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.
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
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.