Feel the influence of the sea in Altea today just as people have done for centuries. Wander around the old town’s ancient cobbled streets and admire the promenades, which are lined with palm trees. On a beautiful balmy summer evening, this is the perfect place to take a romantic stroll and look at the paintings which are on display by the artists who live here.
From the 1960s both musicians and artists gravitated to Altea, which means that today you can find numerous craft workshops and galleries along the narrow streets of the old quarter. Wander over to the Plaza de la Iglesia (Church Square), where you can enjoy panoramic views over the sea and the Esplanade.
This seaside town on the Costa Blanca in Spain, is overlooked by mountains and has plenty of lovely beaches and little coves to explore. Tourism kicked off here back in the 1950s, helped by the area’s microclimate, labyrinthine streets and beaches.
In a sense, however, Altea has two faces – one is its village aspect which has managed to preserve its former fishing village feel, and the other is the construction boom that you really can’t miss predominantly in the hills surrounding the town.
Even if you are touring around, it’s a place with easy to visit as is located on the main road that runs between Denia and Alicante.
Altea old town is an artist’s heaven, romantically filled with small lanes, which feature lovely little shops and plenty of bars and eateries. Whether you want to buy handmade jewellery, pottery, painting or clothes, this is a great spot to come and meander away while you choose. After shopping, then stop off for a delicious sangria, or whatever tipple you fancy.
The name of the town may come from the Arabic – ‘Althaya’ – which means “Health to All” or the Greek ‘Althaia’, which translates into “I Cure”. Originally situated on the road that goes up to the Sierra de Bernia, lies Altea la Vella (old Altea), which is the origin of modern Altea, located around 3km from the town today. It’s was a small village surrounded by cypress trees, between the sea and the mountains. This village still remains and is part of the municipality today. In ancient times there was a city wall to protect the whitewashed houses. Today it has around 580 inhabitants.
During the final stages of Muslim rule, Altea belonged to the Taifa of Denia. James I of Aragon conquered it in 1244. Later during the War of Succession, an Anglo-Dutch squadron, led by the Valencian General, Juan Bautista Basset, arrived in the Bay of Altea in 1705, who were on the side of the Archduke Carlos of Austria.
During the 18th century Altea enjoyed an agricultural, commercial, fishing and demographic boom, which brought the population up to around 5000. It was during the 19th century that life started to move towards the city near to the sea.
Things To Do
Altea old town
Even though tourism and development have hit the area, the old town certainly hasn’t lost its Spanish charm as yet. The blue and white domed church sits proudly overlooking the beach and the town, and the views from the old town over the area are superb. A real must!
In 2013 the Bastien and Renaissance area was recognised as a Cultural Heritage Site. The original 1617 structure has been preserved, with gates which grant access to its fortress. Additionally other fine buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries have also been preserved.
The old town is certainly a shopper’s paradise, as well as being idyllic for letting time pass by people watching, or choosing from a good variety of bars and restaurants to enjoy good food and drink, in good company. There is plenty of cute little restaurants, many of which open only at dinner time, particularly on Calle Major (Main Street).
In July and August, there are free guided tours on a Thursday evening around the old town, that start at 19.30 and last for about one hour. The route is of around medium difficulty, but it is really important to book in advance because the group Limited is 20 people. Be sure to reserve with the local tourist office.
Although it’s certainly no longer a tiny little fishing village, Altea is still more traditional and smaller than some of the other resorts you’ll find on the Costa Blanca. Visitors gravitate towards it mainly because of the lovely old town, quieter beaches and the port area.
It has 6 km of coast, which is not as sandy as a number of the other locations on the Costa Blanca. Basically you need to be aware before you go there that the beaches are pebbly. The two main beaches which are most accessible from the town are Playa de Cap Blanch and Playa de la Roda. The latter can be found below the old quarter, and the former in the south of the town.
Wandering along its coast, you’ll discover mainly small beaches, which tend to be a combination of pebbles and sand. High cliffs split the coastline into coves, and near the harbour is the beach of Pueblo Macarat. Also about 4km from Altea is Playa del Albir.
North of Altea, you’ll find Playa de Cap Negret along with Cala de Soio, a small cove, which is renowned for it special black pebbles.
Torre de la Galera
Found at the Galera Baixa Urbanisation, this is a 16th century tower, which was part of a network of watchtowers on around the coast. Today it is private owned, but you can see that it has been restored, adding in some modern elements.
Torre de Bellaguarda
A 17th century towers, that also formed part of the watchtower network, this has also been restored, and can be seen at the Plaza de la Cantería.
