September 21st, 2012
Although three decades had passed since I last saw Dénia on the Costa Blanca, I was delighted with how little it had changed.
The capital of the Marina Alta, Denia is a University city that remains a place to stay a while and savour.
Time has changed the appearance of this coastline but I suggest it is a place where time is on your side.
Denia is one of my favourite locations on the Costa Blanca. A short hop via the tram from the more brash Benidorm, and yet light years away in terms of appearance and feel. How on earth has the place managed to keep its own identity despite all the development that has gone on along this coastline since the nineteen seventies?
I have no idea. But Denia is still charming and a little rustic. I like wandering the backstreets of this colourful city. Getting in and among the avenues and alleyways that are a few rows back from the sea.
True, when I was there, some houses were crying out for a lick of paint, but that is such a better look than the chocolate box appearance of some other well known destinations along other coastlines in Spain, such as the Costa Del Sol.
Denia is not big. It is not brash. It is beguiling.
If a place can be summed up by the shops it has to offer the holidaymaker, then Dénia is like the shop Ale Hop which you’ll find just a street or two back from the seafront, in Carrer del Marqúes de Campo.
Like that store, Denia is quirky in the nicest possible way.
It is also ideally located midway between the city of Alicante, of which I am a big fan, and the third biggest city in Spain, Valencia.
I didn’t know there was so much to the area. Yes, top class international restaurants making sure the tastes of all nationalities are catered for – and in fine style. But I found the opportunity to go horse riding through the Jalon Valley to be a tempting one. And this is truly a beautiful area to see at a leisurely place.
Of course you can be on the motorway very quickly and be in Alicante, Benidorm or even Valencia within an hour or so. But try not to rush your stay here.
The history of Denia is a mixed and lively one. As with so much of Spain, the Romans and the Visigoths loved it here. But when, much later, the Christians conquered the town in 1244 it led to the city becoming largely uninhabited for years.
The Spanish crown took over Denia from the start of the 19th century and that attracted traders from all over the world. The English influence upon Denia began centuries before the package holiday brigade arrived in the 1960′s and 1970′s.
Back in 1800 English traders in raisins set up camp in Denia and traded from there until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil war over a hundred years later.
There is a 16th century castle at Denia and a museum located within. There is much for history buffs to soak up.
And, naturally, there are some lovely beaches in the area for those who prefer to soak up the sun rather than dates. 20 kilometres of seafront to choose from.
Of course it is the sea that has brought so much industry to Denia for many centuries. The fishing industry is alive, if not as well or busy as it was in times past. Local fishermen still land their daily catch which can be bought at stalls within hours of the fish acquiring their land legs.
I don’t know why anyone would want to sail away from Denia, but you can if you so wish. There are regular sailings to Ibiza and other Balearic Islands.
If you want to stay on land and see more of the pretty countryside that is set back from the Costa Blanca, take the so called Limón Express train journey which is a daily working railway line and not a seasonal line just for tourists.
You will be surprised by the sheer beauty on offer outside your train window en route to the fabulous city of Alicante which is a must go to location.
A keen golfer i know bought a property at the La Sella golf club and told me it was because this is one of the very best golf courses on offer in all of Spain.
But it wasn’t just birdies and bogeys that pulled Rick towards this area more than fifteen years ago. He told me: “La Sella has much more on offer than just Golf. Facilities for tennis and horse riding and many other leisure activities are on site or nearby. The urbanisation has restaurants and a supermarket and pharmacy.
“There are wonderful walks in the surrounding mountains and in the orange, almond and cherry groves of the Jalon valley.”
So how would Rick describe the difference between Denia and the equally popular neighbouring destination of Javea?
He told me: “Denia is a cosmopolitan university city, dominated by its castle and bustling port. It has many shops, bars and restaurants. The pace of life is very much slower in Javea, with its old town and beautiful fishing port.”
In my opinion Denia is a classic example of a location in Spain that is much more ‘real’ out of the high season of summer. It is in the Spring, Autumn and Winter that you can best experience the more laid back charm of this small city and the surrounding area.
Yes, big changes have come along the more northern stretches of the Costa Blanca in recent decades. But what first attracted the foreign visitor is still very much evident.
Denia has always been delightful. And that is one thing that will never change.