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L’ALFÀS DEL PÍ
L’Alfàs del Pí must have some secret. It cannot be by chance that thousands of Europeans and people from elsewhere in the world have chosen to live here, such that there are now over 90 different nationalities residing in the municipality.
Of a total of 21.000 inhabitants, 12.500 come from abroad, making for a local culture that is both dynamic and diverse, and as such, one of the area’s greatest treasures. Needless to say, L’Alfàs is one of Spain’s most international towns.
In L’Alfàs can be found each and every one of those elements that make for excellence in touristic terms: an extraordinary climate, quality of service, fine and varied gastronomy, peace and quiet and an excellent relationship with the environment.
Here one can switch easily from sea to country to mountain on a daily basis. Enjoying the absence of noise, taking a stroll as far as the lighthouse at Punta Bombarda, swimming or practising one of a variety of water-sports at Albir beach, or taking in the wealth of cultural events, these are all part of the secret L’Alfàs is prepared to share.
The very special climatic conditions that the Costa Blanca enjoys have rightly led to its winter being considered as one of the mildest in Europe. Here, there are no sudden changes in the weather, temperatures are generally mild and invigorating, a relative humidity of 65% is beneficial for the health: all these things are unique environmental factors that quickly lead to the establishing of permanent residence.
Add to all of this the predominance in L’Alfàs del Pí of an architectural style based on width rather than height, to be found in small urbanizations surrounded by green areas, and the fruit of a constant search for a balance between the environment and residential requirements. Sustainable and managed growth is a constant civic preoccupation in L’Alfàs del Pí.
A town is for everybody who lives in it. This idea has led L’Alfàs to carry out an international campaign for the elimination of architectural impediments and to make “tourism without barriers” a reality.
THE PINE TREE AS THE TOWN’S SYMBOL
In Arabic, the name L’Alfàs means fertile land, and the town has historical links to the Barony of Polop. The town centre was originally set some distance inland to avoid attacks by Barbary coast pirates. Its population grew significantly in the XVIII century, and in 1786, the local people planted a large pine tree in the main square to symbolize a claim for independence from Polop. This was finally gained in 1836 when the town was declared an independent municipality with its own identity and administration.
Its 19 square kilometres of territory were the object of careful but laborious cultivation, such that the local countryside is covered with a variety of crops planted on a series of terraces.
Vines, olives, oranges, lemons, almonds, figs and locust beans have for centuries been the way of life of all those who worked the land, with everything laid out as in a picture of many colours and alternating with the dark green of the pine trees that provided both food from hunting and firewood to warm their homes.
Ochre extracted from the mines on the Sierra Helada was also a source of income for many of L’Alfàs inhabitants.
Falling on harder times at the beginning of the last century due to the arrival of the philoxera and the subsequent destruction of the vines, the spirit of initiative in the local character led many Alfasinos to emigrate to America and North Africa. The tendency was fortunately, however, reversed as from the 1960’s when L’Alfàs del Pí started to exert a magnetic effect on the tourist, attracting visitors from far-flung places who soon decided to make the place their permanent home.
A BEACH BATHED IN LIGHT
L’Alfàs seafront consists of the area known as the Rincon de L’Albir and its beach, just two kilometres down from the town itself.
This is a particularly privileged spot set at the foot of the Sierra Gelada, which looks out over the whole of the bay of Altea, and has furthermore the impressive Penyal d’Ifach in the background. Here one can enjoy the play of Mediterranean light, the colours of which change with the passing of the hours like the hues produced on an artist’s palette.
Albir beach is moreover a place blessed with a whole range of possibilities for the practising of water sports, whether it be sailing, «parasoil, kayak, banana, donut, wake board», water-skiing, wind-surfing or scuba-diving in the impressive waters of the Sierra Helada.
WALKS OVERLOOKING THE SEA
Mountain-walking, rides by bicycle or strolls along trails full of points and items of interest are also part of what L’Alfàs has to offer. The Sierra Helada massif, which stretches for some 6.5 kilometres next to the sea and has a maximum height of 438 metres, offers the mountain-walker both magnificent views and interesting flora and fauna. Such is the wealth of the bodiversity to be found on the Sierra that it has been declared an Area of Special Protection for the birds which nest on its cliff-faces.
Vantage points from which to view the bay, majestic cliffs, gulleys and caves, a lookout tower and the Albir lighthouse, still very much in service: these are some of the attractions, close to the sea and its breezes, that the visitor will enjoy according to preference and degree of difficulty.
The Fundación Frax is situated on the beach front of Playa Albir. This private, cultural foundation enhances both culture and tourism; projects promoted by the town hall (Ayuntamiento de L’Alfàs del Pi) and available to residents and neighbours alike. The building, in its first phase, occupies two floors with multi-purpose meeting rooms, commercial space, an auditorium with a capacity for almost 200 people and one of the most impressive exhibition halls within the Valencian Community. In the 1500 square metre space, the hall can display multiple exhibits of modern art.
