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Five best festivals on the Costa Blanca

One of the most notable differences between life in Spain and life in the UK is the bewildering amount of festivals and public holidays in the Spanish calendar. To somebody raised outside Spain, it can seem that every other day some festival or other is taking place. In fact, in any given year, there are more than twenty public holidays throughout the country, some of which are only celebrated in certain regions while others are nationwide. Below is Sonneil’s list of the five best festivals to be enjoyed on the Costa Blanca. 

Moros and Christians

The festival of Moors and Christians celebrates the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic monarchy after 700 years of Muslim rule in 1492. The reconquest is celebrated annually throughout Spain, but the cities of Valencia and Alicante have a particularly strong association with the tradition. Locals dress as either Moors or Christians for the occasion and re-enact battles. The two groups fight it out in the streets, which are filled with noise and smoke, watched by thousands of spectators. In contrast, in mid-August, Dénia celebrates the festival of Moors and Christians as a tribute to the coexistence of cultures, highlighting the virtues of tolerance and multiculturalism.

San Juan

The fires of St. John (Fuegos de Sant Juan) announce the arrival of summer. At midnight, the city of Alicante offers a magnificent firework display and papier-mâché statues are burned during a ceremony called the Cremá de la Hoguera. In the afternoon, everyone heads to the beach to share a picnic and barbecue grilled sardines or meat. This is followed by the customary midnight swim, which is said to wash away bad luck and invite good fortune.

Las Fallas

The Costa Blanca celebrates the famous Las Fallas festival in March, during which giant satirical statues of celebrities or politicians are carried in procession through the streets before being burned. It is the most important festival of the Valencian community and attracts thousands of tourists each year. While Valencia itself has the most spectacular Fallas celebrations, there are also festivities in Benidorm, Calpe, Denia, and Gandia among others. 

Carnival

Carnival is perhaps most famously associated with Brazil; however it is in fact widely celebrated throughout the Latin world, including the Costa Blanca. Starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday in the Christian calendar, Carnival serves as one last blowout of excess and debauchery before the austerity of Lent. In Benidorm, where the biggest parade takes place, thousands of people turn out to watch the giant decorated floats and dance to the marching bands. 

Tres Reyes

This is one of the most anticipated days of the year for children as it is when the Three Wise Men come bearing gifts. At this time of the year the streets are still decorated with Christmas lights, and the squares are filled with Nativity scenes carol singers. On the night of the epiphany, January 6, The Three Kings arrive on their camels loaded with presents and throw sweets and treats out to the thousands of children assembled along the parade route. Experiencing this deeply rooted Spanish tradition is an absolute must.

Five best golf courses on the Costa Blanca

Five best golf courses on the Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca is a paradise for golf lovers with 21 courses – including 3 pitch and putt – several of which were designed by some of the most famous names to grace the game. With most of the courses situated along the coast, you can make the most of the warm Mediterranean climate and hit the fairways all round. Below is just a selection of some of the Costa Blanca’s best golf courses.

Las Colinas

Located at the southern tip of the province of Alicante, near Torrevieja, Las Colinas Golf and Country Club has been ranked among the top 100 golf courses in Europe by Golf World magazine. Designed by the renowned North American landscape architect, Cabell B. Robinson, it’s a true championship course, with the sole aim of offering the best services and amenities to ensure that every player has a unique experience.

La Finca

The La Finca golf club lies in natural surroundings of great beauty and with fantastic views. Its facilities are open to those who want to play golf in the heart of nature while being able to enjoy the beaches, sailing clubs and a host of other facilities and services just a few minutes away. Several lakes with running water and reed beds along the course add beauty and difficulty to the game, and have made the course the home of a wide variety of migratory water birds, such as ducks and egrets, while the interior of the course is home to olive and palm trees, thus creating a beautiful backdrop of vegetation with a distinctly Mediterranean flavour.

Don Cayo

Founded in 1974 but completely redesigned in 2006, this 9-hole course offers spectacular views, especially on the third hole which takes in the bay of Altea, north of Benidorm and the 7th, where you can make out the Sierra Bernia mountains surrounding the Marina Baixa. It is very attractively designed, and the location makes this an unbeatable place for a round of golf. It is a semi-private club that is open to the public, with members and green fee players both using the course.

La Sella

Located south of the city of Denia, this 27-hole gem is the work of the great José Maria Olazabal. Built in three 9-hole pitches between 1990 and 2010, the La Sella golf course has hosted the Ladies European Tour on four occasions. This impressive course dotted with pine, almond and carob trees, boasts of wonderful views of the mountains and the Mediterranean. 

Oliva Nova

Created in 1992 by the Spanish legend Severiano Ballesteros, the Oliva Nova links course is spread over 50 hectares. The course, located in a huge residential complex, meaning it is surrounded by homes, but it is nonetheless very attractive. Water is constantly at play on this highly technical 18-hole course that alternates between short holes and much longer holes. Only holes 1, 2, 13 and 14 are free of water hazards but the wind remains a very important element throughout the course. 

Islands of the Costa Blanca

The Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza may be the largest and most famous of Spain’s Mediterranean islands, but they aren’t the only ones. Indeed, the Costa Blanca is host to three beautiful island treasures of its own that are well worth a visit. Here is Sonneil’s guide to the islands of the Costa Blanca.

Benidorm Island

Peacock Island, journalists’ island, the island of Benidorm, or simply L’Illa to locals, the small triangular rock off the coast of Benidorm is a must visit for nature lovers. Measuring just 350m in length by 260m in width, its stand out feature is a 70m high cliff on its southside. The islet forms part of the Sierra Helada Nature Park, owing to its rich flora and fauna both on land and in its surrounding waters.

