Tabarca Island, Costa Blanca – Comaskey Properties

Go to Tabarca Island for a pleasant walk, seafood, and some history

How many of you have been to Tabarca Island? I bet not many. Let me tell you a bit more about Spain´s smallest inhabited island just off our coast here.

There are some days on the Costa Blanca when all you want is a sunbed, light filtering through an ice-cold drink, and nothing more strenuous than turning the pages of a new novel. But if you want some holiday stories to turn friends back home green with envy, sometimes you’ll need to explore a little further. The island’s waters are officially declared a Mediterranean Marine Reserve for their excellent quality and for the biodiversity of their flora and fauna.

Tabarca is the only inhabited island in the Region of Valencia and is located opposite the city of Alicante, 11 nautical miles offshore and near the Santa Pola headland. In fact, it’s more than just an island: it’s a small archipelago that comprises the islets of La Cantera, La Galera and La Nao as well as the IslandI itself. It is approximately 1,800 metres long and measures some 400 metres across at its widest point.

In the past, its shores were a refuge for Berber pirates and, in the 18th century, King Carlos III ordered the island to be fortified and a town built, in which to house several families of Genoese fishermen who were being held prisoner in the Tunisian city ofTabarka.

The walls surrounding the town have been officially declared a Historical and Artistic Site and an Asset of Cultural Interest.

You can reach it by boat from Torrevieja or Santa Pola.

A visit to the island usually lasts one day. There are numerous departure times from the port of Alicante, although the regularity of these depends upon the time of year. The boat ride is comfortable and lasts for around one hour. The island can also be reached from Santa Pola and Benidorm.

Once on the island, visitors can enjoy the coves with their crystal-clear waters and a picturesque fishing port with excellent eateries offering the opportunity to try the traditional “caldero”, the island’s typical dish.

We recommend a stroll through the town and a visit to the island’s museum.

Visitors can now even enjoy an overnight stay on the island, thanks to the recent opening of accommodation.

When you step onto Tabarca Island it is very much like stepping back in time. There are buildings remaining from the 18th century and these tell the story of Tabarca Island.

The Story of The Pirates

The island was a refuge for Berber pirates up to the end of the 18th Century. Pirates used to hide away on the Island whist using it as a base to plunder passing vessels. This caused a problem for the then Spanish King – King Carlos III.

At the time Spain had possession of an Island off the coast of Tunisia called Tabarqah (Tabarka). In 1741, the King of Tunisia invaded this Spanish Island and took the Genoese inhabitants as prisoners. King Carlos III was incensed at this and rescued these prisoners and they were returned to the port of Alicante. He then decided that he would put these Genoese prisoners on the Island of Tabarca.

The pirates no longer had a hideout on Isla de Tabarca and were run off the island by these 300 or so prisoners. The military engineer Fernando Méndez Ras was responsible for planning the new town and he planned a fortified town with walls, bulwarks, warehouses and houses. These buildings still remain today. Around 1770 the island became known as ‘Nova Tabarca’, which translates as ‘New Tabarca’.

At the end of the 19th Century, the island had a population of around 1000 people mainly devoted to fishing. Now, the permanent population is around 50 during the winter months and even greater over the Summer months.

Fishing and tourism now drive the economy with Tabarca receiving between to 2000 – 3000 visitors a day during the height of Summer.

Tabarca Island Buildings to Visit

Walking around the Island takes about an hour and a half, so it is really quite small.

The West of the Island is the part that is inhabited. Here there are small streets, the church, the walls and their gateways, the beach and the port.

There are some quaint old houses in the streets of the island that now house the remaining 50 or so residents (in the winter, more in the Summer)

Give it a try, it is somewhere very special to visit… I think it is at its best in September/October.

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