Not only of cultural interest to the residents of the Marina Baixa but also for the tourist, neither one nor the other interfering with ones free time or holiday. Exhibitions, courses, cimema etc, alongside the film festival (Festival de Cine), compliment both sporting events and the programme of activities organised by the Casa de Cultura.
EVERY TYPE OF SPORT
The remarkable climate is the main reason why so many top-class athletes and sportsmen come to L’Alfàs during the winter to maintain form at the town’s Training Centre.
It is not unusual for there to be a difference of up to 30 degrees between the temperatures in an athlete’s home country and those in L’Alfàs del Pí. The excellent running track has the same surface as the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.
L’Alfàs also has a golf driving-range as well as one of the few cricket grounds that exist in Spain and the only one where international tournaments are held.
Lovers of cycling of every type also find in L’Alfàs the ideal spot to practise their sport, and many professional teams from different countries use the place as a training base during the winter months.
SERRA GELADA NATURE RESERVE AND COASTAL SETTING
The Serra Gelada is a coastal mountainous cliff formation looking out to the sea reaching an altitude of 438 metres. The name derives from the visual effect seen from the water where the moonlight reflecting on the the cliffs gives the impression of a block of ice.
The mountain range lies between L’Alfás del Pi and Benidorm and offers a most attractive landscape of great ecological value, giving refuge to both plant and animal species. The marine flora includes extensive fields of sea grass (Poseidonia) providing one of the most productive ecosystems of the Mediterranean.
The ancient remains of ochre mines (Cala la Mina) can be located close to the ruins of a seventeenth century watchtower, the actual site of the lighthouse (Faro de Albir).
On and around Serra Gelada walkers can take advantage of the numerous pathways and trails of varying difficulty whilst from the vantage points enjoy the magnificent views of the Bahia de Altea and the Peñon de Ifach.
ONE HUNDRED FUNTHINGS TO DO
L’Alfàs del Pí is well placed for getting out and about to the most interesting and enjoyable local beauty spots. Just 15 kilometres away is Callosa d’En Sarria with its waterfalls at El Algar, the perfect place to cool off on a hot day.
A little further on is the village of Guadalest, well worth a visit to stroll through its narrow streets which wind upwards towards the ancient fortress, passing several interesting little museums along the way. One can also visit the coastal town of Villajoyosa, 15 kilometres away, with its curiously painted houses and its old quarter, one of the best conserved in the Region of Valencia.
The municipality of L’Alfàs itself borders onto the lovely town of Altea, the charms and beautiful views of which are not lost on the tourist. And just five kilometres from L’Alfàs is the hustle and bustle of the ever-lively Benidorm, with a whole range of things to do to keep oneself amused.
The mediaeval show at the castle of the Count of L’Alfàs, Mundomar, Aqualandia, Benidorm Palace night-club and the Royal Palm Casino are all venues to be recommended.
Not to be forgotten of course, is the nearby theme park, Terra Mitica its magnificent facilities and the five areas dedicated to Mediterranean culture are a guarantee of entertainment for all ages.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO LIVE TOGETHER
Curiously enough, a town of 21.000 inhabitants such as is L’Alfàs del Pí is twinned with an European capital city, namely Oslo. With so many different nationalities living together, there is inevitably a most interesting process of integration and cultural enrichment that takes place: there are, for example, three schools in the town, the Spanish school, the British one and the Norwegian one.
Many and varied are the cultural activities that take place too: jazz concerts, chamber music, orchestras and bands, exhibitions and theatrical productions, all in the distinguished setting of L’Alfàs Culture House.
L’Alfàs is also well-known for its Film Festival, attended by Spain’s leading actors, adresses and directors, making the month of July in the town one full of Mediterranean glamour.
The sea-front avenue, known as the Promenade of the Stars has, in fact, the names of the leading stars who have been acclaimed in past festivals engraved in marble.
L’Alfàs also celebrates other festivities according to the season. In the month of August, El Albir, the beach area, is in “fiestas”, whilst the main festivities in honour of the town’s, Christ “del Buen Acierto”, take place in the town centre between the 7th and 10th November. These include an entertaining parade of floats.
THE HEALTHY MEDITERRANEAN CUSINE
The local cuisine is decidely Mediterranean in flavour. Traditional dishes are based on fresh fish caught in local waters as well as a variety of shell-fish, and succulent rice dishes which combine fresh vegetables with fish and meat. Cocas, a type of pizza, can be sweet or salty; local stews, hot-pots, meat and corn rolled into balls, greens and fish and meat preserved in salt are all part of a long-standing gastronomic tradition that L’Alfàs offers the visitor.
Much of the fresh produce which makes up the basis of this local cuisine can be found in the open-air market which takes place each Friday in L’Alfàs.
L’Alfàs del Pí also boasts a wide selection of different types of restaurant which specialize in roasted meats, fish and international dishes. There are also Indonesian, Dutch, Scandinavian, Italian, Belgian etc, eating places.
L’Alfàs also has well-known wines, produced and bottled here but now enjoying an international reputation, those of Enrique Mendoza.