Al Azrak, a Moorish leader known as “el blavet” because of his blue eyes, fought hard against Christianity in order to dispute the control over the wealthy inland territories of the province of Alicante and signed the historical agreement of El Pouet with King Jaume I, which was never obeyed. Over 700 years later, these events are the reason behind the richest and liveliest traditional celebrations in the country. Declared of International Tourist Interest, Alcoy’s Moors and Christians Festival usually takes place on the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th April in honour of Saint George.
The festival commemorates the historical events which took place during the 13th century and represents a medieval narrative, full of theatricality in its spectacular parades, the colour of the clothing, the music and gunpowder. This mixture of cordiality and joy has turned this festival into one of the most beloved symbols of identity of the residents of Alcoy, alongside the Belén del Tirisiti (the Tirisiti nativity scene) and the procession of the Three Wise Men, the oldest in Spain and declared of National Tourist Interest.
Located approximately 54 kilometres from Alicante and 105 kilometres from Valencia, Alcoy, the city of bridges and industry, developed an interesting urban process during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Despite being influenced by previous periods – the city still preserves the remains of walls and medieval towers –, the current appearance of the metropolis is derived directly from that pioneering city of the Spanish industrial revolution. Factories, working class neighbourhoods and bourgeoisie houses lived side-by-side between valleys and rivers.
It is important to mention a number of modernist buildings, such as the Casa del Pavo and the Círculo Industrial, the old fire station and the Municipal Conservatory of Music and Dance Juan Cantó. The factories in the old quarter, which have been adpated to modern times, such as the old building of Papeleras Reunidas or the Ferrándiz y Carbonell factory, now home to the Polytechnic University, are also worth visiting.
Alcoy’s Civil War shelters are one of the differentiating features of this city, as can be seen when visiting the Cervantes shelter, now made into a museum.
But Alcoy is also the point of departure for visiting some of the most fertile and attractive natural spaces in the province. On the one hand, the Natural Park of the Font Roja offers one of the most peculiar versions of the mixed Mediterranean forest, with multiple environments and sources of vegetation from other latitudes, where there is an abundance of beautiful, unusual species such as the yew tree, ash tree, gall oak, maple tree andmarfull (Viburnum tinus). On the other hand, the Natural Park of Mariola is characterised by the variety and quantity of aromatic and medicinal plants, as well as the countless sources which provided water to this agricultural landscape for centuries, including spectacular snow wells, such as the Cava Arquejada, near the peak of the Montcabrer mountain (1,390 m.).
With over 12,000 hectares which extend across the municipalities of Alcoy, Cocentaina, Muro de Alcoy, Agres, Alfafara and Banyeres, the Mariola mountain range is the origin of the most important hydro graphic network in the province of Alicante, thanks to its generous rainfall and karst geostructure. The origin of the Vinalopo river is also worth mentioning, whose crystal clear waters drop from over 1,000 metres, and the river Barxell, which collapses into El Salt, where you can visit the house of the poet Juan Gil-Albert, just before reaching Alcoy and after receiving water from the Polop river.
The Barranc del Cint, the Canalons and the Racó Sant Bonaventura are a recommended stop for those who choose to cycle through the magnificent green route which crosses the area. And archaeology lovers cannot miss the cave paintings of La Sarga, declared a world heritage site, and the Iberian archaeological site of La Serreta, which contains a collection of lead inscriptions and votive offerings in the Archaeological Museum of Alcoy.
A few kilometres from Alcoy, the toy towns of Ibi and Onil are a great option for those travelling with children or those who carry their childhood memories close to their heart. Ibi’s Toy Museum, unique in Spain, and the Doll Museum in Onil are the perfect excuse to visit these beautiful municipalities. Ibi also offers you the opportunity to taste its delicious ice-creams or to experience one of the province’s most peculiar festivals, “Els enfarinats”, which covers the streets in while flour on 28th December (the Spanish April Fool’s Day).
Castalla, with its impressive castle, gazpacho (cold tomato soup) served on cake and green spots such as el “Xorret del Catí”, make visiting this town a must. And to round it all off, take a walk around the Tibi reservoir, which was built in 1580 and remained the most important hydraulic engineering project in the world for centuries, and a trip up the Maigmo mountain (1,296 m.), which serves as an incredible balcony of the Mediterranean covered in pine trees.