Elche and Murcia. With about 50 000 habitants Orihuela is a major city of the area. You can best reach Orihuela using the national road N 340 from Alicante.

Famous for the palmeral, a huge palm tree forest and the river Segura, Orihuela has been the base of the bishop which contributes to large parts of its important architecture. Considering that many of these palaces and churches have been recognized as national monuments, for those of you who like to dive into the history and culture of the area, the city is perfect.

North of the river Segura which cuts through Orihuela you will find the Palace of Rubalcava. The palace gives you a perfect inspiration and impression into historic live. It is open to the public from Mondays to Fridays. Just at the back of the palace you will find the church of Santiago which was built in the 15th century. Inside the church an impressive sculpture of the family of Francisco Salzillo dominates part of a chapel.

Around the entire area of Orihuela, you will find many, many more churches and palaces such as the church of Santas Justa and Rufina, the palace of Conde de Granja or the cathedral de San Salvador. With interesting museums and buildings, Orihuela is one of the most impressive towns if you want to get a cultural break from your sunbathing Costa Blanca holiday.

PILAR DE LA HORADADA: The most southern town in the land of Valencia. An outstanding 16th century watchtower overlooks the coast. The town has 4 kilometres of coastline running from the Mil Palmeras estate to the Escull de Mojón, alternating between smart residential areas, parks and sports facilities. This area is renowned for its clean water and high quality beaches, which are ideal for enjoying the fine climate. The sports marina has moorings for recreational craft and is a major tourist attraction.

MAR MENOR and LA MANGA: Mar Menor is famed for its fine clean air and quiet sandy beaches. Water sports in the lagoon are the favourite pastime with water temperatures being high all year round. See http://www.phoenix-overseas.com/moxie/spanish-property-news/latest-developments/spanish-golf-properties-apartments-villas.shtml

La Manga is the ‘sleeve’ which separates the lagoon from the sea and was formed from the sediment from the accumulation of sand transported on the marine winds which was forced to the surface when it encountered the volcanic formations below the sea. This created a barrier and so the Mar Menor began to take shape. Although La Manga acquired it’s actual form and structure in the 17thC the first human habitation can be attributed to Neolithic Man. Some 5000 years ago a village was built in the area of Las Amoladeras, at what is now the entrance to La Manga. This settlement was in the form of wattle and reed huts built in a circle. The villagers lived from the sea, by fishing and collecting the shell-fish of the region. The area was surrounded by forests which reached to the edge of the sea.

It has been established from the sunken ruins at ‘El Estacio’ that La Manga was used in pre-historic times as a ‘fish factory’. From other treasures discovered at the bottom of the seas which skirt La Manga, the remains of various vessels can be traced to the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans and these were used to transport ingots of silver and lead, in addition to ceramic pots containing a variety of merchandise. The arrival of the Arabs brought about the introduction of a form of fishing known as ‘las Encañizadas’ (cane enclosures), a method which is still in use today and can be seen in many areas of the Mar Menor.

La Manga Club is a famous resort where top sports people visit, train and relax. The area has a famous strip of bars, restaurants and hotels.

The Costa Blanca is one of the most popular areas of Spain enjoying 320 days of sunshine every year and is currently the most healthy place to live according to the World Health Organisation.

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