The area around Altea has been inhabited for many thousands of years, with inhabitants such as Iberian tribes, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, and Arabs to name but a few. It was in fact the Greeks who are said to have given Altea its name; calling it Althaia (which means “I cure”), and naming the nearby river Algar which means “river of health”. From this it is not difficult to deduce that they must have rated the area/climate/waters as being in some way good for the health.
During the Arab domination the land around Altea belonged to the Taifa de Denia, and was not re-captured by native Spaniards until 1244. The town was quickly fortified and walls were erected to enclose what is now known as the “old town” from outsiders. This maze of cobbled narrow and crooked streets exists today and is one of the better features of the town.
Perhaps the most famous symbol of Altea and a constant presence is its church. Constructed at the beginning of the last century it is dedicated to the Virgen del Consuelo (Our Lady of Solace). Its magnificent dome is decorated in white and blue crystal ceramics and is today often used as a symbol of the Costa Blanca. It looks out from a high vantage point in the old town over the bay of Altea.
The 20th century saw the town develop into a bohemian attraction. That is to say it attracted many bohemians; artists, painters, sculptors, and writers of many nationalities flocked here for inspiration. In turn they contributed to the town’s culture, and this was officially recognised by its being awarded the title of “Cultural Capital of the Valencia Region”.
As time went by the tourist boom took hold and many art galleries were turned into bars, ceramic workshops and small factories into restaurants and lodgings of various kinds. Today there is a more international feel to the town, but some of the old industry does still exist; Altea still has a taste for antiques and hand crafted goods.