The Valencian city of Elche is a short drive from Alicante and makes it a popular meeting place for many tourists. Not just any city, Elche is famous for its palm trees, footwear and a very special church and a varied offer of hotels in Elche.
The Basilica of Santa Maria is a place of local interest and a famous religious site. With two large blue domes and an extravagant baroque entrance, it is magnificent. Originally built on the site of a mosque, it was later remodeled in the 17th century. If you intend to visit the city in August, you will come across the "Mystery of Elche". The Basilica of Santa Maria in Elche is the only Catholic church in the world where you can perform this theatrical spectacle dating back to the 15th century. It represents the ascension of the Virgin Mary into the sky, in which the person interpreting Mary is lifted through a hole in the ceiling and pulled by an original 15th century machinery called Deus ex machina. The tradition is much appreciated by the locals and is even recognized by UNESCO for its cultural importance.
Discover the history of Elche in an interactive exhibition at the Altamira Palace. The palace was restored in the 12th century, originally built as a house for an aristocratic family and later used as a prison during the Spanish Civil War. There you will see a large collection of antiques and artifacts that stretch throughout the city history. Don't miss one of the city's most emblematic places, La Dama de Elche, a statue dating from the 4th century BC and discovered in 1897. Its history and purpose are unknown, although many believe the figure was part of a funerary urn. The original is kept in a museum in Madrid, but there is an exact replica in the museum tower.
Elche is world famous for housing some 200,000 different types of palm trees in various parks in and around the city. It follows the Palmeral route which starts and ends in the Huerto de San Plácido park, near the Palmeral museum. The city park encompasses a large part of the palm tree forest. The Huerto del Sacerdote, which forms part of the Ruta del Palmeral, has been declared a National Historic Garden thanks to its great beauty and important history. With Arabic, Mediterranean and local influences, the large garden has palms species from all over the world. The park's star attraction is the 168-year-old Imperial Palm Tree.
The local wine is sweet and something you should try when you are in Elche. You can taste it after dinner at any restaurant in the city, but if you want to taste it better and find out how it's made, you can join a wine tasting.
Elche is home to more than half of all shoemakers in Spain so you have the opportunity to buy quality shoes at ridiculously low prices. The best place to buy shoes is the factory of Salvador Artesano where you can make a tour of it. Shoe lovers will also want to see the Pikolinos Shoe Museum, which tells the history of Spanish footwear from espadrilles to 21st century fashion.