Calpe (or Calp in Valencian) is a coastal town located in the comarca of Marina Alta, in the province of Alicante, Spain, by the Mediterranean Sea. It has an area of 23.5 km² and a population density of 855.45 persons/km². The town is located 67 km from the city of Alicante, lying at the foot of the Natural Park of Peñón de Ifach, (Ifach Rock).
The economy of Calpe is mainly based on tourism and fishing. Many Iberian, Roman and Arab archeological sites exist in the town, due to its strategic coastal location. Some of the most important monuments in Calpe are the ruins of Los baños de la Reina, (the queen's baths), the flooded salt flats, a bird sanctuary for migratory birds, its Gothic Catholic church and the tower of La Peça, dating from the 18th century.
There are some remains that determine that there were inhabitants in the region of Calpe in the Prehistoric Era, indeed some remains date back to the Bronze Age. However the Iberians were responsible for the first buildings, which were constructed on the higher grounds.
The Rock of Ifach (meaning "North" in the Phenician tongue) was the impressive natural lookout for the inhabitants that lived in the surrounding areas. Another lookout was the Morro de Toix Mountain, from which the Mascarat Ravine, an essential passage along the coast, could be controlled. The area gained in importance during the Romanisation period of the history of the Iberian Peninsula.
The township's proximity to the sea favoured marine trade and fish factories. Evidence of this can be found at the historical site, los Baños de la Reina (the Queen's Baths).
After the Peninsula was conquered by the Arab invaders, they were the first to build a "Castle of Calpe" overlooking the Mascarat Ravine.
When the area was conquered by the Crown of Aragón, the Muslim administration was maintained: small townships set apart and protected by a castle or fortress. Therefore, the inhabitants of the region were dependant upon the Castle of Calpe.
From that moment onwards some relevant dates are:
- 1290 Calpe came under the control of the Aragonese admiral Roger de Lauria, who ordered that a township named Ifach be built in the proximity of the Rock of Ifach.
- In 1359, the battle between the then monarch Pedro II of Aragón and Pedro I of Castille in the war of the two Pedros caused the destruction of Ifach and a surge in the population of the "alquería" (from the Arabic Al-garya, meaning the "small town"). This rural edification, generally constructed on mountainsides, is of an austere nature and simple design. It is made up of one or two floors at the most, with just the one gallery.
- 1386, the administrative unit of the Castle of Calpe was divided into the towns currently known as Benissa, Teulada, Calpe and Senija.
- 1637. The town was plundered by the Berber pirates. 290 townsfolk were captured and taken to Algeria, were they were imprisoned for 5 years until their liberation in exchange for gold and the release of pirate prisoners. In this period the town had 18 houses inside the castle walls and some 350 inhabitants.
- In the 17th century there was an increase in the population which gave rise to the consolidation of Calpe.
- Towards the mid 18th century several projects arose to build a new fortified wall around the township, due to the fact that by that point, due to the increase in the population, many inhabitants were forced to live outside the protection of the existing walls.
- During the 19th century the village developed towards the west. The basic axis of growth was along the route between Altea and Alicante.
- During the 2nd half of the 19th century the fishing industry began to take off throughout the region. Buildings such as the Fisherman's Cooperative were constructed and functioned alongside several existing factories dating from the end of the 18th century. These buildings, however, didn’t constitute a nucleus of population dedicated to fishing activities.
- In 1918 the "El Saladar" salt flats were cleaned up and the production of salt could once again take place. Thanks to the technical innovations of the times bigger fishing vessels were constructed. The first small hotels arose in the area surrounding the "Baños de la Reina" and the Racó Beach, and catered to the emerging middle classes.
- The summer tourist trade increased substantially with the construction of the Ifach Parador in 1935.
- In the period between 1945 and the end of the 50's many holiday villas and small hotels were built to accommodate the flourishing summer tourist trade. The hotel trade in the region is located almost exclusively on the coastal area.
- During the second half of the 60's, as happened along the rest of the Costa Blanca, there was a tremendous boom in construction in Calpe. This was due to political change and the emergence of tourism as a phenomenon of the masses. It was this transformation that made Calpe what it is today.