Things to do in Benissa
Underwater treasure, battles and stately homes
To stroll through Benissa is to enjoy narrow cobbled streets with a distinct medieval flavour, latticework inspired by the Moors, and the aristocratic grace of its ancient mansions. It is, in short, an opportunity to savour history and ancient customs.
The fact is that Benissa has managed to take good care of its urban centre, in which numerous buildings and monuments are ours to admire. Of particular note is the old Hospital, a refuge for the poor and needy from as far back as 1790 and now the Town Hall, and two equally noteworthy houses, that of the Andrés family and that of Pere Bigot, currently dependencies of the University of Alicante.
The real name of the owner of this latter house was Pedro Ivars Sala. He was what they call an "Indian" who emigrated to the United States in 1917. He returned years later and dedicated his life to ensuring that the good citizens of Benissa were as happy as could be: he collected all manner of objects and used them to adorn his spacious mansion, he was always telling stories about his adventures in America to the children and young people of the town, and he even treated them to tunes on his accordion.
Another palatial construction is considerably older; the Casa Museo Abargues dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries and conserves many of its original elements. It is a faithful mirror image of the noble ambience of the era: shields, staircases, chests, masonry, dining rooms, the old kitchen, the stable, the private chapel, the bedrooms of the gentry and those of the servants… The mansion is a veritable piece of history that gently transports us back to the lifestyle of Alicante's noble families of that period.
The house of Juan Vives, whose frontispiece is dominated by a tiled plaque in honour of the Patron Saint of Benissa, is the nerve centre of one of the city's most popular festivities, "Riberer's Night", which is celebrated in April. The origin of this festivity goes back to the 19th century: the Vives family gave shelter to two pilgrims who, before going on their way and by way of showing their gratitude, presented their benefactors with a miraculous image of the Most Pure Xiqueta. While popular fervour towards the "Most pure child" continued to grow, other apparent miracles took place until, in 1864, the Most Pure Xiqueta was officially proclaimed Patron Saint of Benissa.
Nowadays the entire town gathers together in front of this house on this night, dressed in whatever garments they are allocated - it depends on their year of birth - to sing hymns to the Virgin. When the singing comes to an end, the party continues with the ubiquitous fireworks and hurrahs to the Xiqueta. Of course, it is no surprise that Benissa's main church, which dates back to the start of the 20th century, is dedicated to this advocation of the Virgin. This is a building that was built in the Neo-Gothic style, with three naves and a spectacular central dome which is well worth the visit.
However, Benissa's festivities are not limited to purely religious occasions. If your visit coincides with the last days of June, hit the streets and don't miss the spectacular Moors and Christians parades, brimming with magnificent garments and delicate ornaments, in which the dancing, the drums and the fireworks attempt to reproduce the ancient battles between the two bands.
And if you like sport, then Benissa has all manner of facilities that will allow you to enjoy horse riding (don't miss the incredible trails through the nearby mountains) and golf in a spectacular landscape - when it opened in 1974, the 9-hole Ifach Golf Club was a pioneer of this sport on the Costa Blanca.
Not to mention Benissa's snorkel routes that are famous on account of the diversity and the colours of its underwater species and for its beautiful underwater meadows of ocean posidonia. You can choose from six possible marine routes: Les Bassetes, La Fustera, Els Pinets, La Llobella, L'Advocat, and Baladrar.
Throughout all these routes you will be guaranteed impressive views of the sea bed: canyons, passageways, balconies, fanciful rock formations… and, of course, warm, calm and extremely clean water. Try not to forget your underwater camera as you'll have lots of opportunities to snap an octopus or two and lots of fish species: Damselfish, Painted Comber, Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse or Cardinals.
Let's not forget about the beaches
Benissa offers its visitors six beaches to die for. Les Bassetes bay offers an idyllic view of the Peñón de Ifach in the background, while Cala Pinets, whose tranquil waters are ideal for kids, is also perfect for lively parents prepared to "take their lives in their hands" by venturing as far as the Dead Sea and the Black Rocks, a small inlet of shallow water beside some rather curious rock formations. The Platgeta de L'Advocat, easily recognisable by its breakwater, is fantastic for those who can't live without their aperitif in a "chiringuito" – remember it only opens in the summertime - and Fustera beach is an ideal choice if you are looking for a top-quality, comfortable and accessible beach - as witnessed by the fact that it has been awarded the Blue Flag on several occasions.
Looking for fun? The Baladrar cove, with its green pine trees that stand in marked contrast to the intensely blue sky and the sea, puts on live music in its open-air restaurant. And if you would rather go somewhere a little more intimate, you should visit Llobella cove: it may be small, but it's quite unique.
To sum up, Benissa offers you holidays that let you have fun but that also let you rest, holidays that are all about genuine relaxation. One last tip: blend into the landscape, be part of its relaxed way of life and enjoy the gastronomical delights it has to offer. Don't leave without having tried "borreta de melva" (a stew made with tuna fish), "coques al calfó i amb mullador" (a local prawn based dish), or "mullador de pelleta" (another stew made with tuna skin).