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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.