Elche, City of Culture and Fiestas

Elche (Elx) is well worth the visit. it’s only 20 minutes from the Hondon Valley, so our nearest city. As well as an vast array of modern shops and services you’d expect in a city it’s  clean, beautiful (“The City of a Million Palms“) and offers a rich historic culture.

Image c/o WikiPedia

Steeped in religious history, Elche has centuries of architecture, museums, a central park & old rambla with more than enough varieties of palm trees to keep you intrigued for an afternoon. This Palm Grove is just one of Elche’s three cultural assets registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

But Elche’s centrepiece has to be the Basilica De Santa Maria, a landmark church built over the ruins of a Muslim mosque in the city centre. It features an ornate baroque portal with square towers. It was built in various stages from mid 14th century after the Christians conquered the Moors long before (1265).

You will see many copy busts of La Dama (The Lady of Elche) around the city. She has a unique headdress. There’s a painted one at Alicante Airport too. Discovered in 1897 at L’Alcúdia, an archaeological site on a private estate two kilometres south of Elche, now a museum and worth a visit. The original bust is kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid. The fiesta day of Our Lady of the Assumption is on the 15th August

The lady of Elx
Image c/o WikiPedia

In August you can see The Mystery Play, or Festa d’Elx, the most authentic symbol of the city´s identity. It is a chanted drama of mediaeval origins and performed in the City’s Basilica. It’s a sacred part of the local heritage. Check YouTube for footage.

If you want a real taste of Elche life of old then visit the Museum of Pusol. Created in 1969, as a celebration of local rural trades, crafts, farming, traditions and the environment of the Campo de Elche. They have interactive workshops, events and historic exhibits. Many Spanish schools use this in their history curriculum.

Thousand’s will gather to watch and take part in Palm Sunday. Locals parade their carved white palms from Elche’s Palm Grove to the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Also popular is La Burreta and Easter Sunday, when millions of little pieces of coloured paper, known as Hallelujahs are showered onto the image of the Resurrected Jesus. Search YouTube for “Procesión Aleluyas Elche“.

Also in August, in addition to the Moors and Christians Festival, which recalls the conquest of the city by the troops of King Jaime I in 1265, is the Nit de L’Albà, on the night of the 13th August and la Nit de la Roà, in the early hours of the 14th and 15th, which take place on the same dates as the performances of the Mystery Play of Elche. THIS IS NOT TO BE MISSED if you like lots of fireworks… the finale display “Palmeral de la Virgen” is an awesome sight… a firework launched from the Basilica so big and spectacular people oooh and aaaah in awe!

In December, with the celebration of the Coming of the Virgin, the origins of the Mystery Play are commemorated, when the legendary, sacred image of the Virgin Mary, arrived by sea in an ar brought by the coastguard Francesc Cantó, who on his horse  gallops the city to announce the good news.

And there is much, much more to see and do in Elche. Go and immerse yourself in the festivals, the sights, the history and its people. Enjoy yourselves with the men and women who make possible one of the richest festival programmes in Spain.

» Elche main Tourist Information