Elche

Elx is located on the Costa Blanca and is surrounded by more than 300,000 palm trees; it is the third most populous city of the Valencian Region.

Elx encompasses the entire range of attractions that the province has to offer its visitors: pre-history, history, natural riches, beaches and the influence of its citizens on culture and traditions are all elements that are worthy of note in this modern, thriving and growing city. Its extensive municipal district is situated between the Sierras del Molar, TabaiA� and Castellar and the sea and comprises the fertile irrigated lands of Camp dA?Elx, dotted with rural hamlets such as Les Baies, Perleta, Els Bassars, Torrelano, LA?Altet and Matola… The VinalopA? River crosses Elx and a reservoir was built in 1632. Various native species are encountered within the district such as the Elche Poplar and within the municipality is an area declared to be of immense ecological value: the Laguna del Fondo.

The former location of Elx, LA?Alcudia, is located two kilometres away in the direction of Dolores. This site contains traces of prehistoric cultures (from Neolithic to Iberian) as well as vestiges from the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors. It is from this site that the bust known as the Dama dA?Elx, currently on display in the Archaeological Museum of Madrid, was discovered, and there is a museum recounting the history of this significant and ancient city at the actual discovery site. The city was abandoned in the 10th century and its inhabitants moved to the site of present day Elx. The Moors surrounded the new city of Elx with palm trees, which led some Islamic chroniclers in the 11th century to compare the city to Mecca, the Holy city of Islam. In 1265 the city finally passed to the Catalan/Aragon crown under Jaime II. The Christians occupied the Vila Murada whilst the Moors moved south to the el Raval quarter. The Vila Murada contains the finest elements of ElxA?s historical heritage – the Palace of Altamira, the Citadel of the SentorA�a, the Basilica of Santa MarA�a, the Moorish Calaforra fortress, the Ayuntamiento, the Moorish Baths and the Convent of the MercA�. The area is easy to visit, as all buildings are located within a short distance of each other. The Municipal Archaeological Museum is inside the Altamira Palace.

Its 300,000 palm trees contribute to ElxA?s uniqueness and have become a symbol of its identity. These palm trees make up the southernmost and most extensive palm tree grove in Europe and were declared to be a World Heritage Site by the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO during its meeting of the 30 November 2000. The Municipal Park is located near the Municipal Tourist Office and provides the space to relax, play or watch open-air performances. Another park to the southeast, the Huerto del Cura (PriestA?s Garden) is also worth mentioning. In this park you can see the seven-armed palm tree, much admired by the Empress Sissi, and a cactus garden. There are two watchtowers in the palm tree grove surrounding the city: to the north, the VaA?llos de Llanos and to the south, the Ressemblanc.

The 12 kilometre coastline of Elx is located 15 minutes from the city. The coast is divided into two areas of the beaches, those belonging to Altet area and those belonging to the Marina. In the Altet area the Els Arenals del Sol is one of the most frequented beaches and there is also a free beach known as El CarabassA�. The beaches in the Marina are friendly and welcoming, and are surrounded by dunes and pine trees – the El Pinet, La Marina, Les Pesqueres and El Rebollo beaches. Although Elx can be visited at any time throughout the year, the best period to visit the city is during the month of August when it celebrates fiestas in honour of the Virgin of the Assumption.

A medieval lyrical and religious mystery play, the Misteri, is performed at this time and is an event that has recently been declared a World Heritage Event (vocal and nonphysical) by UNESCO. There are two acts, the VesprA� and the Festa, and the play is performed on the 14th and 15th in the Basilica of Santa MarA�a (St Mary).

Gastronomy:
Arroz con costra (rice with an egg crust), Putxero amb terongetes (cooked with pelotas), Pipes i carasses (roast with cod and A�oras) and grey mullet from the Hondo Lake cooked with garlic and oil are typical dishes. The desserts on offer are tortA? dA?Elx, pamfigol and dates with which a liqueur is made. Cantueso, a liqueur that has been produced in this area since 1867, is also recommended.

Art:
Plaited white palm, espadrilles, embroidery and ceramics.

Monuments:
Alcudia Archaeological Museum, Basilica of St Mary, A?La CalaforraA?, the convent of the Merced, the ayuntamiento (town hall) and hermitage of San SebastiA?n (St Sebastian).

Cultural Attractions:
Archeological Museum of La Alcudia where the archeological remains of the old settlement of Elx are exhibited. The Museum of Contemporary Art in the Plaza de Raval has 150 works and was founded in 1980 by a group of local artists. The “Alejandro Ramos FolquA�s” Archeological Museum is in the East Wing of the Altamira Palace. The PuA�ol Agricultural Museum exhibits the farming culture of the Campo de Elx. Paleontological and Mineralogical Museum.

Festivals and Events:
From the 14-15 of August, fiestas are held in Elche for the Virgin of the Assumption with a performance of El Misteri (Mystery Play). Fiestas for the local inhabitants are held on the 13th of August with processions of Moors and Christians to commemorate the Reconquest. The A?Vinguda de la Mare de DA�u (the arrival of the Mother of God at the sea) festival is celebrated at sea on the 28th and 29th of December. Pilgrimages are organized by the sandal-makers and cobblers guilds in honour of St Anthony (17 January) and St Crispin (25 October). Palm Sunday, with its many handmade palms, is of great interest to visitors.

Situation:
The capital of the Baix VinalopA? is extremely easy to reach by road as the N-340 passes through the town and there are three exits on the Murcia motorway. It is also located 9 km from Altet Airport and has a train station. 23 km from Alicante and 65 km from Benidorm.

Tour of the town:
Largest palm grove in Europe, Camp dA?Elx, delta of the VinalopA? River, dunes, pine tree woods and beaches. A good excursion leads to the Iberian settlement of LA?Alcudia – located 2 Km on the road to Dolores, which includes an Archaeological Museum explaining ElxA?s Iberian past.

Sports:
Scuba diving, windsurfing, squash, ballooning and horse riding are some of the activities available in Elche. Elche has a 150,000-metre Sports City, located in Altabix.

Information source: costablanca.org

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