The Spanish Costa Blanca offers so much more than sea, sun and sand – there’s natural parks, vineyards, museums, remote hill villages and wild sierras. It’s time to look at Alicante, Murcia and the Costa Blanca in a whole new light!
The Costa Blanca lies in the east of Spain, has 200km of Mediterranean coastline and runs from Denia in the north and Pilar de la Horadada in the south. It encompasses the region’s capital city Alicante (and major airport), Altea, party town of Benidorm, Denia, beautiful Javea and the famous resort of Torrevieja.
Climb ‘the rock’ in the Natural Park of Penyal d’Ifac
The Penyal d’Ifac is designated as a natural park and the crowning glory is the 332 meter Peñón de Ifach limestone rock that rises majestically from the Mediterranean. Situated in the small town of Calpe, the 47 hectare park was established in 1987 and is home to 300 animal species and seabird colonies. Keen climbers can tackle the rock and enjoy views across the Med as far as Ibiza on a clear day. Travellers can also explore the wetland and lagoon behind the rock.
The lively city of Alicante is guarded by the dramatic Santa Barbara Castle. Perched atop the 166 meter tall Mount Benacantil, the castle has commanding views from the ramparts and towers out over the Mediterranean. The castle dates back to the 9th century and has a colorful history, including several attacks. The castle also served as a prison and fell into disrepair before being turned into a visitor attraction in 1963.
Sample the fine wines of the Costa Blanca
Some of the finest old world wines are produced in this region which is awash with centuries old wine towns with expansive vineyards. Visit Jumilla which is set on a hillside where the Monastrell and Grenache grapes are overlooked by a 15th century castle. Monòver is a major wine producer famed for strong red wines and the dessert wine El Fondillón which is matured for 20 years. The bodegas in the pretty wine town of Yecla offer tours and wine tasting of the local fruity red wines.
Cool down in the Guadalest hill town
After driving into the Costa Blanca heartland and climbing at a quite a rate, you’ll eventually reach Guadalest, which is an unbelievably pretty hill village. The crowning glory is a rather battered castle, but this is a taste of real Spain, as in years gone by, with narrow lanes lined with traditional shops and eateries. There are also several museums including the Antonio Marco Museum, Ribera Girona Museum and the gruesome-sounding Torture instruments Museum! Standout sights include the 11th century Castle of L’Alcazaiba and the Castle of the King. Visitors also come to see the picturesque Baroque church of Mare de Déu de l’Assumpció and the eerie 12th century dungeon and jail.
Walk the Parque Regional de Calblanque
The Calblanque is a recognised natural park in the Murcia region that offers superb walks along the unspoilt coastline. There are golden beaches, hidden coves and azure blue seas. The Parque is blessed with an abundance of endemic flora and fauna, such as lizards, skinks and the peregrine falcon.
The small city of Altea has retained its village look and feel and this is evident in the famous blue-domed churches that dot the landscape. Head to the famedNuestra Senora del Consuelo church and the blue-topped Virgen de Consuelo. The harbour is pretty with many good restaurants serving seafood and the Sunday market is worth a visit for local handicrafts and produce.
Admire the Cathedral of Murcia
Admire for its exquisite Baroque architecture, the Cathedral of Saint Mary, aka Cathedral of Murcia is a must-see. This outstanding Roman Catholic structure took many years to complete and was finally unveiled in 1467 and features a Gothic interior. This cathedral features the tallest bell tower in Spain at 90 meters tall. In all there are 25 bells in the cathedral, which all have their own unique name.
By Julie Bowman