The palm tree groves of Elche

Palm Sunday in Elche

Elche, on the east coast of the spanish mainland, in the province of Alicante, is the capital of a region called Bajo Vinalopó. The old city center of Elche preserves part of its Baroque splendour and Muslim past. Two holiday celebrations and the famous palm tree groves of the city, declared a World Heritage Site by the Unesco, add to the attraction of the city and the entire region. The popular celebrations are the Mystery of Elche and Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos). The Unesco has declared the Festival of Elche (Festa d’Elx) a Masterpiece of the Intangible and Oral Heritage of Human Kind.

In the tenth century the Arabs surrounded Elche with palm tree groves and brought the city to its present location at the river banks.  The Christians occupied the inside of the city (Vila Murada) when Jaime I reconquered the town and the Moorish and jewish population took over Raval (the outside part of the city).

In the museums of Elche Roman and Iberian artefacts are the most common archeological findings, but the Bajo Vinalopó region has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and there are also artefacts from the Greek or Phoenician period. The Archaeological Site at Alcúdia and the Monographic Museum are the places to go if  you would like to find out more about the interesting history of Elche. The Lady of Elche, which was found at the Archaeological Site at Alcúdia  is kept in Madrid at the the National Archaeological Museum, but you can find a lot of information about the statue in Elche itself.

Vila Murada, on the Vinalopó riverbanks,  is the part of the city with most history. It declared a Historic-Artistic Site by the spanish authorities and offers narrow streets and alleys with a typical Moorish urban layout. The Moorish tower that formed part of the walled precinct, called Calahorra can be found here. Other interest places to visit are the Palace of Altamira, the City Hall (Casa de la Vila), the numerous ancestral homes in the historical center and the tower of Consell. Built on top of christian temples and the old mosque lies the Basilica Santa María, which combines Baroque and Neoclassical elements.

All in all, Elche is a wonderful place to visit and offers tourists of all over Europe who arrive at Alicant airport many reasons to come back year after year, such as its coastal towns, its prestigious gastronomy, its palm groves, beaches and  its many nature reserves.

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