Huerto del Cura - ElcheSt Mary's Basilica ElcheCactus Garden - Huerto del Cura Elche

Elche - Costa Blanca - Spain

Elche Costa Blanca: One of the biggest cities in the Comunidad de Valencia (in fact the 3rd most populous), only surpassed by Valencia itself and Alicante city, Elche (which is known as “The City of Palms”) is situated about twenty three kilometres inland from the coastline of the Costa Blanca. It has a resident population of approximately 220,000, and is mostly well known for its palm tree forest and its shoes, which are exported all over the world, it has over one thousand shoe factories and workshops.

The history of Elche stretches back into the mists of time, and was most likely originally an Iberian settlement, though it was later settled by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors. The site of the earlier settlement is some distance from the present city, it was what the Romans called Ilici.

Part of the Palm Forest Viewed From St Mary's BasilicaThe Arab occupiers of the 8th to 13th centuries moved Elche to its present position for reasons known only to themselves. The palm forest is though to have been started by the Phoenicians, and further expanded by the Moors, it now contains over 200,000 trees, many of considerable age. The Palm Forest is now a U.N.E.S.C.O World Heritage Site.

The Dama de Elche (Lady of Elche) bust, which was unearthed in the area in 1897, dates from the times of the Iberians, in the early days of the settlement in the fourth century BC, the bust is now exhibited at Madrid’s National Archaeological Museum.

The Moorish invaders were finally expelled from Elche in 1265 by the hero of the reconquest, Jaime 1, with the Christians subsequently occupying the Vila Murada (fortified area of the city), and any Moors choosing to remain, expelled to the area known as Ravel.

Saint Mary's Basilica ElcheIn these early times Elche most survived through agriculture, and the Moors who were great experts in irrigation, set systems in place that have lasted to the present day. During the 19th century, shoemaking began in the city, and this soon became the predominant industry, tourism of course came much later.

A great event in the city is the annual drama The Mystery of Elche (Misteri D’Elx), which dates from medieval times and is based on the life of the Virgin Mary, it takes place during August, and is a World Heritage Event.

Running through the city, and virtually dividing it in two, is the River Vinalopo (actually just a small stream), many of the main historical attractions of the city can be found near to the river banks, such as the Basilica of Santa Maria church, the Moorish Baths, and the Altamira Palace.

One place that you should be sure to visit, is the Priest’s Garden (Huerto del Cura), where many varieties of palm tree are grown in pretty surroundings, with the big attraction the famous Imperial Palm, which has seven stems (supported by a cage to stop it from falling). This shady garden is an ideal place to cool down, if you have been wandering around the city in the heat of the day. Pop into the shop and buy yourself a small palm tree to take home with you.

One the road to Santa Pola, you can visit the Rio Safari Park, here you can see a variety of animals, take a “train ride” amongst the animals and watch various animal shows (elephant, sea lions and parrots), for an additional fee, you can swim with the sea lions.

Elche can be reached via the A-7 motorway, the CV-865 from Santa Pola, the N-340, and the CV-84 from Aspe, it is just 20 minutes drive from Alicante airport.

Elche Links: Elche Map - Elche Weather - Saint Mary's Basilica Elche - Rio Safari Pictures

Nearby Places: Elda - Novelda - Crevillente - Monforte del Cid - Biar - Castalla - Monovar - Sax - Jijona - Villena - Los Arenales - Hondon de los Frailes

Attractions: Rio Safari Elche - Fortuna Spas - Santa Barbara Castle

Golf Courses: La Finca Golf - La Marquesa Golf - Spain Golf

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