Elche is a popular city located just south of Alicante on the eastern Mediterranean coastline of Spain. Billed as “The City That Never Ends”, Elche is the third most populated city in the Valencian Community, only Valencia and the city of Alicante have larger populations in this part of Spain.
Visit Elche, Travel Guide & Tourist Information
According to official figures from 2014, Elche has a population of over 220,000 permanent inhabitants. Like most areas along this stretch of coastline, the numbers swell significantly during the summer months with tourism. Although the municipality extends to the coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea, the main city of Elche is located around 10 kilometres inland. The economy of Elche is pretty solid with over 1000 factories dedicated to footwear and clothing. Tempe Inditex have a large presence in Elche and own several large high street brands such as Zara, Pull & Bear and Massimo Dutti.
Top Attractions & Things to do in Elche
Elche is home to some magnificent attractions and there is a long list of super things to do here. The best known are perhaps El Palmeral (Palm Groves) and Misteri d’Elx (Mystery Play of Elche) with the former being recognised on this list by the international UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Below we go into more detail about some of the best things to in Elche during your visit.
1) El Palmeral – Palm Groves of Elche
With more than 200,000 trees, and another 50,000 in the nurseries waiting to replace the current trees, The Palm Grobes of Elche is the largest of it’s kind in Europe. This is no ordinary tree plantation, El Palmeral is part of the history of Elche which dates back over 1000 years to when much of Spain was under Moorish rule. From an aerial view, this majestic place appears to be a forest but is in fact a cleverly laid our grid system of trees. The palm trees are planted in smaller plots of land which are referred to as “Huertos” (Orchards) with some white palms being sold throughout Spain and some overseas countries. According to this article on the official tourism website, a good percentage of the worlds palm trees were wiped out during the previous Ice Age with the exception of some of the warmer places such as Elche and the Middle East. It’s important to point out that date palm fruits that grow here have been an important staple food that dates back to at least the 3rd – 1st Century BC when the Romans settled here.
2) Misteri D’Elx – Mystery Play of Elche
The Mystery Play of Elche is described as the cultural treasure of the people of Elche and one of the most important parts of Valencian heritage. Misteri D’Elx normally takes place on the 14th – 15h August each year at the Basilica de Santa María. The celebration commemorates the Assumption of Mary where the Virgin Mary ascends into heaven after completing her duties here on earth. This amazing spectacle dates back to medieval times to around the 14th – 15th Century although no exact date has ever been determined.
The 14th of August is known as “La Vespra” which sees an angel descend from heaven to inform Mary that her death is near. The angel presents Mary with a golden palm that will be taken to her funeral. The Angels ascending and descending from heaven are carried by ancient machines that are also thought to have been around since the plays medieval roots.
The 15th of August is known as “La Festa” when preparations are being made for the burial of Mary. An angel descends from heaven to prepare her soul for the ascension but the preparation is interrupted by a group of Jews that want to prevent her burial. A fight breaks out between the Jews and the Apostles and one of the Jews is left paralyzed after attempting to touch the Virgin. The Jews having witnessed this miracle are then baptized by Saint Peter using the Golden Palm. The play also features several appearances from the choir known as the “Araceli” and the Apostle Saint Thomas who arrives late after preaching in far away India.