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REVEALED: The most picturesque day trips in Spain’s Alicante province

Here are some of our picks of the most picturesque escapes in the Alicante province to enjoy during weekends and short breaks.

Altea, Alicante
Image: Phillip Capper/Flickr CC By 2.0

The Covid-19 cumulative incidence rate in the Valencian Community has now fallen to 39 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which is the lowest in the whole of Spain, meaning it might be time to get out there and explore some of the province’s more natural sights. 

Parque Natural de las Lagunas de la Mata y Torrevieja
The Natural Park of las Lagunas de la Mata y Torrevieja is located just outside the town of Torrevieja, but feels a world away from busy city life. The park is best known for its huge Laguna Rosa or Pink Lagoon – a pink panther-hued lake, sitting right in its centre. A natural phenomenon, the bright pink water is caused by bacteria that releases their pink pigment in the salty water. The pink lagoon is not the only reason to visit however, add this to nature walks, picnic areas, observation towers, and one of the largest flamingo populations in Spain, and you’ll soon see why this deserves a mention.  

Laguna Rosa. Image: Moisés Pastor / WikiCommons

Elche
One of the reasons that makes the city of Elche so picturesque is that it’s home to thousands upon thousands of palm trees. If you’ve been missing trees during lockdowns, then a visit here will surely not disappoint. The Historic Palm Grove, known as the Palmeral de Elche is home to over 200,000 palm trees, the largest collection of them in Europe. It was created by the Moors who founded the city in the eighth and ninth centuries, and still features their original irrigation channels. The Palmeral is recognised by UNESCO, but it’s not only the place in Elche to have this accolade. The medieval Mystery Play of Elche, performed once a year, and the Pusol School Museum are also listed by UNESCO.

Elche. Image: Volker Glätsch / Pixabay

Alcalalí
The village of Alcalalí lies along the Gorgos River, southwest of the popular town of Dénia. Surrounded by undulating mountains and emerald green fields, it’s filled with historic honey-coloured stone architecture. But it’s early springtime when the village is really at its most beautiful, when thousands of almond trees blossom into full bloom, creating candy-floss pink clouds across the landscape. Its almond blossoms are so beautiful in fact that the village holds its annual Alcalalí in Bloom festival to celebrate them each February. Even when the festival isn’t on however, you can still enjoy the almond blossom before it disappears later in spring.

Almond blossom. Image: Matthias Böckel / Pixabay

Paseo Ecológico de Benissa
This stunning hiking trail runs for four kilometers along the coast of Benissa. It passes through small bays and inlets, over clifftops and along sandy beaches, offering spectacular Mediterranean views along the way. Lush with vegetation and filled with rock pools and natural areas, it’s ideal for nature lovers.

Paseo Ecológico de Benissa. Image: Joanbanjo / WikiCommons

Altea
The town of Altea sits on the coast just north of Benidorm, between the Natural Park of the Serra Gelada and the town of Calp. Its whitewashed historic centre is perfect for exploring on foot, dipping in and out of the many galleries that the town is known for. Altea is in fact a town of artists – painters, writers, poets, and musicians have all been inspired by its maze of narrow streets that seem to rise up out of the sea, with the church of Nuestra Señora del Consuelo crowning the top.

Altea, Alicante
Altea, Alicante. Image: Philipp Caper / Flickr CC by 2.0

Parque Natural de El Hondo
The Natural Park of El Hondo lies just south of the city of Elche and is a striking wetlands area, where you can walk along boardwalks right through the marshes.

It’s especially loved by bird enthusiasts who come to spot endangered species such as the marbled teal and the white-headed duck, as well as other impressive birds, including the greater spotted eagle, purple swamphen and woodpeckers.

Parque Natural El Hondo. Image: Moisés Pastor / WikiCommons

Villajoyosa
Where could be better to visit at Easter than the home of chocolate in Valencia – the town of Villajoyosa? The first chocolate factory opened here in 1840, but by 1937, it was home to 29 different chocolate factories and numerous chocolate shops. Today, there are three chocolate factories left, all of which you can visit – Chocolates Pérez, Chocolates Valor and Clavileño. Besides its tasty treats, the town is a treat for the eyes too, filled with a mishmash of brightly-coloured tutti-frutti houses. 

Villajoyosa. Image: Denis Doukhan / Pixabay

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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