Wednesday Make your way to your chosen airport for the flight to Alicante, where on arrival we will transfer you to the 4 star Cap Negret Hotel, Altea for check in and free time before dinner and the first of seven nights stay (dinner may be a cold platter for late arrivals).
Thursday After breakfast feel free to join the tour manager for a walking tour of Altea (1 hour approx), known for its good beaches and its maze of narrow cobbled streets packed with museums, art galleries, jewellery boutiques and handicraft shops. It's only about a mile to the centre of the old town, but we'll be ambling quite slowly with plenty of stops for explanations and interesting sites. The last part is a bit steeper so we'll be going at an even more leisurely gait. After the tour you can either return to the hotel with the guide, or if you like, stay in the old town for a spot of lunch and stroll back later (or take one of the cheap buses or taxis back). The rest of the day is at leisure until dinner.
After breakfast we drive up into the high sierras to the cool, clean air of Guadalest, set among fields of olive and almond trees and overlooking a large dam–lake fringed by 4,000 ft granite mountains. This ancient Moorish fortress town is now officially a 'Monument of Historical and Artistic Value' and is armed to the teeth with bizarre museums for torture instruments, miniatures (Picasso's Guernica painted on a seed, the Statue of Liberty in the eye of a needle...), micro–giants (tiny, scantily–clad carved figures only visible through magnifying glasses), motorcycles, dolls houses and even a collection of 20,000 salt and pepper shakers. If all that's not enough, you can also visit the castle, the dungeons, the baroque church and the nobles' houses.
Today's full–day excursion takes us to Valencia. Famous abroad for orange juice, famous at home as the birthplace of paella, Valencia is also one of Spain's largest historic centres, full of gardens and parks and with an incomparable heritage of ancient monuments including the Cathedral, the medieval Serrano Towers and the Gothic Llotja de la Seda (Silk Exchange). While Saxon England was still struggling to come to terms with its new Norman overlords, Spain was already in the grip of an epic 400 year war between Moslems and Christians, and Valencia was the scene of huge battles fought by the legendary Christian warlord El Cid (played heroically in 1961 by Charlton Heston complete with broadsword, clanking armour and pouting Sophia Loren). Later on, Valencia became the capital of the Crown of Aragon (as in Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of ...) and thus one of Spain's richest and most influential cities. It was Valencian bankers who put up the money for a dubious open–ended ocean excursion by one C. Columbus.
We enjoy a coach tour of the city taking in sights such as the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of the Arts and Science), the Palau de la Musical (the Music Palace), the Bullring and the Town Hall.Then there will be free time in the centre to walk through the old town, pausing to admire the covered art deco market and the Lonja (Silk or Merchants Guild), an excellent example of Gothic civil architecture. There are lots of places to stop for lunch, and afterwards you might choose to explore the cathedral and the Basilica, or pay a proper visit to the City of Arts and Sciences, an outstanding complex of modern buildings by Spain's Damien Hirst of architecture, Valencia's own Santiago Calatrava. Here you can find the Oceanographic, with the largest aquarium in Europe, the Hemisfèric, with the largest digital projector screen in Europe (900 m2) and the Principe Felipe Science Museum, a truly knock–out experience and one of the most visited destinations in the country. We return to the hotel in time for dinner.
Sunday If you're looking for an out–of–town adventure, you could take the tram to Benidorm in the south. There are lots of interesting places in the area, including the Cactus Garden Dinosaur Park (adult entry €15) or the Fonts del Algar Waterfalls (€4). The Llorente No 18 bus from Benidorm stops at both of these. To the north of Altea the tram takes you to Denia, which has a lovely marina, great beaches, a ruined castle and attractive old town. Montgo Nature Park is also close by and is wonderful for walking.
Monday Marina Alta, Valle de Jalon & Tarbena
On today's excursion we head north along the coast road into the Marina Alta region, stopping at historic Calpe for a stroll around the port and fish market, and a view of the gigantic limestone outcrop Peñon de Ifach, a 1000ft high rock and national park vaguely reminiscent of Gibraltar, and a postcard symbol of the Costa Blanca. From here we go inland through the Valle de Jalon and the western hills to Tarbena, a sleepy little village and the perfect place for our lunch stop to sample the region's famed speciality, paella. Afterwards we'll wend down the winding roads via the scenic route through the mountains back to the hotel, arriving at about 3.30pm.
Tuesday Today is at leisure, and as it happens, Tuesday is market day in Altea, so it's the perfect time to go souvenir–shopping!
Wednesday Breakfast and then transfer to the airport for your flight home