Albatera – The Heart of the Vega Baja
Albatera is a medium sized village in the Vega Baja region of the Costa Blanca in the Alicante province. It has a population of approximately 9,000 and its inhabitants speak mostly Spanish with a smattering of Catalan.
Albatera lies north of Cox on the N-340 and is located handily for both Alicante and Murcia airports (41 km and 37 km respectively). Albatera sits on the banks of the River Segura, a beautiful spot with stunning views of the surrounding Sierra de Crevillent mountains – though the town itself has a very level aspect. The area has a warm and temperate Mediterranean climate with the Segura river basin having the lowest rainfall in the whole of Spain. The average temperature ranges from 11 degrees centigrade in January to just under 28 degrees in August.
Artefacts found in the area give testimony to its being inhabited in pre-historic times. The Romans invaded in the 3rd century BC and left their mark with a complex system of irrigation channels. The Arabs invaded in the 5th century and held control of the region until it was re-conquered by Alfonso the Wise (Alfonso X) in 1266. In 1296 Jaime II King of Aragon integrated Albatera along with Cox and Crevillente into the kingdom of Aragon and granted the Moors of these 3 villages safe conduct to return to their former places of residence and continue with their work for the benefit of the crown.
The agreement of Elche 1305 set the boundaries of Castilla and Aragon as north and south of the Segura river – the southern area including Albatera and Crevillente belonging to Aragon and Cox going to Castilla. In 1609 the Moors were finally expelled and the language and writings of the region became exclusively Castillan.
In 1833 Albatera became part of the province of Alicante. From these early days the economy of the area was dependant almost entirely on agriculture, irrigated by the waters of the Segura river, and previously dry land was brought into use by the irrigation channels. Pig farming also constituted a considerable part of the area’s economy up until recent times, when industry and commerce became of equal importance to that of agriculture and farming.
The Albatera of today comprises wide, palm tree lined streets, with quaint white-walled houses. At the centre in the plaza is a beautiful parochial church, dedicated to the apostle Santiago and built in 1729. The church is famed for its impressive baroque doorway, intricately carved in stone. Also in the plaza are the town hall and the old casino.
Albatera is surrounded by natural areas of mountains, plains and wetlands. One of the most impressive of these areas being the municipal park – Parque de la Huerta (Park of the Orchards) consisting of 30,000m2 of gardens, with a lake, a fountain and a variety of signposted walking routes. Some outdoor musical events also take place here.
Albatera has an intricate network of canals and irrigation channels, many dating from Roman times, these supply the areas agricultural needs where the main produce is fruit (mostly lemons, oranges and dates) and vegetables.
The historic city of Orihuela is just 12 km away with its numerous fine churches. Albatera is just 30 minutes away from some of the best beaches in the area. Close to Albatera is the tiny village of San Isidro which was only founded in 1959 after a law was passed to encourage settlement of the marshy areas. It’s white houses are built in a grid system of identical streets. To the east lies the agricultural town of Catral, and beyond Catral the Hondo Reservoir with its enjoyable trails and walks through picturesque and scenic countryside.
One of Albatera’s best known festivals is in July in honour of Saint James the Apostle – a whole week is given over to the festivities, which includes “novilladas” where novice bullfighters challenge young bulls. Another major celebration is the Moors and Christians festival.
Just 6 km north of Albatera town is the Albatera Golf and Country Club – one of the best golf courses in the area. Apart from golf, a range of other activities are available including tennis, riding and shooting.
Albatera has good Spanish schools and good motorway access. Albatera can be easily reached by motorway via exit 78 of the A-7. Albatera is a truly traditional Spanish town with good Spanish values and a simple way of life – the beating heart of the Vega Baja.
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