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It’s instant escape for Andrea McAlpine from our Howard Street Belfast branch as she zips off to ever-popular Alicante with Classic Collection Holidays and Aer Lingus, direct from Belfast.

The province of Alicante is one of Spain’s longest established (and still most popular) centres for tourism, with around three million visitors attracted to the region annually.

If you’ve been amongst that happy band, then you will need little persuasion about its beauty, glorious attractions and fabulous climate – but perhaps you have ticked it off your ‘to do’ list on the basis that you’ve already ‘been there, done that’?  If so, it’s worth looking again at amazing Alicante.

For a start it is so easy to get to … I travelled with Classic Collection Holidays, flying with Aer Lingus direct from George Best Belfast City Airport.  I stepped on board, relaxed with a magazine and a glass of wine and, just three hours later, I’m getting off the plane at Alicante Airport ready for a super short transfer to the first hotel on my check-it-out tour.

There’s nothing like starting out as you mean to go on and I launched into fantastic luxury with a stay at the stunning Barcelo Asia Gardens Hotel &Thai Spa. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, this resort prides itself on offering a uniquely relaxing and totally serene ambience. Its lush tropical gardens with more than 3,000 species of Asian flora, its seven spectacular swimming pools (two of them heated), the choice of nine exclusive restaurants, a regenerating and rejuvenating Thai Spa and a kids club (for 4 – 12 year olds) to entertain the youngsters  …. what more could a girl ask for? Oh, I know, some famous fellow guests.  Bruce Springsteen sufficiently impressive? I have it on good authority that he’s a fan of the resort, although, sadly, he wasn’t there during my short stay. Maybe next time!

La Manga has always been a byword for Costa Blanca luxury and my experience of the wonderful Hotel Principe Felipe II, La Manga Club Resort, more than lived up to my (extremely high!) expectations.  Hotel Principe Felipe is set in the heart of this award-winning, substantially sized resort which boasts, amongst its attractions, 1,400 acres of exclusive accommodation and first-class professional sports facilities which include three golf courses, a twenty-eight -court and eight FIFA-standard football pitches.  If that leaves you exhausted, it also has a huge and totally splendid Wellness Centre and, within the resort village, superb winning and dining at fifteen bars and restaurants.

As you would expect, the Hotel Principe Felipe II rooms are tastefully designed, and perfectly resourced, with club rooms and suites offering a choice of golf or pool view. 

Hotel Don Pancho, Benidorm, next.  Fully refurbished in 2016, this four star, adults-only (guests must be over 16) hotel is a two minute stroll from Levante Beach with its lively bars, cafes and restaurants, although the hotel’s own buffet style dining is extremely tempting. All 255 rooms have sea views and private terrace plus amenities such as free WiFi, 40" TV and mini bar.

The SH Villa Gadea Hotel, 3km from the centre of Altea, proved a lovely hotel with charming atmosphere as well as the luxurious touches you would expect from its five star rating. It just has to be  one of the best located hotels in the picturesque village of Altea, set on a on a platform-like enclave looking out over the Mediterranean Sea and  commanding views of the Altea Marina.  Rooms range from the modest, yet well designed and beautifully furnished Standard, right up to the amazing Presidential Suite.

The hotel’s fine dining option is excellent but so too are its cafes and bar, and its buffet breakfast is something well worth sampling!

For me its star attraction is the Thalasso-Spa, with two heated saltwater pools, counter-current water, geysers, swan-neck jets, hydro-massage seats, aroma showers, Turkish bath, Roman thermal bath, Finnish sauna and a really gorgeous relaxation area.

As a travel professional, I’m always glad to get a sneak preview of something new.  The Suitopia Sol Y Mar Suites Hotel in Calpe, close to Arenal Beach and the delightful Calpe Old Town, was still in the final throes of fit out when I viewed the property, but this is clearly set to be something special. It is in the centre of Calpe only 50m from the sea and 70% of its rooms & suites have a sea view.  A water park and kids play zones will entertain the children, whilst on floor 30 adults can enjoy the Sky Lounge bar with its dramatic panoramic views.

