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Best hiking routes on the Costa Blanca

Best hiking routes on the Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca is of course best known for its sea and beaches, but that’s not all it has to offer. It is also a region of spectacular mountain regions that offer a range of outdoor pursuits – among the most popular of which is hiking. There are dozens of routes suitable for hikers of all experience levels that allow you to venture into areas such as the Montgó Natural Park, the Sierra de Mariola or around the Guadalest dam. So hang up your bikini and put on your hiking boots, its Sonneil’s guide to the best hiking routes on the Costa Blanca.

Aitana

At over 5,500 feet (1,558 metres) the Sierra Aitana is the highest peak in the Community of Valencia. It lies to the south of the Guadalest Valley in the Marina Baixa region of Alicante province, about an hour’s drive inland from Benidorm. There are a number hiking routes you can take through this mountain range, but the most popular one takes you through a vast landscape of boulders that were deposited there by glaciers millennia ago. Following traditional footpaths and mule tracks that afford spectacular panoramic views, you will ascend up the side of the massif wall to the top of Aitana. On the descent, you pass through beautiful valleys with natural springs and wonderful limestone amphitheatres. 

This 8 kilometers long hiking route is one of the most popular on the Costa Blanca. It takes between 4 to 6 hours which includes many breaks and is classified as a medium to hard route.  

Puig Campana

At 1,406 meters Puig Campana is the second highest mountain in the province of Alicante. There are two routes to choose from: one that ascends the mountain and one that goes around it. Naturally, the former is the more difficult of the two and best left to the more experienced mountain hiker.

The sides of the mountain are covered in pine trees and offer fantastic views as far as the coastline. The 12 km round trip beginning at “Font de Moli” in Finestrat takes about 5 hours with breaks and is considered to be a hike of moderate difficulty.

Guadalest

The Guadalest dam was built across the Guadalest River between 1953 and 1964. The dam is 73 meters high and 270 meters long and supplies water to many towns and villages in the area, including Benidorm. The circular route around the dam, with the turquoise waters of the reservoir as the shining centrepiece in the middle, is one of the most spectacular in the province. It’s a low difficulty route along a road that passes by six mountains allowing you to take in some breath-taking scenery with a minimum of effort. Apart from the reservoir and the surrounding mountains, there is also the pretty town of Guadalest itself to be seen as well as a Moorish castle perched on the top of a cliff.

This is only a small fraction of what the Costa Blanca has to offer those willing to peel themselves off the beach and explore the great wide open.  

Fishing on the Costa Blanca

Fishing on the Costa Blanca

Fishing is a popular pastime, both in the sea off the Costa Blanca and in the rivers and lakes of its inland regions. Fishing expeditions are organised from numerous ports along the Costa Blanca’s 220 km coastline, with some of the best excursions leaving from the port of Denia. They usually begin in the early morning hours and last for half a day or a full day and given the wide variety of large fish species that make their home on the Costa Blanca, the day tripper is not likely to be disappointed. From July to September swordfish are found off the coast of Guardamar and Torrevieja. There is also tuna fishing in the open sea. Likewise frigate mackerel, big toothed pompano, blue fish, sea bass, dorada, amberjacks, corvina, gilthead, grouper, leer fish, barracuda, moray and conger eels as well as some 150 kinds of shark. 

More common than sea fishing; however, is river fishing, where there are various fish species to be netted, such as trout, salmon, gambusias, lampreys and samarugos. The rivers on the Costa Blanca also contain carp, zander, pike, black bass and barbell. The Amadorio and Guadalest dams are said to be the best freshwater fishing spots as they hold the biggest carp and rainbow trout, but the latter are a protected species and require an extra licence.

If you are resident in Spain and want to go out fishing on your own rather than as part of a paid excursion you will need to obtain a Spanish licence from the Ministry of the Environment (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente). Applicants must pass an exam in Spanish before being granted a licence. After the exam, it takes over a month to receive the results and permit.

