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Spain’s Hidden Gems: Algorfa, the Costa Blanca’s little pueblo with a huge heart

Algorfa is around 10 miles inland from Torrevieja, in the Vega Baja region of the Costa Blanca. It’s possible you’ve never even heard of it – I certainly hadn’t, until I bought my garden apartment there in 2008. However, it’s a real hidden gem of Spain, and the locals are really friendly and welcoming, wherever you hail from. It’s a great place to visit for the day, and an ideal holiday base, as the N332 coast road and the A7/AP7 motorway are both within a few minutes’ drive, meaning the whole of Spain is within easy travelling distance. Here’s a few interesting facts about Algorfa to start with.

 

Origins of Algorfa

 

Algorfa

 

There were people living in Algorfa as long ago as 3000 years BC. Archeological investigations in the early 20th century uncovered 12 skeletons from the Neolithic period, as well as various household items. However, it only became a municipality, with the name of Algorfa, when King Alfonso II made it part of the Kingdom of Valencia, and granted the privilege of building dwellings.

 

There were just 15 of them, with 15 families as the first recorded residents of the town. Today, most of Algorfa’s Spanish residents are descended from four of those original families. When I first moved here in 2008, I kept thinking I was seeing things, because the same woman seemed to be everywhere I went, even when I’d seen her go into a shop as I walked past. Then someone told me there are seven almost identical sisters in the village, who often seem to wear the same clothes, without realising!

 

The special privilege was revoked by Felipe V following the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714, but restored at the end of the 18th century by Carlos IV, following representations from the Marquis of Algorfa.

 

The orange groves

 

Algorfa

 

One of the great things about Algorfa is the purity of the air. That’s because there is no industry here – the main occupation of the residents is citrus farming, and other agriculture. The orange groves afford endless pleasure. You can stroll through the unfenced groves, and enjoy the peace and tranquillity, or watch the lizards bask in the sun, or the hares boxing. The groves really get to you, and as most of them are unfenced, there are no objections if you pick up a windfall to quench your thirst as you walk through.

 

In April and May, you can smell the orange blossom everywhere. Then there’s the famous ‘Algorfa Roar,’ when the bees pollinate the flowers. You wouldn’t believe the noise, unless you hear it for yourself. A walk through the orange groves is a real sensory experience, and the peaks of the Sierra de Callosa mountains surround the groves, keeping the valley sheltered and warm, most of the time.

 

Algorfa

 

The Segura River

 

The Segura River runs through Algorfa, offering some peaceful and interesting wild life walks. There’s been a lot of work to restore the river to its former glory, and this was rewarded in 2016 when the Segura River Foundation was awarded the European River Prize by the International River Foundation. As recently as 15 years ago, the banks of the Segura were a no-go area, but by 2016, things had changed dramatically:

 

This once polluted and water-stressed river in Europe’s driest basin has been transformed from an exposed sewer to a healthy, vibrant river, home to otter, migratory birds, and other flora and fauna, and the reuse of irrigation water has allowed increased agricultural, leisure and recreational activities.

 

Walks around Algorfa

 

Algorfa

 

There’s a lovely walk from La Finca to Algorfa through the orange groves, with fabulous views of the mountains, and benches to rest for a while at regular intervals. And there are several scenic walks to neighbouring villages such as Benijofar, Benejuzar and the urbanisations of Lo Crispin and Montebello. Or walk into Los Montesinos and enjoy the stunning views over Torrevieja’s pink salt lake. For the more adventurous, walk through the Caldero de Gigante (Giant’s Cauldron) from Montemar Woods to Montebello. The ground is very uneven though, so wear suitable shoes.

 

When the earth moves!

 

Algorfa lies on the Bajo-Segura fault line, and there is a lot of seismic activity in the area. In the 6.6 Richter Scale earthquake of March 21st, 1829, almost 3000 homes were destroyed, around 2,500 were badly damaged, with 386 people killed and another 375 injured. The towns of Torrevieja, Guardamar and Algorfa’s nearest neighbour, Almoradi were totally destroyed, along with the surrounding villages of Algorfa, Benijofar, Rojales and Benejuzar.

 

This explains why there are no really old buildings in the region. For many years now, new builds have been constructed with built in earthquake protection, which is why these days, there is no serious structural damage when the earth moves, as it sometimes does around Algorfa. Don’t let that put you off visiting though – most people don’t even notice the occasional mild tremor.

 

La Ermita

 

The chapel dedicated to the Virgen del Carmen was built in 1901, on the outskirts of the village on the Benejuzar road, by the Marquis of Algorfa. He also built a new palace behind it, to replace the previous building. Both buildings were constructed from two colour stone from local quarries.

