A travel guide to the Costa Blanca: plenty to see at any time of year

People have been hopping on planes to the Costa Blanca for decades now. This beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coastline, offers holidaymakers the chance to relax and unwind under the Spanish sun. But what else does the region have to offer? What are the hidden gems of the Costa Blanca? Where are the places off the beaten track, the authentic and enrapturing beauty spots of this Valencian community? Allow me to give you a little insight into the region and, hopefully, help you make the most of a part of Spain we all think we know so well.

Las Arenas beach, Valencia Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Las Arenas beach, Valencia

A guide to the Costa Blanca

Alicante

Alicante is frustratingly under-explored by people holidaying in the Costa Blanca region. Much more than just an airport and coach station, it is a port-town steeped in history, with parts of its origins dating back to the Iberian Civilization of the 6th century BC. If you appreciate the history of places you visit, the city and its surroundings are littered with archaeological sites and museums.

If you’re more of a 21st century kind of traveller or just fancy seeing some of the more modern day sights, the marina of Alicante is a stunning area to while away an afternoon. Surrounded by world-class fish restaurants and boutique shopping destinations, the marina provides a great spot in which to spend a couple of hours. The city’s castle of Santa Barbara is also well worth a look. Take the lift to the summit for just 2€ or, if your legs can take the strain, walk up the steep hill to the castle and enjoy the magnificent view with an ice cream (or something a little stronger and more refreshing, perhaps). A museum and gift shop are also part of the castle.

Tip: head to the Archeological Museum of Alicante in the centre of the city, which was named European Museum of the Year in 2004.

Castillo de Santa Barbara Photo: Paco Cameo of Flickr

Castillo de Santa Barbara

Benidorm

Land of high culture and fine dining it is not, but for a down-to-earth, week-at-the-seaside type of experience; Benidorm is where a large part of the Spanish package holiday industry made its name. There are hotels and bars galore and a surprisingly beautiful beach in the centre of the resort, with the scenery and coastline getting ever more remote and beautiful as you head up the coast. El Cisne Rastro market, held every Sunday from around 8 or 9 in the morning is well worth a visit. Held on the N-332 near a large campsite, the market has all the trappings of a genuinely lovely Spanish market. If you want to head further out of the city and reach a slower, more Spanish pace of life, there are hundreds of fantastic resorts scattered around. The Asia Gardens Hotel and Thai Spa, only a few miles from Benidorm, is just one example of five star luxury just a stones throw away from the lights and sounds of the big city! There really is more to the Costa Blanca today than ever before.

Barcelo Asia Gardens Hotel Photo: Barcelo Asia Gardens

Barcelo Asia Gardens Hotel

Guadalest

Guadalest is one of the most spectacularly beautiful towns in Spain. Tiny at just 200 or so inhabitants, it sits adjacent to a reservoir with several small museums, a church and a scattering of hotels, restaurants and bars, as well as fantastic shops. Officially declared as a spot of natural beauty, as well as historical and artistic value, if you are ever even remotely close, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t spend a day wandering through its picture-perfect calles.

Guadalest Photo: Stephen & Claire Farnsworth of Flickr

Guadalest in Spain

Calpe

The archetypal Spanish fishing village, you won’t believe that Calpe is just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Benidorm and its skyscrapers. A world away from that, Calpe is slow and steady and typically Spanish, with the pace of life a deliciously slow one! Eat, drink and enjoy the views in this wonderful town. If you have the opportunity, take a meandering stroll through some of the quieter backstreets, away from the waterfront. Here you will discover unpretentious yet exquisite eateries that made this town famous in the first place. With a similar feeling to Altea, another smaller fishing village in the shadow of Benidorm and Alicante, the views are second to none. A walk to some of the higher points around the town, to get those stunning views, are not to be missed!

Calpe Costa Blanca Photo: thdolby of Flickr

Calpe on the Costa Blanca

Visiting at different times of year

Traditionally us Brits like nothing more than two weeks in the sun sometime around July or August, but the Costa Blanca can offer much more than that. Enjoying a warm, Mediterranean climate most of the year, there are many snatched weekends or mini-breaks to be had in the region at any time of year. Particularly beautiful in early spring and autumn, the region is much quieter because of the reduced tourism but nevertheless retains its beauty and charm. If you’re wanting winter sun, the Costa Blanca can also be a great option, with many resorts and towns remaining fully open and operational, despite the fact you’ll need to pack a cardigan or two if you plan to dine al fresco.

