Walking around in Elche gave me a nostalgic feeling that I was in my home country, The Philippines. The weather was fine, the churches are a bit similar from what we have back home, the weekly open market on the big plaza was noisy, and above all, everywhere I looked, I saw palm trees! We have almost missed this place during our camper tour last year, driving from Aspe direct to Alicante. But after some research, we decided to drive some kilometers back to this city. And we were glad we did, otherwise we would not experience how pleasant and special Elche is. We drove around the city and luckily, we were able to find a parking place at the Universidad Miguel Hernadez parking area, beside the Edificio Torreblanco and Conservatorio de Musica. The parking is from the university which is only about a kilometer walk from the center.
Campsite : Parking Area, Universidad Miguel Hernandez/ Conservatorio de Musica
Avenue del Alcalde Vicente Quiles
THE CITY OF PALM TREES
Elche, the 20th largest city in Spain, is located in the Baix Vinalopo and is the third most populated city in Valencian community. The creek Vinalopo flows thru the city splitting it in two parts. Elche is famous for its thousands of palm trees scattered around the city. They claim there are about 200,000 palm trees around the city. This historic Palm Grove was declared a World heritage Site by UNESCO last 2000. The palm groves are located around Elche, surrounding the whole city, and planted in rectangular or trapezoidal plots, covering over 5,000,000 sq. meters.
To better appreciate this palm groves which Elche is famous for, we did the El Palmeral Route. It is a a route of 2,580 meters and passes through a number of palm groves and parks around the city. The road is accessible , and you will not get lost because you will see icons of “walking man”, on the pavements. (you just follow the Arrow). The route began at Museo El Palmera, at Hort de Sant Placid , a small museum which houses some informations on the history of palm groves in the city and some uses and conservation of the palm trees. Entrance is 2 euros per person. After that we followed the route, skipping the Huerta del Cura, a private palm grove just a little further from museum. It is noted for its well-kept garden, and claimed that princess Sissi once visited this grove. We skipped this because of the entrance fee which is 5 euros per person. We walked through, passing some abandoned groves where some trees were fallen, and the grounds untended like the Hort del Sol, Rogeta and Les Almaseres and also some nice groves with nice pathways and park inside like Hort de Pastoret Borrequet and Monjo. It was a relaxed, enjoyable walk as it was not so warm.
There are also lots of public parks that you can visit, all of which are thickly planted with palm trees. We visited the Municipal Park and the Park Infantil Trafico. The Municipal Park is located near the Palacio Altamira and at the gate is the Tourism Office. It is like an oasis in the middle of the city .The park is a very nice one, well-kept, with a huge pergola and fountain inside. There are old and tall palm trees and also cacti. Following the pathways, we came across a pathway that follows the creek Vinalopo, and the pavements on both sides of the creek are covered with paintings. It was a beautiful sight! The park is really a must-see! Free of charge, unlike the Huerta del Cura.
THE CITY OF BELIEVERS
The people of Elche are very religious and devoted to the Virgin Mary. The love for the Lady of Elche is manifested especially during fiestas on December 28-29 when according to the legend, a coastguard saw a wooden chest in the sea with the image of the Virgin, with a tekst “l am for Elche. . Another feast is on August when the people celebrates the Assumption and Coronation of Mary. They celebrate it thru the Mystery play. Even on Easter, Virgin Mary plays a big role in the procession. The Lady of Elche is housed at the Museum found beside the Basilica de Santa Maria. Hans and I visited the Basilica”. A replica of the image of the Virgin Mary is found at the high altar. The tower can be climbed up for 2 euros per person. The view from the top is magnificent! There are 167 steps, 140th step is at the bell tower, and from there another 27 small and narrow steps to the top.
Elche, is for both of us a surprising city. It has good vibes, character, religion, culture and also some nice shops. There is an open market on Monday and Saturday. We felt good roaming around in this city. We were glad that we didn’t miss the chance of visiting this city.