One of the main tourist destinations on Spain’s Costa Blanca, Calpe has been home to many ancient civilisations, which means it has a fascinating history and some remnants of its past, such as its Roman Baths that you can see today. Embraced by a wonderful landscape, where vineyards and mountains are a feature, Calpe is probably best known for its good value fish restaurants and lovely sandy beaches.
Calm waters lap up against a shore that continues on for around 11 km, in a spot where somehow or other modern tourism blends with natural beauty, culture and gastronomy. Expect this variety, which includes on one hand some high-rise buildings close to the beach, but on the other hand the wonderful symbolic rock, Penon Ifach, which you’ve most likely seen already in photos.
In the same way you’ll find that very deep-rooted traditions seem to co-exist harmoniously enough with the tourist industry. And even though it is one of the Costa Blanca’s busier spots, it seems to have mainly retained an attitude of warm hospitality.
Breathe in the pure sea air, while taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding nature. Discover interesting flora and fauna on some of the routes, like the Sierra de Oltà, Las Salinas Natural Park, Vormar and of course Peñón de Ifach.
If you like a buzzing tourist destination, with good weather, local seafood cuisine, a historic old quarter, along with outdoor activities, fiestas and nightlife – then you’re heading to the right place.
Ample avenues and modern buildings blend alongside the ancient fishing village, where there’s plenty of different types of entertainment for visitors and locals alike. There’s plenty of fiestas to try to coincide your trip with, and an abundance of different types of restaurants, from the fabulous fish choices in the port, to luxury gourmet dining in a selection of International restaurants. Don’t worry there’s still plenty of places to get tapas, with a beer or a glass of vino, whatever you fancy.
For those who like busy tourist destinations, this seaside city does combine type of romantic village feel with plenty of activity, and of course sun, sand and sea.
It has approximately 13,000 inhabitants, and its main economic activities are tourism and fishing. It seems it’s magical massive rock continues to inspire people from all sorts of different places to come and enjoy this wonderful view of the Costa Blanca bays.
A large street market and excellent shopping facilities add to the attractions on offer for visitors. As do activities such as scuba diving and sailing, climbing and hiking, along with tennis and bowls. For the golfers, it’s only a relatively short drive to reach golf courses suitable for all abilities.
Calpe is located 76 km (47 miles) away from Alicante airport and 129 km (80 miles) from Valencia airport. By car you can reach it on the AP-7 highway (note that always in Spain, if there is a P in the name of the motorway this means you have to pay) – or the N-332 national road, which is fine also, and you don’t need to pay tolls.
Many Iberian, Roman and Arab archaeological sites exist in the town because of its strategic coastal location.
As it offered a perfect privileged surveillance point, Calpe has had an interesting history and has been occupied by a range of different cultures, such as the Romans, Iberians and Phoenicians. Just like visitors such as yourself today, they were also attracted because of the wonderful Ifach Rock. In fact the town that you will see today gradually grew up around the rock.
Its old quarter is protected by the old walls, which were constructed during the 15th century as a defensive method against Pirates. Around El Arrabal, the Moorish quarter, you’ll notice that some of this area is quite well preserved.
Other historical highlights include the Roman Baths – Baños de la Reina, which translates into the Queens Baths, and the 15th century parish church, which today is the only remaining example of a Gothic Mudejar church in the Valencia region. Additionally there are a couple of 17th century hermitages, San Salvador and La Cometa.
Old typical farms can also be seen in the surrounding hillsides, which are surrounded by vineyards, and are wonderful examples of local rural architecture
Things To Do
Calpe Medieval Town of Pobla d’Ifach
Excavations were carried out for 10 years, since 2005, to learn more about the Medieval Town of Polba d’Ilfach. The archaeologist heading up the team, Jose Luis Menendez, said that his team were frequently surprised by their finds.
The medieval town was constructed in order to be a base, for the Admiral to the Crown of Aragon – Roger de Lluria, during King James II’s reign. Work finished in 1325.
The excavations shed light on the lifestyle and diet of the people who lived there. To date around 90 burial sites have been discovered, which include two children’s graves.
Calpe Roman Baths – Baños de la Reina
In a privileged coastal position, under the shelter of the Ifach Rock, you can see the Roman site of the Baños de la Reina (Baths of the Queen). It consists of three parts, which are Roman Vicus – a kind of seaside resort, noted for its fine architecture and mosaics. The second part was the Muntanyeta Thermal area, and the third was the Queen’s Baths.
It’s most likely that the Casanova property was built in the late 17th or early 18th century. A fortified country-house, it stands out as a landmark and is of both historical and architectural interest. Inside you can see that it incorporates both living and working areas, some examples being olive mills, wine presses, stables and animal pens.
Swim in the unmistakably turquoise waters, which are recognised because of their purity and choose from almost endless coves and beaches along the coastline which runs for 13 km. In total there is a choice of 14 beaches and coves.
On either side of the majestic rock, there are two stunning beaches, both which have lovely long promenading and a super selection of cafes, bars and restaurants.
This beach is probably the best choice for families, as it is situated just by the fishing port and the mighty rock. At the end of the day you can watch the fishing boats arrive, and then head off to the fish options. There are plenty of restaurants here, and the beach has been awarded the blue flag stashes. It’s a fine sandy beach of around 200 metres in length, with calm waters.
Arenal Bol Beach
The biggest and busiest beach features around a kilometre of clear calm waters and fine golden sand. Little palm trees are dotted here and there, which add to its charm. During the high season there is a special service to help those with limited mobility to swim.
