Alicante, in the Valencian community, is the eighth largest metropolitan area of Spain and hosts one of the most important Spanish ports for cruises.
But what are the main attractions you really can’t miss when you visit this side of Spain?
1. Alicante and the “Explanada de España”
When you arrive in the city, the first place you want to go to is definitely the promenade, Explanada de España, with its 6.5 million marble floor tiles creating a wavy effect and the several palm trees alongside it. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the Spanish “movida” at its best, full of people, restaurants and shops, with a spectacular view of the port on one side and mount Benacantil with Santa Barbara castle just in front of you. Take a stroll on this promenade on a summer evening and pay attention to the sunset: trust me when I say you won’t need anything else to feel genuinely happy.
2. The Lady of Elche and the Palm Grove
If you step just outside of Alicante and reach the city of Elche, you will be surrounded by statues of the “Lady of Elche” (Dama de Elx in Spanish). Even if the original statue is nowadays situated in the archaeological museum in Madrid, you can visit the museum in Elche to find an exact replica of it. Limestone bust of a woman, discovered in 1897 just outside the city, the Lady of Elche is still covered in mystery regarding its origins. Somebody says it symbolised Tanit, an Iberian Goddess, somebody else thinks she was only a queen or an important figure of the Iberian society. What seems to be a certain fact is that the sculpture, with an opening just in the rear of it, has been used as a funerary urn.
The archaeological museum of Elche has its entry at the bottom of the Altamira Castle, that you can reach by simply climbing the stairs in the museum. From the top of the castle, you can enjoy one of the most spectacular views in Spain: Elche’s Palm Grove. It is the biggest in Europe, one of the biggest in the world and from 2000 a UNESCO World heritage site. Planted in the 5th century BC by Carthaginians, then improved by Romans first and Arabs later, the Palmeral of Elche has now more than 200,000 palm trees laid out in the form of orchards, fountains and mosaics alongside beautiful gardens, walking paths and its very own museum.
3. Santa Pola beaches
Just 20km south of Alicante lies the coastal town of Santa Pola. After been abandoned for decades, the town has learned to live with tourism and now offers a great escape from the big city of Alicante with splendid beaches you can enjoy all year long. Whether you decide to pay a visit to the Salinas (salt mines) in the natural park and enjoy the view of more than 3000 flamingos or just take a stroll along the six main beaches, you will find yourself in a holiday paradise, especially if you avoid the summer months and go there around May or September, when the crowds will be significantly less and you will be able to get the best spot on the sand that you will find spotlessly clean as all the beaches in Santa Pola get cleaned every night.
4. Isla de Tabarca, the pirate’s island
Save one day during your holidays for a day trip to the island of Tabarca, reachable by ferry from Santa Pola (the closest town), Alicante, Benidorm, Guardamar del Segura and a few other places. Known as a pirate island for being a refuge to Barbary pirates that were using it as a platform for raids on the Levantine coast, Tabarca got its name at the end of the 18th century when King Charles III of Spain decided to build a fortification and repopulate the island with a group of inhabitants from Tunisian Tabarka. The island is now a tourists paradise with blue crystalline waters surrounded by rocks, plants, and one of the cutest villages full of shops and restaurants that will let you spend a perfect day in total relaxation.
5. Torrevieja’s pink lake
If you’re visiting the Costa Blanca, this last spot is a MUST. Take a bus from Alicante, or hire a car if you can and reach the town of Torrevieja with its amazingly beautiful pink lake. I won’t hide the fact Google maps doesn’t really indicate where the lake is and me and my friends almost got lost and had to walk a fair bit to find it, but the view of these pink waters will repay all your efforts. The “Salinas de Torrevieja” is a natural salt lake famous for its salt production. Under the water, micro-organisms produce a red pigment that turn the algae pink and therefore make the water look pink too. So bring a swuimsuit, towel, flip flops (it’s full of rocks inside the lake so you’re better off with something on your feet) and water bottles (reusable are just as fine!) to wash yourself when coming out of the lake and get ready for a fully pink immersion! Just to add to the grandiosity of this lake, muds on the seabed have the function of a 100% natural scrub so that you can leave Torrevieja with the skin of a new-born baby.