Spain’s location has always made it a natural bridge between Northern and Southern Europe, Africa, the Americas and the East. Culture and history aside, the natural landscape on offer is just staggering. From the Costa beaches, to some of Europe’s highest mountains, buzzing cosmopolitan cities, to far-flung tiny villages. Spain has it all.
How about some of those off-the-beaten-track destinations? Places near some of Spain’s bigger tourist destinations yet which feel as if they are a million miles away.
Here are five of our favourites.
A train journey through “Mars on Earth” – the Rio Tinto mines
Rio Tinto Huelva
Rio Tinto, translated as “red river” is considered by many to be the birthplace of the Iron and Copper age.
Situated in southernmost Andalusia, in the Province of Huelva, Rio Tinto is a mine with a history. A history of over 5,000 years. Early records show that the Iberians and Tartessians first began mining the area. They were later followed by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and Moors.
Gold, silver, copper and other minerals were all extracted. “Mars on Earth” is a favourite with NASA scientists who come to explore how life can survive in such extreme conditions.
The high iron content and acidity make the river unsuitable for swimming….but one journey that should be high on anyone’s list is the 22-kilometre train journey which winds first through the mines and then through the lush vegetation that borders the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche Natural Park.
A journey of unforgettable colours and contrasts.
A walk through Setenil de las Bodegas, Cádiz
Setenil de las Bodegas Cadiz
The village of Setenil de las Bodegas in the Province of Cádiz must be high on anyone’s list of unusual places to visit in Spain.
This village of 3,000 souls takes living at one with nature to a whole new level with many people’s homes seemingly supporting the mountain that sits above them. Not a good place to live if claustrophobic. But definitely a good place to see for a day trip.
Walking through the village is a memorable experience. It’s also home to one of Spain’s best olive oils – be sure to pick some up.
For more information on Setenil de las Bodegas in the Province of Cádiz
A sunset to remember – the temple of Debod
The temple of Debod, Madrid
A stone’s throw from the Plaza de España and located within one of Madrid’s most beautiful parks, the Parque de la Montaña, sits an ancient Egyptian temple.
This 4th-century BC temple originally stood in Egypt’s Nile Valley but was shipped, piece by piece, to Spain in 1968.
It was given as a gift to the Spanish government in recognition of their help in saving historical sites that were to be flooded when the Aswan High Dam was built.
Surrounded by a lake which reflects the temple from every conceivable angle, it’s arguably the best place to watch the sunset in Madrid.
A photographer’s dream come true.
Cowboy country – the Tabernas desert
Cowboy country – the Tabernas desert
The only official desert in continental Europe, Tabernas is no stranger to sunshine and extreme temperatures.
If looking for a Spanish holiday with almost guaranteed sunshine, Almeria is the place to go. The desert captivates all that see it. Including some of the biggest names in Hollywood, having set the scene for numerous spaghetti Westerns, including such classics as ‘A fistful of dollars,’ ‘For a few dollars more,’ and ‘The good, the bad and the ugly.’
A visit to the Mini Hollywood is highly recommended. The replica wild-west town provides enough activities to keep the whole family entertained.
Ever fancied being a cowboy for the day? This is the place to do it.
A walk through dinosaur country – El Torcal Natural Reserve
El Torcal Natural park, Antequera
The El Torcal mountain range sits just outside of the town of Antequera in the geographical heart of Andalusia. It’s an area that captivates all who see it.
The karst formations are amongst the most spectacular to be found anywhere in Europe. They have been formed over millions of years and feature rocks that pre-date some dinosaurs. The limestone was part of the seabed that dates from the Jurassic period some 150 million years ago. The whole area was under the sea of Tetis.
There are several walking routes around the park. They provide a great way to see and experience El Torcal first hand. Children, in particular, will have the time of their lives, walking through tunnels and caves while hunting for fossils……it is dinosaur country after all!
For more information on the El Torcal natural reserve.
Spain’s Costa Blanca is famous with us British holidaymakers for the stunning location,spotlessly clean beaches, very friendly locals and of course plenty to do and see whilst on vacation here. A great holiday in Benidorm can be had here for almost any budget and any taste, and it certainly has some surprises!
Certain sections of the British media has, for the past few years, not been very complementary to Benidorm, some would suggest, and images of lager louts, riotous hen parties and “Madge” scooters recklessly driven by drunk old ladies, seem to dominate the papers, but is it really like that?
Well, in some ways, this still exists, it is after all the party capital of the Costa Blanca, but Benidorm is a very large place and if you know where to go, and where not to go, the sort of things like this can be avoided without any problem.
So without further ado, we present five great things you can do here, all of which are either free or cheap, to make your Benidorm holiday a bit different this year.
1. Hit the beach! But which one?
One of the first things people seem to do when they come to Spain on holiday is to go and see the beach, and if you are someone who lives inland in the UK, such as the Midlands or London, just a glimpse of the sea, the soft sand and the glorious sun above, can set the scene for the whole week.
There are 3 main beach areas in Benidorm and they are Levante (meaning Sunrise), Poniente (meaning sunset) and Finestrat beach, which is much quieter and at the southern end of this vast metropolis.
Levante beach is the main one, the most busy, and the most “British” and it is the default location for many sun seekers but it’s not the best by a long shot. The promenade is lined with noisy and overpriced bars and discos and to be honest, we avoid the area, although it’s up to personal taste.
