Some 300,000 protected date palms rustle above ancient Elche (Elx), the legacy of 6th-century Phoenician gardeners, though the city is older still. They line the banks of the Vinalopó River, along with Elche's most magnificent buildings.
This is an exotic spot of archaeological treasures, fine museums, Moorish domes, and beautiful churches. Meaningful places, such as the soft-lit stone arches of the Arab Baths (which probably date to Roman times), artistic gardens of the Huerto del Cura, and evocative ruins of La Alcudia are the attractions, rather different from those of the rest of the coast.
Still, just 15 minutes from the city proper, pale beaches await sun lovers, and there are certainly fine dining and nightlife options aplenty. This is also, by the way, the self-proclaimed "Footwear Capital of the World," or at least Spain, producing half of the nation's shoes.
Elche is an inland town, 23km (14mi) from the region's major city, Alicante. Though a museum dedicated to the city's Mystery Play of Elx, in which the Virgin Mary is carried to heaven on a song, offers virtual performances year-round, the UNESCO-recognized drama is staged at the Basilica of Santa María de Elche ever August, the very best time to visit. Most visitors fly into busy Alicante Airport (ALC), where you can catch private taxis direct to Elche. Buses connect Elche to Alicante, Murcia, and throughout Spain, while a high-speed rail line being constructed between Alicante and Madrid will also stop in Elche.