Territory, population and resources
Main towns in Alicante province
According to the 2018 population data, Alicante ranks as the 4th most populous province in Spain (after , Barcelona and Valencia), with 1,838,819 inhabitants. Cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants in the province are Alicante (334,757 inhabitants), Elche (230,112), Torrevieja (101,792), Orihuela (86,164), Benidorm (71,034), Alcoy (61,552), Elda (55,168), and San Vicente del Raspeig (53,126).
The province has the largest ratio of foreigner population among all Spanish provinces. The total of 446,368 foreigners are registered in the province, which represents 23.6 percent of the total population. Out of 141 municipalities that make up the province, foreign population is above 25% in 54 municipalities, and above 50% in 19 municipalities. The latter include San Fulgencio (80%), Rojales (74%), Benitatxell (69.8%), Algorfa (69.7%), Llíber (67%), Teulada (65.5%), Daya Vieja (64.4%); San Miguel de Salinas (64.3%), Calp (62.8%), Els Poblets (61.6%), Alcalalí (60.8%), Benijófar (58.5%), L'Alfàs del Pi (56.6%), Orba (55%), Xàbia (54%), Torrevieja (53.5%), Murla (52%), Fondó (51.7%), and Benidoleig (50%).
From the 50 provinces of Spain, Alicante is the only one with three metropolitan areas—Alicante–Elche, Elda–Petrer and Benidorm—even though only one of them (Alicante–Elche) is ranked within the Spanish top ten metropolitan areas. It has an area of 5.816,5 km², and so it has a population density of 313.8 hab/km².
Geography and climate
Physical map of Alicante province
The province is mountainous, especially in the north and midwest, whereas it is mostly flat to the south, in the Vega Baja del Segura area; the most elevated points in the province are Aitana (1,558 m), Puig Campana (1,410 m),
Montcabrer (1,389 m),
Carrascar de la Font Roja (1,354 m),
Maigmó (1,296 m), Serra de Crevillent (835 m) and El Montgó (753 m). All of these peaks are a part of the Subbaetic Range.
The coast extends from the cape, Cap de la Nau, in the north to almost reaching the Mar Menor (Minor Sea) in the south. With regard to water sources, due to the dry rain regime there are no major rivers, but mostly ramblas (dry rivers), which fill in with water when torrential rains occur.
The only remarkable streams are the Vinalopó, Serpis, and the river Segura. Other minor seasonal creeks (some completely dried out in summer) are
There are saline wetlands and marshlands along the coast such El Fondo and the former wetlands and now salt evaporation ponds in Santa Pola and Torrevieja. All of them are key Ramsar Sites which make the Alicante province of high relevance for both migratory and resident seabirds and waterbirds.
Important coastal dunes are present in the Guardamar area which were planted with thousands of pine trees during the 19th century in order to protect the ville from the dunes advancing, which has created now an area of remarkable ecologic value.
The climate is strikingly diverse for such a reduced area. Three major areas can be cited
- Most of the province belongs to a semi-arid climate. It roughly goes along the coastal plain from La Vila Joiosa through the southernmost border (cities included here are, amongst others, Alicante, Elche, Orihuela and Torrevieja). Summers are very long, hot to very hot and very dry, winters are cool to mild and its most prominent feature is very scarce precipitation, typically below 300mm. per year and most likely to happen during spring and autumn. The reasons for this lack of precipitation is mostly the marked rain shadow effect caused by hills to the west of the Alicante province (and, to a lesser degree, those in the northern part of the province which, in turn, enhance the inverse Orographic lift effect around Cap de la Nau). Most of its few rainy days happen during Autumn and Spring.
- The predominant vegetation in this part of the province is Matorral Scrublands including thyme, esparto, juniper and the like.
- Proper Mediterranean climate is present in the northeastern areas around Cap de la Nau, mostly to its North but also to its South, in diminishing grades until disappearing slightly north of Benidorm. It roughly goes along the coastal plain from the northern border of the province through the Benidorm area. The north slopes of the mountains in the Marina Alta have a remarkably wetter microclimate with an average of up to 900mm of precipitation due to orographic lift, with most of the precipitation occurring in Autumn and Spring. The precipitation in this area is an average four times the one of the semiarid South, with this big precipitation gap occurring in a matter of just 100 km.
- The vegetation of this part is an enriched version of the Matorral shrubland and also Mediterranean pine woods.
- The Alicante province also has a mostly dry Mediterranean to Continental Mediterranean climate. These are the innermost part of the province (for example Villena) and some closer to the sea but at a higher elevation (for example Alcoy). Here winters are cool to cold and a few days of snow are not unusual; summers are mild to hot and rains at about 500 mm average and slightly more evenly distributed through the year than in the previous mentioned areas. The innermost part of this domain is more quite dry while the mountainous part reach slightly higher precipitation figures which allow Kermes Oak woods to thrive, such as the one in La Carrasqueta or in the Mariola range, both near Alcoy.