A more relaxing holiday can be had in the old town (in the middle of the photo above), or the Poniente beach end which is more “Spanish” and is to the left of the photo.
2. Which theme park to choose?
As befits a busy and established tourist resort, there are plenty of theme parks to keep the kids happy, and of course the thrill seekers amongst us old fogies too!
Benidorm’s theme parks are located in various spots on the outskirts of the town and include:
• Aqualandia: A water park, perfect for those hot days in the summer, and the place is packed with various water based activities.
• Terra Mitica: A traditional type of theme park with exciting rides, shows and displays to keep you entertained for the whole day.
• Terra Natura: a 79 acre animal and pet based theme park allowing you to get up close and personal with some of Benidorm’s more furry residents!
• Mundomar: A mini sea world with various displays and lots of aquatic based mammals and birds to see.
• Aqua Natura :Linked, in part, to Terra Natura, and is another water based theme park.
3. Horsing around!
Benidorm is not the first place that springs to mind when talking about horses, but located just on the outskirts are several riding schools that offer various horse based activities such as pony trekking, or for the more experienced, there is dressage, carriage driving and a whole lot more besides.
You don’t have to be an expert to experience the gentle plodding of your horse, sat high up on its back, meandering through scented pine forests with the warm sun beating down on your back!
4. Spot the stars of the ITV show Benidorm!
As I write this, filming is just about to start for the new series of the popular ITV1 show “Benidorm!” and there are various places that you can spot the stars of the show, although please don’t hassle them if you do see one of them!
The hotel where the show is filmed is actually the Sol Pelicanos, which is about 3 streets back from Levante beach, in the Rincon de Loix area. We took a look in the hotel after they had finished the 4th series and its quite weird to be sat at Mateo’s poolside bar, and as a non resident you are allowed to go in and see for yourself.
Other locations include various places in the Old town, well worth walking around anyway, and Morgan’s Tavern, a Cabaret showbar located at Calle Girona and is the set for Neptunes bar. Other locations include The Benidorm Palace, Levante beach and just walking or driving around the town, you will for sure encounter other places you recognise too.
5. Shop ‘til you drop!
Benidorm, being such a large place, has a lot of shops, in fact it has LOADS of shops to see, some are just the everyday Spanish run type of nick-nack place, standing cheek to jowel with some of Europes most famous names, and there are of course the usual places like Eurotabaco where you can buy up all your cheap cigarettes for your holiday and to take home too.
A very popular shopping destination can be found in the old town, around the Avenida Martinez Alejos, and along the Passaig de la Carretera and also around the main square, the Plaza Mayor. The Rincon de Loix area also has many shops catering for Spanish, Dutch, German and British people, including some shops selling English food items, next to the now common Chinese “Cheapy” shops selling more or less anything and everything.
If you have a hire car, you can also head over to La Marina shopping centre in Finestrat where you will find names such as Mango, Zara, Casa,Ale Hop, Douglas,Druni, C&A, H&M and more. There is also a busy food court area, several reasonably priced snack bars and a fully air conditioned cinema too.
Whatever the reason you want to take a holiday in Benidorm, you can be sure to be pleasantly surprised at how different it is to what you first thought.
Being separated from the family cat or dog can be difficult when holiday time comes around. You can avoid separation anxiety, however. Find five pet-friendly Spanish destinations that won’t mind if Spot or Tiddles comes with you.
Alicante is the second-largest Valencian city. That makes it more pet-friendly as it’s more than a resort. Also the number of parks make it an attractive option for dog owners in particular.
Another plus point is its climate. Warm to hot in summer, it’s mild in winter. And if the sun ever gets too much, there are plenty of shady areas including gardens and plazas to shelter from the rays. Not least the promenades including the main Explanada de España which offers four rows of palm trees to beat the heat.
Chiclana de la Frontera
Chiclana de la Frontera
Many beaches in Spain are dog-free. Not Chiclana’s most famous beach, La Barrosa. The reasoning behind this is because it’s 6km long, there’s room for man’s best friend.
Another place where you can let your pet off the lead in this Cádiz municipality is the Parque Forestal Municipal Pinar del Hierro y de la Espartosa. A sea of green, it’s home to carob, oak, and olive trees. Ensure you don’t get lost by staying on the hiking paths.
Estepona, with its favourable climate and proximity to Gibraltar Airport, attracts expats. So, it’s not much of a surprise to discover that they’ve brought their pets with them. A playmate for your pet is not going to be a problem in this popular Costa del Sol resort.
Head inland in the direction of Casares, passing the town’s industrial estate. Don’t worry, 5km later you’ll see a turn off for Parque Los Pedregales. Here you’ll discover a gateway to the verdant countryside Estepona has to offer.
Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez de la Frontera view
Think of Andalucia and you’ll imagine the sandy beaches of the Costa del Sol. Jerez though is the region’s fifth biggest city and the heart of agricultural Andalucia. Therefore, there are plenty of green spaces for you and your pets to enjoy.
Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar beach
One of the Costa Brava’s original resorts, they’re certainly animal fans in Tossa de Mar. For in 1989, Tossa became the first Anti-Bullfighting Town in the world. Don’t worry, they’re equally pro-canine and -feline too.
