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Altea uncovered.....

Altea is located on Spain's "White Coast" in the Spanish region of Valencia. Together with its neighbour Albir,  Altea is without doubt one of the most charming towns to be found in the Costa Blanca. If you want all night discos and the bright city lights on your holiday, give these towns a miss!! Altea is a holiday haven for the more discerning tourist who will be enthralled by its medieval cobbled streets, its picture book old quarter and the delightful palm-fringed seafront esplanade.

As you approach Altea you will see one of the Costa Blanca's most distinctive landmarks - the blue-domed parish church of the Virgin del Consuelo with its magnificent dome of blue and white glazed ceramic tiles. Make a trip up to the church, through the narrow streets of the old quarter. Wind your way up through the cobbled lanes until you come to the plaza at the top of the hill where you'll find the church and the fabulous panoramic views of Altea bay.

Altea is situated on a hill whose peak rises above the white-tiled parish church. The magnificently jumbled and cluttered centre of the Old Town provides Altea with a special charm.  At the foot of the hill lies the wide sea promenade and the commercial street, the Avenida del Rey Jaime I. L'Olla is another much-frequented beach opposite a small island of the same name. In earlier times, Altea used to be situated on the road to the Sierra de Bernia and was called Altea la Vella - a small village intersected by a Way of the Cross that ascends to a Calvary surrounded by cypress trees. The Sierra de Bernia, with its Font del Garroferet and ancient fortress, are excellent reasons to visit the area.

It is not difficult to understand why Altea became a Bohemian centre for musicians, artists and writers from all over Europe when they first discovered its delights back in the late 1950's. Although the town has since adapted to meet the demands of the modern day tourist it still retains its "Bohemian air". You'll find a plethora of tiny shops offering wonderful local crafts, paintings and gifts. There are also numerous excellent restaurants where you can enjoy both local and international cuisine.

Exploring Altea 

If you never set foot outside Altea during your holiday you won't run short of sights to see, places to visit and things to do. And if you're keen to venture further afield, the Costa Blanca and its hinterland offers a wealth of major attractions - both natural and man made - within easy reach.

Altea's peacefulness and tranquillity have made it a paradise for artists and craftsmen and their shops and stalls are scattered throughout the Old Town Centre. Start by exploring the town itself. Set off from the Plaza del Convento and follow the Pont de Moncau which leads you to the Vellaguarda. From here you'll wend your way through the narrow medieval cobble-stoned streets with balconies and small glorietas (circular intersections), which wind steadily upwards to the plaza in the old quarter. Make the blue-domed parish church of the Virgin del Consuelo (Our Lady of Solace) your goal. But be prepared for many distractions along the way. The streets themselves are a delight with their whitewashed buildings adorned with jasmine and geraniums. Private homes, shops and restaurants sit comfortably side by side in a jumble of buildings which are full of character with their intricately carved wooden doors, balconies and metal grilles.

Take your time. Partly because the climb to the top through these stepped and cobbled streets is quite demanding. But mostly because you'll want to stop and explore the many gifts shops, art and craft galleries and tempting back streets along the way.

At the top you'll be rewarded with a  magnificent view over Altea Bay with the Sierra Bernia mountain range providing an impressive backdrop. Make sure you've got your camera or camcorder with you!

Stop here for a drink or a meal in one of the bars and restaurants which circle the cobbled plaza. It's a perfect place to sit and relax - never too noisy and never too "touristy".

Visit the Virgin del Consuelo (Our Lady of Solace) church - built at the turn of the century and quite as elaborate inside as out. Its slender bell tower and huge blue dome beautifully decorated with blue and white glazed ceramic tiles make it one of the Costa Blanca's major milestones (a postcard favourite!).

Enjoy the town's many wonderful restaurants during your stay - you'll find top quality local and international cuisine at very reasonable prices. And in the summer months, the cobbled streets of the old quarter with their street terraces are a perfect place to people watch while you eat.

For pioneers of all things culinary, there are some unusual local Valencian specialities including caragols amb įeba (snails with onion), cruet de peix (fish stew), sea-urchins, coca a la lluma (a kind of pasty) and a wide variety of rice dishes.

Visit the town's museum, Museo Navarro Ramon, its Casa de Cultura (cultural centre) and its magnificent new arts and music centre, the Palau de las Artes. Ask at the tourist information centre, located on the seafront esplanade, for details of exhibitions, cultural activities and entertainment on offer during your stay. The seafront promenade is also the venue for Altea's famous Tuesday market. It is one of the biggest of its kind on the Costa Blanca and is the place to pick up some great bargains along with some highly suspect "designer" watches and sunglasses.

Excursions

For day trips and excursions, head inland into the magnificent Sierra Bernia mountain range - a magnet for walkers, climbers and sightseers. Visit the nearby Cactuslandia with its 1,000 varieties of cactus and exotic birds.

Take the train from Altea up the coast to the cosmopolitan town of Denia, or head south to Benidorm and Alicante.

Visit the Moorish mountain fortress at Guadalest, marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites in the incredible Cova del Rull in the Ebo Valley and the Peņon de Ifach at Calpe (a Gibraltar-style rock which is a protected reserve for sea life, flora and fauna).

