It is now called Calpe, which means steep, rocky hill, but when it was settled by the Phoenicians, it was called Ifach, which simply means “north”. But by any name, this beautiful town is a perfect spot for a vacation on Spain’s Costa Brava on the Mediterranean Sea. Ideally situated between Altea and Benidorm to the south and Denia to the north, the town of Calpe recognized its prime location as far back as 1935, when its first resort hotel opened and hosted such notables as the author Hemingway.
The lovely town and beautiful soft sand beaches are a main attraction, to be sure, but one of the most interesting sites for most visitors to the area is the rocky crag called Penon de Ifach, that gave the town its original name. Penon de Ifach is actually a natural park in Spain, the smallest in the country along with Columbretes Islands in Castellon. The Spanish decided to name it a natural park in 1987 in order to protect its 300 species of vegetation and bird life which was being threatened by the urban sprawl that the originally small, quiet fishing village of Calpe was experiencing at that time. For nature lovers, the 35 hectares offer botanical landscapes as well as areas of tectonic interest. Some near extinct species of birds, such as the swift and the silver seagull and some plants found no where else on earth are protected in this natural preserve.
It is not an easy climb, but for those who master the summit of this unusual rock formation, the view is worth every effort. The climb up is a serpentine route along the rocks, through a tunnel which was dug in 1918, to a peak which looks down on the beautiful Costa Brava. The park is free, but the authorities have wisely limited visitors to 50 per hour, so during busy seasons such as the summer and Easter week, you have to get a ticket to go up the mountain. Even if you have never attempted any sort of mountain climbing, the lure of Penon de Ifach will make you very glad you tried.
You can visit Calpe either by flying into Valencia airport, 105 kilometers away, or fly into Alicante airport, 61 kilometers away. If you rent a car, you will follow the N332 national highway which is toll free, or the A-7 highway. On the A-7, there are tolls, but the route is quick and safe, and recommended during the busy summer season. If are not renting a car, you can take a bus from either airport.
Since this is now such a popular tourist spot, you can choose among dozens of places to stay. From a rudimentary camping spot, to an inexpensive hotel for only 45 euros per night, to something a bit nicer at the base of the Penon (about 80 euros per night) to a luxe hotel right at the beach, in the range of 150 euros, you will find something to suit your taste and pocketbook.