Alicante is such a fabulous part of Spain with long stretches of golden, sandy beaches, impressive historic town centres and magnificent mountains. If you can tear yourself away from the beach, there are some great towns and rural areas to explore. Spain-Holiday has managed to choose just 10 great family walks in the Alicante region from strolls along the beach to slightly more demanding mountain hikes. Wherever you are staying, if you pop into your nearest tourist information office, they will be able to recommend walks for you to try.
Tackling the Montgo
This can be a tricky walk towards the end, so you could just do half the walk – so you can enjoy the views – and then turn back. The Montgo mountain rises to 753 metres high, dominating the skyline around Denia and Javea. It is known locally as the Elephant as you can see this magnificent animal’s head and trunk from the Javea side. The walk starts in the Javea shooting range car park where it’s a 10 minute walk to the entrance of the Montgo nature park. The route is signposted so is easy to follow. After about 30 minutes of walking, you will see magnificent views of the cape of San Antonio. You can also enjoy the sights and scents of the forest trees and shrubs such as pine, heather, lavender, rosemary and thyme. Once you reach the red crag (penya roja), there are far-reaching views of Javea, the Ifach rock at Calpe and the Sierra de Bernia mountains. The walk gets tricky now as the track is rocky, so you can turn back at this point.
Learning history in Orihuela
Step back in time with a stroll around the heart of Orihuela’s historic town centre. You may want to leave time to visit some of the museums and churches you will encounter along the way. A good place to start is the Semana Santa (Holy Week) museum, where you can see beautiful larger-than-life statues showing dramatic Easter scenes as well as other memorabilia. After this you can head to the imposing Gothic cathedral, which houses works of art by Velazquez and Francisco Salzillo as well as one of the finest examples of Baroque organs. Walk along the riverbed to the town hall and the beautiful Plaza del Carmen, a picturesque square where you can enjoy a coffee. Keep going up the road to the Rubalcava Palace, former home of the marquis de Rubalcava and his family. Heading back towards town you will pass the Moors and Christians museum, where you can learn about the history of this annual fiesta.
Popping into Polop
Polop is a pretty inland village surrounded by countryside. There is a meandering path taking you around the medieval wall and up the hill to the old castle. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with some spectacular views. While here, take a stroll around the narrow streets of the traditional village centre.
Heading for Calpe beach
Why not prepare a picnic to enjoy a day strolling along Calpe’s lovely beachfront? A lovely one starts in Calle de Mar, close to the Manuel Miro square with its pretty mural telling the tale of the Moors and Christians fiesta. The route heads down to the Arenal-Bol beach and we take a stroll along the Infanta Elena seaside promenade. The walk passes an old flour mill and ends at the Banos de la Reina (Queen’s Baths), which was a Roman fish farm, where legend says a Moorish queen swam after gaining access through a secret passage.
Getting impressed by Maigmo
Let’s head inland to the Maigmo mountain, where you can enjoy an easy stroll along a disused railway path, which was never used by trains! The path is 22kms so you could either break it up or just do a section of it. The old railway line has been turned into a green way, so it is very easy to walk or cycle along. It starts in the pretty little pottery town of Agost. There are a couple of picturesque viaducts with fabulous views of the mountains and countryside, which look great in photos. The first is at Forn del Vidre and the second is at Palomaret. The path ends at the Puerto del Maigmo, gateway to one of Alicante’s most beautiful mountain ranges.
Counting the trees in Elche
Elche is a fascinating city for its historic buildings, culture and palm grove with more than 200,000 trees – the largest of its kind in Europe. The main square is a very typical Spanish square with the impressive Santa Maria basilica, where the unique Elche Mystery Play, is performed each year. Nearby is the historic town hall building and Altamira palace, which was once a textile factory and a prison. A few minutes away is the Elche Palmeral and municipal park, where you will find thousands of palm trees, including an ancient tree shaped like a candelabra, as well as other varieties of Mediterranean plants. Don’t forget to buy some Elche dates from here – they’re delicious.
Dune walking in Guardamar
Guardamar has some of the finest sandy beaches in the Alicante region, about 10kms of golden sand to play on. Part of the beach is protected by a large fragrant pine forest in the Alfonso park, with the sand dunes being a great place to start the walk. While you are exploring the beaches, make sure you visit La Babilonia, between Guardamar’s most central beach and Els Vivers beach. La Babilonia is lined with old fishermen’s cottages, many of which are brightly decorated with coloured tiles.
Picnic time in Torrevieja
Torrevieja is home to a rare pink lake, which is opposite another green salt lake. These offer fabulous natural havens for a walk. Around the salt lakes are several viewing posts, so you can get a better look at the lakes, which are used to extract 700,000 tonnes of salt every year. During your circular tour, you may spot flamingos, ducks, terns, gulls, rabbits, hares, weasels and foxes. There are benches so you can enjoy a picnic during your stroll around the salt lakes.
Saying hello to Jalon
Jalon is great to visit at any time but a marvellous walk is in the springtime when the almond and orange blossom is in full bloom. Opposite Bodega Xalo on the edge of Jalon is a car park. Behind this is a riverbed and you can follow the route along here to enjoy the countryside and vineyards. Another walk takes you through the old town which has pretty narrow streets and a large square with the church, where the weekly market is held.
