The COSTA BLANCA
The Costa Blanca ( the white coast ) refers to one of Spain's top tourist destinations located in the province of Alicante within the autonomous region of Valencia. It's easy to see why it has become so popular specially when you take a look at what this 200 kilometre stretch of coastline has to offer. The name Costa Blanca was devised as a promotional name used by the now defunct BEA after launching an air service between London and Valencia in 1957.
There's something for everyone along the "white coast" which encompasses a diverse range of seaside resorts in the south east of the Iberian Peninsula. Beautiful stretches of coastline and beaches, tranquil white washed villages, great nightlife, internationally recognised attractions and theme parks and a vast array of accommodation facilities to suit all tastes and pockets are just some of the plus points that has made the Costa Blanca a favoured holiday and tourist destination for many thousands of visitors each year.
Most of the coastline itself has now been developed to meet the needs of mass tourism which can be both overpowering and welcoming, depending on what your looking for in an ideal holiday. In that respect there aren't to many quiet corners where you may find laid back quaint fishing villages and virgin beaches, although if you know where to go there are still many places of interest where you can escape the madding crowd and chill out before returning to the excitement the main resorts offer.
The region's enviable climate attracts a year-round holiday trade where average temperatures range from 16 degrees C in winter to 32 degrees in summer and the sun generally shines for more than 315 days a year.
Tourism is at its height during the months of July and August when the temperature can nudge 40 degrees and the sea is a perfect 24-25 degrees. The low and mid season months attract those who prefer to avoid the sizzling summer sun and when the local perhaps older expat resident return from escaping the sizzling summer temperatures. This time of year is also favourite with sports enthusiasts specially golfers as the area boasts a good selection of 18 hole courses to suit all players and handicaps. British runs bowls clubs are also on offer and have become very popular with the local and visiting players.
A trip along the COSTA BLANCA
To the north of the Costa Blanca includes the popular tourism resorts of Gandia, Javea and Denia with the south extending to the popular haven of Torrevieja.
A number of smallish resorts such as Moraira, Altea and Calpe are particularly popular with Spanish tourists. In contrast to the high rise king of the Costa Blanca , Benidorm, which attracts some 5 million foreign and national tourists every year, the vast majority British.
Its hard to believe that in the 1960s Benidorm was a sleepy fishing village, today in Europe only London and Milan have more skyscrapers than this mega resort (the new Gran Hotel Bali is over 186 metres tall ).
Benidorm offers attractions to suit all age groups from young children to OAPs. In the summer the majority of visitors are young Brits looking for sun and fun whilst the low season is appealing to older couples escaping the north European winter. The resort boasts three first class (blue flag) beaches, entertainment for all, countless bars, restaurants and discos and the Terra Mitica theme park on the edge of town which is one of Spain's most visited tourist attractions. All of this within easy reach of Alicante airport.
Javea lies in the foothills of the Montgo Mountain in the northern Costa Blanca and is one of the most popular resorts of the region. The town started attracting north Europeans visitors more than 30 years ago and has become a thriving ex-pat community to this day. Javea though is an attractive and popular destination and offers plenty to all its visitors including some of Spain's finest golden beaches.
Javea is divided into three parts: Javea Pueblo (the old town); Javea Puerto ( the busy port area); and Playa de Arenal (the main beach area). Today the old town and the port are just about joined at the hip thanks to the property developers whilst Playa de Arenal lies some 3km along a rocky beach from the Port area.
It is well worth spending a few hours meandering around he old centre of Javea where you can admire the whitewashed buildings with Gothic features. Take a look in the Gothic Church of San Bartolome and visit the busy food market with its stalls laden with fresh fish and a colourful array of fruits and vegetables from the region.
Moraira is one of my favourites towns on the Costa Blanca and is located a short distance south of Javea and only a 30 minute drive from Benidorm to the south. There is a pleasant and satisfying air about Moraira, a former small picturesque fishing village and enjoys stunning views across to El Peñon de Ifach, the rock of Calpe. Of course the local economy now runs off tourism these days although it still retains a certain old Spanish charm that has made Moraira a desired port of call for many years.