There’s more to the Costa Blanca

I hope I’ve shown that there’s much more to the Costa Blanca than just a place to take the bucket and spade for a week or two! Far from being a place to simply lie on the beach and lose yourself in a good book for days upon days (although of course there’s nothing wrong with that!), the Costa Blanca is an oasis of beauty and a genuine jewel in Spain’s tourism crown; well worth a visit.

This article is brought to you by Barceló who are one of Spain’s leading tourist companies. Its hotel and travel divisions operate more than 140 hotels in 17 countries and more than 400 travel agencies in 22 countries.

Photo credits: Castillo de Santa Barbara by Paco Cameo, Piscina del hotel by Barcelo Asia Gardens, Guadalest by Stephen & Claire Farnsworth, and Calpe Costa Blanca by thdolby.

For more coastal tales:

Seafood on the beach at the Chiringuito in Spain
Three days, three beaches on Zante
Life’s a beach – watching the surfers at Taghazout – Morocco

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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Hidden highlights to explore on a Mediterranean Cruise

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Europe, Guest post, Lisbon, Misc, Portugal, Spain

Join us on a Mediterranean cruise taking in seven wonderful destinations – Barcelona, Genoa, Malaga, Cadiz, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Alicante. Each city has much to offer, but if you’d like to explore some lesser known corners, as well as some well known highlights, here are some ideas for the places you might visit.

Barcelona

Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and the capital of the Catalonia region. One of its most famous landmarks is Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished church of the Sagrada Familia, which has been under construction since 1882, with a planned completion date of 2026.

To get  away from the tourist-orientated areas of the city, explore the district of Raval, whose maze of streets offer fashionable and unique shops.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona by Maradentro_

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Genoa

Genoa is an historical Italian city and the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, the explorer who discovered the Americas. The home where he was allegedly born is in an area known as the Piazza De Ferrari, where the Teatro Carlo Felice Opera and Palace of the Doges is also located.

To search out a tasty treat, explore Recco to the east of Genoa, the birthplace of cheese focaccia, where cheap and delicious focaccia bread is served on the seafront.

 

Alcazaba in Malaga

Malaga

Malaga is in the Spanish region of Andalusia and enjoys a subtropical climate. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and is surrounded by mountains to the north, the harbour to the south and two rivers, the Guadalmedina and the Gualdhorce.

For a view over the city try the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress that enjoys wonderful views of the Plaza de Toros and the port. Perfect for lazy afternoons when other attractions may be closed.

Cadiz

Cadiz is a seaport to the south of Spain and has been the main homeport of the Spanish navy since the 18th century. Commonly known as Casco Antiguo (Old City), it is many narrow streets, which connect a number of stunning plazas.

For a break from city sightseeing seek out the Donana National Park to the north of the province, the largest Natural Park in Spain and home to a range of wildlife.

Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and the most populated city in the country. The most popular area for shopping, entertainment and nightlife is Bairro Alto, where Portugal’s national song Fado, can still be enjoyed. The monument Cristo Rei overlooks the whole city and resembles the Corcovado monument in Rio de Janeiro.

Off the beaten track , you’ll find Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, home to an esteemed art collection and surrounded by serene and beautiful gardens.

Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon

Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon

Gibraltar

Gibraltar lies at the entrance to the Mediterranean and is an overseas British controlled territory at the end of the Iberian peninsular. Its famous landmark is the Rock of Gibraltar with its upper area covered by a nature reserve, which is home to over 200 Barbary Macaques, the only wild monkeys found in Europe.

For a different perspective, the World War II Seige and St Michaels Cave’s are popular with tourists, but enquire at the Rock Hotel about ways to see more of the tunnels.

St Michael's Cave, Gibraltar

St Michael’s Cave, Gibraltar

Alicante

Alicante is an historic Mediterranean port that is overlooked by the Castle of Santa Barbara, which sits on Mount Benacantil. The Explanada de Esparia is a tree-lined promenade where concerts often take place and the El Palmeral Park is a great place to relax by the lakes, enjoy a picnic or take a stroll.

