The Costa Blanca is one of the most popular European holiday destinations. Whilst certain spots are often overrun with hen and stag dos, scattered along the coast you will find some of the old, traditional fishing towns and villages. Little pockets which have escaped the wave of tourism and modernisation that has already claimed much the Spanish coastline. These places are hidden gems, and just waiting to be explored.
A mere 10/15 minutes up the coast from the infamous party town of Benidorm lies Altea, one of the most beautiful hilltop towns on South East coast of Spain. In the old town, gorgeous cobbled streets, lined with little white washed houses, wind their way up to a spectacular square where the church of La Mare de Déu del Consol can be found; it’s brilliant blue ceramic dome peaks over the houses, tempting you towards it as you make your way through the streets of the town.
The Altea streets are packed with lovely boutique shops selling everything from jewellery and cashmere, to linen and ceramics. As you make your way down towards the front, you’ll find local markets brimming with freshly caught fish, crates upon crates of fresh fruit and vegetables and locally sourced meats. A short 15 drive along the coast brings you to Altea Port, another little burst of local cafes and bars, in a stunning marina setting.
But first, before you explore, you need to know where to stay…
Villa Gadea, a four star hotel located along the front of Altea, at the foot of the old town, boasts stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and the picturesque village of Altea – this was our holiday pad for seven, glorious nights.
Part of the SH Hoteles Group, it has all the facilities you would expect from a five star location; luxurious guest rooms, suites, two restaurants, 2 cafeterias and swim-up oasis bar, as well as an extensive breakfast buffet.
We had asked for rooms with sea view and were not disappointed!
The rooms themselves were spacious with extremely comfortable beds. Huge, Mediterranean style tiled bathroom with a wet room shower, plus a seperate bath and toilet area, complete with his and her sinks. Our patio had two chairs and a table, perfect for a pre or post dinner drinks, and each night we enjoyed a Valor Chocolate turndown.
The public areas were just as desirable. A bright and breezy atrium leads through to the reception on the right, and the hotel bar straight ahead. As we arrived they were re-doing the decking outside the hotel (in time, we think, for a wedding the following weekend). Once completed, it was a great spot to enjoy a coffee or a iced drink during the day.
The pool area was enormous, meaning you never felt too crowed; for three of the nights we were there the hotel was fully booked. The loungers were comfortable and fresh towels were available every day. The swim up bar was, unsurprisingly, busy the entire week.
The breakfast room was vast, as you would expect for a resort this size, and the buffet on offer was incredible. Huge round tables laden with continental breakfast cold cuts, cheeses, pastries, more than four different types of breads, cereals and the most glorious fresh fruit and yogurts. Not to be forgotten is the cooked breakfast station… Spanish tortilla, an ‘any way you want them’ eggs station with the most cheerful chef, pancakes, churros, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms… Needless to say we breakfasted like kings and queens for 7 days straight!
The hotel are also has two restaurants for lunch and dinner, we only tried one of them as we enjoyed most of our evening meals out and about in Altea. The Kitsume Restaurant is the hotel’s newest Japanese restaurant. All the usual, slightly westernised, Japanese dishes were on the menu, and highlights included melt-in-the-mouth seared beef and a some of the most flavoursome fried rice and vegetables I’ve ever tasted.
Shalux Spa at Villa Gadea
Villa Gadea is also home to the Shalux Spa which pitches itself as “one of the most modern and most exclusive wellbeing and health and beauty centre on the Mediterranean coast”. The Spa offers cutting-edge natural health, beauty and wellbeing treatments based on thalassotherapy, using the purest sea water and marine products including seaweed, salts, clays, etc.
The treatment menu is good, and there are plenty of different and innovative treatments to try, however with open toed shoes and weddings on the horizon, I opted for a much needed pedicure.
My feet were expertly buffed, massaged and painted to perfection, and the whole treatment lasted a luxurious 60 minutes. Afterwards, I indulged in the thermal spa facilities, which included thermal baths, turkish baths, a Norwegian sauna and an ice grotto. The pool is half indoors, half outdoors, and after trying all the thermal pools you float your way outside and relax in the private Spa garden.
For day trips, lunches and evening meals, Altea and the surrounding area is bursting with options. Whether you are in the Old Town, or down by Altea Port, there are endless restaurants and bars to enjoy, and the stretch of coastline both north and south of Altea, and inwards toward the mountains, is breathtaking. If you’ve only a few nights to spend, there are my top recommendations:
Without a doubt Oustau, in the old town, is the most beautiful resturant in Altea. It is like dining in a secret garden! Fairly lights and lanterns twinkle above the tables, and the blue church dome can be seen peaking up above the foliage which acts as a canopy to the restaurant. The food and drinks are so reasonably priced for such a fabulous setting – but you will need to book, it’s always packed!
Located at Altea Port, Saltea has a suprising ‘summer in the Hamptons’ vibe. White washed wood, chunky tables, light blue coloured, checked cushions and an impressive looking wine selection lining the walls makes you think you are far away from the South of Spain. Until you try their paella! We shared a black squid ink paella and a mixed seafood paella with a jug of homemade Sangria and it was fabulous.
Bay Club Altea
You won’t get more of a marina bliss feeling than at the Bay Club Altea. Down at the port, the restaurant decking sits right out on to the water, surrounded by stunning yatches and speedboats, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a gin and watch the sunset. We didn’t try the food, but we spotted a rather delicious looking dish of mussles passing our table.
Other places worth a visit whilst you are in the area include Las Fuentes De Algar and the seaside towns of Calpe and Denia.
You can fly from Scotland to Alicante with Jet2, and Altea is only a short 45 minute drive from Alicante Airport.