With its white washed houses, charming old town and stunning views, Altea is a picturesque coastal town perfect for a tranquil escape or holiday. This attractive village is located along the Costa Blanca region on the Mediterranean coast in the Valencian Community, just north of Benidorm and Alicante. A true hidden gem that is perfect for a quiet holiday or a day visit from one of the nearby beach resorts. A visit to Altea will not disappoint you.
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Information and Origin of Altea
Similar to some other towns along the Mediterranean coast, like Villajoyosa, the history of Altea dates back to Roman times, then known as the town of ‘Althaea’. It was conquered by the Moors in the 13th century and claimed back during the reconquista by the Christians. An important drawing card to settle in and around Altea was and still is its location next to the mouth of the Algar river.
Around 400 years ago, the river Algar used to be important for the development of agriculture in the area. It was also a source of fresh water and provided fishing opportunities as well as a natural harbour which was important for trade and commerce. Today, the mouth of the Algar river plays an ecological role by being a coastal wetland for migratory birds as well as resident bird life.
Currently, the town of Altea is divided into 2 main sections; the beach front area with its beautiful promenade and the more modern developments and the historic old town which is perched on the hill with the blue-capped dome of the church on the highest point. The town boasts a population of 23.000 inhabitants, which almost doubles during the holiday season.
Is Altea worth visiting?
Nestled between the Mediterranean sea and the Sierra de Bernia mountain range, Altea has a lot to offer its visitors.
From a relaxed beach holiday on the various white pebbled beaches, to a gastronomic tour of the abundant restaurants both on the seafront promenade as well as those tucked away in the side streets of the old town. You can also take a relaxing stroll to the various boutiques or an artistic tour of the art galleries around town.
If you’re looking for a relaxed Spanish holiday, consider booking accommodation in Altea or nearby Albir. But, if you are more into vibrant and bustling holidays, then the resort towns of Benidorm or Alicante are where you’ll most likely be staying, in which case you can consider visiting Altea for the day.
So, when visiting the Costa Blanca, don’t miss out on exploring the hidden gem of Altea as it will definitely keep you entertained for a while.
Over the years, Altea has managed to maintain its authentic Spanish charm, steadfastly resisting the towering high-rises that have overtaken many coastal towns. It has also managed to maintain its quiet, serene and relaxed atmosphere providing visitors with a more relaxed coastal experience, in stark contrast to for example its bustling neighbour Benidorm where high-rises dominate the skyline along with plenty of high energy things to do.
Best things to do in Altea
Whether your are staying in Altea itself for your holiday or just visiting for the day, there are plenty of nice things to do in Altea. In this article I hope to help you discover all the highlights of Altea, the fun activities and everything else this wonderful gem of the Costa Blanca has to offer.
Explore the old town
Perched on a hill overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean sea, the old town of Altea is the heart of this charming town. The narrow cobblestoned streets wind their way like a maze up to the hilltop, all the way to the vibrant ‘Plaza de la Iglesia’, or Church square. It’s on this square where the central life of the old town, or ‘casco antiguo’, comes together.
Take a stroll along the lovely narrow streets up and down the hill of Altea old town and discover the quaint little squares, cozy restaurants, handicraft shops and charming cafés. It is so nice to get lost in these streets, where each turn reveals another hidden gem to explore. And as long as you go up (or down) you won’t really get lost as all streets in the end lead to either the central square or the beachfront. Getting all the way to the top you will be rewarded with the most stunning views of the surrounding areas.
On the Plaza de la Iglesia you can get refreshments and a meal in the various restaurants and bars that have set up their tables and chairs all around the square. In the evening, street artists come to perform or sing
Do keep in mind that it will be difficult for people with mobility problems.
Visit the church of Nuestra Señora del Consuelo
The Church of Our Lady of Consolation, or the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Consuelo is literally the ‘highlight’ of the old town and the main church of Altea.
Standing high upon the hill, the distinctive blue and white ceramic tiled dome is the most iconic feature of the church and is visible from afar. Visiting the church is one of the highlights of the attractions in Altea.
The original church was constructed in the 16th century, but due to lack of maintenance and subsequent decay it was decided in the beginning of the 20th century to demolish and re-build the church.
It is free to visit the inside the church and really is worth it to take your time to explore the beautiful architecture and cupola.
White houses and mural and flowers
When strolling through the narrow streets of the old town, take a moment to enjoy the wonderful architecture of the white houses which are adorned with colourful flowers either standing by the doors or hanging from the balconies. Even some of the doors of the houses themselves are worth seeing. Some walls are also decorated with lovely drawings.
Enjoy the stunning views
The town of Altea is bestowed with some amazing views over the surrounding landscape and coastline. While slowly making your way through the narrow cobbled streets up to the top of the old town you can enjoy spectacular vistas.