To escape the bustle, the Old City has some stunning architecture, ‘Spanish colonial’ style buildings and streets that are generally quiet.

My thanks for this article to www.Travel247.ie, an Irish owned tour operator that specialises in Mediterranean Cruises and package holidays globally.

Photo Credits: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona by Maradentro, Alcazaba in Malaga by Manuelfloresv, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian by Sheilaellen, St Michael’s cave, Gibraltar by Mouseshadows

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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See where the road will take you in Spain

January 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Guest post, Leisure, Misc, Sightseeing, Spain

Today’s article gives plenty of ideas for your driving holiday in Spain, whether you’re into sightseeing in Seville, relaxing on the beach in Alicante or running the bulls in Pamplona.

Spain is undoubtedly the capital of Europe when it comes to package tourism, yet behind the busy beaches and all-inclusive hotels, Spain is also a land of both cultural and geographical diversity and contradiction. Divided as a country until the 15th century, Spain has six official languages and a richly varied cultural heritage, with its people, food and even climate ranging enormously from region to region. From the rich greenery of the Basque mountains to the wilderness of the Tabernas Desert, Spain hides a multitude of secrets waiting to be discovered.

Seville Cathedral, Spain

Seville Cathedral, Spain

So why not avoid the usual tourist traps and plan your perfect Spanish road trip? Car hire in Spain is not only cheap and easily accessible, it also offers the freedom to wander off the beaten track to discover breath-taking hilltop villages, sea coves and mountain passes. With winding coastal roads and picturesque valley trails, Spain is also a place to fall in love with driving again. Here are some suggestions to kick-off the route planning, with a few tips to make sure your holiday is as fun and enjoyable as possible.

Culture vulture?

Book a low-cost flight into Malaga airport and take advantage of the cheap car rental options available. From here drive along the back-roads northwest to Seville, one of Spain’s most entertaining cities. With one of the largest cathedrals in the world, dating from the 16th century, and housing Christopher Columbus’ tomb, this inspiring city also boasts the remains of a 12th century mosque.

Tip: Travel in Easter to enjoy vibrant fiestas in every part of Spain, with Seville leading the celebrations. April is home to the famous Feria de Abril festival, a week long party of flamenco dancing, horse shows and bull fighting.

View of Alicante, Spain

View of Alicante, Spain

Sun worshipper?

Why spend an entire holiday bathing on one beach when you enjoy new scenery every day? With plenty of cheap car hire in Alicante , it’s the perfect stepping stone to the 200km stretch of gorgeous Mediterranean sand in the Costa Blanca. Follow the winding coastal roads round the mountains to visit the most famous hotspots or go on your own search for an untouched hideaway. A short wander inland from the beaches offers fascinating medieval towns and orchards filled with citrus trees.

Tip: Driving in a foreign country can be intimidating. Equip yourself with a good map or hire a car with sat-nav, and get familiar with Spanish road signs before your trip.

Bull running in Pamplona, Spain

Bull running in Pamplona, Spain

Adrenaline junkie?

Fly into Madrid and either pre-book car hire or rent a car at the airport to enjoy a magnificent drive north to see Pamplona, the jewel in the crown of the Basque country. Famous for the festival of San Fermin and its bull-running, Pamplona attracts thousands of dare devils every July as six bulls and six oxen race through the crowd-filled winding lanes of the town. Hispanic legend tells that this fascinating practice began when traders would use a mixture of fear and excitement to speed up their bulls’ journey to the market. This blend of emotions still runs high during this unique event and is sure to set pulses racing in even the bravest travellers.

Tip: Book your hotel in Pamplona well in advance as they sell out early; the festival runs every year from the 6th to 14th July.

Resources to plan your driving holiday in Spain

Spain Driving Trip Planner
Planning Your Ultimate Roadtrip in Spain
Beaches in Alicante
Pamplona Bull Run (San Fermin)

Photo Credits:  Seville Cathedral  by  Herry Lawford , Alicante by Bea y Fredi , Pamplona by viajar24h

More Spanish adventures

A visit to Ojén – the Pueblos Blancos of Andalucia
Seafood on the beach at the Chiringuito in Spain
08 Valencia in the Springtime – podcast

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscibe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels