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      August 2010 > Away from it all

Away from it all

Tarbena, in the mountains of AlicanteAlison García Hall (Inntravel regional product manager for Spain, Portugal and Morocco) interviews Englishman, Brian Fagg, one of Inntravel’s hoteliers in Spain.

What led you to settle in Alicante, Brian? It’s not exactly the first place that springs to mind when you are thinking about setting up walking holidays in Europe. Surely, there are much more obvious areas - like the Pyrenees, the Picos de Europa or the Apennines in Italy.

Brian: We hadn’t initially even considered Spain when we started looking for our own small slice of paradise in the early 1980s. Like most people, we had experienced a couple of pretty unmemorable ‘Costa’ holidays and never thought for one moment we would find our dream home only 50km from the infamous Benidorm with its high-rise hotels and crowded beaches.

Alison: What changed your mind?

Brian: We’d been searching rural out-of-the-way corners of the southern Mediterranean for several years, when we were invited to spend a week’s holiday at a friend’s villa near Benidorm on the coast of Valencia. After only one day in the villa, my wife, Pat, and I were becoming increasingly restless and wondering how we were going to pass a whole week here. While shopping in the local supermarket the next day, however, we noticed an ad in the window, inviting people to join a local ex-pat on a walk into the mountains beyond the coast the following day at 9am. We immediately made contact and joined him - and the rest, as they say, is history.

Polop, in the mountains of AlicanteAlison: How did you get on? Did you enjoy it?

Brian: Well, funnily enough, we were the only two people to show up that day, but only an hour into the walk - and only a stone’s throw from Benidorm - we were soon immersed in fabulous and unexpected landscapes of wild limestone peaks and lush terraced valleys. We were completely smitten; we had had fallen in love - we had found our Shangri-la!

Alison: So what was it that really made such an impression on you and Pat?

Brian: I suppose what we loved most about the walking in the Mountains of Alicante was the sheer variety of scenery from one valley to the next; the amazing year-round array of flora, including dozens of stunning endemic species; and the fantastic bird-watching opportunities, particularly birds of prey. The area is now home to 19 pairs of golden eagles and 17 pairs of Bonelli eagles (the rarest eagle in Europe) as well as over 200 griffon vultures. On one of the walks - from the village of Castell de Castells down the beautiful Malafi gorge - there is the best chance to spot these magnificent raptors, particularly during the nesting season (Feb-Mar).

Swallowtail butterflyAlison: So how long ago was that? And what have you done in the meantime?

Brian: That was 18 years ago and we have now walked and documented more than 100 walks in the area - for all abilities - and yet we still haven’t ventured into the outer reaches of the sierra! Inntravel guests follow six of the most picturesque trails in the area, winding through steeply terraced valleys and over panoramic ridges that eventually lead to what we think is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled hamlets in the region, our home in Quatretondeta. And, if that’s not enough, they can always add a few extra nights and pick from the other hundred-plus hand-picked routes as well sampling more of Pat’s sublime cuisine. (Well, I am unashamedly biased!)

Alison: So why should people come to Alicante for a walking holiday?

Brian: Our guests are amazed at how wonderful and quiet the scenery they walk through is; how remote-feeling it is, despite only being an hour from the airport; and what an incredibly diverse range of flora and fauna can be found in these truly breathtaking mountains. Don’t be put off by the reputation of places like Benidorm. Our walks take place only 50km away and yet it’s like stepping back in time 50 years to an unspoiled version of authentic Spain. It’s our home - and we love it! 

Mountains of Alicante, Spain

Posted: 24/08/2010 09:04:06 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: nature, opinions, Spain, walking, wildlife

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