Santa Pola is a coastal town located in the comarca of Baix Vinalopó in the Valencian Community, Spain, by the Mediterranean Sea. It has an area of 58.6 km2 (23 sq mi) and has a population of 30,000 inhabitants of whom 10,000 are residents of the nearby town of Gran Alacant.
The town has an important salt evaporation pond known as the salines which remain in business, additionally, most of it is recognized as the Natural Park of Salinas de Santa Pola, an important RAMSAR site. The town was settled over the ruins of a Roman village called Portus Ilicitanus (literally, Harbour of Elche); after being abandoned for decades, then a castle was constructed in the 16th century which marked the repopulation of Santa Pola. The town has an archeological museum covering these phases.
Santa Pola is, at present, a coastal fishing and tourist town. Population more than doubles during the summer, with people coming mostly from the rest of the Alicante province, and also from the Basque autonomous community, Madrid, France, and the UK, just to mention some. The nearby island of Tabarca (part of Alicante) can be visited by ship.
The new town of Gran Alacant, 5 km (3 mi) north of Santa Pola along the Alicante bay, accounts for about one-third of the population of the district. Next to it is the Carabasi area, a nature reserve. Gran Alacant lies only a few kilometers from Alicante Airport and a few hundred meters from the town of Los Arenales which is located in the Elche district.
In June 2009, the Valencian Government announced that the Alicante Tram system will be extended southwards via Alicante Airport and El Altet, to stations in Gran Alacant and Santa Pola and then onwards to Guardamar and Torrevieja before terminating in Murcia.
The first settlements in the area remount to the third millennium BC, proof of which have been tools and paintings from the Neolithic found in the Cueva de las Arañas del Carabassí, as well as remains found from hunter-gatherers of the Palaeolithic in the Cueva de las Teresitas.
During the fourth century BC, a small walled settlement was built near Vanalopó river. It served mainly as a Greek-Iberia economical hub. During the first century AC, near the former site a port was built, serving the city of Illini, named Portus Illicitanus (Greek: Ἰλλικιτάνος Λιμήν) (cited by Claudius Ptolemy in Geography).
This port proved paramount for the development of the region’s maritime commerce, together with Cartagena’s. In 460 AC, emperor Mariano’s flotilla set to sail to attack north African vandals but was burnt at that same port. From the Roman settlement, a necropolis is still in place, as well as a fish-salting factory and the Roman House of Palmeral. Their remains are described as back as 1621 by Cristòfol Sanz, although they were excavated during the 20th century.
Economic activity in this region is based on agriculture, craft-making, and fishing. 1.3% of the population was dedicated to agriculture in 2003, and that’s only successful when coupled with artificial watering systems, needed for the 200 hectares of orange trees (102ha), mandarin trees (74ha), and pomegranate trees (18ha), together with 230ha used for vegetables such as melons, shallots, broccoli, etc.
According to article 35 of law n° 4/1983 (23 November), Santa Pola’s official language is Valencian, together with Spanish (Spanish Constitution, article n°3, 1978). INE’s latest census shows that 90% of the population speaks Valencian. There has been an increasingly positive trend in the influx of new language influences, in part due to immigration patterns in the region. This has caused suburbs such as Gran Alacant to have a significant population of English speakers.