Elche is the third largest city in the Valencian community after Valencia and Alicante and the twentieth most populous city in the whole of Spain. Elche has a permanent residential population of almost 230,000 people.
It is a stone’s throw away from two international airports of Alicante and Corvera - Murcia with easy motorway links to Torrevieja and Cartagena.
Elche’s economy is not based on tourism or construction but on footwear. Elche has over 1000 shoe factories which is important not only for Spain but also for the rest of Europe. Part of the municipality is on the coast but mainly the city is fifteen kilometres away from the Mediterranean Sea.
Elche Palm Trees Agriculture still plays an important role in Elche producing dates, olives, cereals and pomegranates. The rubber trade employs close to 20% of Elche’s inhabitants.
Make sure you visit the local market selling fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other locally-made goods and produce – market day in Elche is on a Monday.
Elche is famous for its palm trees. The Elche Palm Grove is an orchard with over 200,000 palm trees and has been proclaimed a heritage site by UNESCO in 2000.
The Huerto del Cura or Priest’s Garden is a hidden gem especially attractive on a hot summers day as the hundreds of palm trees there provide some welcome shade from the scorching sun. Surrounded by busy city streets, this is a strangely tranquil place, the stone walls encircling it blocking out much of the city noise.
Inside you will find hundreds of species of palm trees of varying sizes, culminating in the huge eight armed Imperial Palm, the pride of the garden, which is some 170 years old and is supported by metal straps which prevent it from collapsing under its huge eight tons of weight.
Elche is home to the Rio Safari Park. This family friendly animal park has many attractions including a ‘train’ ride and some entertaining animal shows. Feeding the animals is something your children will enjoy as much as yourself, with monkey nuts and carrots for sale in the park shop. Make sure your kids feed the giraffes and the hippo especially. You can also take a ride on a camel or a donkey and visit the farm animals section with cows, pigs, goats, horses and sheep.
Elche’s first inhabitants can be traced back in history as being the Carthaginians and Romans.
Elche was also occupied by the Moors but James II of Aragon took Elche out of Moorish occupation during the 13th century. Elche grew larger during the 18th century and became a city of great importance during the 19th century with the arrival of railway links and its production of footwear.
Elche has many great archaeological finds of which the Lady of Elche is the greatest. The Altamira Castle was built during the 12th and 13th Centuries and has been used recently as the town hall and as a prison during the Spanish Civil War. The Arabic baths, Basilica of Santa Maria and Calahorra Tower are also worth a visit.