Three categories of fishing licence are awarded: sea fishing, underwater fishing and river fishing. Once approved, the licence is only valid for one region and one type of fishing. Anyone found to be fishing without a valid licence by the police will have to pay a fine of up to €200 and can expect to have their equipment confiscated. Underwater fishers may use a snorkel tube, mask and mechanical harpoon gun, but underwater fishing with scuba equipment is forbidden. A fishing fee must be paid to fish in certain areas (pesca de pago); in others, fishing is free (pesca libre). Fishing in reservoirs is also permitted with the correct licence. These usually contain plentiful Carp and a lot of them have Barbel and Black Bass, as well as Zander and Pike.

Happy fishing! 

Exploring the Cova Tallada caves

Exploring the Cova Tallada caves

On the Costa Blanca Coastline, between Denia and Javea is the mythical Cova Tallada. A huge cave dug out of Cape San Antonio that for hundreds of years served as a quarry for the stone used to construct historic buildings such as Denia Castle. Nowadays it forms part of the Cabo de San Antonio Nature Park and offers a truly amazing experience for the adventurous souls who dare to enter the cavern.

The partly natural, partly man-made cave was first excavated during the Muslim era and contains evidence of activity dating back to the 12th century. While it’s no longer a working quarry it is rumoured to have served as a secret hideaway and supply depot for German submarines during the Second World War.

The cave is reached from Javea via the Cape lighthouse route or from Denia, thanks to a 750 metre path that runs along the Mediterranean by a small cliff. 

The cave itself is about 75 meters wide and about 15 meters high, with five large “doors” through which the sea and light can enter. The space is large enough to allow for the entrance of canoes, which makes for another very interesting way to take in the experience. The area outside the cave is suitable for swimming thanks to a rocky projection that acts as a breakwater, meaning the surrounding sea is usually calm and ideal for snorkelling.

Inside, the cave has several large passages that you will need a torchlight to explore due to their darkness. Among the interesting features to be seen inside are the marks on the walls made by centuries of stonecutters and, at the entrance of one of the cavernous ‘rooms’, an inscription on the rock that indicates that King Philip II was there in 1599.

It should be noted that due to the huge popularity of the Cova Tallada, especially in summer, the number of visitors allowed to enter at a given time will be limited in order to alleviate the ecological burden on the site. Numbers will be limited to 482 people per day, with no more than 71 people allowed in the cave at the same time. It will also be necessary to make a reservation – allotting a specific day and time – to visit the cave. 

Those wishing to explore the cave should bring water and food with them as well as suitable clothing and footwear, a flashlight and a camera with plenty of storage capacity: you might need it to capture the views and the amazing local flora along the way.

Gastronomy of the Costa Blanca

Gastronomy of the Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca is home to a rich variety of culinary dishes. Being a coastal region seafood naturally predominates, with the catch of the day including anything from tuna, sardines, hake, red mullet, sole, monkfish, octopus, cuttlefish, mackerel, ray and sea bream, which are usually served baked or with a squeeze of lemon. Added to this are the dishes that originate in the mountainous and inland regions like olleta, which is rice with pork, sausage, pumpkin, turnip, chard stalks, chickpeas and string beans. 

The Costa Blanca is also the birthplace Paella, Spain’s most famous culinary offering. 

Invented in rural Valencia in the 18th century, it is a dish of great simplicity but one that depends on the perfect combination of its elements to produce the desired result, including the quality of the rice, the composition of the water, the amount of oil, and the correct cooking temperature. Made in with dry rice, preferably of the famous bomba variety, it is cooked in a large pan which also bears the name of paella. Saffron is added to give its distinct yellow colour. 

The varieties of Paella are numerous, but the authentic version must be made with certain ingredients: beans, chicken and rabbit, and the famous mountain snail called xoneta. However, the most popular varieties remain the paella marinera, made with fish and seafood and the paella mixta, made from fish and meat. 

