ELCHE is located in the province of Alicante on the banks of the River Vinalopó in an area also known as the Bajo Vinalopó. The population totals 230,822 according to the 2010 National Statistics, with the majority of the population residing in the old part of town.

It is the second largest city in the province of Alicante and the third largest city in the Valencian Community.

Various settlements have been discovered in the area dating back to the Neolithic period.

During the 5th Century B.C the Iberians founded the city of Helike on a hillside in the area, this was destroyed by the Carthaginians and then later rebuilt by the Romans, becoming a colony they named Lulia Illici Augusta. It was also an Episcopal See.

When the Muslims conquered the area the Arabs moved their old city called Alcudia to flatter territory and renamed it, Vila Murada, the “walled city”.

On the site of this ancient town, Alcudia, various archaeology artefacts have been uncovered some of them of great significance. One of the most important being the Dama de Elche.

With the Christian conquest by Jaime I, Muslims and Jews were expulsed from the area. In doing so Elche lost a third of its population which seriously affected it economically.

Some Important buildings to visit in the town are:

The Castle - Palace of Altamire or Alcazar de la Señoria. This is a three story, square shaped Gothic building. It occupies the site of an ancient fortress from the XII Century.

The History and Archaeology Museum of Elche. One of the best museums of its kind in Spain, thanks to the modern facilities, audiovisual effects and due to the Iberian, Roman and Visigoth artefacts.

The Tower of Calahorra. This is a Almohad Tower from the XII and XIII centuries used to protect the front entrance of the walled Muslim village.

The Arab Baths. These are considered to be one of the most interesting places from Medieval Elche. Designed to show visitors the importance that these baths had in the Muslim society of El-Andalus.

The Basilica of Santa Maria. This is Baroque and Neoclassical. Construction began in 1672 and it was completed in 1784. There are several buildings from previous constructions all in varying styles of architecture.

La Dama de Elche. The lady from Elche, was uncovered in the ancient city of Alcudia and is one of the most important mementos of Elche. It dates from the V and VI Centuries B.C and is of Iberian origin

In the 19th Century the “Alpargata” (Espadrille) industry led to the success of the current, highly profitable and successful footwear Industry in Elche.

When the shoe industry suffered a crisis, workers headed towards the service industry although today Elche is still famous for making shoes, and is the principal Spanish footwear exporter.

The Palm Grove in Elche is a huge expanse of palm trees within the urban area of the city and it is recognized as the largest palm grove in Europe. The Palm Grove or Palmeral, was created by the founders of Elche, the Muslims.  The Arabs later continued to plant trees and during the Middle Ages laws were introduced to protect the palm grove which are still in effect today.

The main species of palm in the grove is the hoenix dactylifera, which was brought to Spain by the Moors when they occupied the Iberian Peninsula.

The most important areas of the palm grove are : The Parque Municipal, the Huerto de Abajo, the Huerto del Cura & the Huerto del Chocolatero.

Elche’s Palm Grove has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The white palm is hand made exclusively in Elche.  Palms are sent by the local council to Church leaders and Politicians both Nationally and Internationally for the Easter Holy Week.

Elche is also world famous for the Misteri d’Elx. This is a religious play from the Middle Ages, performed every year in the month of August and proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO:

Famous Cuisine from the area is the “Arroz con costra” , (rice with a crust), a rice dish cooked in an earthenware casserole. Once the rice is cooked, beaten eggs are poured over the top and the dish is then placed in the oven to form a “crust”.