White houses and narrow winding streets give artsy Althea a romantic and pleasant atmosphere
Skepticism against going to the mass tourist colony Costa Blanca in Spain was great. I must admit that we have prejudices against boardwalks with Scandinavians who start the day with a beer for breakfast and proceed until they drop drunk in bed in the late hours. But we were visiting friends in Althea and after all we had a great week in their company.
But in the midst of this, for us a surreal coastal plain, lays Althea as a little sanctuary. A white fairytale city with great charm rises up from the beach to the church with the two blue domes. The narrow streets are covered with pebbles and steps leading up to the highest point, Casco Antigua, where the church sits with a fantastic view of the city and surrounding country. The space around the church, Plaza de la Iglesia, is a pleasant place to enjoy a drink while looking at the sunset. In the streets leading to the church, you will find many small shops, some typical touristy shops, but also exciting design shops and small galleries. There are also a lot of restaurants. Many are just pizzerias that have no other ambition than to give tourists refills, but you will also find good Spanish food. Try tapas bars, book 3-4 small tapas and a glass of wine and enjoy! Tapas Bar, Tapas Gastro Bar is located on the small square just inside the gate below the church. They have delicious tapas; we ate tapas for lunch there twice.
Read more about our dining experiences in Althea here: A taste of Althea
On Tuesdays there is a market in Althea and tendencies to long queues and a traffic jam. The end of the main street is allocated to farmers who come in with their goods and it is bursting with fresh vegetables and fruit. We went out quite early and on the road we met a parade of old women, young men and teenagers, all with colorful trolleys and heading in the same direction. We just followed the stream and were at the market 5 minutes later.
There are many Norwegians and other nationalities that travel to Althea, but the place seems to have preserved a hint of Spain in spite of this. Althea proved that to be a place where you happily can spend a few days and enjoy life and sharpen all your senses. There is a large international environment and the city has attracted artists from many countries. Writers, painters and musicians from all over Europe are living in Althea. AlteArte in the old town is a gathering place for many in this environment. The place is a bar, tapas bar and a gallery. Late in the evening the atmosphere is cheerful and it’s not hard to get to know and mingle with the other guests.
The name Althea derives from the Moorish and Arabic word Altaya and means health for all. The city is located in a large bay at the mouth of the River Algar at Costa Blanca, north of Alicante and has around 25,000 inhabitants. The river was important for Althea and gave fresh water to all who applied to the port of Althea. Althea was under Moorish domination until 1244 when Jaime 1st of Aragon liberated the area. He populated the area with Christians and Althea became a city again in 1279. But attacks by Arab pirates continued and a high wall was built around the city. You can still see remains of these walls when walking around in Althea’s old town. In the 1700s the population declined drastically because of all the attacks by pirates from North Africa.
Althea has no beaches with soft sand, but pebbles that can cause problems for beach lovers. That’s probably why Althea has not been subjected to the same massive hotel development as its neighbors along the coast. Many are probably grateful for that today. But in the neighboring town of Albir, just half an hour’s walk south, you can enjoy the white sand beaches. But in Albir you meet the ugly face of mass tourism and perhaps pebbled beaches are rather preferable?
The church is also called The Dome of the Mediterranean, but it`s real name is Nuestra Senora del Consuelo. It is famous for its two blue domes and its magnificent stained-glass windows. Many towns have a castle at its highest point, but in Althea it is the church that looks majestically over the city. From up here you can see all the way to Benidorm and its many skyscrapers. At the same time, you can enjoy that you are in Althea and not sitting in a high-rise building in Benidorm! There has been a church on the top of Althea in over 900 years, but the current church was built in the last century and completed in 1910. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) one of the clock towers were destroyed by Franco’s forces. It has never been repaired and works today as a constant reminder of Spain’s close and gruesome history.
Spain is the land of fiestas and Althea is no exception. The main fiesta is Moors and Christians, which takes place the last week of September each year. We have written a separate post about this fantastic fiesta where you can also see a video of the parade. ……
Althea has also smaller parades, including children parades in conjunction with the start of the holiday and fiesta celebration. We randomly came across this cute little parade:
Other attractions in Althea:
Church Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa. This is a Russian Orthodox Church dedicated to the Archangel St Michael. It is the first of its kind in Spain and financed by a Russian in Althea. All materials are import from Russia, apart from the beams. The church opened in 2007 and is a replica of a church from the 1700s in the Urals. Open 10-14 Monday to Friday. Saturday: 10-20, Sun. 8-18. (When visiting, women must cover.)
Bellaguarda tower dates from the fourteenth century. Archaeological ruins.