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Elche

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El Palmeral de Elche

Elche (Valencian: Elx) is a city in the province of Alicante, Spain. Elche is a historical city with a prominent industry, being footwear its main economic motor. From the visitor point of view the city is renowed for its palm trees: the Palmeral of Elche, with more than 200.000 palm trees, is one of the largest palm groves in the world, and is listed in the UNESCO Heritage Sites list.

Elche has another UNESCO Heritage, the Mistery Play of Elche (Valencian: Misteri d'Elx). It dates from the Middle Ages and its declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Besides being up to 20 Km far from the city center six beaches of the Costa Blanca belong to Elche, located north and south of the neighboring town of Santa Pola.

Understand[edit]

Elche's history dates back to the 5th century BC, as an iberian setlement. The iconic Lady of Elche (currently hosted in the National Archeological Museum in Madrid) has been dated between the 5th and 4th century BF. When the romans took the city they called it Ilici, being the demonym ilicitanos still in use to refer to the inhabitants of the city.

Under muslim rule new irrigation systems were introduced, allowing the creation of an oasis in Elche. In honour to the holy city of Medina, founded next to an oasis with palm trees, the city of Elche started its singular palm grove at the end of the 10th century AC. Even being a muslim symbol the oasis was respected when the city passed again to christian's hands due to its economic value.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Alicante's El Altet Airport (ALC) [1] is actually located within Elche's municipality, but 15 Km of the city center. Buses 1A and 1B link the airport with the city center. Tickets are bought from the bus driver (1.50 € from the Airport to the city). Be careful if departing early or arriving late as the service starts at 6:35 and finishes at 21:35.

By train[edit]

Elche is a common day trip from Alicante and other cities in the surroundings. Currently Elche has two train stations: Elche-Parque (Valencian: Elx-Parc) and Elche-Carrús (Elx-Carrús). Elche-Carrús would be the best option for arriving, its in the center and close to the main attractions. A new station is expected to start operating in 2015, serving the high speed trains.

Elche-Parque is a stop in the Talgo long-distance train from Murcia to Catalonia, and some medium distance (Valencia, Zaragoza). It's also included in the Alicante - Murcia short distance train network. [2]. Elche-Carrús only receives medium and short distance trains.

Here is a list of orientative prices from the RENFE web site:

Alicante - Elche (short distance, 3 zones): 2.65 € single ticket
Murcia - Elche (short distance, 4 zones): 3.65 € single ticket
Valencia - Elche (Talgo): 17.30 € one way
Barcelona - Elche (Talgo): 21.20 € one way

By bus[edit]

Elche's bus station is located in Avenida del Ferrocarril 4. It has conections to several places in the region like Torrevieja, Guardamar del Segura or Santa Pola.

Elche is a stop in Alsa's [3] Alicante - Murcia and Cartagena - Valencia routes; Lycar [4] Benidorm - Murcia - Jaen route, and Costa Azul [5] Alicante - Cartagena route.

By car[edit]

The Autovia del Mediterraneo (A-7) goes all the way throught the mediterranean coast. National road N-330 links Alicante with the center of Spain, N-340 connects Elche with Alicante, Orihuela and further to Murcia; and N-332 connects Elche's coast with other places on the coastline.

Get around[edit]

By bus[edit]

Elche is a compact city but the beaches are between 16 - 20 Km from the city itself. There are buses connecting them to the city, but they may not go so often.

North beaches[edit]

Buses 1B (departing from Carrús) and 2 (from the bus station) go to Arenales del Sol, El Altet and Carabassi beaches during the whole year.

South beaches[edit]

A direct bus runs on Sundays and holidays to La Marina, El Pinet and Pesqueres.

By bike[edit]

BiciElx [6] offers a service of renting bikes along the city. It's possible to make the registration online and then take a bike from one of the 34 bike stations. The service is available daily from 06:00 to 00:00.

By foot[edit]

Elche is perfectly walkable. A Palm Grove Walk is clearly marked, passing throught the most significant spots.

See[edit][add listing]

Panoramic view of Elche, showing the palm trees within the city.

The tourist information office is located at Plaza Parque 3. The web-page [7] includes plenty of information in various languages. A Museum Pass can be purched at the tourist information for 8 €. The pass grants free entrance to the museums.

El Palmeral de Elche[edit]

The Palm Grove is formed from more than 200.000 of date palms. It was laid out by the muslims who erected the city of Elche in its current location. The Palmeral is in fact an oasis made with the new irrigation and agricultural production technics brought from North Africa. The Palmeral is included in the UNESCO Heritage Sites list as an example of a typical North African landscape and culture transfered to another continent, being the irrigation system, still functioning, of remarkable interest.

El Palmeral it's not a natural park, but part of the urban landscape of the city. Having an agricultural purpose in origin the palm trees were planted to delimite different orchards (Spanish: huertos, Valencian: horts). Nowadays the palm trees have spread and the huertos are (mostly) public parks where one can relax walking surrounded by palm trees and hearing the water coming throught the irrigation. Several huertos can be visited but the most important ones are included in the 2.5 Km-long Palm Grove Walk (Ruta del Palmeral) route.

  • Huerto de San Plácido: The starting and ending point of the walking route. From tuesday to saturday it's possible to see the work of a palmerero preparing the white palm leaves, as Elche is the main and only exporter of them for the Palm Sunday in the whole world. The huerto also hosts a traditional house from the 19th century. Inside is the Museo del Palmeral (Palm Grove Museum), a museum telling the history of the Palm Grove. Enrance 1 €, closed on Mondays.
  • Huerto del Cura: The most popular garden in the Palm Grove. It contains around 1000 palm trees, some of them around 300 years old. The 168 years old Palmera Imperial (Imperial Palm Tree) is the best known of them, with its 8 (now 7) branches coming from a single trunk. It's name comes from the empress of Austria Sissi, who in her visit to Elche in 1894 claimed that the palm tree was "worth of a great empire".