For a family day out there are some top major attractions a short drive down the road at Benidorm - Spain's biggest theme park, Terra Mitica, the water world at Aqualandia and the exotic bird and marine life centre Mundomar.

Night Life

Altea's wealth of bars, street cafes and excellent restaurants mean you will never be short of somewhere to go in the evenings. The bars stay open until the early hours in the summer months - or until the last person is ready to leave. No stringent licensing laws here! You'll often find live entertainment in the bars, especially during high season so check for details in the local English language paper, the Costa Blanca News, and look out for advertising posters around the town.

This is not disco land but if the bright city lights and a walk on the wild side are what you (or your teenagers!) are after then big, brash Benidorm is only a 10-minute drive down the road. Benidorm has everything when it comes to night life - from ballroom dancing to raunchy sex shows. Here you'll find discos which accommodate thousands and throb all night long, many of them have stunning laser shows and international DJs.

For a good family night out try the Benidorm Palace - yes, there are topless dancers but it's all in good taste. You get a first class international cabaret show here, accompanied by a very decent dinner, all for an extremely reasonable price. Local agents in Altea will arrange tickets and transport.

Another excellent family night out is the Castillo de Conde de Alfaz, just down the road at Alfas del Pi. Here you'll be treated to a stunning display of horsemanship and medieval jousting accompanied by a "medieval" meal (i.e no knives and forks!). Round off the evening with a visit to the terrifying "mad monks" dungeon beneath the castle.

The impressive new Palau de Altea offers a variety of cultural evenings and entertainment. Check either there or with the tourist information office (on the seafront esplanade) for details of concerts, ballet, opera, flamenco and other shows.

The tourist office will also be able to provide you with details of any fiestas taking place during your visit. Altea has regular fiestas throughout the year, one of the biggest being the Moors and Christian parades at the end of September. This is a fiesta honouring the Christian battles against the Moorish invaders whose legacy is still very much in evidence throughout this region of Spain. The streets become a riot of colour, bands, processions, parades and, most of all, noise!

If you're visiting in high season, the summer fiestas to look out for are:
· feast of San Antonio which takes places from June 11th-13th at Cap Blanch
· the San Juan fiesta on June 24th at El Fornet
· the feast of San Pedro and la Virgen del Carmen in Calle St Pere
· the feast of San Jaime at Cap Blanch
· the feast of Santa Anna held in July in Altea la Vella
· the feast of San Lorenzo from August 1st-15th at Castell de l'Olla
If it all sounds a bit too sombre and religious for a holiday, worry not. The Spanish really know how to give their saints a great birthday party!

Beaches and Watersports

Altea has six kilometres of pebble beaches interspersed with coves and cliffs (including a popular naturist beach). At the foot of the old town on the hill you'll find the main shopping street of Avenida del Rey Jaime I which runs parallel to the attractive palm fringed seafront esplanade, the Passeig Maritimo.

Both these areas are a hive of activity. The avenida, which forms part of the national road between Alicante and Valencia, has some excellent clothes, shoe, furniture and leather shops. The esplanade is a great place to buy your English national daily newspapers (now printed daily in Madrid) and settle down with a "café con leche". Enjoy the views over the bay and just people watch!

This is a particularly attractive seafront promenade with plenty of bars and restaurants yet it never becomes over run with tourists (unlike the neighbouring resort of Benidorm).

Adjacent to the old town you'll find one of the two main beaches - Playa la Roda which is a mixture of sand and pebbles. The most popular beach - also sand and pebbles - is Playa de Cap Blanch, located to the south of the town and stretching to the next resort of Alfas del Pi.

Playa de Cap Negret, to the north of the town, is a shingled beach ending in a small cove called the 'Cala del Soio', distinctive for its black pebbles. L'Olla is another popular pebble beach opposite a small island of the same name.

The northern end of Altea Bay is at 'Mascarat point' where you'll find the shingled coves of La Barreta, La Solsida and La Galera. The southernmost point is the port's breakwater that marks the boundary with of Alfās del Pi at Bombarda point.

Altea has two high quality water sports centres, EL Club Nautico de Altea and El Puerto Deportivo Luis Campomanes (also known as Greenwich Marina). Activities on offer here include diving, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, water skiing and local boat cruises.

The Luis Campomanes harbour is home to some of the most magnificent cruisers and yachts you've ever laid eyes on. There are plans to expand this already impressive harbour into what the locals hope will be one of the best sports marinas in the Mediterranean.

Altea is the start and finish point for one of the Mediterranean's most important sailing events, The Two Hundred Milles A2 which takes place in the winter and involves a round trip to the island of Ibiza and back. The local waters also provide a treasure trove of marine life and rock formations to delight divers of all abilities. The sea is clean and visibility often exceeds 20 metres. Dive from a boat near the Luis Campomanes marina and you'll discover an intricate maze of shallow water grottoes, winding tunnels, narrow crevices and caves.

A dive of between nine to 17 metres will reveal an underwater world bursting with life - walls of sea anemones, gorgonians, octopus and an infinite variety of fish. This dive site is perfect for beginners and qualified divers alike because of its accessibility and depth.

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