Set in the heart of the Marina Alta, 275 metres above sea level, Benissa is a beautiful small town in the northern and the prettiest part of the province of Alicante. Beautiful beaches with white sand and crystal-clear water, tall mountains, wide valleys with unusually green countryside all add to Benissa’s unique appeal.
In the late 1980s and 1990s the local authorities rescued the historical part of the town from gradual decay, did a magnificent job restoring the town’s splendid seventeenth and eighteenth-century townhouses, narrow streets, churches and town hall. Benissa now has a delightful historic town centre with its cobbled alleys, walls hundreds of years old, Moorish trellis-work, heraldic shields and ancient majestic homes. Benissa is a thriving and bustling village that mixes its traditions, history and culture with its new found identity as a fast-growing tourist centre on the Mediterranean coast.
This region has an excellent climate that has made Benissa a wonderful place to stay, with an extraordinary beauty.
The origin of the name Benissa “Banu-Issa” is considered Arabic as are the names of most of the rural districts; La Alfama, La Ràpita, el Rafalet. These names confirm the historic theory of the existence of an important Arabic population here when the troops of Jaume I the Conqueror reached Benissa in 1248.
Benissa has only four kilometres of coastline and although this does not seem much it more than makes up for it with its beautiful, tranquil and varied bays, coves and beaches. The coves, such as La Fustera, Pinets, La Llobella, Advocat and Baladrar are delightful finds that you can come across quite by chance if you head off the main thoroughfare.
Privacy and tranquillity are the main features at Benissa’s bays and are also excellent for underwater sports including diving and undersea photography.
Water sports fans can use the yacht club facilities for windsurfing. catamaran sailing, kayak canoeing, dinghy sailing, water-skiing or jet-skiing.
Lovers of sport and nature also have much to keep them absorbed around Benissa. Golf and horse riding aficionados have plenty to choose from. There are plenty of paths for walking and hiking in the rural districts such as Pinós – at the foot of the Bèrnia mountain range – or Pedramala – near the coast.
Areas in Benissa where urbanisation has been held back still maintain their charming terracing, ancient dry stone walls, grape and almond groves, and incredible mountain and sea views. Benissa has a range of contrasting landscapes and you have to spend the whole year here to see it in all its different hues of colour, flora and fauna.
Benissa always seems to be in fiestas. Fireworks, bands, firecrackers and outdoor dining is often de rigeur in the streets that have been adorned especially for the occasion with party lights, streamers, banners and painted tarmac. Benisseros have an enormous devotion to their patron saint, the Puríssima Xiqueta, to whom they dedicate their main fiestas on the fourth Sunday in April. For twenty days in January there is the traditional “Fira I Porrat de Sant Antoni”. The Moors and Christians fiestas are held in the last week of June in honour of San Pedro. The many rural districs of Benissa, such as Benimarco, Leus, Benimarraig and Santa Ana celebrate their fiestas throughout the summer.
When the fiestas are not in full swing, then there is often some other event, spectacle or occasion to witness, whether it is a fair for the children, a mini-marathon, a paella contest, a horse parade or just the cultural centre or one of the museums or galleries holding an exhibition or special event – there is always something going on in Benissa.
The popular saying “In Benissa, Octopus and Mass” exalts the use of the octopus in dishes with long tradition such as octopus with “pencas” (an edible thistle), dried octopus and octopus stew. The ingredients of this stew are the same as a traditional stew with pencas, chick-peas, sweet potato, turnips, potatoes, saffron and other vegetables, with the meat being replaced by octopus and the lard with virgin olive oil.