Close by, Gran Hotel Sol y Mar, Calpe is an adults only (over 16s) luxury accommodation with spa and a stunning beach club overlooking the iconic Penyon de IIfach rock.  The hotel is located within an enviable position in Calpe, offering modern luxury and convenience and boasting a really pleasant friendly atmosphere.

Hotel Dénia La Sella Golf  Resort & Spa is a 10 minute drive from Dénia and Javea, situated on the Costa Blanca, and adjacent to one of the best golf course in the region of Valencia. Many are attracted to stay here for the golf (its Golf Academy is particularly good), but its restaurants, scenic location and lively on-site amenities make this a great choice for all the family.  The three-floor hotel has 178 guest rooms and 8 luxury Junior Suites, all well designed and many with super views.

The five star Hotel Balneario Las Arenas in Valencia is a member of the select Leading Hotels of The World club, an accolade which sets high expectations and dazzling high standards. The building, with its classical appearance, combines the architectural beauty of the historical Balneario Las Arenas resort, founded in 1898, with the elegance and comfort of modern design, and the hotel occupies an exceptional seaside location, overlooking Malvarrosa beach.  The emphasis is very much on luxury and its 243 rooms and 10 suites are elegantly designed and beautifully furnished and equipped.  Facilities include fabulous food with the emphasis on local produce and heritage, a great bar and (maybe to work off all that fine dining!) an excellent fitness centre with sauna, seam room, pool & spa.  Service is brilliant, but never stuffy and families are made extremely welcome, with a super kids club on site.

The Westin Valencia is ideally located in the centre of Valencia, dubbed the ‘city of arts and science’ … and equally remarkable for its beautiful streets, lined with orange trees!

This is a truly beautiful hotel which married traditional and contemporary styles in perfect harmony.  From the elegantly cool and glossy foyer to its 135 Art Deco style rooms and suites, no detail has escaped attention and perfection really is the name of the game.  Its suites are just beyond description, designed with a flair for understated luxury.

The Vincci Lys is a cosmopolitan and rather hip hotel situated next to the train station and Valencia’s handsome City Hall, a perfect four star choice for quality, value and convenience.  Expect décor with a slightly eclectic contemporary twist and relaxed cuisine … and it is a great base for exploring this great city, with shops, entertainment and attractions almost on the doorstep.

Hospes Palau de la Mar in Valencia occupies what was once a majestic 19th century  house in the historic city centre, next to the Turia Gardens.  This stylish boutique hotel is a great place to relax or meet-and-mingle, with a spectacular patio designed rather like a boat deck and lush gardens reflecting the aromas and colours of the wider Mediterranean region.  Signature cuisine at its Cocina de Autor restaurant is based on local, natural ingredients and chefs strive to present ‘the essence of Valencia’.  Full marks, too, for its wonderful Bodnya Palau de la Mar spa, a tranquil oasis in the heart of this supremely vibrant city.

And, all too soon, I was at my final destination, the Hospes Amérigo Alicante located in the centre of Alicante in a refurbished Friars’ Convent now transformed into an elegant boutique hotel. It stunning traditional architectural beauty is complimented by chic interiors and here too, there is a wonderful Bodyna Spa (I’m becoming quite the connoisseur!).

Hospes Amérigo is also noted for its celebratory approach to local cuisine, with masterful chefs and an enthusiasm for local produce and traditional culinary techniques.  There are wonderfully impressive views of Valencia’s famous Santa Barbara Castle from the hotel rooftop.

My taste of Alicante was as far removed from hectic sun-sea-and-Sangria package deals as is possible, and it reminded me of the amazing range of holidays available in this incredibly diverse region.  No matter what your taste, or budget, we’re all for Alicante … just call me to find out more!


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