Benidorm: Spain’s Answer to Paradise
By: Habeeb Salloum/Arab America Contributing Writer
One of the most sought-after meccas by today’s international tourist, Benidorm has become a byword for those seeking sun and sand. The most flourishing center of tourism on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, it offers the visitor everything from relaxation to scenery and excitement. Its endless skyscrapers huddling even closer together than the thousands of tourists on the beach give it more bed space than all the resorts of Greece and Portugal combined. With more than 210,000 apartments, camping sites, and 136 hotels containing some 36,000 beds, it is truly a city built for visitors.
Its ample and beautiful beaches of fine crystalline sand and sparkling-clear water together with its unusually amiable mild climate, are magnetic allurements to the people in the lands of northern Europe. Added to this, its multitude of shops, cafes, restaurants, and countless bars and discos have made it famous as the flashiest seaside town in.
Benidorm, whose name is derived from the Arabic Bani (the sons/tribe of Darhim), was established by the Moors in the days when they ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula. A few decades ago, it was a sleepy village untouched by the outside world. That is before far-sighted developers saw its touristic potential. What made it ideal for development was its two immense seven-kilometer-long beaches. With the exception to the south, they were well sheltered by the ochre-colored surrounding mountains. This gave the spot an incomparable climate – sunny and mild the whole year-round. One of the most sun-soaked areas in all of Spain, its temperature ranges from 31oC in summer to 18oC in winter.
It was not many years after the tourist construction began that the site was literally overdeveloped. The enormous growth soon dwarfed the ancient village by the untold number of surrounding high rises. With their numberless towers stabbing the sky, they enhanced the beaches and drew in summer, and to some extent in winter, thousands of visitors, especially package tourists. Nevertheless, the old town, hidden among the concrete blocks, was not demolished. Even today, it still conserves a taste from the past.
The modern buildings and their accompanying touristic facilities helped to create a cosmopolitan city with an international air. The developers and promoters succeeded in making this once insignificant town one of the most outstanding resorts in the world. Their slogan ‘Benidorm for a thousand reasons’ is now taken literally by a legion of people all over the world.
Situated 40 kilometers from Alicante which has a new international airport, and connected with a magnificent system of roads, Benidorm is within reach of everywhere. Around 3,500,000 visitors a year stop or stay in the city for a period of time. Even though the town has only 35,000 regular inhabitants, in summer it is the home to at least 250,000 visitors, 40% of these Spanish, 25% British and the remainder of other Europeans with a smattering of North Americans.
What has made the influx of tourists possible is that this ever-growing resort is open to all at reasonable prices? Full board and room for package visitors per day range from 4,000 pts, $31.00 U.S. in the summer high season to 1.300 pts, $10.00 U.S. in late fall and winter.
For families, retirees and the young of whatever nationality or country, this seaside city has something to offer. The beach Playa de Poniente is quiet and caters to families while Playa de Levante is lively and is in demand by the young. Dozens of English pubs and restaurants featuring bacon and eggs make the hordes of British tourists feel at home. The marvelous wide avenues and numerous open-landscape zones are ideal strolling areas for those at the latter stage of life seeking tranquility. For shoppers of all ages, there are over 2,500 attractive stores carrying all types of goods form almost every country in the world. As for gourmet lovers, the city has everything from typical local dishes to international cuisine. In its many restaurants, one can find a whole variety of culinary delights.
Sports in varied forms are to be found by the lively young. Bowling, deep-sea diving, fishing, go-karting, golf, martial arts, mountaineering, riding, sailing, surfing, swimming, tennis, water-skiing, and bullfighting in summer are all waiting for the visitor. One of the best cable-ski (water-skiing with the aid of a moving overhead cable) installations in the world makes it possible for everyone, at a minimal price, to learn and enjoy this invigorating sport.
Among the young in search of fun and adventure, Benidorm has been noted for years for its swinging nights. During the whole year, its nightlife is one of the most appreciated factors by visitors of all ages and from all countries. At night, the innumerable night-clubs and discotheques comparable to the best in Europe, pubs, taverns and luxurious eating places make the city appear as if it is designed exclusively for pleasure. In their intriguing atmosphere of relaxing melodies or modern music, patrons watch unusual and entertaining shows, or sip their drinks and flirt while nibbling on tapas (small dishes of fish, meat and vegetables), or dance the night away. Renowned as a good time town, Benidorm entertains its visitors like no other resort in Spain.
Besides these temptations, for tourists from the northern lands, why to come to Benidorm is best illustrated by an automobile ice scraper given out as a souvenir by the city’s tourist office. These words inscribed on it ‘If you were in Benidorm you wouldn’t need me’ are reason enough to travel to Spain’s answer to Paradise.