But Paella isn’t the only rice dish to be found in the region. There’s oven baked rice, rice with beans and turnips, which is usually served in winter, and rice topped with the crust of an omelette. Other variations include rice flavoured with squid and tunny fish, chicken and fillet of pork, baby squid and garlic shoots. There is also a fisherman’s rice dish which originates from the Alicante region for which there is an international competition that takes place every year in Denia.

Among the iconic products of the region are the Valencian oranges known for being particularly juicy and tangy, and horchata, a thick white drink made with dried and sweetened tiger nuts that was brought to Spain from north Africa during the Muslim conquest. Other Arabic influences can be found in the region’s desserts, which often incorporate almonds and honey. Most famous among these being touron a nougat confection, typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with toasted almonds or other nuts.

In short, the Costa Blanca is an epicure’s delight, and that’s without even mentioning the great wines* the region has to offer.

Wines of the Costa Blanca

Wines of the Costa Blanca

When it comes to Spanish wines, the Costa Blanca is somewhat overshadowed by the more famous Rioja and Ribero del Duero regions. This just makes it all the more exciting to discover that the Costa Blanca, Alicante specifically, has a long and distinguished oenological history and remains one of Spain’s most varied wine producing regions. 

Alicante wine comes from two well defined regions: The coastal area north of Benidorm, between the towns of Denia and Calpe, is known as La Marina and has a Mediterranean climate ideal for growing Moscatel; while the larger, more-inland of region Vinalopo, with its dry continental climate is home to red Monastrell wine. Indeed, with more than 14, 000 hectares under cultivation, around 80 percent of the world’s Monastrell wines come from Vinalopo.

Other notable red grapes grown in the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouché) Merlot Monastrell, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, while whites include Airén, Macabeo, Merseguera, Moscatel Romano, Planta Fina and Verdil.

In a category all of its own is Fondillon: a sweet, non-fortified wine made from extra-ripe monastrell grapes that are allowed to remain on the vine longer than usual, before being pressed, fermented with their skins and then aged for at least eight years in oak. It is characterised by a high level of alcohol and complex flavour, that can range from dry to sweet depending on the on the grapes used. Once upon a time Fondillon was as famous as Rioja is now, reaching the height of its prestige in the 17th century when France’s King Louis XIV is said to have refused all wines except Fondillion when he was on his deathbed.

The technique for making Fondillon was all but forgotten after the spread of the ruinous phylloxera plague that ravaged the region’s vineyards in the late 19th century. Fortunately, in the mid-20th century one Alicante winemaker, Salvador Poveda Luz, decided to re-establish Fondillon. Using a small number of old casks of Fondillon, he experimented until he developed the proper production techniques. Today, Fondillon is one of only five wines recognised by the European Union as unique “luxury” wines.

Alicante wines have also had their quality accredited by the Regulatory Council of the Protected Designation of Origin Alicante, created in 1957. The Designation of Origin Alicante is intended to safeguard the designation of origin recognised in 1932 and promote the wine industry in Alicante, through tasting routes, training, tourism, and events. Added to this quality assurance is the fact that Alicante winegrowers have united to form a cooperative that over the years has become a modern producer of quality wines. 

Top five diving locations on the Costa Blanca

Top five diving locations on the Costa Blanca

With more than 200 km of coastline and some 170 beaches it’s no surprise that the Costa Blanca offers some wonderful diving opportunities, especially on its rockier northern coast.

In the months of June to October, the average temperature of the water is more than 20 degrees. In the months of February and March, the sea is at its coldest, with an average of 14 degrees Celsius.

The water is relatively calm, free of dangerous currents and home to a highly diverse underwater life. Apart from the Mediterranean fish, you can find rays, sea horses, crabs, octopus and moray eels. Sunfish visit the Costa Blanca coast from late spring onwards and in September and October sardine and barracudas heat along the coast. There are also rich and colourful seagrasses to be observed. Lister below are Sonneil’s top five diving locations on the Costa Blanca.