There’s a buzzing promenading with heaps of services, including shops of all types, ice cream shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
La Fossa (or Levante) Beach
Another beach where there are superb views of the magnificent rock – Peñón de Ifach, this beach has clear waters and fine golden sand. It’s a long, clean beach with plenty of bars and cafés on hand. The beach, which is around 950 metres long has the Blue Flag status.
It’s backed by a wide promenade, where there’s seating, plus there’s some children’s playground pieces on the beach. During summertime there’s a service to help those with reduced mobility to swim. It’s a pretty typical Spanish resort seafront beach, with plenty of services.
Puerto Blanco Beach
Located at the northern end of the Puerto Blanco marina, this small beach of 100 metres length, has a mixture of coarse sand and pebbles. The water is calm, but has some seagrass. For those who are into diving, there’s a good dive centre here.
The Calpe area has 10 coves, some of which can only be accessed by sea, such as El Collau (also known as Racó del Corb), which is another good spot for diving, and Cala Gasparet, which is also good for diving and fishing.
Cala Morelló is notable for the presence of the Roman Baths, the Baños de la Reina, in an urban setting. Cala El Racó is located just at the foot of the rock, where you can find an underwater diving trail. It’s also a good spot for fishing. Cala Les Urques and Cala La Manzanera are both lovely places for scuba diving. A tranquil place is the little natural cove, Cala del Penyal, with beautiful clear water, it’s perfect fishing, diving or anchoring up your boat for a while.
Get a different perspective of the famous rock from Cala Les Bassetes, which is known for its crystal water and lovely seabed.
This is an example of military architecture, which was built on the site and made use of the materials of the old Castle of Calpe. Today visitors can see the remains of a watch-tower, which was constructed in the late 16th-century, with the purpose of staving off attacks from Berber pirates. You can still see the foundation of the gates of the fortification and tanks, which were dug into the rock.
Calpe Old Church
Originally constructed in the early 15th century, the site of the old church of Calpe is on top of the site of an old chapel which was present during the Christian conquest.
The fortified Mudéjar Gothic building had the dual purpose of being both for religious worship, as well as for defensive purposes. It served as a place of refuge when the community was under attack.
Inside is a panel painting of great artistic value, in tempera, that dates to the 15th century. It depicts St. Cosmas, St. Anthony the Abbot, and St. Damian, and is the creation of Master Perea’s workshop. Other works are also housed inside that are dedicated to the municipality’s patron saint, Cristo del Sudor, St. Sepulcro and the patron saint of sailors, the Virgin Carmen.
San Juan de la Cometa
Situated on the Tosal de La Cometa, this is a complex of both historical and religious value. The construction dates to the late 17th-early 18th centuries, and it is structured by buildings of an old country house.
Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, at the chapel’s entrance, there are a couple of “riurau” – which is a rural construction element typical to this area of the Valencian Community. Its main purpose is to provide protection from the weather. Additionally you can see three wells, a cistern and a rainwater gathering system.
If you are in the area, this is where the feast of St. John is celebrated on the 24th of June, although the big beach festivities happen on the eve, in the beach area.
San Salvador Hermitage Calpe
It is believed that this hermitage has been in its current location since 1745. Like so many other monuments, it suffered destruction during the Spanish Civil War, so its original Stations of the Cross, had to be rebuilt in 1993.
Due to its location, sailors used to keep an oil lamp burning at the front of the hermitage to guide vessels from sea that were seeking anchorage. This practice was carried out into sometime during the 20th century.
The hermitage is a rectangular shape, with a single nave, divided by arches into three different sections.
Parque Natural de Penyal D’Ifach ( Peñon d’Ilfach)
Even if you’ve never been to Calpe as yet, the likelihood is that you may have seen photos of its most famous landmark – the Rock Peñon d’Ilfach. The natural park area of Peñon d’Ilfach is, in fact, the result of a landslide of the nearby Sierra de Oltà, and it’s certainly a most unique and interesting land form.
This natural park is one of the most-visited parks located in the Valencian Community. Connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, it is also known as a meeting spot for scuba divers, climbers and hikers.
There are excellent views at the top, but you need a head for heights and walking boots or shoes, but it’s well worth the climb. If you have a dreamy head full of beautiful views after the experience, be sure to take extra care on the walk down, as the path can be quite slippery.
The location of the Peñon d’Ilfach has an influence in the formation of this fascinating humid area. It’s a lagoon of tombolic source generated by the evolution of a double sandbar. The salt flats inhabit a depression full of Quaternary alluvial deposits.
Of course salt was essential for food preservation, so Calpe was able to take advantage of the salt mines in order to promote the local fish. Historically the salt mines have been of great importance, that can be traced back as far as the 2nd century AD, at which time the Roman civilisations there combined the salt pans with the fish farm. At one stage the salt mines were providing salt to around 40 municipalities. It was towards the latter part of the 18th century, that they went into decline, due to infections that were causing fevers in the local people.
In 1993 they were declared to be a Maritime Terrestrial zone. At the salt flats you can see different birds, probably the most outstanding being the flamingo, as well as plant life that is distinctive to this peculiar ecosystem.
Where to Sleep
Where to Eat
Not surprisingly a lot of the local gastronomy is based fish, as well as rice. Of course you will want to try a local paella, but aside from this, there are a number of other rice based offerings. Other dishes well worth trying, assuming you like seafood of course, are the fish stew and the octopus casserole. Local restaurants display the fresh catch, so that you can point out which plate you would like.
Calpe Fish Market
Monday to Fridays at 5pm, you can head to the highlight of the fish auction, in the port, which generally goes on for an hour or two.
Calpe Saturday Market
Located on Avenida del Norte, the Saturday morning market of Calpe continues for around 1km and sells lots of great fresh produce, along with all sorts of other products, from clothes to household items.