Situated just two and a half nautical miles from the coast, facing the Canfali headland that divides Levant and Poniente beaches in Benidorm, the uninhabited island has a bar and restaurant to attend to the needs of many daily visitors.

It can be reached by ferry from Levante Beach, with boats leaving every hour and take about 20 minutes to reach the island. The ticket price includes a trip on the

AQUASCOPE, a specialised boat with an underwater viewing deck that allows to take in the view beneath the waves. The Aquascope takes you on a short ride around the island, lasting about fifteen minutes during which you can see starfish, squid and huge shoals of fish, all at eye level.

Back on dry land, Benidorm island can be explored on foot along a guided path to the summit where you can take in the impressive views of the Benidorm coastline.

Tabarca island

Tabarca Island is a 2km long, 400m wide marine reserve situated 16km off the coast of Alicante. The island was once a refuge for Barbary pirates, before King Carlos III ordered it to be confiscated and fortified on behalf of the Crown in the 18th Century. He repopulated it with fishermen from Genoa whom he had rescued from the hands of the pirates and were being held captive in the Tunisian city of “Tabarka”.  

The only inhabited island in Valencian Community, its population fluctuates between a few dozen in winter and a few hundred in summer, when about 3,000 visitors a day arrive on the island. The annual influx of visitors is largely thanks to its main beach which is one of the most beautiful in the Alicante area. Other sites of interest include the walled old town and picturesque port area.

The island of Tabarca can be accessed from Alicante, Santa Pola, Guardamar, Torrevieja and Benidorm by boat. From Alicante the journey usually lasts about 45min and costs around 18 Euros. 

Portichol island

The Island of Portichol is located in the municipality of Javea in the Marina Alta region of Alicante province.

A peculiarly round and hilly island, Portichol is located just off the Javea coast, to which it is connected by a strip of land submerged about 3 m beneath the water, called an isthmus. It only takes five minutes to reach from Javea port and the surrounding waters are highly rated by divers thanks to their pristine quality.

Top five locations on the Costa Blanca for British expats

Top five locations on the Costa Blanca for British expats

According to the most recent figures there are around 300,000 British citizens resident in Spain, 40 percent of whom are aged 65 and over. According to Spain’s national statistics agency, the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica (INE), the two regions with the most British residents are Andalusia, where they number almost 77,000, and the Valencia region, which counts 78,422. Narrowing it down further we find that the province of Alicante has the highest number of British expats with more than 69,000. The continued popularity of the Valencian region, and the province of Alicante in particular, is further borne out by home sales figures which found that 40 percent of all homes in Alicante were bought by foreigners in 2018.

This being the case, Sonneil has looked at the top five areas in the Costa Blanca for expat residents and what has attracted them there.

Benidorm

Population 69,000

British expat population 6,000 (8.7%)

Located in the Marina Baixa region of Alicante, Benidorm has a long tradition of attracting British tourists and home buyers. This has been boosted by improved transport connections with three airports serving the northern (Valencia), Southern (Murcia) and central (Alicante) provinces of the region. Dozens of flights a day connect these areas to the UK, facilitating those all-important trips home or visits from friends and family members. While Benidorm city has a reputation as an all-night party town, you don’t need to go far to find much quieter villages where the traditional Spanish way of persists. In fact, it’s these localities that tend to attract the majority of expat buyers thanks to the relaxed pace of life.

Torrevieja

Population 82,600

British expat population 13,000 (15%)

The former fishing village of Torrevieja is today a multicultural city that besides its large British population is also home to significant numbers of German and Scandinavian and Russian expats. Situated equidistant from Alicante and Murcia airports (about 50 minutes’ drive to each) Torrevieja is blessed with beautiful landscapes and 20 kilometres of coastline. For those in search of the great outdoors, there’s the nearby Lagunas de la Mata and Torrevieja nature reserve which hosts dozens of species of birds and aquatic animals.

Orihuela

Population: 91,00

British expat population: 18,834 (20%)

About one hour south of Benidorm and 45 minutes west of Torrevieja, the town of Orihuela is home to nearly 20,000 Brits. Easily accessible thanks to direct flights from Murcia airport, which is also just a 45-minute drive away, Orihuela is a city so packed with important monuments that its city centre has been declared a Historical Site. Besides this rich cultural heritage, it also boasts of affordable properties and a cost of living that is upwards of 30 percent cheaper than that of the UK on average. The Orihuela coast with its Blue Flag beaches and the many highly rated golf courses in the area add to the city’s popularity.

Javea 

Population: 27,225

British expat population: 7,700 (28%)

Javea is a town on the Costa Blanca that lies 90 kilometres north of Alicante and 110 kilometres south of Valencia, between the capes of San Antonio and La Nao. Javea is divided into three areas, the port district, the Arenal with its beaches and tourist centre, and the old town, its original city walls enclosing a labyrinth of cobblestone streets, squares and picturesque corners. The town sits in the foothills of the Montgo Massif, which at 753 m high is home to some of the most unique flora and fauna in all of Spain.

Rojales

Population: 17,622

British expat population: 9,083 (52%)

In Rojales

Just 10 minutes’ drive from the beautiful sandy beaches of Guardamar and 15 minutes from Torrevieja, it’s little surprise that Rojales has become such a draw for UK expats that they now number slightly more than half of the population. Its close proximity to Alicante and Murcia airports – about 35 minutes’ drive to both – add to the appeal, as does the nearby La Marquesa golf course. Rojales is famous for the beautiful cave houses which are located in the hills to the south of the town.

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! 

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