Photo by Lena Polishko
First things first: What makes Calp stand out on the Costa Blanca coastline is the majestic Rock, the Peñón de Ifach, an emblem of the Costa Blanca and a symbol of Calp. (More on the Lego-inspired building at the end).
The Peñón de Ifach is a colossal limestone rock that rises 332 meters above the sea and extends one kilometre into the Mediterranean sea. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, which creates two beautiful coves on each side: the Levante or la Fossa beach and the Arenal-Bol beach. The Rock is a natural park that hosts a rich biodiversity of plants and animals, some endemic and endangered. It also has a fascinating history and culture, as different civilizations inhabited it since ancient times.
For nature lovers and other visitors, The Peñón de Ifach offers many attractions and activities:
Hike to the summit
This is a challenging but rewarding adventure that takes about two hours. You will need good shoes, water and sunscreen. The trail starts at the visitor centre, where you can learn more about the natural park and its regulations. You will then follow a path leading to a tunnel that crosses the Rock. After the tunnel, you will face a steep and rocky ascent that requires some climbing skills. Once you reach the top, you will be amazed by the panoramic views of Calp and the surrounding area. You will also see the remains of an old watchtower and a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Snows. Access to the rock and the route to its summit has been limited to 300 walkers a day to protect the natural park.
The diving route
This route is a unique experience that allows you to discover the underwater world around the Peñón de Ifach. You will need to book a guided tour with a certified diving centre. You will then board a boat that will take you to one of the several diving spots near the Rock. You will see colourful corals, algae, sponges and fish, caves, arches and tunnels formed by the erosion of the Rock. You might also encounter some dolphins or turtles along the way.
The Princess of Asturias ecological walk
A pleasant walk that starts at the Cala del Racó, a small gravel cove at the foot of the Peñón de Ifach. You will follow a wooden boardwalk that runs along the coast and offers beautiful views of the Rock and the sea. You will also see some information panels that explain the flora and fauna of the area. The walk ends at the marina, where you can enjoy some refreshments or visit some shops.
The archaeological sites
Different cultures have inhabited the Peñón de Ifach since ancient times, and you can see some traces of their presence on its slopes. On the western side, you can find an Iberian settlement from the 4th century BC, where you can see some stone walls and pottery fragments. On the eastern side, you can find a medieval town from the 13th century, where you can see some houses, cisterns and towers. You can also visit some museums in Calp that display more artefacts from these periods.
Calp is not only about its Rock, though. It also has many other attractions and activities that will make your stay unforgettable. Here are some of them:
Calp has 14 beaches to choose from, depending on your preferences. Some are urban beaches with fine golden sand and plenty of facilities, such as Playa de Levante or la Fossa and Playa Arenal-Bol. Others are rocky coves with clear water and fewer crowds, such as Cala del Racó or Cala del Morelló. You can also find virgin coves with amazing views of the Peñón de Ifach, such as Cala Gasparet or Cala Les Bassetes. All the beaches have been awarded the Blue Flag for their quality and cleanliness.
The salt flats
These are located next to the Peñón de Ifach and are part of an ancient salt production system that dates back to Roman times. They are now a wetland area that hosts a rich birdlife, including flamingos, herons, egrets and ducks. You can walk around them or take a guided tour to learn more about their history and ecology.
The old town
This is where you can feel the charm and history of Calp. You can stroll along its narrow streets, white houses and colourful flowers and admire its monuments and architecture. Some of the highlights are the Torreón de la Pieza, a defence tower from the 14th century; the Casco Antiguo, the old town centre that preserves its medieval character; the Iglesia Antigua, an old church from the 15th century that was built on top of a Roman temple; and the Museo Arqueológico y Etnológico, an archaeological and ethnological museum that displays artefacts from different periods of Calp’s history.
The La Muralla Roja
In the late 1960s, renowned architect Ricardo Bofill designed the La Murilla Rioja. Inspired by the Arab Mediterranean style and the casbahs of North Africa, with geometric shapes, interlocking courtyards and staircases, the complex has 50 apartments of different sizes and styles.
The exterior facade is painted with various tones of red, while the interior surfaces are painted with different styles of blue, ranging from sky blue to indigo and violet. The colours are selected to either contrast with nature or complement its purity. The building is also a labyrinth that follows a geometric plan based on the typology of the Greek cross, having arms that are five meters long. The crosses intersect at the service towers, which contain the kitchens and bathrooms. The circulation is based on a series of stairs, platforms and bridges that connect the apartments and the communal spaces. La Muralla Roja is one of the most iconic buildings in Spain and has become a popular destination for tourists, photographers and Instagrammers.