Rural enough to be calm and tranquil, yet not isolated from civilization, the Hondon Valley has been the dream location for numerous expats over the past decade.
Nestled inland between the cities of Alicante, Elche and Crevillente, the peaceful Hondon Valley has become one of the most popular locations for house buyers in Spain, with British expats taking a particular fancy to its rural charms. It is made up of two main Spanish villages, Hondon de los Frailes and Hondon de las Nieves, with several other sparsely populated urbanizations dotted around the area. The valley enjoys a mild year round climate and pleasant summer breezes during the afternoons, which are very welcome in the height of summer when temperatures can soar to a scorching 35 degrees. The temperature drops considerably during the winter months of January and February, when you will need a warm coat when venturing outdoors, and there is often heavy rainfall from January to March. The region typically receives more than 310 days of sunshine each year, with the clear blue skies and panoramic mountainous scenery making outdoor living an absolute must!
Hondon is steeped in history dating far beyond Moorish times, and for many decades, this fertile valley has been home to thousands of acres of vineyards, citrus fruits, almonds and olive groves. Agriculture has long been its principle economy, alongside of construction quarries that are heavily mined to supply the buoyant Costa Blanca building and property trades with marble and other materials. The thriving agricultural industry, which includes various root crops and fruits aside from those mentioned, means that local produce can be purchased at very little cost, including excellent and incredibly cheap local wine, which will go down a treat while you are relaxing on your terrace and watching the sun disappear over the mountains.
“Frailes” has altered only slightly over the years, battling to maintain its village atmosphere and Spanish feel against the push of modern progress and foreign investment to the area. It has a beautiful church, a large open-air municipal pool with play area, a gym and a thriving cultural centre. There are also a selection of small convenience stores, including a daily baker, tobacconists, a chemist, grocer, butcher, hardware and Spanish/English supermarket. The number of bars and restaurants in such a petite village may surprise you too, with the choice ranging from cheap tapas bars and cafes to sophisticated a la carte cuisine. Nearby “Nieves”, is found just a short drive away, against the back-drop of the magnificent Crevillente mountain range, which stands over eight hundred metres high. Thick pine tree plantations frame the rural landscape, giving it its nickname as “Valley of the Vines”. One of the most significant buildings in Hondon de las Nieves is the impressive “Bodegas Cerda”, a local winery that includes a visitor museum. The stone effect building looks very similar to a church at first glance, and surprisingly was only constructed seven years ago, to become the pride and showpiece of the valley. The bodega is certainly worth a visit if you wish to gain some insight into the famous wines and wine making origins of the area. You will also have the opportunity to sample some of the local blends and purchase a few bottles as souvenirs! The village square, or “plaza”, in Nieves is another significant landmark and popular meeting place for locals. It has a Mediterranean look and atmosphere, being lined with drooping palms and overlooked by some of the oldest properties in the area. The Town Hall, or “Ayuntamiento”, was among the earliest buildings in the area, and still has its original bell tower which was built in 1900 and clangs quite eerily every 15 minutes. The plaza marks the venue for many of the local social gatherings and events, such as outdoor concerts, parades, ceremonies and flamboyant fiestas.
Things To Do
The principle attractions to the Hondon Valley are the amazing views and uninterrupted serenity, which are particularly appealing to those who are looking to escape from the pressures and fast pace of other European countries. In spite of this, you will still find plenty to keep you entertained either within the villages or a short distance away in surroundings towns and cities. As you might expect from a rural Spanish village, there are a plethora of quaint tapas bars and restaurants serving up a range of authentic home cooked Spanish dishes, and oodles of atmosphere. Many of the bars offer some form of entertainment such as live music, and clients can also enjoy a game of darts, snooker, pool, table football, boules or padel at the larger venues. There are various informal dance and keep fit classes operating locally, such as Zumba, line and belly dancing; whilst more dedicated gym bunnies may prefer to join the “Esport” Gym in Frailes, or visit the sports centre in Nieves village. Dotted between the two villages you will come across a selection of large communal swimming pools, 5-a-side football pitches, tennis courts and other ball sports.
Whilst Hondon does not have a Golf course of its own, there are a plethora of lush fairways within close proximity to choose from. In fact, the south Costa Blanca is home to some of the most prestigious courses in the country, playing host to the most important tournaments in the sport. There are enough clubs to enable you to put your skills to the test at a different course each month, with those nearest to the valley including Alenda Golf Course (near Elche), Alicante Golf, Club de Golf Bonalba, La Marquesa (Ciudad Quesada) and Vistabella Golf Course. Each course delivers its own combination of charms and challenges, with the majority also offering use of a driving range and clubhouse.