 

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The buildings underwent major refurbishment in 2010 and today, La Ermita is the focal point of Algorfa’s fiesta to honour the Virgen, who is the patron saint of the village. The fiesta begins with a Romeria (pilgrimage) to La Ermita with the Virgen, followed by a Holy Mass with music and a breakfast of beer and sardines. The whole village turns out for this moving occasion. Fiesta time is around the middle of July, and if you can time your visit to coincide with the fiesta, you’ll find plenty going on in Algorfa.

 

Algorfa

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n 2018, the campo around the Ermita was given a total facelift. Some of the ground was levelled to make a decent sized car park, and there are now two grassed areas on different levels, with picnic tables and benches, running water, and a barbecue area.

 

If you like the look of Algorfa, and want to linger for a day or two, you’re allowed to camp up alongside the Ermita’s pine forest, or you can stay at the Algorfa Hotel out at Montemar, or the 5-star La Finca Golf Resort and Spa overlooking the La Finca Golf Course.

 

Algorfa Fiestas

 

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For a little place, Algorfa is big on fiestas, and there are a number through the year. There’s usually a winter fiesta, in January or February, with a giant paella. In April there’s the festival of Saint Vicente Ferrer, the patron saint of the village church, complete with barbecue or paella. At the end of April, there’s the Sevillana Fair, with dancers, horses, stalls and food.

 

The highlight of the Algorfa year is the Patronal Fiesta, in July, which honours the patron saint of Algorfa, the Virgen del Carmen. Her special day is 16 July, and for around 10 days around that time, there are events, parades, themed meals and entertainments, and a carnival. It’s when Algorfa turns into a Tardis, because no matter how many people turn up, they are all accommodated!

 

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In late September or early October, there’s the International Gastronomy Fiesta, when the different nationalities all produce some of their native foods for everyone to try. For just €2, you can get a plate of food and a drink, and all the money goes to AECC (Cancer Research) as the Ayuntamiento foots the bill for the food.

 

Like every village and town in Spain, Algorfa hosts a tapas trail. It’s in October, and it’s different, because it’s a two centre trail. There’s a bus laid on between La Finca and Algorfa, so you can travel between the two places to enjoy tapas and drinks.

 

For more information on Algorfa fiestas, check the Ayuntamiento Facebook Page, and search local groups in Algorfa. Algorfa’s Mayor, Manuel Ros Rodes, is very much involved in everything that goes on in the municipality, and is always approachable, so there’s a lot of interaction between the residents, holidaymakers and the Ayuntamiento.

 

It makes for a fabulous, friendly atmosphere, but then people have been saying what a special place it is for a very long time, so there’s obviously something in the air around Algorfa! It settles into your soul, and welcomes you with open arms.

 

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Today in Algorfa

 

Algorfa has two main centres of activity – the village itself, and the La Finca Urbanisation, which incorporates the commercial centre with lots of bars, restaurants and shops. There are around 50 different places to eat and drink in Algorfa and the surrounding area. The food choice is as cosmopolitan as the 27 European nationalities represented on the Padron in Algorfa. Whether you want typically Spanish, Mediterranean, Scandinavian, Hungarian, Indian, Italian or anything else, you’ll find it in Algorfa.

 

There’s a lovely walk from La Finca to Algorfa through the orange groves, with fabulous views of the mountains, and benches to rest for a while at regular intervals. And there are several scenic walks to neighbouring villages such as Benijofar, Benejuzar and the small town of Almoradi.

 

For the sporty types, there’s the famous La Finca Golf Course, and the Tennis Club of Almoradi (Confusingly located in Montemar!), where you can also play padel and swim. There’s even a shooting and paintball centre, for those who like a bit of adventure in their leisure time.

 

Algorfa also boasts its own sports stadium, where there are two full sized astro turfed football pitches, as well as a multi-purpose hard court. Then there’s the fabulous outdoor pool, open from June to September, at a cost of just €2 per person, per day. There’s an extensive grassed area, with sun shades and some chairs available, or you can bring along your own sun beds and chairs, along with a picnic and drinks.

 

Algorfa

 

If packing a picnic sounds like too much trouble, the bar in the sports complex – El Chiringuito – does a great selection of tapas and main meals. However, if you want to sample their paella, you need to order it the day before you visit. The children’s playground is within sight of El Chiringuito’s spacious terrace, so they can amuse themselves in safety while you enjoy some relaxation time in the shade.

 

There is so much to do in Algorfa, you’ll wonder how such a small space can offer such diversity of scenery, activities and  pit stops for refreshment. Whatever you are looking for in a day out, a holiday, or even somewhere to live, you’re sure to find it in Algorfa – the little pueblo with the big heart.

 

Algorfa

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