Alicante’s buzzing holiday resorts are a great reminder that the region is still growing in popularity with families. In fact last year alone, Alicante airport handled over 12 million passengers making it the 5th busiest airport in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, and Malaga. Alicante airport has become the gateway from which people access Benidorm, Torrevieja or one of the other resorts that dot the Costa Blanca.
If you want to explore the region more thoroughly, rather than booking any ‘whistle stop’ tours, you may prefer to hire a car and drive your family around to explore. Arranging car hire from Alicante airport is very simple and can be easily booked online on the airport website. However, all of the top name European car hire firms, as well as several local companies all, have desks or courtesy telephones in the Alicante airport arrivals area. You can get yourself a good deal if you purchase the insurance excess privately before you even hire a car.
Alicante is steeped in a history that encompasses several civilizations dating as far back as the Phoenicians, Alicante, and its province is perhaps best remembered for the Reconquista that drove the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula by James I of Aragon in the 13th century. Littered with hilltop castles and acres of wine terraces and olive trees Alicante province can be visited any time of year, but is particularly popular during the summer months thanks to its fine white sand beaches and an infrastructure geared up for summer holidays.
Rather than dwell on how wonderful the beaches and coastal resorts are, we thought we would put together a list of our best 5 things to do in Alicante if you are visiting the city for a different type of break.
Explanada de España
Spend time exploring the Explanada de España, a gorgeous palm-lined promenade of mosaic tiles shaped like waves that run along the seafront. Commonly referred to as the “Rambla” by locals, it is similar to the famous street in Barcelona and while the wooden kiosks and Art Nouveau building may look the same, Alicante’s favorite walkway has a stunning modern marina from which you can take a boat trip to the pirate island of Tabarca. Surprisingly, given its scenic location, you would expect to pay over the odds for food and drink, but this isn’t the case with many of the outdoor restaurants offering a menu del dia for just 12€.
Santa Barbara Castle
Dominating the city skyline perched atop Mount Benacantil, the 10th-century fortress has played an important role in the history of the city. Shrouded in legends and stories that include a Moorish princess throwing herself from the castle walls because she could not marry the man she loved and the tale of a castle commander who died in battle clutching the keys to the main gate so tightly that they had to cut off his hand in order to free them. Occupied by the British during the War of Spanish Succession the castle suffered several bombardments by French naval vessels before eventually succumbing to a lengthy siege. Today the castle is open to the public and can be accessed from a nearby car park, walking up the hill from the city center or by taking a lift located across from Postiguet beach.
Snorkeling on Tabarca Island
All the city beaches in Alicante are first class and jam-packed with locals during the summer and while you will still be able to claim your little piece of the beach, a trip to the island of Tabarca takes a day at the beach to another level. Once a haven for Barbary Pirates the island is today the smallest inhabited island in Spain and was declared a protected Marine Reserve in 1986. With fishing banned the island is alive with sea life and marine creatures that make it one of the best places in the Mediterranean Sea for snorkeling. Despite its small size, just 1,750 meters long and 300 meters wide Tabarca has several restaurants and bars where you can grab lunch and is connected to Alicante by regular boat trips that make the crossing in 45 minutes.
Alcoy and the Sierra Mariola
Once you have explored the old town of Alicante take your car hire from Alicante airport and head into the mountains to the industrial revolution city of Alcoy and its surrounding Sierra Mariola Natural Park. Alcoy has many firsts to its name, including the birthplace of the Moors & Christians fiesta. Celebrated each April to coincide with Saint George Day the four-day event re-enacts the victory over the Moors in the 13th century.
Alcoy is also home to the oldest parade in Spain, when the “Three Kings” Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar arrive on January 6th with their gifts for baby Jesus. If you can’t make for any of the cultural events Alcoy has several museums and is on the Modernist Route of Europe due to its exquisite Art Nouveau building. Once you have seen Alcoy visit the medieval village of Bocairent a place often described as being one of the prettiest villages in all of Spain.
Route of the Castles of Vinalopó
The Vinalopó Valley inland from Alicante is dotted with castles and fortifications dating back to the 700 years of Moorish rule in Spain. Set on vantage points looking down on the towns below each one of the nine castles offers a glimpse into what life must have been like during and after the Moorish occupation of Spain. While on the route don’t miss the chance to stop at one of the many Bodegas (wineries) and sample some of the excellent local wines.
In fact, the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve for good luck started in Alicante following a bumper harvest of grapes in 1909. Faced with the prospect of just letting the grapes waste, someone had the bright idea to invent a superstition in which eating one grape for every strike of the church bell at midnight on New Year’s Eve would bring good health and luck for the following year.
Having a base for your holiday does not have to be overly expensive. If you have a family and are on a budget, then you may consider avoiding expensive hotels and decide to look for more competitive deals on villas and apartments in Alicante and go self-catering. This would be more cost effective leaving more of a budget to enjoy trips and excursions.