Altea, the name comes from the Arabs who named it 'Althaya' and meaning 'Health to all'. Altea used to be situated on the road to the Sierra de Bernia and was called Altea la Vella - a small village on the Way of the Cross that ascends to a Calvary surrounded by cypress trees. A solid city wall protected the whitewashed houses in ancient times.
Today Altea has a permenant population of 13,500, is located just north of Benidorm and is on a steep hillside 500 meters from the sea and above the modern beachfront developments. It is similar to other towns on the Costa Blanca with both a new and an old part of the town. The old town being perched high up on a natural balcony over the sea. It has popular with artists since the 1950's. Here amongst the steep, stepped narrow streets, white houses, orange trees and geraniums you'll find painters, potters and other traditional craftsmen's studios and little boutiques. The town is still largely unspoiled by any big hotels; only the narrow cobblestone streets and small town squares, or plazas, of a traditional town of old Valencia.
The old town is fascinating, with the streets often winding up through overhanging 'Spanish' houses with balconies, until you emerge into the big square in front of the domed Basilica. This is the church Nuestra Senora del Consuelo or Virgen de Consuelo with a magnificent dome of blue and white glazed ceramic tiles. This, the most promenent building in Altea, stands at the highest point of the town and is surrounded by restaurants and cafes.
Altea has recently seen the addition of a new fine arts university and a stunning new concert hall and is fast becoming the cultural capital of the Costa Blanca.
A farm produce market is held in Altea on Tuesdays. There is also a tourist market on Tuesdays selling clothes, pearls from Mallorca and local goods.
At the foot of the hill lies the wide sea promenade and the commercial street, the Avenida del Rey Jaime I. Altea's beaches are mostly made of pebbles, which may explain why there has not been a massive tourist development.
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