Slightly inland on the Costa Blanca lies the city of Elche, famed for its palm groves and large shoe industry. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Elche's fantastic palm groves can be seen for miles around and are the largest of their kind in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Dating back to the 5th century BC, historians are unsure who planted the groves but it is thought to be the Carthaginians, with much of the irrigation systems being built during the Roman and Arab occupation of the city.
The Palm Groves Of Elche
Located in the Huerto de San Plácido Gardens, the El Palmeral Museum highlights and showcases the history of the groves. Most people visiting the museum enjoy taking a wander along the Route Of El Palmeral which is shaded by the palms and offers peaceful seating areas ideal to enjoy a packed lunch. The largest and rarest of the palms is the mighty Imperial Palm that has 7 stems shaped like a candelabra. Other highlights of the groves include the picturesque Huerto del Cura Cactus Gardens that cover a vast area of 13,000 square metres and house the Imperial Palm and a beautiful terracotta water fountain.
If you are visiting the city in August then be sure not to miss the enchanting religious play titled Misteri d'Elx which has been performed each year since medieval times and has earned an international UNESCO award. There is also a tiny museum dedicated to the famous play and The impressive Palacio de Altamir houses Elche's Archaeological Museum.
With palm groves, parks and lakes, the city has a variety of walking routes and ample bars and restaurants to enjoy meals and refreshments or sample the locally produced sweet Mistela wine. For a refreshing dip and a bit of sunbathing, the nearest beaches are less than 30 minutes drive in the coastal town of Santa Pola.
Elche's Footwear Industry
Elche's second claim to fame is having the largest footwear manufacturing industry in Spain. Yes ladies you heard correct, housed inside a football field size warehouse is the Salvador Artesano shoe factory and outlet where you can see the manufacturing process while sampling a glass of sweet Mistela wine. The main appeal, and large dent to many a purse and wallet is the factory's huge sales outlet that is like a Santa's Grotto to shoe lovers and stocks an extensive range of brands and styles.