Saturday, August 6, 2011

Elche, Alicante, Comunidad Valenciana

Elche is a city like no other in Spain. It’s a city known for its footwear industry (with apparently more than a thousand factories) and something even more incredible.
Palm Groves!

An extraordinary green oasis in the heart of the city - in Spain, in Europe!

Located in the autonomous community of Valencia, Elche is about 4.5hrs drive from Madrid. The reason Elche made it into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site is obvious - the city itself is a sprawling orchard of thousands of 'tropical' palm trees! Also, the palms are known to exist since some 2,500 years ago, with irrigation techniques passed down from the time of Muslim influence in Spain. What's remarkable is that even with modernisation and urban expansion, the city of Elche has managed to preserve its heritage within its current landscape in a seemingly harmonious way.

Apart from the Palmeral de Elche, the historical old town of Elche contains a number of monuments that are well worth visiting.

Above: The Calaforra Tower, one of the last remains of the ancient city walls.

Above: One of the iconic landmarks of Elche is the Basilica of St. Mary with a bell tower and a gleaming blue dome. On the right is a replica sculpture of the Dama de Elche (Lady of Elche) that was discovered near the area in 1897. The original Princess Leia perhaps?

Above: The Altamira Palace and fortress built back in the 12th century. Today, it is part of Elche's Archaeology & History Museum. A fantastic view over the city can be enjoyed from the top of its walls and tower.

Above & Below:
The Huerta del Cura Palm Garden - one of Elche's most popular attractions - features an impressive collection of different palms from all over the world, as well as some giant cacti. The garden’s ‘celebrity status’ plant however, is the Imperial Palm. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it was growing for several years as a single trunk plant, and only when it reached a height of 2 meters that it split into 7 arms, resembling a huge candelabra! This tree is more than 165 years old today.

Above: On the left is the building of the Town Hall. Next to the Town Hall stands the Calendura 'clock' Tower. Looking closely at the top of the tower you'll notice an automaton (named Miquel Calendura) responsible for chiming the hours.

Besides wanting to check out the amazing palm plantations in Elche, the other reason that I came here was for the beach. It's almost a summer tradition that I have to follow, to squeeze in a trip to the beach - ANY beach - because as you know, one does not exist in Madrid.

The nearest beaches to Madrid are the ones at Valencia along Costa Blanca. Although Elche is an inland city, it’s close enough to a handful of decent beaches like Arenals del Sol, El Carabassi, and also a coastal town called Santa Pola.

Well done, Elche. You've successfully got me (make) believing I’m far, far away in some tropical city, even if it’s just for a while...

1 comment:

  1. You certainly chose the wrong weekend to come to Elche! - It was 39.5 Degrees celcius here on Sunday!


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