The city of Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanca is the perfect place for a sunny escape. Sparkling waters and an enviable climate make it a favorite holiday and vacation destination, but if you look further afield, you’ll find plenty more than crowded beaches and buzzing resorts.
Flights to Alicante place you in a perfect location to explore the surrounding area and enjoy some lesser known experiences. With Alicante as your base, everything you could want is within easy reach, including the opportunity to see a more local, authentic side to the region. Here are our top five off-the-beaten-track experiences to enjoy once you’ve jetted off to the Costa Blanca:
1. Experience Alcoy’s History
This inland town is located about an hour’s drive north of Alicante, surrounded by lush mountains and forests. Alcoy boasts medieval architectural roots that you’ll see as soon as you step foot in the central Plaza de Espana. In the more modern part of the city, you’ll find a style dating back to the Spanish Industrial Revolution in buildings like the Conservatory of Music and Dance.
If you want to gain some insight on local culture, visit the Festival Museum of Alcoy, where you’ll learn about the town’s Festival of the Moors and Christians. This procession of medieval costumes and traditional festivities takes place in April every year. If you time your visit carefully, you might even get to experience it yourself.
2. Stroll Through the Palm Tree Gardens of Elche
Take a short trip southwest of Alicante and you’ll arrive at this impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to over 200,000 palm trees, the Palm Grove is a tranquil paradise, and it is definitely worth visiting is you want to do some sightseeing without the tourist hordes. The trees reflect the city of Elche’s Muslim roots, and palms were grown in this area as early as the 5th century BC.
3. Venture Underground in the Canelobre Caves
North of Alicante, in the town of Busot, you’ll find the Canelobre Caves – an ideal day out if you want a taste of adventure. This is the largest cave system in Spain, and you’ll be shown around by a guide, so expect to hear lots of interesting facts.
The entrance to the caves dates to the Civil War, when they were used by Republican soldiers. Inside, the combination of colored lighting and fascinating rock formations gives a gothic feel – have your camera at the ready to take some impressive pictures. After your tour, you can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from the picnic area.
4. Eat Like a Local in Alicante
You can get the best taste of local life in Alicante by trying local food. Go shopping at the market in the city centre, where you’ll find an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and other delicacies. If you have cooking facilities in your accommodation, you can use your fresh ingredients to try making some local dishes.
If you’d rather eat out, there are some dishes you simply have to have in Alicante. Costa Blanca is one of the best Spanish regions for paella. Salazones, a salted seafood dish, is a local specialty. For a dining experience that can be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, try Restobar in the town centre. The tapas here will allow you to sample the best of everything in Alicante cuisine.
5. Visit Villajoyosa
Known to locals as La Vila, this coastal town is located between Alicante and Benidorm, but despite its geographical proximity to these party destinations, it couldn’t be more different in atmosphere. On the waterfront, you’ll find a stretch of charming, colored buildings that fit well with the literal translation of the town’s name – ‘joyful village’.
Boasting a 3km beach, this is a great place to soak up some Costa Blanca sun and sand far away from the crowns. The town is also home to the Valor Chocolate Factory, which is a must-see if you have a sweet tooth.
What are your favorite ways to experience life through the eyes of the locals in Spain? Let us know in the comments!
Images by Marco, used under Creative Commons license.