The best travel discoveries of 2019, chosen by Guardian writers
Island-hopping, nightlife, nature reserves, city breaks and walks, plus top places to eat and stay. We share our favourite finds of the past 12 months
You’re unlikely to have heard of Elche, in Valencia province, unless you saw a recent tabloid story linking Diego Maradona with the manager’s job of the Spanish city’s Segunda División football team. Perhaps only someone of Maradona’s stature could put this workaday southern city on the map. Because Elche sits outside the gaudy glare of the Costa Blanca’s overheated beach resorts, just far enough inland to preserve its modesty. And it’s all the better for it. We were visiting friends and happy to be led on a tour of discovery. We were even happier that there were more hidden treasures than we anticipated: The Palmeral, a world heritage site of 200,000 palm trees; Altamira Castle, a 12th-century Moorish castle; the neoclassical Basílica de Santa María, home of the Elche mystery play, which was declared a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage by Unesco; and a massive firework display to kick-start the summer festival season.