Tabarca Island 

The Tabarca Marine Reserve, off the coast of Alicante, was the first such reserve to be declared in all of Spain in 1986 and occupies 1,400 hectares around the entire island. Being one of the few protected marine spaces, it makes for one of the most incredible diving locations on the Costa Blanca and boast of a particularly rich biodiversity beneath the waves. As for its flora, the Posidonia Oceanica seagrass prairies stand out, and as for the fauna, fish such as grouper, gilthead and even some specimens of loggerhead turtle frequent these waters. Of course, diving in the Tabarca Marine Reserve is prohibited without first getting permission from one of the authorised dive centres in the province.

The Vaporet

About 2.6 miles from the port of Denia, lies the remains of a cargo ship, commonly known as El Vaporet, which sank at the end of the 19th century. The considerable depth, the likely presence of currents and reduced visibility, make it advisable that only those with considerable experience undertake the dive and only under optimum conditions. A wealth of fish life inhabits the ruins of the ship, including sardines and lobsters.

Portixol 

The island of Portixol is a nature reserve with a popular bird sanctuary, that also has much to offer under the water. Its rocky bottom, covered with seagrass, is inhabited by several species of perch, eels and damselfish. The odd squid can also be seen. The water is easily accessible from the pebble beach, which is close to the main road, just down some stairs.

La Granadella

Located in the town of Javea, this beach is considered one of the best in Spain. It is a dream location where sea and mountains combine perfectly. Thanks to its turquoise waters, the experience of diving here is unmatched. In La Granadella we can observe white sands alternating with posidonia plains, in which we can see octopuses, dorados, nacra molluscs and other underwater species. In addition, the beach is shallow and calm, so it is ideal for those divers who are taking their first breaths underwater. La Granadella is also an unbeatable place for other activities such as sea kayaking. 

El Peñón de Ifach

This beautiful dive takes place on the north side of the Peñón de Ifach, in Calpe, and is characterised by its rocky bottom and the huge arches that have formed in some of the rocks. In this area we can find some of the largest octopuses to inhabit the Costa Blanca, and numerous yellow-crusted anemones. Bream, moray eels, groupers and croakers are also to be seen. This is a deep dive, so it will be necessary to have a certain level of diving experience. 

Retiring in Spain

Retiring in Spain

There is a reason that some 70,000 British pensioners have chosen to retire in Spain. There are the amazing golf courses, complemented by its food and climate, which have been recognised by the World Health Organisation as the best in the world in terms of offering a healthy lifestyle. Not to mention that the cost of living in Spain is around 30-40 percent lower than in the UK, meaning that your monthly pension payments go significantly further in Spain than in the UK.

Besides all of this, there’s the fact that common membership of the EU made it almost as easy to retire in Spain as to retire in the UK. Obviously that’s all going to change with the UK set to depart from the bloc; however, the Spanish government has been eager to address the concerns of the British expat community in Spain. To this end Madrid announced in March that Britons living in Spain will be able to apply for a “foreigner identity card” before 31 December 2020 to prove their legal residency status. Once this is obtained, expats should find their access to services like healthcare and social security largely unchanged regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without an agreement.

So, Brexit notwithstanding, what are the administrative steps to be taken to settle down to retire in Spain?

First you need a residence permit, to get this you need to register at your local Oficina de Extranjeros who will then issue you with the permit. Once you have this you can register on your local town hall’s census (padrón), which brings a variety of benefits including the right to vote and free or discounted access to services such as sports centres and libraries.

Pension

Retirees living in Spain who are in receipt of a UK State Pension can choose to have their monthly payments paid into either UK or Spanish bank account. For the second option, you’ll need the international bank account number (IBAN) and bank identification code (BIC) numbers for your Spanish account.

If you have a private or workplace pension plan in place it is advisable to talk to a financial advisor before leaving the UK. They will look at the various pension funds and investments available to you as well as tax efficient options for structuring your assets and funds.