At the one side you can see all the way to the rock of Calpe or Peñon de Ifach, where on the other side you’ll be overlooking the Sierra Helada and the skyscrapers of Benidorm and in between the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean sea.
Even though you can enjoy the views throughout the town there are a few particular places where you have the best views:
- Mirador Blanc: Located next to the casa Cervantes
- Glorieta del Manyo: Located at the end (or beginning) of Calle Salamanca.
- Mirador Cronistas: Located all the way at the top, just off the Church square.
Even though most offer the similar views, it is worth visiting all 3 viewpoints when in the Altea old town.
Go on a shopping stroll
Altea is known as an artistic town with plenty of art galleries and small craft shops. You can appreciate art from local and international artists selling ceramic items, handmade jewellery, paintings, sculptures and of course beautiful Spanish Souvenirs.
Furthermore, you can visit the weekly market which takes place every Tuesday morning at the parking area at Cami de l’Algar, where one can find clothing items, fruit, vegetables and lots of other things.
Indulge in the gastronomy of Altea
Looking out over the waters of The Mediterranean Sea, the restaurants along the beachfront have such a great location, offering a serene, tranquil dining experience. However, up in the old town there are also plenty of restaurants you can choose from that offer lovely meals in an equally romantic setting.
Both in the old town and along the beachfront, apart from Spanish cuisine, you also have international restaurants offering Italian, Asian, French, Mediterranean and other international foods, all in a fantastic settings.
Walk along the promenade
The recently renovated beach promenade of Altea is such a beautiful setting to take a stroll past the seemingly countless numbers of cafés, bars and restaurants. The modern designed new beachfront also includes a park and various recreational areas, including children’s playgrounds, resting benches, as well as a walking and cycling path.
Partially lined with palm trees to provide shade, the promenade goes all the way from the marina to the Algar river mouth, stretching over nearly 2 km in length.
Spend the day at the beach
One of the nice things to do in Altea is to spend the day at the beach, or at least a few hours. Contrary to the rest of the Costa Blanca, the Altea beach is a pebbled beach and not a sandy one. The water is lovely, clean and relaxing, but do bring swimming shoes as it will be more comfortable to walk over the pebbles on the beach and in the water. The size of the pebbles vary from small gravel stones to slightly larger rocks the size of tennis balls.
The advantage of going to the beach in Altea is that it never gets overcrowded like its neighbour Benidorm. This is mostly people are more attracted to soft sandy beaches and will generally go elsewhere, meaning you can have a very quiet and relaxing time chilling at the Altea beachfront.
Visit the Altea marina or the puerto deportivo
The Altea marina is the towns’ nautical hub providing mooring for various types of vessels. It’s a lovely setting to walk around and have a drink or meal in or even just to sit and relax on one of the many benches. It’s also here where the promenade starts or ends so this is where you’ll see lots of people on their daily walk or cycle tour, usually in the early mornings or late afternoons.
The Marina also has free parking available if you are visiting Altea by car.
Go on a catamaran tour
Enjoy the beautiful surroundings from the water on board a catamaran. Leaving from the port of Altea, you have the opportunity to join various catamaran boat excursions. You can either enjoy the coastline and the beautiful vistas of Altea itself with a swimming opportunity with this catamaran cruise with swimming stop.
Or go all romantic and join this sunset catamaran cruise including sparkling wine. Can such a day get any better?
If you love to see more of the rocks surrounding Altea, including the coves and the turquoise blue waters, what about this cruise which also includes a lunch?
All in all, if you love the Mediterranean coast, you love sailing and love to be on the water, then these activities are for you.
Best time to visit Altea
With hot and dry summers and mild winters, Altea can be visited all year round. Although it might get very hot during the warm summer months, there are plenty of places within offering shade to hide from the heat.
With an average of 320 days of sun, as the rest of the Costa Blanca region, Altea is a pleasant place to visit any time of year, for a longer vacation or holiday or just for a day trip. During the summer season, Altea will also be busier than other times of the year. Not so much during the day, but during the evenings, the beachfront promenade and the small streets in the old town will be remarkably busier.
Keep in mind that you might have to book a table to your favourite restaurant in advance during the busy season.
How to get there
Altea is very easy to visit from the various holiday resort towns like Alicante, Calpe, Benidorm or Denia:
- By car: When you are visiting by car via the regional road N-332 or via the highway AP-7, take exit 64.
- By bus short distance: From the nearby villages, Altea can be visited with the Avanza bus. More information about tickets and time tables here.
- By bus long distance: If you are visiting from further away, check the Alsa website for further information.
- By train / tram: You can catch the local tram that runs between Alicante and Denia. Check more information here.