At the first mention of the Alicante province, you would instantly think about the endless line of Costa Blanca sandy beaches and about 320 sunny days in a year. However, there is more to it then just sun, sea and beaches. A lot of tourists are much less aware of Alicante’s nature reserves and its fascinating history. Autumn and winter are the great time to get acquainted with them. So, if you come to Costa Blanca out of season do not worry – there is plenty for you to do and to see.
Alicante province is the second most mountainous region in Spain. More then 50 peaks raise above 1000 meters above the sea level. But Alicante is not only the mountains – you will find here sand dunes, marshy lagoons, meadows, emerald water reservoirs, secluded coves, caves, waterfalls and much more. Local authorities pay special attention to preserving the region’s nature, and run 10 state-protected parks and nature reserves. All of them have parking, marked treks for ramblers and bicycle routes, and information boards with detailed maps.
If you are a dedicated eco-tourist, welcome to Costa Blanca!
Font Roja is Valencia’s largest national park near the town of Alka, with a good few tracks of varying lengths and complexities. From its highest point, Mount Menehador, 1356 meters above the sea level, you will get a breathtaking view of the mountains of the entire region, whilst on a clear day you will be able to see as far as the Tabarсa Island. Along with Mediterranean pine, trees here include maples and ash trees. Therefore, the autumn golden and green pallet is one of the unusual features of the region.
Sierra de Mariola
Sierra de Mariola is the mountain chain between Alcoy, Albajda Valley and Komtat Valley. This is the end of the 600 kilometre long Cordillera – Betika mountain system, which starts in Cadis. Unique eco-system of Sierra de Mariolais nature reserve counts more then 1200 of plants, including those, which can be seen in this area only. Locals know very well the unparalleled medicinal and culinary qualities of regional flora – herbs are essential for the local cuisine, teas, and even liquor.
Cosy towns and villages Biar, Banjeres de Mariola, Bocairent, Alcoy, Agres – each with its own charm – nest on Sierra de Mariola slopes. Wherever you decide to have lunch or dinner, it will be a generous one, finishing with the local herbal liquor – “to improve digestion”.
The Sierra Helada
Sierra Helada stretches for 9 km along the sea and stands 438m above sea level at its highest point. There is no better place to enjoy stunning views of the sea, cliffs and coves, get to know the surrounding areas of Benidorm and to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the tourist crowds.
You don’t have to go far and you don’t need any special equipment – just good shoes and plenty of water – and you’ll be ready to negotiate the Sierra Helada mountain as little, or as much as you’d like – the park offers a lot of foot and bicycle tracks of various complexities. At the end of the Levante Beach you will find a large information stand displaying length, timing and points of attraction of different tracks.
Having come here once, you would definitely like to return again!
The Sierra Helada is a national park and mountain range, right at the side of Benidorm, the main tourist destination of Costa Blanca. The name translates as “Frozen Mountain” because when viewed from the sea at night it looks like a large iceberg.
Natural Park of Penyal d’Ifac
Cape Penyan d’IFach is situated in the center of the resort town Calpe. In 1987 this 332 meter cliff was designated a status of protected area. This place is considered to be one of the most beautiful on the whole of Costa Blanca.
Ascent to the top could be divided into two stages. The first part is easy, along the accessible path leading to the tunnel in the rock. To proceed from this point up you will have to be pretty fit. The path to the top gets much narrower and at places instead of walking, you will have to climb. Also, it often trails along the cliff edge. However, amazing views from the top will reward all your efforts.
But do not worry, if you are not up for climbing, you can stroll along the wide alley along the southern slope or take a boat trip around the cliff in the clear sea waters.
Montgo Natural Reserve owes its name to the Montgo mountain, which rises to 753 meters (2,470 ft.), and dominates the skyline for miles around. The high and proximity of the sea make its craggy cliffs home to some of the most unusual flora (700 varieties of plants) and fauna in Spain.
2150 hectares (5312 acres) of The Montgó Nature Reserve attract tourists by its cliffs, caves, natural harbours and breathtaking landscapes. Various footpaths and bicycle routes will take you to explore the Montgo Reserve’s natural beauty, wildlife and important archaeological finds, such as cave paintings, and the remains of Iberian settlements.
This nature park on Valencia-Alicante border is a very unusual place for Spain. The area with a heavy rainfall surrounded by mountains and criss-crossed by a network of rivers and irrigation canals and channels has turned into a wetland, which does not look like a conventional Spanish landscape of orange and olive trees, and vineyards. Instead, Pego Oliva is covered with a thicket of reeds, irises and rice fields.
The lagoon, which is partially or permanently flooded throughout the year, is a habitat for a great diversity of birds, fish and plants. You can see here endangered protected species, such as the whiskered tern, the Valencia tooth carp, river prawn, the marbled teal, squacco heron, the horned owl, the European pond turtle and many others.
From the web sight of Valencia Community Natural Parks you can download detailed descriptions and track maps of the Pego-Oliva Park.
If you are a birdwatcher, it is well worth visiting one of the nature parks in the south of the province in Marina Bakha region. You will also enjoy its resorts of Torrevieja, La Mata, La Marina and Santa Pola.
Salinas La Mata and Torrevieja
Salinas La Mata and Torrevieja are the two salt-water lakes, pink and green, situated between the two health resorts Torrevieja and La Mata. Originally a salt-producing village, Torrevieja today is a town to come to improve your health. Bathing in Torrevieja salty waters has an exceptional effect on your skin and can prevent lung diseases.
The colour of the Pink Lake depends upon the season and a number of other factors and is at its brightest on summer evenings.
The Green Lake is famous for its birds. The main attraction are the gracious flamingos, but altogether there are about 100 different types. During the breeding season up to 2,000 birds can be seen on the lake. Walking or cycling along the well-established paths of the Green Lake Park you will come across the special cabins for watching the birds. So coming here do not forget your binoculars. Along with Salina Santa Pola and Ondo these parks are the birdwatchers’ paradise.
Salinas Santa Pola
Salinas Santa Pola nature park is a group of salt-water lakes, which starts right from the see. Starting late 19th century this was the salt-production area. As the seawater circulates through a network of water basins, water evaporates and the concentration of salt increases from lake to lake. These lakes are pretty shallow with lots of fish and invertebrates, making this area a habitat for a wide variety of aquatic birds. During spring and autumn migration seasons thousands of them come here to nest or to take a break for rest.
Several footpaths, from 2 to 5 kilometres long, have been developed in the park specially for bird watches.
Next to the lagoon and the information centre you can also visit the museum of salt-making, where you can learn about the history and the process of salt production in the region. The museum is free.
Natural Park of El Fondo
The marshy wetlands of the El Fondo Natural reserve park together with the Santa Polo Salt lakes used to form one large lagoon on the south of the province. Now without any doubt the park’s best known feature is the bird life, and in 1994 the area was designated a status of a Special Protection Area under the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. There are 172 bird species, of which about 50 nest here. Among them are the marbled teal, one of Europe’s most threatened birds, and the white-headed duck, also at risk of extinction, as well as herons, several types of wading duck and flamingos.
Various walkways, bicycle paths and observatories allow you to get to know the different parts of the reserve and to observe birds.
We are always ready to help you discover Costa Blanca’s amazing natural treasures and have developed a number of tours around the nature reserves of the region.
Feel free to contact us!