Costa Blanca literally translates in English to “White Coast”, and clearly depicts this beautiful shoreline on the south-eastern coast of Spain. With over 200 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline from Denia in the north to Pilar de la Horadada in the south, this stretch includes the major tourist destinations of Benidorm, Alicante and Torrevieja. The name “Costa Blanca” was devised as a promotional name used by British European Airways when they launched their air service between London and Valencia in 1957.
In 711 AD the Moors invaded Spain through Gibraltar and occupied the region of Alicante by 718 AD. Their occupation lasted nearly four hundred years and moulded the landscape of the region. The Moors introduced irrigation and the planting of oranges, peaches and almond orchards. The terraces seen on the hillsides throughout the region are an everlasting Moor legacy. The Moors were not completely expelled until 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella, the catholic monarchs, finally took control of Granada. In 1095 Spain became part of the North African Muslim Empire and for another four hundred years the Moors and Christians would fight over control of Spanish soil.
Alicante was gradually regained from the Moors in 1248 by James of Aragon. However, after their expulsion the Moors continued to attack Spain and between 1500-1650 Berber pirate attacks were frequent all along the Mediterranean coastline. The first Spanish Constitution was written in 1812 and following this the provincial boundaries were established including Alicante and Murcia. In 1923 Miguel Primo Rivera took control of Spain as a dictator, eventually forcing Alfonso XIII into exile. The Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939 divided the country where Alicante and Murcia still remained supporters of the Republican movement. In 1939 General Francisco Franco, the leader of the nationalists took control of Spain.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s tourism exploded throughout the region to nearly 4,000,000 visitors a year. Today the Costa Blanca continues to maintain a well developed and fast growing tourism industry, being a popular destination for holiday makers from across the globe. With so much to offer, the area boasts some incredible picturesque seaside locations as well as fantastic towns and villages both along the coast and further inland. For active travellers, holidays to the Costa Blanca is the perfect choice thanks to its extensive range of golf courses. The all year round mild weather means you can tee off no matter when you visit. Other popular pursuits in the area include hiking, jet skiing, scuba diving, paragliding and windsurfing. The Costa Blanca has become the ideal place to base yourself for a holiday if you want to combine culture and history with time at the beach.
The cultural heritage of the Costa Blanca is huge and you can discover some of their inheritance through the many festivals to celebrate, castles to explore and sights to be seen. Villages of the Costa Blanca possess a multicultural environment where you can easily place yourself amongst the atmosphere of remote times.
Castles of rock at the foot of the Mediterranean, narrow cobbled streets where the smell of sea mingles with the refreshing scent of jasmine, churches that adorn the town square welcoming friends and strangers. All this heritage contains so much history and tradition until today. Moors and Christians in Alcoy, Denia and Calpe, Altea and Alicante fiestas, neighborhoods of Arab architecture or castles in Guadalest and Javea are some of the cultural expressions of the Costa Blanca.
The Moors and Christians festival is one of the most exquisite in the fiesta calendar. Alcoy, Denia, Villajoyosa and Calpe are some of the municipalities that, to the rhythm of drums and chimes, represent the struggle between Moors and Christians. The finale to this spectacular event puts you in awe as a colourful celebration of fireworks adorns the night sky.
Semana Santa, which falls around the Easter break, is a holy week where celebrations take place in the churches from Easter Friday to Sunday. The representative figures of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ are shown to the public, and traditional processions flood the streets of various towns and villages in the Costa Blanca. Some of the people participating in procession wear the nazareno or the penitential robe. It has several parts including a tunic and a capriote (a conical shaped hood) used to hide the face. Sometimes they will also wear a cloak too. The nazareno robe is of medieval origin. People wearing nazarenos during procession carry candles or wooden crosses.
Hogueras de San Juan is probably the next biggest event on the Costa Blanca, as Alicante welcomes the summer by converting its streets into an inferning museum. After four days of intense party, it all disappears between the heat of the flames for the night of June 24; Saint John’s Day. Here, the spectacular nature of the Alicante art scene is mixed with an aroma of gunpowder and an army of bands who add music to this amazing celebration. Streets are filled with colour by the numerous spectacular parades.
The Costa Blanca is more than just sun, sand and sea. It is also about nature, relaxation and gastronomy. From the authentic stews of ancient mountain style recipes, to the avant-garde unique cuisine of today, the Costa Blanca offers an impressive range of experiences that has placed it on the map of world gastronomy. And it’s not just on the beach where you will find great gastronomic wonders; if you delve inland you may just find some hidden pleasures like aromatically flavoured mountain rice or paella, crusty baked bread, gazpacho, traditional broth with meatballs and a variety of stews with local meat and vegetables. All these delights can be found in the Vega Baja, Alicante, La Marina Baixa, or La Marina Alta regions.
Alicante offers unique products with diverse contrasts that bring a Mediterranean and personal character to the dining table. Combinations of salted canned fish with pickles, like tuna or roe. The salted fish delicacy cover different varieties such as sardine and salted cod and use a wide range of processing and conservation dating back to past centuries. But a great gourmet feast is not the same without one of the elaborate desserts from Alicante; Jijona nougat or turron. For centuries this hand-made sweet stands with the symbol of quality and native crafts. Most popular around Christmas, turron is of Arab origin and is a nougat manufactured in the town Jijona. The main ingredient are locally produced almonds and a proportion of pure honey that gives that special feature. Travelling further inland to Alcoy, you will find tasty sweet ear-shaped biscuits, Villa Jiosa brings the delicious marzipan with egg yolk and not to forget the famous tortas from the Elche region.
Wine has been produced in the region since Roman times and is an integral part of most Spanish meals. There are vineyards throughout the Costa Blanca with some areas better known for their wine production than others. The picturesque Jalon valley produces some superb wines and has many bodegas where you can sample their products. Monovar is a large wine producing area with a fantastic dessert wine, matured for two decades giving it a pretty potent kick. The town of Jumilla is another popular area for wine tasting along with some interesting wining & dining and is certainly well worth a visit as it boasts some lovely views and has an ancient castle.
Alicante is being increasingly recognized for its award-winning wines, and having some of the most renowned international restaurants. Weather conditions and the amalgamation of varieties, make the wines infuse all that Mediterranean flavour to your palate. There is the famous Monastrell red grape of Alicante producing the Muscat of the high sea; fresh sweet and intense. Then there are noble and vintage wines such as the Fondillon; an indisputable historic jewel which has been mentioned in the books of Shakespeare. The Costa Blanca has a long tradition in wine, alongside its customs, monuments, fiestas and craftsmanship, this region offers a special mix of charm and flavour. With this journey through the world of wine, you have the possibility of experiencing interesting gastronomic activities, guided visits to vineyards, wine-tasting and a whole world of unique visual and sensory impact.