The Little Natural Park – The Penon de Ifach
In Calpe, you can stand in front of or climb to the top of the Penon de Ifach, one of the smallest natural parks in Spain. It is the symbol for the Costa Blanca although just looks like an immense bulk or lump of limy stone that reaches 332 metres in height and extends it arm into the sea measuring about 35 hectares.
It was declared a Protected Natural Park in 1987 due to the great richness in flora and fauna that it holds. Over 300 species of flora can be appreciated and there is even one called the ‘sylene of Ifach’ which is only found there. As far as fauna, the coleopterous, silver seagulls and the swift are of great interest.
It seems almost impossible that such a small seemingly insignificant piece of land could have lived as much history as the Penon de Ifach has. Its beginnings go back too far to be completely confirmed, but it is thought that it got its name from the Libyans: Ifach in Libyan means ‘ to the North’ having first seen the Rock of Gibraltar in the south.
With the archaeological findings it has been proved that many different people and cultures lived at the foot of this big hill. It was strategically fit for the military, controlling the navigators by sea and all those travelling inland to through the Gorge of Mascarat. Until the late 18th century, pirates and privateers ransacked this area. Through the sculptures, marble, ancient teapot-shaped oil lamps and the great variety of Roman coins found between the village of Calpe and the Penon de Ifach, there is sufficient evidence that the Romans inhabited this beautiful coastal area the longest.
It is a shame that the famous ‘ Bath of he Queen’ no longer exists. It was a sophisticated system of acquiring salt which was not only used for seasoning food but also for drying out fish and meat and conserving it. On the shore of the Mediterranean these salt mine banks were used for one of the most prosperous businesses during Roman times. To the south of Alicante city, heading towards Santa Pola, you can still see piles of salt banks still being collected nowadays.
The Penon de Ifach is like Touching Heaven
Some of the best views of Calpe and the coastline can be seen from the top, where you can climb to with a free guided tour. It is definitely worth the effort to climb it. You can start the climb along a small path which zigzags its way up, right near the building called ‘ Area of Nature’. It is quite a smooth trip about an hour long but there are some craggy places ( remember, it is a wild area). Being as the path is narrow and there is a lot of “traffic”, during the summer months and Easter time you have to get a ticket so they can limit only 50 people at a time in an hour.
The cuisine in and around the Penon de Ifach and Calpe is based on, of course, fresh fish (one outstanding dish is stewed octopus) and rice dishes using white beans and turnips among others. Its main festivity is the Virgin of the Snow celebrated on August 5th . From the Penon you can make other enjoyable trips to Denia, Altea and Benidorm where there are also endless gastronomy delicacies to try and other festivities to see. The kindness of its climate together with the uniqueness of its landscape makes this municipality of Alicante quite a suitable place for all kinds of tourists to visit.