The Costa Blanca is well known for its low cost holiday resorts such as Benidorm, Alicante, and Calpe. Venture in from the coast for 20 kms and you will find a different world, little changed for centuries on the face of things. It’s a great area for a walking holiday – but what will you find?
The highest summits in Valencia province dominate the skyline, the Sierra Aitana, Sierra Bernia and the iconic peak of the Puig Campana are the best known summits in the area. Rising to over 5,000 feet, these impressive summits offer a huge variety of walking and hiking opportunities. There are also many other less frequented area such as the the Sierra Aixorta and Serrella where you have a good chance of seeing Golden Eagles, and the impressive Arrui (the ancestor of the sheep) . These mountains have never been glaciated, but millions of years of erosion by sun, wind, soil and frost have formed incredible cliffs of up to 2,000 feet. These cliffs are a meca for rock climbers and if you keep your eyes peeled you may see tiny figures ascending some of these impressive routes.
The tiny villages that dot valleys such as the Val de Guadalest have seem dramatic changes over the last 100 years. Many of the forested slopes on the sides of the valleys hide abandoned terraces, now reclaimed by pine trees. In the early part of the 20th Century the population levels were far higher than at present, the hillsides would have been bare, overgrazed by livestock, and the terraces would have been sowed with wheat and other grains. A gradual change in climate to drier winters meant that people began to starve. So a mass migration to the cities started. You can explore many abandoned settlements, old mills, irrigation systems, and other evidence of the once thriving farming industry. The mule trails and tracks remain to offer great paths through the mountains and canyons.
Further Back in Time
The villages were founded by the Moors – Arabs who peacefully invaded and bought technology and culture that benefited the local population. Many of the place names reflect the Arab language. Beni means “son of” and so Beniarda, Benimantell, beniaia all show there Arab roots. The Moors built many castles on lofty ridges and pinnacles, the ruins of which are impressive monuments to their skill as builders. The Moors were expelled in the 17th Century, however much of their culture influences life today. At about this time the ice trade started to develop, Huge ice wells were carved into the mountainsides, and featured impressive domed roofs. Over the winters (it was much wetter and colder at that time) snow was piled into these huge pits and eventually it formed ice which was carved into blocks and transported down into the villages and even to to coast and onto ships to end up in North Africa! With the invention of modern refrigeration this industry died, but the Nevara or ice holes still remain, and are well worth searching out.
Wildlife & Nature
The Mediterranean climate and low population levels mean the area is a haven for wildlife, recently returning Golden Eagles, Bonellis Eages, and vultures are impressive sights. But you may also see the wild mouflon, arrui and cabra (goats), or the secretive wild boar that operate at dusk. You may also see the beautiful bee eaters, rollers and Hoopoes. Spring flowers and blossom are a marvel, you will not forget the heady scent of almond and orange blossom, or the pungent aromas of wild herbs such as rosemary, oregano and thyme.
So how can you experience all this? There are several good guided walking holidays which feature free walking guides and details on guided holidays. You can fly very cheaply to Alicante with numerous budget airlines and within a few hours of leaving the UK you will be in another world!