To retire on a modest salary in Spain, you might plan to spend around €17,000 a year, but to retire comfortably it would be good to have around €25,000. If you’re willing to budget and live cheaply, as little as €15,000 yearly will do.

Healthcare

Emergency cover in Spain is available to anyone, whether you are an EU or non-EU citizen. To qualify, if you live in Spain and receive a UK state pension or long-term incapacity benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You will need an S1 form, which must be obtained in the UK and certifies that you are of retirement age and have paid all the necessary social security taxes in the UK. You will then be entitled to the same benefits as a Spanish national.

Suscribe to an electricity provider in your new home

Suscribe to an electricity provider in your new home

If you just moved in your apartment and you find the electricity shut down, you should know that you will have to contact an  electricity provider and sign a new contract.

It is important that you do it as soon as possible, since subscribing to an electricity provider usually takes between 5 and 9 business days, so it is important that you do it as soon as possible if you want to have electricity in your home, whether it is for light or gas.

How to subscribe to an energy provider in your new home?

For everything to go correctly, you must contact the provider assigned to you according to your zone and request for a new contract. In this first step, you’ll have to give the contracted provider all the information they need as well as the contracted power.

The contracted power you will need is very important, since if you subscribe to a one that does not fit your needs you will have future problems, such as the common power failure.

To know what contracted power you will need for your home, we advise you to use a gas and light comparator that will help you know which light company to hire and which is the best electric company in the market Knowing the best electric company to subscribe to is important, as it will facilitate the management of supplies and save energy.

Another important aspect is the requirements needed to register to that new provider. To register the light with Endesa, Iberdrola or another company, you will need to provide a series of documents, as well as know the subscription price. For example, the documents you will need to subscribe are the following:

  • Name, surname and national identity document, whether National Document of Identity, or passport.
  • Exact postal address of the home where the subscription will apply.
  • CUPS Code (JE SAIS PAS CE QUE CEST) that will be provided by the company itself if it is the first time you request that provider.
  • Certificate or the Electrical Bulletin that states that the electrical installation is in good condition…
  • The current account number (IBAN) for the payments.

Once you provide the documents, most companies spend between 5 and 9 days to craft the contract. When registering, the user must pay fees divided into rights of access, engagement and extension, and are usually linked to the provider of electricity chosen.

To do this, we advise you to contact the company in question and ask the conditions of signing a new contract.

Create a sustainable and efficient home

To create a sustainable home, it is not only necessary to take into account electrical supplies, you should also consider consumption habits. The routines that are followed at home and the type of installation will be key to creating an efficient house.

Some aspects, such as good thermal insulation, the installation of LED bulbs or appliances with an A +++ efficiency label will be the key to energy savings. If you want more advice, Fotocasa gives them to you in your last article.

Getting your spanish driving licence

Getting your spanish driving licence

Apart from driving on the other side of the road, there are a number of significant differences with the driving experience in Spain, starting with the whole process of getting your licence. So in this article Sonneil will explain how to go about getting your driving licence from the point of view of a new driver who is starting from scratch.

In order to obtain a driving licence in Spain you must be at least 17 years and 9 months, but you can’t actually get behind the wheel of a car until you are 18 years and one day old. Once you have your licence it is valid in any EU member state.

So what are the formalities for getting your Spanish driving licence?

Well it all starts with getting your NIE, or national identity number. This involves downloading an EX-15 form, from the website of the Spanish Department of Foreign Affairs, filling it out and bringing it along with your identity card or passport and proof of your economic activity in Spain to the Spanish Foreign Office (Oficina de Extranjeria).

After paying a fee of around €10 you’ll receive your NIE.

You can also go to the Spanish embassy in your country to obtain a NIE that’s valid for three months. Next, you need to get an Empadronamiento, which registers your name on the census of the local town hall. This will require proof of your identity as well as proof of address.

