For almost half a century eastern Spain, and most notably the Costa Blanca, has been thought of as a sun, sea and sand holiday destination. What many of those sunning themselves on the golden beaches did not know was that within twenty minutes they could be dipping their toes in mountain streams or meandering along narrow roads through stunning mountain scenery with great vistas down to the Mediterranean. A half-hour further, to high wine-growing plateaus, hill-top castles and Disneyesque villages of narrow cobbled streets and gorgeously decorated churches, so peaceful that little moves except the shadows or a languid cat.
Until little more than a decade ago few visitors to eastern Spain set foot in the interior, partly because of the lack of decent accommodation. All that has changed, and the region now has top quality places to suit every need and pocket, from tiny village casas rurales to sumptuous hotels, often designed by the owners themselves, incorporating family heirlooms that make you feel part of a Spanish family and not simply a paying guest.
The increase in demand for good quality accommodation both on the coast and inland has led to the rejuvenation of many old buildings that would once have continued on their decline into dereliction. Flour mills, palaces, country houses of the once-rich, tiny farms and village houses, all full of history now brought back to life, as well as many brand new hotels and others that have undergone major restoration.
Equally important is that the new breed of hoteliers recognise that their guests want more than simply a comfortable bed and many of the hotels now offer a range of activities; from walking to plant identification, cooking to canoeing, wine-tasting to writing. Private spas, relaxation classes, wonderful regional gastronomy made with home-grown ingredients….a totally new experience of what eastern Spain has to offer.
These are some of my favourites.