El Hondo Nature Reserve
There are a number of interesting day trips that can be enjoyed when staying in the coastal city of Torrevieja. Situated on Spain’s beautiful Costa Blanca and just a 40 minute drive from Torrevieja is the city of Elche, that not only boasts the largest palm groves in Europe, but is one of the continent’s major footwear manufacturers. Bordered by the El Hondo Nature Reserve that boasts over 170 species of birds, small animals and fish, Elche is a lovely place to visit for nature enthusiasts, bird watchers and hikers.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Date palm cultivation in the area dates back to the 5th century BC and the large Arab influence on the Iberian peninsula led to intricate irrigation systems being built which were used to cultivate these huge groves. There are over 200,000 trees throughout the city’s orchards and they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, giving a welcome boost to Elche’s tourism industry. Although the groves are spread throughout the city, the main groves are in the Municipal Park where the Rio Vinalopó runs through them, providing irrigation.
Gran Teatro de Elche
Visitors to the park can explore the groves various walking routes that take you through the picturesque Huerto del Cura Cactus Gardens and provide stops along the way to enjoy a relaxing picnic in the cool shade of the trees. The lovely Palm Grove Museum showcases their history and the important agricultural benefits brought to the region. Around the park there are other places of interest such as the Basilica de Santa María and Palacio de Altamira. When visiting, it is also worthwhile to check if there are any events being held at the Gran Teatro de Elche. We all love a good pair of shoes, and tours of Elche’s footwear industry are available where visitors can snap up a bargain pair of designer shoes at factory prices.