Sightseeing in Santa Pola
A gentle 2km stroll along the Santa Pola promenade is a lovely way to soak up the sun, stop for a coffee or a snack in a beachside restaurant, or take a dip in the sea. The promenade is 7kms long so you can do a stretch along the southern end which links all the beaches in the centre of town.
Spain’s Costa Blanca is famous the world over for stunning scenery, clean beaches, friendly locals and plenty to do and see. A great holiday can be had here for almost any budget and any taste, so here are the 5 best places to stay, and why.
1. Benidorm. Party on dude!
The sprawling and lively city of Benidorm is by far the areas top attraction, with the large majority of sun seekers arriving at El Altet Airport in Alicante heading straight for Benidorm for a week of fun and partying in the sun.
Benidorm makes no shame of the fact that it is a hedonistic place where “Anything goes” (To a limit) and has remained popular with the British for decades.
If you just cannot be without your home comforts whilst away on holiday then Benidorm is probably the destination for you, with loads of quality accommodation in Benidorm to choose from, and plenty of fellow countrymen to meet and share the experience!
There are plenty of places to eat in Benidorm and it’s not just the stereotypical English fish n chips on offer because it is actually a very cosmopolitan place!
The range of food available when dining out in Benidorm will surprise you; from traditional spanish fayre, to German food, Chinese, Indian, Latvian (!), Irish, Dutch and a whole array of tasty cuisine from more or less any country that ever is!
It’s not quite 24 hours a day partying though as the city is big enough to have quiet areas too, and is very suitable and safe for families. A more relaxing holiday stay can be had in the old town, or the Poniente beach end which is more “Spanish” and is quieter than Levante beach, however Benidorm is packed with things to do to suit all ages and all budgets so you will never be bored on holiday!
2. Happy holidays in Javea
Javea is a smaller town just up the coast a bit from Benidorm and is again a cosmopolitan town, attracting not just the British, but the French, Dutch, Norwegians and Germans too. It is noticeably more “Middle class” than it’s larger cousin, but still retains an air of fun in the sun for the discerning holiday maker.
Javea is very different from Benidorm, more noticeably lacking the high rise hotels and apartment blocks, and enjoys an enviable climate for most of the year. The British presence here is conspicuous in such a small place and is reinforced with the many English cafes, bakeries, charity shops (!) and even a full size Iceland British supermarket selling more or less everything you could possibly need for a self-catering holiday in Javea.
Javea has lovely golden sandy beaches, plenty of bars, restaurants and things to do and is somewhere for a relaxing holiday with all the home comforts that one could imagine, in fact they even have their own radio station in English (Bay Radio) which is worth listening to as anything that goes on, is advertised on the radio.
3. Altea, an alternative Spanish destination
Popular with German families for many years now, but a viable alternative often overlooked by the British, Altea is a short distance along from Benidorm, but a world apart from it’s neighbour.
It can be found just a short drive up the N332, or it is possible to take a tram from Benidorm to Altea too.
Although sadly the town is bisected by the busy main road that runs through the centre, the harbour area is delightful and retains the look and feel of a traditional Spanish fishing village.
There are various high quality apartments to rent in the area, and there is plenty to do and see in the town. The beaches are not so good as it’s larger neighbour but the seafront promenade is a lovely place to sit and enjoy a cool beer, watching the world go by, and giving you time and space to relax and enjoy your holiday on the Costa Blanca.
4. Santa Pola
Moving some distance further south, Santa Pola is nearer to Alicante airport and not far from the interesting city of Elche, which if you are renting a villa in Santa Pola, is only a short drive away, with a great array of shops, including the eponymous (but expensive!) department store of El Corte inglés, or the variety of other interesting and varied stores to be found in the “palm tree” city of Elche.
Santa Pola’s main industries are tourism and fishing, and boat trips can be taken to the wonderful and enchanted island of Tabarca which is the smallest permanently inhabited islet in Spain. It is also a very important nature and marine reserve and dolphins can sometimes be spotted playing in the nearby waters.
Not only that, the Island boasts a quaint but quiet fishing village, an ancient fort, a few very good seafood restaurants, a rocky beach with clear turquoise water, several coves and a scattering of secluded, tidal pools ideal for safe and private bathing.
5. More and more to see in Moraira
Moving back further north up the coast, the town of Moraira is a very upmarket tourist destination 80km north of Alicante and about an hour and 20 mins drive from the Airport. It offers a more relaxed pace of life for the many Europeans who choose to stay in Moraira each year.
It is certainly somewhere that attracts the monied crowd and is home to many affluent expatriates from the colder climes of Europe, including British, French, Dutch and German.
However that does not mean that only millionaires are welcome here, there is something for everyone, and just browsing through the accommodation available in Moraira will show there is something for most budgets although due to high demand, real bargains are few and far between.
Although the town is another place where fishing is still evident today, it boasts another claim to fame as being an area of high quality grape production, notably the Moscatel grape variety, which is ideal for wine making.
It is an area which, along with it’s outstanding natural beauty, is protected from development and high rise buildings and for a true Spanish holiday, the town has three sandy beaches which are very popular with families.
There is also a glut of rocky coves and inlets which are frequented by snorkelers and scuba divers and basic courses, from approved and licensed diving school are available for the intrepid traveller.
