Benijófar: The Pearl of the Costa Blanca
History: Benijófar is no ordinary Spanish town. It is one of the most emblematic places in the Vega Baja, in a strategic and commercial enclave since ancient times. Its origins as a settlement date back to its Arabic past over 500 years ago. Its name derives from the Arabic for “Son of Jófar”, Jofar literally meaning pearl.
In 1582, it appears for the first time as a settlement that belonged to the jurisdiction of Orihuela, purchased by the College of Preachers. Its influence in the region became apparent when in the late 17th century, the town leads the region’s recovery both social and economical when the fertile land in and around Benijofar became occupied as it had never been before.
In 1729 it became officially recognized as a town under the “Alfonsine Decree” which allowed the town to become an independent municipally in the heart of the Alicante province.
The town of Benijofar is located on the south-east coast of Spain, just 10 minutes away from the white sandy beaches of Guardamar and close to the Sierra of Orihuela mountains, an area which is known as the lower valley of the River Segura. The surroundings of this region are made up of traditional agricultural land, stunning natural backdrops which result in one of the representative towns of the province, a jewel if you will of the Costa Blanca. In actual fact, the very name of Benijofar originates from the Arabic “son of the pearl”, making Benijofar the actual pearl of the Costa Blanca.
This small/ big town south of the province of Alicante is made up of 4200 inhabitants and is just 8km from the beaches of Guardamar. Its peoples, although many are north European, are very active in the daily goings-on of the town, mixing in the narrow streets of the older part of the town and enjoying the relaxed Mediterranean life.
What to discover in Benijófar:
• The Orchard: On the banks of the river Segura there is an area of about 85 hectares of fertile land where vegetables such as artichokes, potatoes and broccoli grow, watered by the ancient wáter system designed by the Mores that settled in the region centuries ago. The water that irrigates these fields is moved by a recently renovated water wheel on the outskirts of the town.
• The Water Wheel: The Benijofar Water Wheel dates back to 17th century and is a symbol of the local agriculture. The water wheel forms part of a group of historic structures of which the flour mill of Formentera also forms part. The original water wheel was substituted by an iron version in the 19th century with a 7.7m diameter wheel which can move around 80 litres per second.
• The Green Trek: There is an enchanting yet easy trekking route that starts in the area called “Path of the Rafaels” that has a distance of 4.5 km which runs along the Banks of the River Segura and passes through the recreational area “El Secano” and which ends in the central town square of the Constitution. This green trek takes you past the water wheel and the luscious traditional orchards and fields of the town.
• El Secano: This recreational area is the perfect place to relax within the confines of nature. It has a great picnic area, just the right place to spend those long summer afternoons. This area has tables and benches as well as BBQ for public use.
• The Church of Santiago Apóstol (St. James): This is probably the most characteristic building of the town and is considered the most important remnant of the history and culture of the town of Benijofar. Although the construction of the church was relatively recent it conserves in its interior many, much older pieces dating back to the 17th and 18th century as well as pieces from the Barroque period. The church receives the name of the patron of Benijofar, Saint James.
• Cañada Marsá: This is the largest green park area of the town which runs along the stretch that separates Benijofar from the newer area of Benimar, Rojales and Ciudad Quesada. It has an area of 125.000m2 full indigenous plants and flowers with many recreational areas for walking and playing sports. In the lower part of the park, there is a large artificial lake with geese and ducks which sits next to the commercial area of Benimar, an area where many of the expats enjoy their day to day.
• Plaza de la Constitución (Town Square): The current square has a very modern and minimalist decor which contrasts with the rest of the more traditional town.
• Park April the 3rd: A much smaller park, at the southern end of the town with plants and garden areas as well as Bio-healthy exercise apparatus so people can make use of them and keep in shape.
• Celebration Square: Located next to the “Casa de la Cultura” (Social Centre) where the traditional “Patatá” celebration is held every year.
• Inmaculada Concepción Plaza: This square is made up of flower beds and park benches. A perfect place to enjoy a good read in the shade of the trees of this square.
• Park of Joaquín Sánchez García: A small but pretty children’s park within the Cañada Marsá.Traditions & Fiestas The most important fiestas of Benijofar occur during the Easter period and begin with the blessing of the Palms on Palm Sunday. Many are the processions during this Easter period that march through the main high street of Benijofar. These processions end on the day of St. Vincent Ferrer and the Burial of the Anchovy (Boqueron) where it is bid farewell but the Spring is officially welcomed. At Christmas, the most important event is the procession of the Kings that is especially important for the children of the town as this is the eve that they receive their presents, but this event is also enjoyed by adults.
The fiestas for the patron of Benijofar are held on the 25th of July (Día del Santiago Apóstol) and which begin with the crowing of the Queens of the Fiestas and followed by festivities, processions and floral offerings.
Benijofar is located just 8 km from the white sandy beaches of Guardamar that are over 15km long and bathed by crystal clear warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Guardamar, much like Benijofar, is unique in itself as it is the only coastal towns with a protected sand dune system, unique to the Costa Blanca.
But not only is Benijofar close to the beaches of the Costa Blanca, Benijofar is also located between many, much larger towns so it is an economic hub for the surrounding region but also close to areas with a much broader commercial offer, such as Orihuela Costa, which is only 15 minutes drive away or Torrevieja, 10 minutes away by car. Torrevieja can also offer services and amenities of a large city as it has 2 hospitals, several marinas and a large shopping center with Carrefour hypermarket as you access the city from Benijofar.
