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Discovering las Torres de la Huerta, Alicante

Las Torres de la Huerta is a network of stone towers scattered seemingly at random across the landscape just a few kilometres to the north of Alicante city. They were put there in the 16th and 17th centuries. Clearly this was a massive project in its day. But who built them, and why?

For the answer, let’s rewind to the 1500s. Working on the land around Alicante was kind of risky back then. Bands of marauding Berber corsarios from north Africa attacked the coastal settlements at regular intervals, intent on kidnap, pillage and worse.

Tower number 1 on the list, Torre Sarrió is in the middle of a roundabout! It’s now a centro de interpretación for the Torres de la Huerta. Built 1594. The walls are 1.5 metres thick in places.
Tower 2. Built end of 16th or start of 17th century. Torre Santiago was virtually demolished in the 1960s, but then reconstructed as part of a house in the 1980s.

Dangerous times!

If you couldn’t run away fast enough, being captured and sold as a slave in the markets of Algiers was a frighteningly real possibility.

One account talks of an attack on the coast in 1550 by 27 ‘Turkish’ vessels. Thirteen farm workers didn’t make it to safety in time and were kidnapped.

Another attack took place almost a century later, in 1643. This time, the settlement of San Juan was the target. The raiders looted the church and made off with 108 women, 42 children and 83 ancianos (elderly people). For a list of attacks – and there were a lot – tap here It’s in Spanish, but Google Translate gives you a fair idea.

Tower 3: Torre Aguiles. Now part of a private house, but visible from the road. Next to a Mercadona supermarket!

The answer was towers. Lots of them. Places to run to when the piratas berberiscos were on the rampage. The strategy clearly worked, as the raids became much less frequent in the second half of the 17th century. And plenty of las Torres de la Huerta survive to this day.

Tower 4: Torre Conde. The attached house was knocked down in the 20th century. The tower itself was restored in 2006 but now stands fenced-off and forlorn in the middle of a field.

What was la Huerta de Alicante?

The ‘huerta de Alicante’ is loosely translated as the garden of Alicante. But why was it worth protecting?

Four hundred years ago, it was rich and fertile farmland, largely thanks to the recently-built Tibi Dam up in the mountains, which released huge quantities of river water for irrigation. 

But none of this extra cultivation was much good if the workforce lived in constant fear of attack.

So over a 200 year period, around 30 towers were built. Some had houses attached where the landowner and his family lived, but they also doubled up as a place of refuge for the peasants who worked the surrounding land.

Tower 5: Torre de Reixes aka Torre de Rejas. 16th century. Now an upmarket restaurant and events place.
Tower 6: Torre Boter. A private house is attached to the tower – the current owner told us that at one time it was a winery (bodega)

Some of the surviving towers are recently restored, plenty are private houses, one or two are restaurants, and more than a few look in serious need of some TLC.

You’ll find some marooned incongruously in a sea of modern houses, flats and shopping centres, generated by the tourism of Playa San Juan and Albufereta. Frankly, there’s not a lot of agriculture going on in the huerta de Alicante these days.

On the tower trail

It’s fun tracking them down – try doing it on a bicycle or an e-bike. There are around 20 surviving towers scattered across San Juan and Albufereta. I reckon doing the lot on a bike would take you 2-3 hours. The trail is about 12km long in total.

There are a couple of maps at the bottom of this post – jump to them here. They’re based on this guide, which we followed. It’s in Spanish, but the visuals are very clear, even if you aren’t a Spanish speaker.

Tower 7: Torre Cacholi. A small tower incorporated into a private house. Restored at the end of the 20th century
Tower 8: Torre Villa Garcia. Privately owned but not lived in. A family crest on the wall says it was built in 1698 by a Captain Domingo Baosio.

You can walk easily between some of the towers too, although doing all of them on foot in one day might be hard work in the heat of summer!

Each tower has a plaque nearby explaining its history (in Spanish and Valenciano only). The plaque also helpfully tells you where the next tower on the trail is.

Tower 9: Torre Soto. Right next to the busy N332 coast road. Looks empty.
Tower 10: Torre de la Santa Faz. Built on a bigger scale, it’s the most impressive of all the Torres de la Huerta. Back in the day, it would have had a garrison and cannons to defend the settlement of San Juan. It’s within the grounds of a monastery, attached to the church of la Santa Faz, so you can’t get up close.

The hidden towers

You can see nearly all of the 20 towers on the guide. Just a few exceptions: Tower 12 (Torre Alameda) is part of a private estate and can’t be seen from the road. To see what it looks like, check out this post instead. Tower 14 (Torre Bosch) is an events place and you can’t see it from the road either – but check this link for a virtual tour.

Finally – and disappointingly – the last one (Torre Tres Olivos) is just a heap of rubble at the back of a housing estate. Not worth the detour!

Tower 11: Torre Cadena. Attached to a private house and in good condition. Tower 12 (Torre Alameda) is on a private estate and can’t be seen from the road (Avenida Pintor Perez Gil).
Tower 13: Torre Juana. Now restored and used for events. Tower 14 (Torre Bosch) is just around the corner and also used for events – mostly weddings – but you can’t see it from the road.
Tower 15: Torre Plasia. There’s a political row about this derelict ruin. The surrounding buildings were apparently built too close to the tower. Alicante City council (which now owns the tower) was ordered to demolish the housing or move the tower to another site. The arguments continue!

To view the last five towers on our route, just click or tap on the images below.

Suggested tower route

This map will take you round the first ten towers up to Torre de la Santa Faz, assuming you’re travelling by bike (Google Maps only lets you put 10 locations on any map!) The rest of the towers, from Torre de la Santa Faz onwards, are on the second map below.

More places to visit around Alicante

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© Guy Pelham

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