All in all, a visit to the Costa Blanca makes for an enjoyable and unforgettable holiday break for all the right reasons!
A day trip to the picturesque town of Altea, famous for its blue and white tiled roofs and many art galleries and studios. See a different landscape on the way there and enjoy a day of walking along narrow, winding streets, looking out over the sea from a village up in the mountains and finish it all off with a coffee or drink in one of the many bars and restaurants at the small port. An absolute must on the list of the five best day trips.
All about Altea
Located just about 15km north of Benidorm, Altea is a very different kind of holiday resort. Divided into an old and a newer part, and separated from the harbour by the somewhat unfortunate run of the N-332, it´s nonetheless a haven of peace and quiet.
Altea is the seat of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Elche and it’s art in all its forms which dominates the atmosphere of this charming town. Be it music, literature, sculpture or painting, you can´t take a few steps in Altea´s old part without running into an art gallery, a bookshop or see paintings hanging from the balconies of houses and tiny squares.
Eye catching and a landmark of Altea, are the brilliant blue and white glazed tiles which cover the cupola of the Church Nuestra Senora del Consuleo. Narrow streets, bordered by well kept houses lead in all directions, often ending in platforms from which you can either see the Mediterranean as far as the peon of Calpe, or the peeks of the Sierre de Bernia in the background.
The bay of Altea, down below has several beaches and, of course, the crescent shaped harbour, mooring place for plenty of yachts of all sizes and a lovely place to visit one of the restaurants to sample the typical rice dishes of the area.
The newer part of town which lies at a lower level than the old one, is reached by steps and has many of the shops you will find in other places too. An exception is a small chocolate confectionary, the speciality of which are dark chocolates made with olive oil and filled with olive paste and another which is topped by a few crystals of coarse sea salt, a very savoury combination.
What to do in Altea
Walk around and enjoy the different scenic views. Climb up and down the steps connecting the streets and peer into courtyards filled with flowers. Visit the church, the interior of which has a beautiful baroque altar and glass cupola.
Interior of church,Altea
If you are looking for gifts or need some decoration for your own home, you have come to the right place. You will find handmade candles, sculptures of all sizes, paintings and any other kind of decorative objects, from hand painted umbrellas to bags and scarves.
Rest your feet and enjoy a coffee, drink or meal in the shade of tree bordered cafes in the old town or down at the port.
How to get there
A day trip to Altea from Torrevieja is one which lends itself to two different ways of getting there.
One is by car, taking the AP-7or N-332 to Benidorm and from there north following the road signs to Altea, climbing steadily higher.
Another way is to take a Costa Azul bus from Torrevieja to Alicante or else drive to Alicante. From there take the local train, also called TRAM and marked with a T in a red circle. Head to RENFE, then turn right into Avenida de la Estacion until you come to Plaza de los Luceros which is also the terminal for T. Catch L1 to Benidorm, then change to L9 which heads for Denia.
The train ride along the coast is delightful. You´ll see the fabulous beach of El Campello and the theme park Terra Mitica near Benidorm.
Do not alight at the stop Altea, which will leave you in the new part of town and requires quite a long hike to reach the Town Hall and the old part, but get off at the next stop, Garganes and you are right in the middle of things.
Connections at Benidorm tend to be good and fast and the entire journey takes about 1 1/2 hours. The return ticket costs €6.50 pp and you´ll get a time table at the Luceros terminal to plan your return journey.
If you choose the bus/train combination, bear in mind that the last bus from Alicante to Torrevieja leaves at 8pm, which is quite early. Miss it, and it´s a taxi at approx. € 45 as opposed to the bus fare of € 4.50. If you set off from Torrevieja early enough, you have ample time for a leisurely day out in Altea without worries about where to leave your car or getting lost at the many roundabouts.
Recently we looked at Benidorm, and the top 10 FREE activities there – great ways to save a few cents, especially if you’re travelling with a family – every little helps as they say. One of those things to do was to visit the great beaches of the area. it’s not called the white coast for nothing. We looked at two beaches close to Benidorm itself, but there are of course lots more to choose from. Let’s look at the top tanning spots – the top 5 beaches of the Costa Blanca.
Beach, Costa Blanca
The Perfect Plan – of Inaction.
Wonderful as it is to explore a new destination, sometimes all you need from a holiday is a total wind down. A well stocked Kindle or that paperback you keep meaning to start, a decent sun cream, and a soft towel. A week of horizontal healing, as you top up the tan and feel the rays of Spanish sun melt away your worries and stress. Sound like a good plan?
Before you reach for your hand luggage, let’s see where’s the best place to go. Spain has miles and miles of coastline to choose from – but millions of visitors every year can’t all be wrong. Flock with them to the white coast, soak up some sun, relax and discover some, or all, of the top 5 beaches on the Costa Blanca.
Beach, Costa Blanca
1. El Paradis – Villajoyosa
What’s in a name? Well, El Paradis says it all then! Choose your spot on the 1km of fine golden sand. Well equipped too with facilities such as lifeguards, loos, play areas, beach-side bars and restaurants if you’re feeling peckish. A great beach for families – it has the coveted Blue Flag – this is one to visit with the kids.
