CLICK HERE for our
FREE Weekly News Bulletin
Albatera is the northernmost municipality of the province of Alicante, and shares borders with Crevillente and those of the Hondón valley, which has proved a popular location for expatriates from northern Europe seeking warmer climes. In this context, despite its distance from the beaches of the Costa Blanca, it is not overly surprising to find that there are almost 300 British nationals currently living in Albatera.
The town is located on the flood plain of the River Segura, and its economy has traditionally been supported by the twin pillars of agriculture and the textile industry, with hemp being one of the typical local products. These are still important elements in the daily life of Albatera today despite the recent growth of industry and the services sector, with the results of the fertile soil clear to see at the weekly market, where locally grown products include artichokes, figs, oranges, lemons and pomegranates.
Nowadays these crops are practically guaranteed by the Tajo-Segura water supply canal, but there has been a complex series of irrigation ditches and channels in the area since Roman times, and this was added to and refined during the centuries of Moorish occupation.
Sights to see in the town itself include the Renaissance portico of the old palatial residence of the Rocafull family, which dates from the 16th century but was dismantled in 2004 and is now on display in the Town Hall, and the 18th century church dedicated to the patron saint of Albatera, Santiago Apóstol. The figure of Santiago is also at the centre of the annual Fiestas Patronales in the month of July, which are combined with the Moros y Cristianos festivities commemorating the Reconquista of this part of Spain by the Christian forces in the 13th century.
These fiestas culminate in a ceremony on 24th July in which the liberation of Albatera is re-enacted, with a Moor handing over the keys to the town to the apostle himself as the carved wooden statue representing him is carried out of the church in a ceremony full of light, noise, gunpowder and religious devotion.
Semana Santa in Albatera contains the same combination of passion and tradition, and later in the year on 7th October the offering which is made to the Virgen del Rosario (the co-patron of the town) includes pomegranates and other local agricultural produce.
However, for many the main attractions of Albatera and its neighbouring municipalities are the clean air, the wide open sky and the impressive landscape. In the north stand the mountains of the Sierra de Crevillente, in the foothills of which are the Serralba residential development and the Reina del Rsario mountain park. At the same time the recommended walking routes within the boundaries of Albatera include the PR-V-180 path, which runs from the outskirts of the town right over the top of the mountains and into the valley of Hondón de los Frailes and Hondón de las Nieves.
Also popular are the 30,000-square-metre Parque de la Huerta, an area of meadows, bushes, waterfalls and cascades which is also equipped with a children’s play area and an open-air auditorium holding up to 3,000 people, and the Rambla Salada de Albaterra, the dry river bed and floodwater channel which cuts through the Sierra de Crevillente and in which salt deposits can be found in periods of drought.
As in the rest of the Vega Baja, the gastronomic delights of such an area so rich in farmland ensure that those needing to replenish their energy levels after a hike through the countryside can do so in some style, with local specialities including numerous variations on the theme of paella. Particularly popular on public holidays is rabbit paella, and other versions include those with cauliflower and artichoke, sardines or fried garlic.
Other dishes which have to be tried are the local “morcilla” or blood sausage, which contains celery and bacon, snail stew and meatballs, while for those with a sweet tooth the traditional “almojábana” has been popular throughout the Vega Baja since at least the 16th century.
All in all the municipality of Albatera is an attractive one to visit, steeped in history and tradition and representative of the “real” Alicante which lies inland from the Mediterranean. Visitors are guaranteed a warm welcome, and will surely be tempted to explore further inland as they see the landscape of south-eastern Spain and gain insights into how people have lived here for centuries: some have already been captivated, hence the presence of a sizeable expat community in Albatera and the Hondon valley!
Main image: Wikicommons (philmarin)