Dénia sometimes tends to be overlooked when international tourists visiting Alicante and the Costa del Blanca map out their holiday plans. The historic port city is near the northern border of Alicante province, halfway to Valencia city and beyond other more familiar resorts such as Benidorm, Altea and Calpe.
It is, however, still only 100 kilometres from Alicante-Elche Airport – a comfortable one-hour drive along the main coastal road by rent-a-car. It is also a convenient base on the Spanish mainland for tourists wanting to visit the Balearic islands during their stay.
The municipality extends along 20 kilometres of coastline, highlighted by rocky coves, vast stretches of (often) solitary beaches, and numerous water sports and other leisure activities.
In 2020, Dénia unveiled new Nordic walking routes, as well as specialist cycling routes for both amateurs and professionals (complementing previously available ”low-difficulty” routes for tourists). Dénia’s website includes comprehensive information about the area’s diverse natural attractions and active tourism.
The San Antonio Cape marine reserve is a veritable wonderland for snorkeling and scuba diving, with a wealth of coral colonies, caves and crevasses such as the famous Cova Tallada. The reserve’s significant environmental, scientific, and ecological history means it is a closely-protected area, and professional diving requires special permission.
Inland, the Montgó nature park rises – in the words of the late Valencia-born novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez – like “a giant hand”. The park extends over 2,117 hectares and is home to more than 650 flora species.
The Montgó reserve has its own interpretation centre providing detailed information on the setting and organising guided excursions year-round. The centre houses a wheelchair-accessible exhibition on the Montgó and San Antonio Cape ecosystems, and is equipped with audio guides in five languages including English.
In the town area, the walls of Dénia Castle dominate a hilltop overlooking the picturesque marina. Within its ruins is an Archaeological Museum housing Roman artifacts found nearby. The Toy Museum offers fascinating insight into Dénia’s toy-making heritage; while the Ethnological Museum in a 19th-century townhouse showcases displays of traditional local life.
Dénia’s “Vía Verde” (“Green Route”) is based on a railway route which connected Dénia-Gandía and comprises part of the Dénia-Carcaixent line, the oldest narrow railway track on the mainland. The first Gandía-Carcaixent section dates to 1864, when it was operated as a tram with animal traction. In 1884 it was extended to Dénia and converted into a steam traction train track.
Last century parts of the route were incorporated into modern local train lines, and others were subsequently recycled and conditioned by the environment ministry within the framework of the natural roads program. Today, cyclists are able to ride along an asphalt road and hikers can walk on a compacted dirt road, with motorised vehicle traffic prohibited from the start of the rail trail to the Alberca River footbridge.
Succulent Cuisine in Dénia
In 2015, Dénia was officially designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy – an honour held by only one other Spanish city (Burgos). According to the UN agency, “Dénia’s gastronomic sector draws inspiration from the Mediterranean diet and concepts such as ‘slow food’ by promoting healthy food based on local resources and products with the goal of ensuring more sustainable development.
“Dénia also emphasises the importance of transversal approaches, as well as multi-stakeholders’ cooperation, to promote gastronomy by developing a wide range of activities and events involving both local and international actors.” These include the International Creative Cuisine Competition of the Red Prawn of Dénia.
In addition to Dénia’s renowned red prawns, other culinary specialities served in more than 300 restaurants in the town include “arròs a banda” (seafood paella), “espencat” (grilled vegetables – peppers, tomato, aubergine, onion), “la llandeta” (seafood stew), “suquet de peix” (seafood/fish stew), sea urchins and dried octopus.