Where is it? Villajoyosa lies just 32 kilometres from Alicante. You can get off the plane and be there in an hour – what a great first day to your holiday. Worth mentioning also is Playa La Caleta in the same area. Clean and clear waters, and plenty of opportunity for trying out some water-sports here too – it’s the home of the local Club Nautico. Villajoyosa is famous for the manufacture of chocolate, no wonder the name translates as ‘Joyful Village’!
An apartment to rent in Villajoyosa.
Beach, Costa Blanca
2. La Granadella – Jávea
This one comes up in the nominations time and time again. Jávea itself is a popular spot with holiday makers, and it’s really not surprising at all. La Granadella is a perfectly shaped horseshoe of pebble, but don’t let that put you off. It’s very fine, and behind the beach sits a forest of Aleppo Pine trees, so you can sleep surrounded by the twin scents of salted sea air, and fresh pine….add to this dreamlike scene the gentle lapping of the waves, and you’re hooked like a baited fish.
Where is it? Jávea has superb road connections to both Alicante and Valencia and is quite charming, made up of the Old Town, the port and of course the stunning sandy beaches – an ideal holiday spot.
Holiday rentals in Jávea.
3. Les Rotes, Dénia
Picture rocks and golden sand, an afternoon peering into rock pools with the kids, excellent scuba diving, and private coves. Want it all in the same place? No problem, just get down to Dénia on the Costa Blanca, and head for Les Rotes where it all awaits. Forgotten your bikini or even your mankini (er, probably best)? There’s even a nudist area too, so again, no problem.
Where is it? Right between Alicante and Valencia, Dénia is well situated. There’s a castle amongst other areas to explore when you get tired of bucket and spade life. You can even venture further afield and take a trip to Ibiza, if you fancy island life for a day.
Lovely places to stay in Dénia.
4. San Juan de Alicante, Alicante
Situated to the North of Alicante, you can even take the tram to the beach of San Juan, where you’ll find 8 kms of golden, fine, soft sand. Disabled access, lifeguards, toilet facilities, bars, restaurants and even a Blue Flag too. Like beach life but he gets bored? Pack him off to the nearby 18 hole golf course – sometimes being a golf widow can be really rewarding! Pass me that sun cream….
Where is it? To the north of the city, drive, take the tram, you could even catch the bus. A beach accessible to all. Like a party with an atmosphere? Then pitch up here for San Juan, the beach celebrations at midsummer, where you can join in with bonfire jumping and ritual cleansing – if you want!
Holiday rentals in San Juan.
San Juan, Alicante
5. This list is too short! El Carabassí near Santa Pola
Gently sloping, safe, clear waters – a parent’s dream. Your little ones will be safe and sound here, with soft golden sand thrown into the bargain. Popular with Spanish families too, take a picnic and spend all day here, bring plenty of parasols for shade. Lots of shacks selling ice cream and treats – keep up that bottled water intake – and bars for a coffee or a plate of food if you haven’t brought the kitchen sink. Bring your binoculars too – not for the design ated nudist area, but for spotted birds of the feathered variety, this beach is surrounded by salt pans and wetlands, great territory for waders.Where is it? Santa Pola is between El Altet and La Marina, south of Alicante. In fact 15 kilometres of beaches dot the coastline hereabouts, you’ll be totally spoilt for choice – explore them all!A place to stay in Santa Pola? Plenty of rentals here to choose from.Just 5? No, way more await – that’s just a small sample of some of the best beaches long the Costa Blanca – hey, what’s your favourite?
Benidorm continues to attract holidaymakers in their millions with many returning to the top Costa Blanca resort time after time. Its gorgeous sandy beaches, balmy weather throughout the year, great entertainment, bargain nights out and theme parks being among its many attractions.
It’s also a great resort to wander around with each area having its own distinct charm. You can stroll along the beaches and gaze up at some of the highest skyscrapers in Europe of various colours glistening in the bright Benidorm sunshine.
The two best-known beaches in Benidorm are Playa Poniente and Playa Levante.
Levante beach, Benidorm
You can walk from one to the other with ease, stopping off at the iconic Balcon del Mediterraneo which separates the beaches and head into the old town for a bite to eat or for shopping.
Your walk could end with an invigorating trip up to the Benidorm Cross to see the sunset or a lively night out in the famous British Quarter with its fabulous bars, discoes, karaoke and tribute bands.
Serious sunseekers may like to start at Levante beach, which is the best beach for the morning sun, and finish at Poniente to enjoy the afternoon rays and the sunset.
Benidorm’s iconic skyscrapers
Stepping out from Poniente beach
Both Poniente and Levante beaches offer long stretches of golden sand with sunbeds to make the most of the beautiful Benidorm weather whatever the season.
At Poniente, you can stroll by the seafront for some or all of its five kilometres along the Avenida Vicente Llorca Alos towards the iconic Balcon del Mediterraneo.
You’ll notice many Spanish couples and families also enjoying a walk along Poniente beach as it’s a popular spot for a slow stroll and a coffee. Despite many people’s impression of Benidorm as being no more than Blackpool with sunshine, it’s very popular with holidaymakers from across Europe including many Spanish tourists..
You will also find many Spanish restaurants and bars alongside Poniente beach.
Relaxing on Benidorm beach
Keep fit on Benidorm’s beaches
In the mornings, don’t be surprised to find groups of people joining exercise classes on the sand.
The seaside promenade gets even more crowded as you reach the pretty Parque de Elche which is home to many pigeons and white doves.
