Elche—known as Elx in the Valencian dialect—is a small city on the edge of Alicante. Established over 2,000 years ago, it was inhabited by the Greeks and the Moors at different points in its history. Today, Elche is celebrated for its Palmeral, which features over 200,000 palm trees and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and other centuries-old landmarks.
Home to UNESCO sites, architectural marvels, and centuries-old landmarks, Elche is a transportative, Moorish-influenced destination. Its highlight attraction is undoubtedly the Palmeral, which was planted by Phoenicians in the 5th century BC. Other popular sights include the Huerto del Cura gardens, the Palacio de Altamira (a Moorish-style fortress that’s home to a museum and performance space), and the Calahorra Tower (built in the 12th century, and a remnant of Elche’s former city walls).
Elche can be explored during various day-trip itineraries from Alicante; given its proximity to the city, it’s also simple to plan an independent visit.
Things to know before you go
- The Basílica de Santa María—built on the site of a former mosque in 1672, and recognizable for its blue dome—also hosts the Mystery of Elche performances.
- For those after a cultural outing, the Museo Arqueológico y de Historia de Elche and the Museu de la Festa offer intriguing glimpses into the city’s history.
- Be sure to try Elche’s culinary specialties: arroz con costra consists of rice cooked with rabbit, sausage, chickpeas and egg in a clay pot, while delicias de Elche are bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds.
- L’Alcúdia is a major archaeological site in the city that spans thousands of years; it is also where the famed Lady of Elche sculpture was uncovered in 1897.
How to get there
Elche is located just 13 miles (25 kilometers) southwest of Alicante. The C1 train and ALSA buses run between the two cities. It’s also just a quick taxi ride or drive to the city; travel via the A70.
When to get there
Elche is an attractive destination throughout the year, and particularly busy in the summer months. The city’s major annual event, the Mystery of Elche, is held on August 14–15 every year (with open rehearsals in the days prior); in even-numbered years, it is also performed at the end of October.
The Mystery of Elche
Visitors shouldn’t miss the chance to attend the Mystery of Elche (Misteri d’Elx). A 2-day liturgical drama that dates to the medieval period, the performance is on UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity list. It depicts the death and ascension of the Virgin Mary, and is also accompanied by music.
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