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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. 

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