It’s a popular place for having a few minutes’ peace and quiet or letting the children play on the slides and swings. The palm trees provide much-needed shade during the long, summer months too.
If you aren’t brave enough to join the groups keeping fit on the beach, there is outdoor exercise equipment in the Parque de Elche for you to keep toned if you feel energetic enough.
Be elevated by Europe’s highest hotel
Gran Hotel Bali, Benidorm
Half way along the promenade, it is worth taking a detour to visit the Gran Hotel Bali in Calle Luis Prendes, which dominates the Benidorm skyline and is the highest hotel in Europe at 186 metres tall.
You can grab the lift taking you up the outside of the building to the 45th floor where you can get out to enjoy the panoramic views of Benidorm’s beaches and the mountains in the background.
Step up to Benidorm’s Balcon del Mediterraneo
The emblematic Balcon del Mediterraneo is a former fortress between the Poniente and Levante beaches which is a favourite spot to enjoy views over both beaches and to view Benidorm’s fabulous skyscrapers in all their glory.
The steps are pretty heavy going from Poniente beach or you can skirt around the Balcon to approach it from Levante beach.
Balcon del Mediterraneo, Benidorm
This is a pretty square lined with cafes for a coffee or meal or to have your photo taken by the cannons guarding the square or to visit the charming St Jaime church with its traditional blue tiled dome.
Make sure you have your camera or smartphone with you to take pictures as the iconic viewpoint has been voted one of the most picturesque in all of Spain.
Heading for Benidorm Old Town
Behind the Balcon del Mediterraneo is Benidorm’s old town, famous for its nightlife, shops and tapas bars.
If you’re looking for a taste of traditional Spain in Benidorm, you are most likely to find it in this district with its cobbled, narrow streets and traditional squares.
The old town is great for tapas at lunchtime or to enjoy fabulous nightlife, including first-class drag acts, cabaret shows and gay bars.
Benidorm old town
In and around Calle Santo Domingo, you’ll find several traditional tapas bars where you can sample tasty Spanish snacks such as meatballs, sardines, garlic prawns, Spanish ham or omelettes.
If you are new to Benidorm, either eat at or take a peek inside Cerveceria Gambrinus. As well as offering a long list of tapas dishes and paellas, the walls inside are lined with photos of old Benidorm when it was a sleepy fishing village.
In the nearby indoor market, you can stock up with tasty ham, cheese, oven-baked bread and fruit to make your own beach picnic. At the fish stalls, you will find a tremendous variety of fish and shellfish, the likes of which are rarely seen in the typical supermarket in Britain.
Afternoon delight at Benidorm’s Levante beach
Whatever the season, you’ll find plenty going on at Levante beach. Even in winter, you’ll find it’s possible to sunbathe or play beach games on the golden sand – some hardy holidaymakers will even be brave enough to take to the waters!
Levante beach, Benidorm
Alongside the beach is a lovely promenade lined with bars, cafes and restaurants so you can have a rest or soak up the sea views.
Heading towards the English Square at the far end of the beach, you’ll find many bars serving English beers and food. This is also a good place to pick up bargain drinks and to enjoy entertainment such as karaoke or live acts in the afternoons as well as the evenings.
Going up in Benidorm
Before heading for the famous Benidorm nightlife, you may want a short detour up to the Benidorm Cross – another icon of this top holiday resort.
It will take about 45 minutes to climb up the Sierra Helada mountain to the Cross so make sure you’re well prepared with sun cream, water and sensible shoes.
The original wooden cross was put in the Sierra Helada natural park about 55 years ago by Catholic friars. Many people take the walk up to the replacement cross to reflect on loved ones or simply to enjoy the majestic views over Benidorm.
Morgan Tavern, Benidorm
It’s hip to be in Benidorm’s English Square
Fans of the Benidorm TV comedy will find the English Square looks very familiar. In and around Calle Gerona, Ibiza and Avenida de Mallorca, just off Levante beach, are many bars and restaurants, plenty of which offer British beer and food as well as live music including fabulous tribute bands, cabaret acts, karaoke and plenty of action.
Morgan Tavern is a top place to go for live shows and it features heavily in the Benidorm TV comedy.
Have a look out of the window. What’s it doing? Really? Raining again? Who’d have thought it…hardly like spring, is it?
If your budget is a bit tight this year – and your mood matches the weather outside, perhaps you think you can’t afford a holiday…well, think again. Bag a cheap flight from thousands on offer and browse some budget rentals in Benidorm. Once you land under the Spanish sun, there are still lots of ways to save cash – a quick guide to print out and keep –10 free things to do in Benidorm.
View of Benidorm
Broaden Your Horizons
The first thing to do when looking for a bargain break is to choose somewhere where there really is lots on offer, competition means lower prices. The same rule applies to flights and accommodation. Exclusivity can be more expensive, but the best option is to place your drawing pin somewhere populated, and popular!
On a budget, Benidorm makes for a smart choice, especially if you want to treat the whole family, it’s aimed at activities and family fun – you can’t go too far wrong. Flights are a-plenty, with lots of choice regarding flight times too – you needn’t necessarily land in the middle of the night, just to get a cheaper deal.
What About Accommodation?