Exploring The Area
The Hondon Valley is a real haven for walkers, hikers, climbers and cyclists, with a network of 360 degree mountain trails and paths. Nature lovers will be in their element exploring the rugged mountain tracks, reservoirs and aromatic pine woodlands, and there are plenty of flatter walks for those who are not quite so adventurous just yet! Walking enthusiasts will be made very welcome at one of Hondon’s organised groups, which are a safe and fun way to make friends and explore the area. Members of all ages and abilities are invited to join in, and all you need to bring along with you is some comfortable, durable footwear, sun lotion and a sense of adventure! Pony trekking is another favourite pastime for local residents, with the mountains providing an idyllic setting. There are a few nearby riding schools such as “Horse Valley Barbarroja” near Hondon de los Frailes; whilst the local stables and horse owners are always grateful of some extra help in tending to the horses in exchange for a free ride or a few tips.
Clubs and Charities
Do not dismay if sports and outdoor pursuits are not really your thing, as there are plenty of other things happening in Hondon, such as social clubs and societies which you may wish to become involved in. The Hondon Valley Branch of The Royal British Legion is one of the most established organizations in the area, and meets on the third Tuesday of every month at the Restaurante “Monte Alto”, Poligono Industrial, in Hondon de las Nieves. Its main objectives are to offer companionship and support to those who have served in the armed forces, and their families, although they do stress that men and women of all ages, from all walks of life, are more than welcome to attend. There are many charities operating locally too, which are always on the lookout for dedicated volunteers to work in their shops or with fundraising activities. The Pinoso Association for the Protection of Animals (PAPAs) and HOVAR Valencia are both non-profit making voluntary organizations which work to rescue and re-home abandoned, unwanted and maltreated animals in and around the Aspe, La Romana and Hondon areas. There are numerous others which you might be willing to dedicate a little time to helping, with every bit of effort very much appreciated. If you are a fan of art and crafts and wish to improve on your skills, you share a hobby with a significant contingent of local residents, who come together to enjoy weekly art and craft style workshops, including painting with water colours, oils, ceramics and writing. With its outstanding views, the Hondon Valley is the perfect venue to put your painting talents to good use, and recreate some of the wonderful scenery on canvas.
Culture and Tradition
Both of the villages in the valley have access to modern multipurpose cultural centres, which welcome performances from bands, orchestras, theatre groups and other community events. These are well publicized locally and usually take place outdoors in the plazas during the summer months. The local fiestas are often observed in and around the cultural centres, and might be of a religious nature including prayers, dancing and singing. The most important fiesta for the valley is held annually in honour of the patron saint, the Virgen de las Nieves, and includes the Moors and Christians Fiesta, a Craft Market and Correfocs. It comprises of a series of parades, concerts and parties commencing around 2nd July and continuing right through until 21st August! Other widely observed Spanish traditions celebrated here include New Year, carnival, and the medieval market which will usually feature juggling, dancing and street acts with themed market stalls selling all manner of home crafted goods. If you are a fan of the Spanish market, then Hondon de las Nieves has its own modest selection of stalls taking place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, whilst larger markets can be found in Aspe every Thursday, and Alguena on Sundays, with the latter being the best place to purchase all of your fresh fruit and vegetables.
Living The Dream
Among those who have found their dream home in Hondon de las Frailes are retired British Couple, Jan and Pete, who settled here ten years ago. They love everything about their Spanish life, confirming that the Hondon valley was definitely the perfect location for them. Jan commented that,
“We love sitting on our naya watching the mountain backdrop change colour by the hour, listening to the call of the Hoopoe and feeling the fluttering of a passing Swallowtail butterfly. Life here in this farming community, is very peaceful, very quiet and very rural. In many ways it’s like stepping back in time, enjoying local traditions that the Spanish take great pleasure in and welcoming we non Spanish to be part of the community. All this and yet we are only 30 to 40 minutes away from the coast, the cities of Elche, Murcia and Alicante airport. The Hondon Valley is truly tranquility”.
Dave and Shirley live in Nieves and share Jan’s views on life in the valley. Dave said that “Having commuted to my workplace in London daily for the past twenty years, the idea of retiring to a quaint, rural village in the mountains couldn’t appeal more. It is everything that we could wish for at this stage in our lives, and we have no intention of going elsewhere in the future!” Shirley added that “My main concern when we moved here was in making friends in what is a predominantly Spanish area, and the fact that we did not know the lingo. However, it has never been a big issue as there are so many like-minded Brits here, and the natives could not be more welcoming. I have more friends now than I have had since my school days!”