A good place to start your exploration of Alicante is in the charming town of Elche. This cosmopolitan city is the capital of the Baix Vinalopo District and the second largest city in the Alicante province. This settlement dates back to the Iberian times, hence there is a wealth of history to explore. Situated on the Costa Blanca, Elche is a tourist hot spot for a number of reasons besides its history.
Elche is widely known as The City of Palms due to its expansive palm tree grove known as the Palmeral of Elche. This palm forest contains over ten thousand trees, mostly date palms, and is the only palm forest in Europe. The beginnings of this palm forest can be traced back to the Phoenicians in the sixth century BC. After that, the Moors were to cultivate the forest and at the same time add their own design between the eighth and thirteenth century.
The most important palm tree in the forest is the Imperial Palm with seven stems in the shape of candelabra. This is a good place to go for a relaxing stroll as within the perimeters of the forest there are some beautiful parks and gardens where you can sit and contemplate the day. One of the important items in the forest is its irrigation system which was installed by the Romans using water from the River Vinalopo in the tenth century and is still in use today.
Due to its size and beauty, UNESCO declared this forest a World Heritage Site. An interesting point in Elche’s history lies in the fact that the Mystery Play of Elche is the only proof of the medieval religious European theatre. This play, from the fifteenth century, has been declared by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage in 2001. This is a sacred play done in lyrical form and is conducted annually. Elche has more museums than you will have time to visit. The best thing to do is pick out the ones that interest you and pay them a visit. The museums of the most importance are the Municipal Festa Museum, La Alucida and the Pucol Agricultural Museum all of which have rare artefacts on display where you can trace the history of Elche. There are also a number of monuments that you should pay a visit to including Torre de la Calahorra, Ayuntamiento, Torre de Calendura and the Basilicca de Santa Maria.
If you are a nature lover or have brought the kids with you, then a trip to El Honda Nature Park and Clot de Galvany is in order. Located on the Costa Blanca, Elche has access to a number of fabulous white sandy beaches in the nearby area. These beaches offer a plethora of water sports with all the backup facilities necessary including tuition and equipment hire in necessary. Like all towns, villages and cities in Spain Elche host many different festivals throughout the year including holy week, Christmas, Palm Sunday and the Fiestas of the Virgin’s Arrival. This is a good time to interact with the locals and learn about their customs, history and traditions.
When you book your Alicante villa, you will have easy access to most of the seaside resorts on the Costa Blanca. For example, you are close to Torrevieja and its salt marshes full of flamingos along with five pristine beaches to choose from and places for the children to run and play. Benidorm is not that far away either and is considered to be the party capital of the Costa Blanca.