Self-Catering holidays have always been popular with UK holiday makers. Spain, and in particular the Costa Blanca, has a huge supply of holiday villas and apartments available to rent to UK tourists. If you rent a car along with your villa or apartment, you gain a lot of freedom in what to do on your holiday and when you do it.
One of the most visited tourist attractions on the Northern Costa Blanca is the mountain village of Guadalest. The village sits on top, and partially inside, a mountain outcropping a few miles inland from Benidorm, and about an hour drive from Denia, Javea, Moraira and Calpe.
You have to park in the large car park at the edge of the village as no traffic is allowed in. The village is filled to bursting with shops selling souvenirs, art and crafts, tobacco, drink, and clothes along with numerous bars and cafes. On the way up to the old village itself you pass the photographers who ask everyone to pose for an official photo souvenir, and another photographer just inside the village gates who captures each visitors face for a souvenir key ring.
Guadalest may be small, but every building is open to the public and house several shops and bars, a couple of museums, the town hall (with a dungeon), and a working school. The village square overlooks the Guadalest reservoir and it?s spectacular dam. On the way back down the key rings and photo portraits are usually developed and ready for sale if you want them.
A short drive further on is El Arco which means The Ark. This is a wildlife sanctuary and looks after rescued animals from circuses, mistreated animals, or pets that no longer have a home. Many of the animals have physical disabilities, and nearly all of them have their story printed on their enclosures.
Back towards Benidorm is the safari park Terra Natura. This park only opened in 2007 and is split into three continents, America, Asia and Europe, with an introductory zone from Earth?s beginnings, Pangea. The park is landscaped to match habitats from the three continents with the European area also including a water-park.
Next to Terra Natura is the famous Terra Mitica which is a large theme park. Like Terra Natura, the park is split into four zones, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Iberia. Most of the main rides also have a kiddie version to go with it, so the whole family can enjoy the rides. When you want a rest from being launched, spun, dropped and soaked, there are many restaurants and fast-food outlets in the park, and also several spectacular shows which are free to watch in various venues around Terra Mitica.
The other big attraction for those who like a holiday filled with action, is Aqualandia. This huge water park is slides, rides and pools for all the family. There are various types of slides, straight, bumpy, or bobsleigh style. A black hole ride in total darkness, a rapid rides of several connecting pools ending in a steep drop, and a lagoon with wave machine to name just a few.
If you do not want to spend all your time in the Benidorm area there is also plenty to do around Denia and Javea. The Safari Park at El Vergel is worth a visit with lions and tigers roaming free in the park, which you drive round in your own car, so the animals can get up close to you. There is also a safer area where you can leave your car and walk round and even touch some of the animals. At the end of the trail you can relax at the cafe or restaurant, and watch the bird and sea lion shows which are included in the ticket price.
For an extra few Euros, or even instead of going round the main park at all, you can swim with the sea lions in a special enclosure. You are provided with a wet-suit and some basic instruction and then swim in the pool with three sea lions swimming around you. The instructor also shows you how to get the sea lions do some of their famous tricks from the show, including pushing you around the pool, an experience not to be forgotten.
For those less energetic, the Costa Blanca valleys and towns are worth exploring. One of the most famous is the Jalon Valley, also known as the Vall de Pop. The town of Jalon is the capital of the valley with the river area being the place that most visitors head for.
There are three bodegas by the river all selling the local wine, either in bottles off the shelf, or by filling up your own plastic containers direct from the barrel.
If you visit on a Saturday morning the area is packed with the weekly Rastro or flea-market. The Rastro started as a car-boot sale a few years ago, and now has grown into a large market selling local arts and crafts, clothes, and various second-hand goods.
Other Rastros are held in Pedreguer, Denia, Javea, Moraira and Calpe on various days of the week. Details of when these are held are available from tourist information offices.
The Costa Blanca is excellent for a beach holiday, but there is so much more to do in this part of Spain to make your holiday a memorable one.