The fish and chip brigade have thankfully have not taken over Morarira and the town has a nice selection of inviting and well known restaurants serving up good quality local fair. One of them being the La Lonja , a superb fish restaurant located on the front overlooking the small port and fish market where fish auctions take place every morning at 10am except Sundays. Greta place to visit an wet your appetite.
Platja de l'Ampolla is Moraira's only beach within comfortable walking distance of the centre lying just 500m from the fish market. Another more attractive option is the picturesque spot of Platja del Portet which is 1.5km north of the centre. This is the truly beautiful place to chill out and offers golden sands and inviting turquoise waters and a smattering of local bars overlooking the beach.
The beaches directly south of Moraira are rocky rather than sandy but are excellent and safe for snorkelling enthusiasts.
For shopaholics Moraira's weekly market takes place on Fridays with another one held every Wednesday in nearby Teulada. Teulada is tyicalll old Spanish Village and was actually the old town of Moraira and is well worth a visit to see Santa Catalina Church and the Divina Pastora Chapel amongst others. You can also sample some of the regions wines at the San Vicente Ferrer wine cellar. The Moscatel Festival in early September is another good time for try out the local brew.
Moraira doesn't have a lot to offer in the way of hotels although there is a good selection of privately owned apartments and villas to rent.
Denia's beaches are of a remarkable beauty and it has a historic centre where the castle raises majestically right in the centre of town. Mount Montgó, declared a Natural Park, is only a few metres from the sea and fishing boats come and go whilst they mark the rhythm of everyday life and provide Dénia with the best of the sea, making it the celebrated cuisine haven it has become. We propose a climb to the castle, a visit to museums, churches, streets and old quarters, a walk in Montgó Natural Park.
Denia is located some 7km north of Javea along a spectacular winding mountain road jealously guarded by the Montgo Mountain. It is an average mean temperature of 20-C and is an attractive resort with a captivating old town, fine restaurants and glorious beaches stretching for many kilometres to the north.
Denia has around 30.000 inhabitants and it is not only the tourism industry that drives its local economy, Denia does in fact have one of most important harbours in the area supporting a huge fishing fleet and harbour area with ferry connections to Ibiza and Mallorca , it's this port activity that has made Denia quite prosperous over the past years.
There is a helpful tourist information office located on the Glorieta del Oculista Buigues, number 9 where you can get a town map and catch up with local places of interest and other activities of interest. A tourist train runs from the tourist information office to the castle. Check times on the notice board outside.
For sightseeing head up to the town hall (ayuntamiento) building from Marques de Campo and visit the Iglesia de la Asuncion church with its fine dome. Then continue up the steps following the signs for the castle which overlooks Denia Bay. One of the most visited tourist attractions of Denia is the castillo (castle). It was built in the 11th and 12th century and offers a wonderful view around the sea and city. Within the castle you will find the Palau del Governador with its museum. Another interesting museum in Denia is the Museo Etnologico which provides a rich history of the town and its culture.
From the castle it is easy to make your way down to El Port, a line of attractive restaurants facing the port area. Most of them tend to specialise in local rice based dishes as well as Fideua which is a noodle based paella. Valencia is home to the paella and more than a few varieties of this special dish can be found here.
Only Benidorm has more high rise buildings than Calpe, having said that they are not concentrated in one area and are spread out along its long coastline and is one of my preferred towns on the Costa Blanca. It offers beautiful blue flag beaches with golden sand and crystal clear water. The whole resort of Calpe is dominated by the huge Peñon de Ifach, an enormous Gibraltar like rock which separates the two main beach areas of Playa la Fossa and Playa Cantal Roig.
The Peñon de Ifach is a Natural Park which is the symbol of the whole Costa Blanca. It is 332m high and extends for a kilometre out to sea. If your feeling fit then you can climb to the top starting off at the information office at its base.
The majority of the restaurants along Playa la Fossa are geared towards Spanish tourists with local fish and rice dishes very popular. the occasional British establishment appears with its typical fare which strikes a nice balance as far as the resort is concerned. There is a pedestrianised promenade (Paseo Infanta Cristina) the full length of the beach with a number of cocktail bars insuring a lively nightlife scene.
