If you want a really great sea view, head for a lighthouse! After all, that’s why they are where they are – their locations chosen for maximum visibility. Whoever heard of a lighthouse without a view?
There’s a great series of faros (lighthouses) on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. You can follow a trail of spectacular viewpoints, starting at Xàbia (Jávea) in the north and ending up at Santa Pola, 90 kilometres to the south as the crow flies. Jump to a map here.
That’s a total of seven lighthouses in all. And just to make it even more interesting, two of them are on islands off the coast.
Each one has its own special character. The only downside is that you can’t get inside for a visit. The exception is el Faro de l’Albir near Benidorm – and if they can do it here, maybe a few others can too? To be fair, there is a nationwide project called “Faros de España” to open up lighthouse sites for leisure activities, so maybe we’ll see some progress – as long as it’s done with style.
Faro Cabo de San Antonio
Perched 500 feet up (175m) on a headland between Dénia and Xàbia (Jávea), it’s so high you can see the island of Ibiza 50km away on a clear day (sadly, we couldn’t).
You can drive or cycle on a good road all the way to the lighthouse gates. Leave Xàbia (Jávea) on the CV-736 towards Dénia, turn right onto the Carretera del Faro and it’s about 4km to the faro itself.
The site is part of the Parc Natural de Montgó – el Montgó is the distinctive peak looming behind you as you look out to sea. There’s a nature reserve around the lighthouse with wild rosemary and lavender growing among the rocks and a marine reserve in the sea below.
A few metres away, there’s a mirador overlooking Jávea/Xàbia – gaze down on the toy-like boats in the marina and across the bay you’ll see our next port of call, el Cabo de la Nao.
Faro Cabo de la Nao (Cap de la Nau)
About half an hour’s drive through Jávea and out the other side, you reach the headland of Cabo de la Nao (la Nao means ship or vessel) and a rather handsome lighthouse on a 400 foot (122 metre) cliff.
Park up nearby and follow a short wooden track up through the trees to the cliff-edge mirador and look across to the lighthouse.
Unusually on our lighthouse trail, you’re not short of something to eat here – Restaurante Cabo de La Nao has a clifftop terrace right next to the lighthouse.
And Restaurante El Mirador nearby has a terrace with terrific views south to El Peñon d’Ifach, a distinctive rock formation on the coast at Calpe. You don’t have to eat there to get the view though – there’s a viewpoint right next door.
The lighthouse was built in 1914, and its beam can be seen for 43 kilometres (26 miles). It’s actually the easternmost point of the entire Comunidad Valenciana. There’s a huge sea cave, Cova dels Òrguens, below the cliffs where you can paddle in with a kayak. Full disclosure – I haven’t done it myself!
Faro de l’Albir
Our next stop is my favourite lighthouse on our trail, the Faro de l’Albir. Two reasons – one, there’s a beautiful walk to get there and two, you can get in to the lighthouse itself (check opening times though).
The little town of L’Albir is just north of Benidorm, about an hour’s drive from our last stop at Cabo de La Nao. There’s a car park on Camí Vell del Far about 2km from the lighthouse – you have to leave your car there and walk the rest. But it’s a gentle stroll into the Parc Natural de la Serra Gelada on a tarmac road that was built to serve the lighthouse back in the 1960s. You get wonderful views across the bay to Altea and el Peñon d’Ifach – for more on this walk check out my blogpost here.
The lighthouse has a Centro de Interpretación where you can see more about the geology and the wildlife, plus a great little photo gallery featuring the lighthouse keepers who manned this lonely outpost before it was automated.
Use the free telescope on the terrace to admire the view out to sea – apparently you can spot bottlenose dolphins out in the bay. All lighthouses should be like this one!
For the next stop, we’ll take the short drive (20 mins or so) to the tourist mecca of Benidorm and hop on a boat.
El Islote de Benidorm
Benidorm is a 20-minute drive to the other side of the Serra Gelada cliffs from L’Albir; five kilometres of golden beaches lined with high-rise hotels and apartments. We’re heading for the port, where Benidorm’s Playa de Levante and Playa de Poniente meet, to pick up a boat to the Islote (little island) de Benidorm you can see out in the bay.