As the access from Benijofar to the A7 motorway is little more than 5 minutes away from the town center, traveling abroad is made easier as this allows you to be just 20-25 minutes from Alicante and Murcia airport or, if you are travelling within Spain, around 30 minutes to Alicante train station where the high-speed AVE train makes several stops a day, to and from Madrid.
Amenities & Services
Shops: Benijofar has a huge offer as shops go with some of them being aimed for the expats that live in the vicinity, mainly British and Dutch. As you enter Benijofar from Ciudad Quesada, we have a large Mercadona with plenty of parking space. Mercadona is much like Sainsburys or Tescos in the UK and represents Spain’s biggest supermarket chain. As you drive into the town itself of Benijofar, you will find different shops, ranging from butchers, grocers, hardware shop, bakeries as well as the local pharmacy. Add to this, the 2 banks (Caja Rural and Banco Sabadell), make Benijofar a very complete town even though it has no more than 4000 inhabitants.
Also worth mentioning are several furniture stores, kitchen suppliers, tobacconist, gift shops, hair salons…etc, all offering a friendly service.
Many of the amenities at Benijofar are run by UK and Dutch nationals and offer an alternative for buying those homegrown items you can’t get in the local supermarkets, although many are beginning to supply more and more international foods and beverages. The weekly market (Tuesday mornings) is a great place to buy fresh fruit and veg at a cheaper price than many greengrocers, so that is definitely a place to be once a week.
Services: As Benijofar is in the middle of many larger towns, its a great place to set up a business offering different types of services. In Benijofar, as in any large town you can find, medical clinics, dentist, solicitors, insurance services, beauty therapy, pool shops, hair salons and a huge list of different services that you would expect to find in any large town. As it is close to Formentera and the larger Rojales, (less than 5 minutes away) the list of
services is even longer as both towns offer a wider list, such as opticians, satellite tv fitters, physiotherapy clinics, golf accessories, vets with a 24 hours emergency call service, etc…all practically on your front door.
Let us not forget the sport amenities in the town with several gyms in the Benijofar area, one in Quesada and one in Rojales, sports centre of Benijofar (next to the town hall) and the Padel Tennis centre which offer a wide range of sporting activities although the green trek next to the River Segura, makes for an excellent route for a jog or a cycle ride, enjoying the surrounding countryside with no cars.
But we must not forget that Benijofar is between two wonderful golf courses as is Las Marquesas of Quesada and La Finca in Algorfa. Both golf courses are less than a 10 minute drive away.
Restaurants: One of the best things about living in Benijofar is that…you don’t need a car to get to everything. Bars and restaurants line the main street and there are several excellent places to go within a 5 minute walk from Les Ortigues. Places where you can enjoy local or international cuisine every day of the week.
At Medhouses, we have a preference for Bar Cari and Hamiltons Bakery as they are just over the road from our offices. They are both great places and always have a welcoming smile as you walk in the door.
If you are looking for something different, you can try the Chinese restaurants in and around the town, a curry house, Mexican restaurant, dutch bakery, English bakery or the excellent “El Gusto”, Dutch owned but with a great international menu and a friendly family atmosphere.
Benijófar also gives the opportunity to enjoy sports even on a rainy day. The sports centre next to the Townhall has a full size football pitch and a covered multi-sports court (basketball, five a side football, handball, 2 tennis courts…etc) as well as an open air pool for everyone in the town to enjoy. And if sport is more a spectator event for you, there is a handy cantina for refreshments while you watch other people run around the pitch.
Next to the Townhall, you can find the local surgery which is dependent of Torrevieja hospital. It is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 3pm although emergency treatment can be sort in the nearby Rojales surgery, just 5 minutes from Benijofar.
An 8.1 Km route that goes from Pilar Miró Park to the surrounding countryside is a well-recommended route to try out. This area of Benijofar is know as the Balcony of the Lower Vega (Valley). It takes you down the Gabriel García Márquez street that we get to from a country lane that comes from the direction of Torrevieja which takes us through a small pine tree covered area; although it is not a very big piece of land, it is has a wealth of local wildlife and plant life, such as the Chico owl, the Curruca Cabecinegra, Carbonero común, Pinzón común, Verdecillo, Mosquitero
Papialbo, Cuco, Mito and the Chotacabras Pardo (all local birds and sort after by bird enthusiasts). From this pine tree forest, we can go further and along and have a great view of the Salt lakes of Torrevieja and other regions of the lower Segura Valley, such as Callosa and the surrounding mountains of Orihuela.
Turning back, we will find ourselves on the old Torrevieja – Benijofar road, following this route, it takes us to a protected area known as the Pollera, an area that is not cultivated and nature and wildlife is in abundance.
During this route and as we continue, we can following the route along the river Segura and up to the Arab waterwheel, on the right hand side of the river, bordering with the town of Formentera..
Once we have taken the river route trail, we will reach the El Secano park. It’s a great place to relax and have a picnic as there are tables and benches and barbecue areas with shady points to unwind. The end of this great route is at the end of the path of the Rafaeles, where we reach the centre of the town of Benijofar, next to the church, House of Culture, Townhall and different parks and plazas of a quaint little town in the south Costa Blanca.