Moraira is a small, upmarket Spanish coastal town, part of Teulada (also known as Teulada-Moraira) municipality, in the Marina Alta comarca, 80 km north of Alicante and 100 km south of Valencia.
The town is located adjacent to the neighboring village of El Portet and both communities form a tourist resort on the Costa Blanca strip, with 8 km of coastline backed by mountains and vineyards.
The area around Moraira has been inhabited since prehistory. Objects found in the Cova de la Cendra archaeological site on Cap d’Or – adjacent to the town – revealed that human habitation can be traced back to the Upper Paleolithic era. Pots linked to the Iberians have also been found on Cal d’Or, suggesting that they later inhabited the area during the Bronze Age.
Following the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, the area was eventually settled by Moors are influence of that culture can still be seen today in the region’s architecture and municipal layouts. Many of the names in the Teulada-Moraira area derive from the Moor settlement – such as Alcassar, Benimeit, Benimarco, Moravit, Pouet del Morro and Tabaira. Indeed, local legend suggests that Moraira was named after the Moorish princess Ira, la Mora.
During the Reconquista, the Moors were expelled by Jaime I de Aragón and became part of the Kingdom of Aragon between 1270 and 1280 – this is still celebrated today during the annual Moros y cristianos festival. In the years that followed, the Moors were replaced by Christian settlers from Catalonia and Aragon, who introduced the Valencian language to the area. In 1386 Teulada was founded five kilometers from the coast by the Lords of Lluria, Serria and Grandia and became a municipality in its own right.
During the 16th century, Barbary pirates raided the coast and Teulada was fortified with a lookout tower on the Cap d’Or by Felipe II. This was part of a planned chain of fortifications which later included the Castillo de Moraira – completed in 1742 – located in what is now the centre of the town. The Castillo was armed with four bronze cannons and was badly damaged by the British fleet on 20 July 1801 during the French Revolutionary Wars although it has since been restored.
By the end of the 18th century, Teulada had developed into a farming village, with crops exported by sea from natural ports. Locals eventually turned to fish as an additional source of income and small buildings by the coast were built on the site of present-day Moraira to store tackle and equipment. These buildings were eventually expanded to become homes for the fishermen and Moraira developed into a small fishing village.
Moraira’s economy transformed dramatically in the 1970s and 1980s due to international tourism. The town expanded dramatically to accommodate new holiday homes and infrastructure for tourists. Today, the permanent population of Moraira is around 10,000, although this rises to 36,000 in summer. There is a high proportion of expatriates living in the town permanently, and the area is very popular with affluent retirees, especially British. The majority of visitors to Moraira are Spanish, British, German, Dutch, and French.
Geography and climate
The Moraira valley is the convergent point of several mountain streams, which flow across the beach even during the driest August weather. Over time, these streams have deposited their rich alluvial soil on the valley bottom. To the north, the town is bordered by the Cap d’Or hillside.
Across the Moraira-Teulada area, more than 2,000 hectares are under cultivation and 1,000 hectares are used for vineyards. The use of the hillside terraces for agriculture during the Moors era is still in evidence today.