The Costa Blanca, on the east coast of Spain, is one of the most beautiful regions of the entire Iberian Peninsula. It enjoys more than 315 sunshine days a year and an average temperature of 18-19C so it's easy to see why the World Health Organisation once named it as having one of the healthiest climates in the world. Thousands of foreigners have come on holiday here, fallen in love with the place and made it their permanent home.
Costa Blanca means white coast, a name taken from the endless miles of beautiful sandy beaches which stretch from the cosmopolitan town of Denia in the north to the popular tourist resort of Torrevieja in the south. The northern part of the region is mountainous, relatively green and peppered with groves of orange and olive trees along with colourful orchards of almonds and cherries. The much flatter and drier southern end of the Costa is famous for having the biggest palm gardens and salt flats in the whole of Europe.
It's a region which offers all things to all people. This is a paradise for golfers and gourmets, sun worshippers and serious party people, families and fun-loving 18-30s. There are big, brash beachside resorts with skyscraper hotels and all-night clubs and there are delightful mountain villages where life seems hardly to have changed for centuries.
If you take a tour along the coast you'll find international tourist resorts inter mingled with traditional Spanish towns and villages. Start at Denia, a lovely town dominated by an impressive castle, where a bustling commercial centre and port blend comfortably with a thriving tourist industry. The next-door resort of Javea, reached by a somewhat hairy drive over the impressive Montgo mountain, is regarded as the jewel in the crown of the Costa Blanca. It attracts visitors from all over the world along with wealthy "Madrileños" who buy second homes here to escape the blistering summer heat of the Spanish capital.
Next is the small and very pretty fishing port of Moraira with its modern yacht marina and hillside developments of whitewashed holiday villas. Calpe is a modern beach resort but has an attractive old quarter and the distinctive Gibraltar-style Peñon de Ifach rock which dominates the skyline for miles around. Then comes Altea which is one of the most beautiful towns on the Costa Blanca with its steep, winding, medieval cobbled streets leading up to the blue-domed church and plaza which affords one of the best views in the region.
Just 11 kilometres south of Altea is the completely different world of Benidorm where the British go to bronze themselves on the beach by day and party all night. Villajoyosa, next to Benidorm, is a different scenario again - a very Spanish town and resort which has been largely overlooked by foreign tourists.
The city of Alicante is the capital of the region and offers a wealth of cultural activities and fine beaches for Spanish and international tourists alike. At the extreme south of the Costa there's Torrevieja, favoured by international tourists (largely British), many of whom buy permanent or holiday homes here.
The main language of the Costa Blanca is Valenciano which is similar to Catalan although the locals won't thank you for saying it. English and the other main European languages are widely spoken in the main resort areas but if you venture inland don't expect the "natives" to speak anything other than Valenciano or the main Spanish language, Castellano.