Along with the palm trees another species have been introduced, coming from mediterranean orchards (like orange or fig trees) or subtropical landscapes. There is also a collection of cactus.

  • Parque Municipal: Includes several huertos next to each other, among other interesting places like the windmill.

Monuments[edit]

  • Basílica of Santa Maria: Located at Plaza de Santa Maria the Basilica is a good example of spanish barroco, but it also keeps traits from previous styles rococo or neoclassical. It is said that the Mystery Play of Elche was first performed here. The tower offers an splendid view of the Palm Grove. Entance to the Basilica: free. Tower: 2 €.
  • Town Hall: Plaza de Baix 1. The Town Hall dates from the 15th century. One of the clocks gives the hour by a puppet hitting a bell with a hummer.
  • Palace of Altamira: Calle Diagonal del Palau 7. Once a nobility house, also a prison and textile factory until the 20th century, now it's been restored. It contains the Museo Arqueológico y de Historia de Elche. Entrance: 3 €.
  • Calahorra Tower: Calle Uberna 14. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries the tower is a remain of the old city walls. Entrance: 2 €.

Do[edit][add listing]

The Mistery Play of Elche (Spanish: Misterio de Elche, Valencian: Misteri d'Elx) its declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. The play is performed every year on the 14th and 15th of August in the Basilica of Santa Maria since, at least, 500 years. Its included in Elche's festival season.

The coast of Elche is several kilometers (15-20 Km) away from the city center, but its possible to reach the beaches by bus. The north beaches (Arenales del Sol, El Altet and El Carabassi) are separated from the south ones (El Pinet, La Marina and Les Pesqueres-El Rebollo) by the town of Santa Pola.

Five of the six beaches have a blue flag recognition for quality. The north beaches are more suitable for water sports (especially windsurf), meanwhile the south ones are more wild and ussually relaxed. All of them have parking, restaurants in the surroundings and other services.

Rio-Safari Elche [8] is a safari-park located in the Huerto de los Leones (Lion's Orchards), 14 Km away from Elche center and 4 Km from Santa Pola (road CV 865).

Buy[edit][add listing]

For buying food the Central Market next to the Town Hall is the ideal place. Fresh dates are available on season (October to January) on several shops, mostly connected to the families who pick them up. Other than dates and products related Elche is popular for the manufacture of white palm leaves, mostly used for the Palm Sunday, but an interesting souvenir to take. Most workshops only open from October to the Holy Week, out of that season may be difficult to find.

The Ciudad de Elche shopping center is located within the city at avenida Alcalde Ramón Pastor 2. It contains an Hipercor supermarket. For other shopping centers a car would be useful. Ruta Outlet, located 7 Km away from the city in Parque Industrial, can be reached by buses 1A and 1B (direction airport).

Eat[edit][add listing]

Elche prepares several products made from dates and date's liqueur. Delicias de Elche is a tapa made up of fried dates, bacon and almonds, it can be ordered anywhere in the city. Aside from dates Elche produces a delicious variety of pomegranate known as moller. The tortada de Elche is an almond cake and pan de higo (also typical in Malaga and other places) is a dessert made from dried figs.

Arroz con costra (egg-baked rice) is the traditional dish of Elche. Rice with rabbit or snails is also common on Sundays along the locals. Lot of restaurants offer them in the city. The restaurants on the beach tend to be considerable more expensive.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Aside from liqueur of date, the paloma or nugolet is a traditional anisette dissolved in water with lemon and sugar, but nowadays is mostly relegated to old people.

The center of Elche has a very active nightlife, from pubs to disco-clubs. Calle Blas Valero and Avenida Juan Carlos I host a number of spots of all kind. Crossing the Parque Municipal there is an area with disco spots, like Rompeolas (Carrer Fatxo 3) or Blue Hand (Sant Agatàngel 3).

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Budget travellers may want to look Alicante for real hostels. Anyway Elche has got plenty of other sleep options, but prices can go high, especially on the beach. Check [9] for a good list from the city's tourism information.

Camping[edit]

  • La Marina Resort [10]: Located in La Marina, next to the beach. It offers camping spots and 5 stars bungalows. Camping starting at 35 €, bungalows at 120 €.

Guesthouses[edit]

  • Hostal Madruga: Located at Plaza Jardín de Aspe 5, 15 minutes by foot from Elche-Carrús train station. Single rooms starting from 32 €, double 39 €.

Hotels[edit]

  • Hotel Huerto del Cura [11]: Four star hotel considerated a landmark of Elche. Located at Porta de la Morera 14, next to Huerto del Cura. Being inside a palm tree garden the views are awesome. The rooms are small bungalows and the swimming pool is always clean. Starting at 72€ per room.

Get out[edit]

Virtually the whole province of Alicante is accesible from Elche, and several other places from Murcia and Valencia. Costa Azul buses covers the whole Costa Blanca from Alicante to Cartagena, stopping in Elche's bus station.

  • Alicante its the capital of the province. The view of Santa Barbara's Castle from the Postiguet beach is a must.
  • Murcia is 57 Km away, accesible by train and bus.
  • Santa Pola is located in the middle of Elche's coastline. Aside from beach opportunities Santa Pola has the Salt Pans Natural Park, where thousands of flamencos concentrate in summer.



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