Spain’s third-largest city with a population of approximately
800,000, Valencia is famous for its orange groves,
its fruit and vegetable market which is one of
the largest in Europe along with its lively nightlife. It is also
a popular tourist resort with beaches a short bus ride from the
The newest tourist attraction is Santiago Calatrava’s
City of Arts and Science Park. The Hemispheric, an amazing
glass structure, houses a planetarium, IMAX dome and laserium. The
Palace of Arts boasts the largest oceanarium in Europe. Valencia’s
Cathedral claims possession of the Holy Grail. The Fallas
(March 15th-19th) is a major festival culminating in the burning
of papier-mâché effigies satirising famous Spanish
figures and a magnificent fireworks display.
and the Costa Blanca
The Costa Calida in the province of Murcia
lies to the south of Alicante and is thinly populated except in
the areas around the river valleys. Summer temperatures here can
be unbearably hot in the resorts and especially inland.
Murcia, the town, has a cathedral, university and
small old quarter. The salt water lagoon at Mar Menor
is good for watersports, while nearby, La Manga
offers tennis, golf and so on. Other resorts include Mazarrón,
La Unión and Aguilas.
The best time to visit Cartagena, founded, as its
name implies, by the Carthaginians in the third century BC, is during
Holy Week. The town museum has a good collection of Roman and pre-Roman
artefacts. Space on the beaches around Torrevieja
is at a premium during the summer.
Further north along the coast is Alicante, the most important town
on the Costa Blanca. The town is dominated by the
vast Moorish castle of Santa Barbara, which offers
superb views of the city.
Excursions from Alicante include a run inland to Guadalest,
a village perched like an eagle’s eyrie high in the mountains
and accessible in the last stages only by donkey or on foot. Also
of great interest are several historical sites, including the castles
at Elda and Villena, and Elche,
famous for its forest of a million palm trees, Botanical
Gardens and Basilica, where a medieval
Mystery play is performed to celebrate the feast of the Assumption,
The Costa Blanca has expanded rapidly in recent
years and most of the coastal towns between the Peñón
de Ifach and Alicante are primarily tourist
resorts. Temperatures are higher than on the Costa Brava
and the beaches tend to be more extensive. Benidorm
is the largest and most intensively developed resort. The new Terramitica
theme park is proving popular with visitors. One of many
places of interest in the area is the Peñón
de Ifach (Ifach Rock), 5km (3 miles) beyond the walled
town of Calpe.
Costa del Azahar
This coastal region extends from Vinaròs
and the Gulf of Valencia to beyond Denia.
The region has expansive beaches around Benicàssim,
but its most outstanding feature is, the medieval fortress town
of Peñiscola, a dramatic sight when viewed
from a distance. Other places of interest are the ruined castle
of Chisvert, inland from Peñiscola,
the 16th-century Torre del Rey at Oropesa,
and the Carmelite monastery at the Desierto
de las Palmas.
North of Valencia is the attractive provincial capital of Castellón,
Castellón de la Plana. This small town is situated on a fertile
plain, and is the centre of a thriving trade in citrus fruits.