On the other side of the Peñon is a smart marina followed by narrow, rocky beach called Playa Cantal Roig. A promenade (Paseo Infanta Elena) runs from here past a Roman fish farm and Roman baths as far as another superb beach at Playa Arenal-Bol. The end of this 2000m long beach is pretty much in the old town. Just follow c/Valencia for two minutes and you're in the Plaza Mayor. Both of these beaches have also been awarded Blue Flags.
The old town of Calpe is worth a visit to meander around the streets taking in some of the historical buildings and squares. There's a street market every Saturday in the town and a flea market every Wednesday. In the summer months there are crafts fairs in the old town. Another worthwhile visit is to the daily fish auction at La Lonja in the port. These take place every weekday afternoon at 5pm. The salt flats just inland from Playa Levante date back to Roman times and are an important location for many species of migrating birds so if you're a twitcher remember to take your binoculars.
Gandia Spain lies about 100 km north of Alicante along the Costa Blanca. With around 55,000 inhabitants Gandia is one of the largest cities in the area. You can take the Autovia or National road up from Alicante to Gandia by car, or take a bus from Alicante bus station.
The town of Gandia isn't a tourist destination but is a lively, working town. It's well worth a few hours away from the beach to take a stroll around as it does have a few interesting things to see. The 14th century Palacio Ducal de los Borja is the number one tourist attraction which offers guided tours every half hour with a break for lunch between 1pm and 4pm in winter and 5pm in summer. The church in the Placa Major is also worth a visit.
A particularly interesting part of town is the Passeig de les Germanies, a tree lined promenade with fountains and benches where the local pensioners gather to put the world's problems to right. The bridge at the eastern end of this street crosses the dry river bed and takes you over to the weekly Saturday morning market. There are many good shops and cafeterias to keep you busy along the buzzing Calle Mayor area.
Gandia Playa Nord is its northern beach which stretches for 3.5km from the sailing club. The quality of its fine, golden sand is second to none in Spain. This whole stretch is lined with
Villajoyosa lies just a few kilometres south of Benidorm on the main N332 towards Alicante. If your driving to this town from Benidorm at first site the town looks a little drab however at second glance you may be pleasantly surprised by what was another old fishing village before tourism arrived.
La Vila Joiosa literally means Joyful Village, although the inhabitants often abbreviate it to La Vila. It has over three kilometres of beaches, including La Platja Centre (Central Beach), close to the city centre. The river Amadorio runs through La Vila.
The area is famous for its chocolate industry and tourism. One of the most popular tourist attractions is its Gothic Catholic church, with a Baroque altar piece. It is also important for its festival of Moros i cristianos, declared an International Tourist Interest Festival
The old part of this town is called the Arsenal and is situated on the shore. It is well worth taking a stroll around the narrow streets with lively coloured houses built on the flank or side of the river bank. Although many may think this to be dangerous, the reason behind this was so that the fishermen could see the sea from their homes. And for those who wish to try luck and have not had the opportunity to bet and gamble at a real casino, visit the Royal Palm Casino there.
To get to Guadalest take the CV70 road out of Benidorm. This is the same road that goes to Terra Mitica. Follow signs for La Nucia until a roundabout sends you off to the right heading for Guadalest. It's no more than a 30 minute drive and many local agencies offer half day excursions there.
Guadalest is a small village anchored in a small valley with the same name and is one of those picturesque mountain top villages that you simply get drawn to like a magnet. Its that fact I guess that has made Guadalest the most visited village in Spain and was declared a Historic-Artistic monument in 1974.
Guadalest is first known for its 'castle', which is literally hanging onto the cliff face where it is found. It is of Islamic origin and was considered a very valuable fortification at the time of its construction.
The Castle – The street which leads to this area is called De La Pena and is extremely pretty. The most outstanding characteristics are the white-washed houses, the amount of flower pots that decorate each house, the variety of craft shops with its leather objects. The street ends with a long staircase where there is a door carved out in the rock where you can go into an older part for around 3 Euros. At the end of this street is the Town Hall where there are dungeons dating back to the XII also carved into the rock. This is the highest and oldest part of the village where you can still see the local church of the Virgin, a bell tower built into the rock and the Castle of Saint Joseph mentioned before.
The Arrabal – on the side of the cliff where the almost two hundred inhabitants have decided to make newer living quarters, leaving the“ castle for the tourists