Once in possession of these documents, bring them to your local Directorate General for Traffic or DGT office. You will also need to bring 2 colour passport-sized photos for your licence and a medical certificate (Certificado Medico) to prove that you are both mentally and physically able to drive.

Now you are ready to start your lessons.

There are no compulsory school hours to attend before you can do your test; however, unlike in the UK, there are no provisional licences in Spain, so before you pass your test, the only person you can drive with is a licenced instructor. The average price for a one hour lesson is around €25. On top of this you will have to pay for your theory classes. These can cost between €30-35 a month or a one-off fee of about €300.

The Test

The first test covers driver theory, which consists of 30 questions to be carried out within 30 minutes, allowing a maximum of three errors. The test is done by computer and allows you a choice of language. Be warned, preparation for the theory test in Spain is quite demanding and comes in the form of a thick manual containing 629 rules, including lengthy chapters on first aid and vehicle maintenance. All of which must be learned.

The second test is a practical one of 25 minutes and is performed in Spanish. It consists of questions about the vehicle, 5 minutes of driving towards a destination and a 20 minute driving tour following the instructor’s directions. If the practical test is not passed it must be repeated and you will have to wait at least 12 days.

Cost

There are numerous fees to be paid along the way towards obtaining your licence and different formulas available to get you through the process, but in the end, depending on the number of driving hours or the driving school chosen, the cost of obtaining your license will be approximately €650 to €1200.

It’s easier said than done, but that all there is to it! Time to start planning that road trip…

Nature in the southern Costa Blanca

Nature in the southern Costa Blanca

Much more than white sand beaches and Mediterranean sunshine, the southern Costa Blanca also boasts a magnificent natural heritage. Whether you are out to discover rare species of fauna and flora or simply go for an invigorating walk in a unique environment, here is Sonneil’s guide to the Southern Costa Blanca’s most unmissable natural beauty spots.

The Pink lagoons of Torrevieja and la Mata

Boasting great ecological wealth, the salt flats of Torrevieja are probably the most famous natural park in the Southern Costa Blanca. Their dense waters, with a high salt content, have a very particular pinkish colour due to the seaweed that lines the lagoon bed. Adding to the pink theme that dominates the area are the flocks of flamingos that inhabit the wetlands. In all, there are about 100 types of aquatic and marine birds plus other animals in this amazing natural park.

Apart from the lagoons of La Mata, Torrevieja also has a beautiful 2,000 metre-long beach called La Mata Beach, which is famous for its sunsets.

Finally, the Parque de Las Naciones, which at more than 40,000 m², is worth seeing for its central lake which people say is shaped like European continent. A dedicated area for children makes the place very pleasant for a family outing.

The parks of Guardamar del Segura

In the area of ​​Guardamar del Segura, Reina Sofia Park is a breath of fresh air with lush vegetation and waterfalls. There’s lots to see and do in the park including spaces for children to play, several ponds and waterfalls where a wide variety of animals such as squirrels and birds and ducks can be seen. There’s also lots of walking paths and areas shaded by the various types of trees, including pine trees. Another equally sublime environment are the dunes of Guardamar del Segura, known as Parque Alfonso XIII. Thousands of trees have been planted among these dunes, which cover more than 800 hectares.

The Palmeral of Elche

Declared an “Artistic Garden” in 1943 and classified in 2000 as a World Heritage Site, the rare beauty of this landscape will take your breath away. Here, in a quiet atmosphere of more than 12,000 m²,  you’ll find a lush abundance of Mediterranean and tropical plants such as orange, pomegranate, carob or jujube, as well as a huge range of palm tree and cacti species from around the world.

The wild and beautiful El Carabassi beach is also to be found in Elche. The entire area with its rich marine life and location near the salt marshes of Balsares and Clot de Galvany and has been granted ecological protection status.

If you dream of living close to spectacular scenery, then check out Sonneil’s properties in the Southern Costa Blanca!

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