Now this doesn’t qualify as a fully-fledged faro – it’s a baliza (beacon), a small light with only a 6 kilometre range on a short, concrete stump, not a patch on the rather elegant towers elsewhere on our trail. But the trip out to the island is fun and the views of the serried ranks of skyscrapers on Benidorm seafront are spectacular.
There’s a rocky track that takes you to the top of the island, and the beacon is about two thirds of the way up. When we were there, the entrance gates had been knocked flat so you can wander about with just the seagulls for company.
Book the boat in advance here (€15 per adult) or buy at the ticket office in the port itself. Sometimes boats won’t land on the island if the sea is rough, so if the weather looks dodgy, call to check here. They also may not run in low season. Parking near the port is very tricky – street parking is often limited to 2 hours, so your best bet is the car park above Mercadona supermarket on Carrer del Mercat just a few minutes stroll away. Or you can take the tram and walk from the station (about 20 mins away).
Faro Cabo de las Huertas
Next up is the lighthouse at the end of another tourist mega-beach, this time Playa San Juan near Alicante. It’s about 50 kilometres south of Benidorm and guards one side of the bay for the ships heading in and out of the port of Alicante.
Don’t bother driving up to the lighthouse gates – you can’t see anything there. Park instead on Calle de la Musola, walk down the stony track to the sea and around the base of the lighthouse. It’s a beautiful walk with waves breaking over the unusual rock formations on the shoreline, and it’s a world away from the tourist beachfront just behind you.
There’s actually a bit of a row going on locally about whether the lighthouse site should be opened up and a restaurant built there. The port of Alicante chose a company to do the job under the “Faros de Espana” development project (which I mentioned at the top of this post). But a lot of people didn’t like the plan and the issue is in stalemate right now.
You can walk all the way round the cape to the Playa del Albufereta, taking in views of Alicante city itself – route here. Look across to the opposite headland, where you can just about see the lighthouse on the Cabo de Santa Pola, our next stop.
Faro Cabo de Santa Pola
It’s a 40-minute drive south through Alicante city to el Cabo de Santa Pola. The road to the lighthouse is a few kilometres south of El Altet on the N-332 near the airport, but you can’t turn left across the oncoming traffic. Head a little further on, turn around when you can and you’ll see the sign for the lighthouse to your right. Then it’s about 4km on a mostly single-track road to the cliffs.
Park up and walk along the side of the lighthouse for some amazing vistas across to the island of Tabarca out in the bay. As a bonus, there’s a very cool skywalk which takes you out over the cliff edge for a fantastic birds-eye view.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get a free airshow – el Cabo de Santa Pola is one of the best places in Spain for paragliding and there are often several canopies in the air, riding the fierce updrafts along the cliffs. For more on el Cabo de Santa Pola, see my post here.
And for our final lighthouse, drive down to the fishing port of Santa Pola and jump on another boat, this time heading for Tabarca island.
Faro de Tabarca
Our final lighthouse is the closest to sea level, largely because nowhere on Tabarca is more than four metres above the water. It’s a speck of land less than two kilometres long and it’s the smallest permanently inhabited island in Spain.
Step off the ferry (cost €10 from Santa Pola; you can also get there from Alicante, Benidorm and Torrevieja) and head off to your left across the scrubland, past the squat Torre de San Jose to the lighthouse. Unlike our other island location (el Islote de Benidorm), this is a proper lighthouse, not a beacon
Walk a little further on, past the little white-walled cemetery, to Punta Falcó and some beautiful views out to sea.
Tabarca is a marine nature reserve and its waters really are crystal clear, ideal for swimming and snorkelling around the rocks. For more about Tabarca, see my post here.
So that’s it; the last stop on our lighthouse trail. The next lighthouse in the chain is an hour and a half drive away on the Mar Menor (El Estacio, if you’re keen to keep going). But that’s it for us. Seven lighthouses, seven unbeatable sea views!
The Costa Blanca lighthouse trail
© Guy Pelham