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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.

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.

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!

Things to consider when buying a property in Spain

Things to consider when buying a property in Spain

Buying a property is the biggest investment most people will make in their lives. Buying one abroad is an even bigger undertaking as it involves navigating a foreign legal and financial terrain. It is normal to feel daunted by the task, but like anything in life, the better prepared you are going into it, the more likely you are to make a success of it. That being the case, Sonneil has compiled a list of important things to consider when buying a house in Spain.

Location, location, location

A house gains in value if it is located in an area with high quality schools and with good communication and transportation routes to the main urban centers, so be sure to ask about these local amenities. It’s a good idea to ask about future development plans pending approval as these may affect the house or its surroundings, and find out as much as you can about how much other properties in the area have sold for recently.

Viewing the property

When visiting the your prospective property purchase take note of things like the orientation of the house, ventilation of the bathrooms and kitchen, the state of the electrical installation, the arrangement of partitions and doors and the ambient noise levels outside. Take photos and write down your observations in a notebook to better remember the property after you leave. Ask the seller about the building’s energy efficiency rating. Choosing a home with an A rating in terms of its energy efficiency means an estimated saving of 89% compared to an F rating, thus allowing you to save money while you save the planet.

The purchasing process

The deposit agreement

Once you’ve chosen your new home and are ready to start the process of buying it, then the legal and financial considerations come to the fore. This starts with the signing of the deposit agreement. The deposit is usually around 10% of the cost of the house. Once the agreement is signed you take on the rights and responsibilities of a buyer. If you later decide not to go through with the transaction, you will lose this deposit but if the seller cancels the sale, they will have to return the deposit to you.

The title deed

Next is the signing of the title deed. This part of the buying process must be done in front of a notary with both the buyer and seller present. The deed must contain a description of the property as well as explaining any mortgages or charges on the house, the final sale price agreed and how it will be paid, plus the taxes and expenses related to the sale.

Taxes and other charges

The main taxes to be paid are the property transfer tax (“Impuesto de Transmisiones Patrimoniales” or ITP) and VAT. Other expenses include notary costs, the payment to add your name to the property register and any costs related to the mortgage.

In the end, the total taxes, charges and expenses represent around 8% to 13% of the purchase price, depending on the autonomous community (Spanish region) in which you are buying.

If you have reached this far in the process, then congratulations, you are the proud owner of your own Spanish property!  

Costa Blanca beaches

Costa Blanca beaches

The Costa Blanca is located in the province of Alicante south of Valencia on the Mediterranean coast.

With an average temperature of 20°C and 300 days of sunshine a year, the Costa Blanca is one of the most visited seaside destinations in Spain and also attracts many foreigners to come and settle here. The majority of whom are drawn by the 235 km of coastline that Costa Blanca has to offer.

Below are just some of the best beaches on the Costa Blanca, according to Sonneil.

La Caleta in Villajoyosa

Sand and rocks mix here to create a quiet beach of turquoise and crystalline waters, with a calm sea, separated from the rest of Alicante’s beaches. It is the perfect place to spend the day, enjoying Alicante’s clement weather. Like most popular beaches, La Caleta is equipped with umbrellas and deck chairs, scooters, and other rental services as well as kiosks offering food and refreshments.

Tabarca Island

Another of our favourite Costa Blanca beaches can also be found near Alicante. Tabarca Island, besides being the only inhabited island in the Valencian community is also a nature reserve/paradise for tourists. Accessible by boat from Alicante, Santa Pola, and Benidorm, its main beach, known as Tanarca or Levanteis, is one of the best in the Alicante area. You will find all types of services for your day of sun and sand, including restaurants and rental scooters. The beach itself is a mix of golden sand and pebble, with a seabed that is crystal clear, inviting swimmers to discover the flora and fauna under the water.

The Granadella in Jávea

Surrounded by nature, Granadella cove in Jávea, is considered one of the precious coastal jewels of the city. At only 200 meters long and just over 20 meters wide, this small gravel beach has had a blue flag for nearly 30 years, making it a favourite for scuba diving enthusiasts.

Cantal Roig in Calpe

One of the most beautiful cities of the Costa Blanca, and also one of the most visited in the summer months is Calpe. Brooded over by the spectacular Peñón de Ifach – a massive limestone outcrop jutting out of the sea – it has a total of 11 beaches and coves. Among the most charming of which is Cantal Roig. One of the smaller beaches, it has fewer tourists and is located right at the foot of Peñón near the fishing port. Its calm, perfectly transparent waters are perfect for observing the world beneath the waves. There are some rocky areas in the water, so if you like to explore, we recommend you wear appropriate footwear.

Carabassí in Elche

Unlike most of the beaches in our list which are characterised, at least in part, by areas of gravel or pebbles, Carabassi in the city of Elche stands out for its large expanse of fine golden sand as well as the system of dunes and pine forests that surround it. Carabassi beach also turns heads thanks to its dedicated nudist section. So if you want to be completely surrounded by nature, head to Carabassi!

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