Orihuela – From Ancient City to Blue Flag Beach
The city of Orihuela lies at the feet of the Sierra de Orihuela Mountains within Alicante Province. Between Elche and Murcia, Orihuela City is the capital of the Orihuela Municipality or what is called “La Vega Baja” (the “fertile lowlands”). The fertile soils support a strong agricultural industry, with oranges, lemons, olives, almonds, pomegranates and other fruits and vegetables all farmed in the area. Today the municipality is home to around 80,000 people. Intersected by the River Segura, the city has been a strategic settlement for a number of civilizations in its long history, including Visigoths, Moors and Romans; and remnants of their time in the city can still be seen today. Orihuela Cathedral is a must-see on any trip to the city. The cathedral was originally built as a simple church above the site of a Mosque in the late 13th century. In subsequent centuries the church expanded and in 1510 Pope Benedict XIII elevated it to cathedral status. Primarily built in a gothic style, there are three entrances to the cathedral, each built in different styles; a 14th century Islamic design, 15th century Gothic design and a 16th century Renaissance design. Inside is an exquisitely detailed Baroque organ created by Valencian craftsmen.
North of the river is the Palace of Rubaclava. Built in the 1930s, it is a former residence of the Marquis of Rubaclava and its ground floor is now home to the tourist office. A grand, sweeping marble staircase leads up to rooms that are each decorated in distinct styles (Rococo, Renaissance, Baroque etc) and occupied by period furniture.
If you feel like seeing some of the great outdoors, you can take a stroll or cycle along the banks of the River Segura and visit some of the nearby villages or even venture as far afield as Murcia City.
Away from the city, several beaches are on offer in the Orihuela Municipality. Punta Prima borders Torrevieja to the north and is one of the quieter beaches in the area. A narrow beach at just 14 metres wide, it’s characterised by rocky outcrops above the sandy beach. Playa Falmenca is a popular spot for sun-seekers and those who just like to wander the promenade. It’s a holder of the prized Blue Flag status and has scuba diving courses on offer. La Zenia is one of the busiest beaches in Orihuela because of its golden sands and size (350 metres long and 60 metres wide); it’s a popular spot to try out all kinds of water sports.
For more information on Orihuela, visit the Comunitat Valenciana web site. Orihuela is around a forty-five minute drive from Alicante Airport and Drivalia Car Rental.