With a climate that’s consistently a few degrees hotter than everywhere else around it; golden beaches bathed by sunshine from early morning until sunset, endless ways to ride the waves and a nightlife that doesn’t end until hotels are serving breakfast – when it comes to holiday fun quota, Benidorm has more than its fair share. But if you can drag yourself away from the resort, there are also some excellent excursions that will take you into Alicante‘s hidden treasures.
I’m heading out on a jeep safari from Benidorm to visit the waterfalls of Algar and then on to Guadalest. We begin our journey in the charismatic, traditional town of Altea where the jeep pulls into the plaza alongside the beautiful blue domed church of Nuestra Señora de Consuelo. The plaza is bustling with residents and visitors who are sitting beneath the shade of umbrellas enjoying their morning papers over a coffee and a pastry.
In the narrow, cobbled streets that run down hill from the plaza like spokes of a wheel, tall white buildings line the mosaic-tiled roads, their façades decorated with tumbling ivy, Dickensian lanterns, wrought iron balconies and eclectic signs denoting a myriad of curiosity shops, galleries, restaurants and cafés. Filling the end of the street like a backdrop to a theatre set, the mountains shimmer in the heat haze.
“Okay, guys, you can stand up now!” shouts Richie from his driver’s seat as the jeep leaves the tarmac and heads down a dusty road into the grasslands of the valley.
“Just watch out for the canes!” comes Richie’s warning yell as the jeep plunges into a long tunnel of low bending canes that whip over our heads sending us diving onto the seats for cover and showering us in leaves.
As we arrive at the natural beauty spot of Las Fuentes del Algar, the sun is at its zenith and the sound of fresh running water in the distance is like the call of a siren. We follow the narrow path from the car park and through the restaurant until we reach the entrance to the waterfalls where an entrance fee of €3 is being charged.
There isn’t enough time in the schedule to go swimming but Richie has a word with the turnstile operator and we’re given a free pass to take a closer look. Crossing the footbridge beneath which the turquoise, translucent pools are busy with Sunday trippers frolicking in the refreshing waters, I climb the steps to trace the waterfalls back towards their source. Level after level of stunning aqua pools fed by gushing waterfalls provides a dreamlike setting amidst the white rocks, pine clad mountains and banks of pink oleander.
Leaving the waterfalls behind, we travel through stunning scenery and along lush forest tracks passing idyllic cottages and breathtaking valley views until we emerge on a hilltop overlooking the iconic bell tower of El Castell de Guadalest which stands on its rock pinnacle amidst the giants of the Sierras.
Once in Guadalest, there’s oodles of time to explore the souvenir shops of the fortified village and the ruins of the Castle of San Jose. The views from the little church plaza over the teal waters of Guadalest reservoir at the foot of the Sierras is one of Spain’s finest and it grows better as I pay €3 to go into the Orduña House museum and climb the bell tower. Back in the plaza, I enjoy a late lunch of traditional tapas at the church-side restaurant, including some of the tastiest ham croquettes I’ve eaten, before heading back to the jeep and Benidorm.
Photos copyright: Andy Montgomery
Posted : Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 11:00
Andy Montgomery is a travel writer and blogger currently living amongst banana plantations in the north of Tenerife. If she’s not sipping mojitos in a Cuban bar or clinging to some vertigo-inducing outcrop by her fingernails, she’s working on her Buzztrips travel website.