As the cultural capital of the Costa Blanca, Alicante comes up trumps in the sights department. Think ancient fortresses, Baroque cathedrals and cute little squares. First on the agenda is Santa Barbara Castle, which holds the crown for being the biggest in the Med. It’s bagged itself a pretty spectacular location, too, set high up on the summit of Mount Benacantil. You’ll have a bit of time to wander around what’s left of it – the walls and turrets are a grab-bag of architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance. Then it’s on to Alicante’s old quarter for a walking tour. You’ll learn all about the city’s history as you pass by the Town Hall Square and the Cathedral of Alicante, a pretty Baroque number that dates back to the 17th century. Last but not least, it’s on to the Explanada, one of the most beautiful waterfront promenades in Spain. Stroll down the palm-shaded streets or stop off at one of the cafes for a drink before heading back to port.
To most people, Benidorm is the Costa Blanca. It’s been a major player on the holiday scene for a good while now, and after a day here you’ll see why. The city is less than an hour away by coach, and when we arrive, we’ll leave you to explore on your own. Head for the Blue Flag-flying Levante Beach, rated among Europe’s best. Or plump for a bit of people-watching at one of the cafés along the promenade. Lining the beach you’ve got the high-rise hotels that Benidorm’s famous for. The skyline here is all skyscrapers looming in spiky clusters. But behind them, you’ll find the old town. Think cobbled streets, whitewashed little houses and noisy tapas bars. There’s plenty in the way of shops, too, from chic boutiques to market stalls groaning under the weight of souvenirs.
This tour has the perfect recipe – it blends a liberal helping of chocolate with a healthy dose of scenery to create a great day out. Your first stop is the small seaside town of Villajoyosa, and it’s straight to the famous Valor chocolate factory for a guided tour of all things cocoa-based. As well as discovering the secret steps to creating these delicious chocolates, you’ll get to watch a behind-the-scenes video, and taste the finished product. And chocoholics needn’t worry. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving these delicious treats behind, there’s a factory shop where you can stock up on freshly-made goodies. Then it’s down to Villajoyosa port for a bit of free time. Wander along the seafront and you’ll see a row of brightly-painted houses peering out to sea. Legend has it they’re painted like this to help guide the fishermen to shore. It’s back on the bus for the next stop, Altea. It’s a traditional Spanish town where whitewashed houses line the streets up to the Virgin of Consuelo church. You’ll have an hour here to soak up the atmosphere and get up close to this striking blue-roofed church that stands above the town.
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