Posted on 07 December 2017
Located just a 15 minute drive from Alicante airport is the historic city of Elche – the City of Palms. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in North Africa when you arrive, as you stroll in the shade of palm trees, past mosque-like churches and buildings constructed of sand-coloured stone. But this is very much a Spanish town, unlike some of its contemporaries further along the Costa Blanca that have long since rolled over to the demands of mass tourism.
You may be surprised to hear the city has a common bond with Northampton, but its historic association with the art of cobbling – an industry that is still prevalent in the city to this day – is where the similarities end. Perhaps of greater interest are its two UNESCO World Heritage offerings: the Misteri d’Elx annual medieval play which was proclaimed as an Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001, and the The Palmeral of Elche, Europe’s largest orchard of palm trees, which was declared a World Heritage Site a year earlier.
Split in two by the Vinalopó River, the city’s old town is found to the east of this natural divide. Here you will discover landmarks like the Gran Teatro de Elche (Grand Theatre), as well as an array of excellent tapas restaurants. Other sites that draw visitors from far and wide include the Huerto del Cura gardens and the Basilica de Santa Maria, a landmark church featuring an ornate baroque portal and square towers.
The city’s trump card is perhaps its location in the heart of the sunny Costa Blanca, with Alicante, Murcia, Torrevieja and of course an enviable collection of sandy beaches just a short distance away. Even Valencia is less than two hours’ drive in the car and Ibiza a three hour ferry ride from nearby Denia. Or you could hop on a short flight from Alicante airport to any of the Balearic Islands if you fancy a weekend away.
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