Fort de Bernia
Constructed specifically to keep an eye on the Moors, in 1562, the fort was later dismantled in 1612. You can see its remains in the Sierra de Bernia.
The Blue Domed Parish Church Altea – Parroquia Nuestra Senora del Consuelo
The main symbol of the old town is the striking blue domed parish church, which can be reached by walking up the lovely narrow cobbled streets, although it is a little bit of a steep climb. However is well worth it as you going to pass whitewashed houses, which are often embraced by beautiful flowers such as bougainvillea.
If you get the chance to be there during January, around the 17th is when the Festival or Fiesta of St Anthony happens. What a splash to see the blessing of the animals, which was traditionally done in order to keep them healthy and in good condition for the next working year ahead. However these days the animals normally include farm animals such as goats and sheep, horses but also household pets.
In spring another Fiesta that happens in the church square, is when a pig is donated by local butchers and the meat is cooked for everyone in the church square.
Altea Russian Orthodox Church – Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa
Situated just off the main road which runs between Calpe and Altea, this Russian Orthodox Church is truly spectacular. The church has such an impressive interior, it has really beautiful and well worth the visit. If you’re very lucky when visiting there may be priests there singing in harmony, but this is a question of luck. You really must visit this church if you are travelling in the Altea Hills. It is simply spectacular.
Photo by Jean van der Sluljs
Church Monastery of the Barefoot Carmelites – Iglesia Monasterio Carmelitas Descalzas
The schedule for Eucharist at the monastery can be found here.
Museum Navarro Ramon
In the Albergue’s House of Culture, there’s a permanent exhibition of the Painter Navarro Ramón, as well as two other rooms which are used for temporary exhibitions.
Ethnic Music Museum
Here there’s a collection of around 2000 different music instruments.
Casal Festero Museum
Check out the finery of the Moors and Christians, from the fiestas from the past few decades.
Learn about the history and link that Altea has with the sea.
Fuentes de Algar
Also in the direction of Benidorm, around 10 km away, you’ll see a signpost that says Callosa. Follow this been going around 3 km out of the town you’ll find Fuentes de Algar. This is a beautiful spot which combines greenery, waterfalls and mountains together. On a sunny day you can take a dip in the shallow waters, and there is plenty of typical restaurant around to choose from as well.
A 20 minutes drive heading towards Benidorm will take you to the Terra Mítica themepark. All the Mediterranean countries are represented here and its a great day out for the family, with lots of attractions on offer.
Where to Sleep
Where to Eat
Awaken your five senses with the local Altea gastronomy, which blends together fresh produce from the land and the sea. Dive into this wonderful Mediterranean diet, where the word diet is no longer a nasty one, but instead describes an enjoyable, tasty, healthy lifestyle. Yes there is plenty of olive oil and wine, along with fresh fish and a range of seasonal agricultural produce.
In Altea, as in many other towns here, the connection between source and plate has not been lost. Gastronomy is part of the traditions and culture, and an integral part of life. The food here has been influenced by various cultures that have passed through over the centuries, such as the Romans and Phoenicians, who passed on the tradition of preservation using salt, and the use of anchovies and dried tuna.
Believe it or not there’s also a typical way of preparing lamb that originated in Argentina, which is called – Lamb on the Cross. The Muslims left behind the tradition of preparing sweets in pastry with fillings of honey and almonds, though this was later replaced by the marvel of the New World – the sweet potato.
The coke oven is another important element, where rolled dough is filled with various meats, or sardines or anchovies, or maybe stuffed with vegetables such as onions, spinach or chard. Cornmeal is used traditionally in the local cuisine, which would have originated from medieval cakes in America.
Cooking in a copper pot is another local cuisine tradition. Dishes created this way include Puxero, and Cruet de Peix, mentioned below.
Rice features massively and can be cooked in thousands of different ways, with paella being one of the most common, which can be cooked according to a few different recipes, with the most important perhaps being paella with anchovies. Other well known local dishes are empedrat and arroz a la banda. Sea urchins are also popular here, as are snails with onions and cruet de peix. Baked specialities include coca farcida and coca a la lluma.
Like other markets throughout Spain, the local market in Altea is a vibrant splash of colour, with plenty of fruit and veg available at reasonable prices. On Tuesdays, there’s both the farm produce market, as well as the tourist market, where who can find all sorts really – from local goods, to clothes and even pearls from Majorca.
Whether it’s daytime or evening time, a stroll around the Marina is a pleasure. Enjoy seeing the beautiful yachts, against the backdrop of the changing light of the sky as it reflects upon the water. It’s a peaceful, clean Marina with plenty on offer, in fact there’s quite an international community there. You’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants, and also a good ice cream parlour.