Area information about Orihuela
Orihuela is in Alicante province and sits at the feet of the Sierra de Orihuela mountains. It is both a city and a municipality, and has a population of around 34,000. Orihuela stretches down to the Mediterranean coast (Orihuela Costa) from the foothills of the mountains and lies to the west of Torrevieja, which it is connected to, and is another important destination for overseas residents. The fertile land surrounding Orihuela has made it a predominantly agricultural economy with the main crops being citrus fruits, almond, olives, hemp and pomegranates. It also has a silk and wool industry. However, tourism is now its biggest source of income and the driver of its growth. Orihuela is often referred to as a ‘jewel of Spain’s Costa Blanca,’ because of its beauty and the fact that it has retained all the charm of a traditional Spanish town.
The Romans called it Orcelis and later Aurariola, and the city is the capital of the Vega Baja del Segura. The river Segura runs through Orihuela, as it does other towns in the area. Orihuela also has the honour of having been named in 1437 as the first city in the province of Alicante. The history of its settlers includes the Visigoths, who made it their capital in the region and since then it has come under the Emirate of Cordova until it was finally declared the capital of the province of Orihuela in 1707. In 1799 it became part of Alicante and in 1810, Napoleon made Orihuela part of the Department of Segura with the capital at Murcia.
Churches dominate the sightseeing in Orihuela. Orihuela Cathedral was built on a former mosque between the 14th and 16th centuries and is in the Valencian Gothic style. Next door to the cathedral there is a Museum of Sacred Art housing a Velázquez as well as works by other Spanish artists. Orihuela Castle was once a mountaintop Moorish castle, with some parts of it remaining. And there are two other churches of note: Santo Domingo; a church in the Baroque style, and the Church of Santa Justa y Rufina. The town centre is medieval and contains five National Monuments, and during Holy Week, Orihuela’s parades of Moors and Christians attract visitors from far and wide. Other places to visit include the three salt lakes: Santa Pola, La Mata and Torrevieja Natural Park.
Orihuela has a large, modern train station connecting it with Alicante, Elche and Murcia City. Furthermore, it sits on the main line running from the north to the south of Spain. There are also local trains, or ‘cercanias’, operating that take residents to nearby towns and villages. Residents can also choose whether to use Murcia City airport, which is 50km from the centre of Orihuela, or Alicante Airport, which is 53km from the town.
There are at least five health centres in Orihuela plus one specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The nearest large, general hospital is in Torrevieja and a smaller one is located in Orihuela city. Private clinics are available in Torrevieja, Alicante and Murcia City, including ones specialising in providing care for English speakers.
There are a significant number of state schools in Orihuela catering for all ages, as well as a language school and an art college. The nearest private, international schools are in Alicante or Murcia City.
There are plenty of opportunities to explore water sports here as the section on beaches explains. There are several golf courses nearby: Vistabella Golf; Las Colinas, which is just outside Torrevieja, Golf La Finca and Greenlands. There are also more courses around Murcia City and Alicante.
Orihuela Costa is renowned for its fine sandy beaches. A good place to start are the beaches at Guardamar del Segura where you will spot a number of small fishing boats before coming to a marina and yacht club. Guardamar is the ideal spot for practising water sports including sailing, windsurfing, kayaking or jet-skiing. The shallow waters are great for snorkelling too. The beach is 11km in length so there is plenty of space for everyone. Other beaches of note are Babilonia, Montcaio and La Roqueta, as well as the central beach, which has a Blue Flag.
Residents in Orihuela have a fine selection of restaurants to choose from catering for diverse tastes. Alongside the traditional Spanish restaurants and tapas bars, there are Mexican, Italian, Asian and vegetarian eateries. As it is so close to the sea, there is an abundance of fresh fish and seafood on offer here as well.
In September 2012 the shopping mall La Zenia Boulevard opened and became the largest shopping mall in the Costa Blanca and Costa Cálida region with 150 stores and 20 restaurants and bars. The Ociopia mall is another shopping destination, plus the town has an abundance of local shops and an open market on Tuesdays.