Forget the TV show – you don’t have to be landed with Johnny Vegas or his mum by the pool, a Benidorm bargain break can still be found. Begin by browsing in this area and I guarantee you will find somewhere to call your own for a week or more, it just might have it’s own pool too. The prices are from low to high, so get searching…
If there’s no pool, then panic not, water-sports and water-parks are synonymous with the Costa Blanca, what are you still sitting there for? Pack your flippers and scuba mask – we’re off to Benidorm – and looking for 10 free things to do!
1. A Picnic:
Not just any old picnic. And certainly not with a Thermos of tea and two deck chairs next to the motorway – why do people do that?!
Pack up a couple of crusty barras de pan, some thinly cut jamón, and a selection of cold drinks and head for the Algar Waterfalls – just up the road from bustling Benidorm. What will you find? An oasis of peace. A tumbling waterfall, with designated picnic areas, and a river to splash and swim in. Just right for cooling off on a hot day. There are plenty of marked walks and trails here too – a perfect family day out.
Algar Waterfalls, Benidorm
2. The Old Town:
Okay, so you might want to spend some money when you get there. But the Old Town of Benidorm makes for a great stroll after dinner, made in your accommodation of course. Allow the kids to let off some steam as you explore the winding streets and cobbles of the Old Town, a stop for a cold drink won’t break the bank, and a bit of window shopping in the artisan outlets there costs nothing. Soak up the ambience of the Old Town and admire the buildings and architecture – and remember the camera.
3. The Day Trip:
A day out called for? Guadalest is your day out destination. Hewn right from the rocks that surround the place – there’s a Moorish castle to explore, and an ancient bell tower. Just 25 kilometres inland from your holiday rental home in Benidorm, picturesque Guadalest will be a day out to remember.
Just 200 residents inhabit this lovely place, but worth remembering is Guadalest is the most visited place in Spain – after the Prado museum in Madrid – so an early Spring visit might be preferable to one on a hot Saturday in August! Just saying…!
5. The Beaches:
Ah, the beaches. Probably one of the top reasons to visit the Costa Blanca, after all, it’s all in the name – the White Coast.
Miles and miles of white sand, shelving waters – warm as a bath in Summer – and family friendly Blue Flag beaches to explore. There really is no better way to amuse kids than a few hours playing on the beach. Poniente is perfect, the requisite Blue flag, and a family orientated atmosphere await.
Levante is another good one, but more suited to a younger, singles crowd – teens and singles, enjoying a day out and mucking about near the water. Poniente would be for me – there’s only so long that I can breathe in for….
Benidorm Beach, Costa Blanca
6. The Rock:
The Rock? Yes, not Gibraltar but the Peñon de Ifach – I always think that sounds oddly Welsh – makes a great day out. Resembling the other, more famous rock, it juts up from the sea at nearby Calpe. You can really get back to nature here too – as the surrounding area has been designated a wildlife reserve. Calpe itself is not bad either.
Penon de Ifach, Benidorm
7. The Castle:
A 13th century military castle – Castillo de Biar – is also a national monument. it overlooks the town of the same name. A pretty dramatic day out, the castle stands in a lofty position, the views are amazing. A stomach lurching tall tower, the Tower of Homage, fortified walls and an enviable position, a trip to Castillo de Biar will make a great day of make believe for any child in your family!
Castillo de Biar, Benidorm
8. The Traditional Village:
The bustle of Benidorm is fabulous, but you might find that after a week you also want to experience somewhere more local, traditional, quieter. No problem. Right outside Benidorm lies Altea, the antidote to Benidorm, an oasis of calm and a perfect spot for a day of unwinding and seeing the other side of Costa Blanca life.
A super destination for couples, it’s quiet, romantic, flower filled and as pretty as the picture it paints. You may find that you don’t want to leave, if so, stay another few days and try a two centre holiday – here are some choice places to anchor down in Altea.
9. The Party:
Of course, the best way to experience a FREE party – come to Benidorm when one of the fiestas is taking place. When is the best time?
You’ll find various fiesta days, festivals and Saint’s days all year round – but November is when you’ll find Benidorm in full party mode. This is traditionally when fiesta week takes place, from the Friday of the second week. If you want to experience Spanish party overload, then pack the paracetamol for that week.
Processions, paella, and the biggest – and loudest – firework display to top it all off with a discernible bang. Yes, the Spanish ‘do’ loud very well indeed.
10. The Water:
Not just the fabulous Mediterranean Sea – although that’s good too, and also free – but some curative waters, a another great day out without flashing the cash.
The Fonts at Lion Mountain to be precise. What are they? Head for the base of Puig Camapana mountain – it resembles a sleeping lion, thus the nickname. You’ll find the wonderfully named village of Polop waiting for you, it’s all just half an hour from Benidorm. There 200 natural springs, and folk come from far and wide to drink the sulphuric curative waters, known to heal all ails – well, worth a try anyway! Back in the village square you can visit the former house of the artist Miro too – so one for the arty types with a health kick thrown in. One for me too – there’s a show factory outlet in town, with leather shoes at factory prices – now that’s what I call instant healing – or should I say heeling…? Of course, you’ll have to pay for those.
10 ways to enjoy beautiful Benidorm for FREE – what more could you possibly want? Just think, you’ll have saved so much money there’ll be enough left over for your next spanish holiday in the sun!