Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: July 1, 2005 at 7:38 PM
The problem with the whole idea, though, is that Europeans tend to come to Benidorm only during the summer, and the rest of the year the place is wall-to-wall with senior citizens. (Seriously, on my way back from the old town, I felt like the hero running through the mall in Dawn of the Dead.) Not exactly the perfect destination for that crowd, which constitutes the majority nine months out of the year. Which is part of the reason the six-year-old park has been losing money since it opened. And why Paramount was brought on to run the park in 2001.
To be fair, this park is excellently located, as there is major development going on in this area, which is surprising because this resort town otherwise looks like Honolulu, with highrises crowding the blocks near the miles-long crescent-shaped beach. This area is at the base of the mountains miles from the happening part of town, where not long ago there was nothing. So this place is definitely turning from a resort town into more of a suburb of nearby Alicante, and if this park wants to survive, it needs more families in the general area. Even so, it has a major road ahead of it as being about an hour south of Valencia, Spain's third-largest city, hasn't helped make Terra Mitica money.
Well, at least whoever has planned this area - whether it be the company developing the area or Benidorm itself - has done a spectacular job making this a beautiful area. The roundabouts on the way here - and there are several - all have gorgeous sculptures in the middle of them, which really get you excited to get to the park. Plus, the entire way there, you can see the huge Terra Mitica sign above the park on the hill. And Terra Mitica's entrance plaza delivers on that excitement, unlike PortAventura's wan entrance plaza. Though why I don't have a picture of it is beyond me. I swore I took all kinds of pics of it. Who knows, when I am really enjoying something I'll forget I have a camera.
Once inside, the park has a small square for all your park-entering needs, then it's onward through an Egyptian arch into Egipto (ay-HEEP-toe). (One thing on languages here. While PortAventura strangely ignored Catalan in a region where all signs are in Catalan and the secondary language on those signs is sometimes English instead of Castilian Spanish, the national dialect, Terra Mitica does not ignore its home language. The area south of Catalunya, basically Valencia south to the Costa Blanca, speaks a variant of Catalan called Valencià, so basically they are speaking a variant of a variant of Castilian Spanish. It's crazy, and Terra Mitica's guidemaps uses Castilian/English/Valencià for nearly every attraction, shop and restaurant, and even bothers to translate the land names. I mean, COME ON! If you can't figure out what Egipto stands for, maybe you're too dumb to travel. Anyhow, I will use the Castilian for everything I speak of, and will use a parenthetical for the English translation, if I feel one is needed, or for a pronunciation of the harder words.) Already, I was more impressed with this park than I was with PortAventura. While the first lands both front small lakes, it was the surrounding sights that are worth mentioning.
While PortAventura focused on just the basics of theming, Terra Mitica built the basics - an obelisk, a pyramid, a barge, statuary - but actually completed the theme with details. (I couldn't post every pic I took here, so they are posted, along with the PortAventura pics, here. They follow the order of this trip report, if you want to go back and forth.) The only thing really missing was that feeling of being surrounded by the theme, which I felt was also missing in PortAventura. But the Egyptian desert isn't all that encompassing either, so I'll give them a pass.
There are actually attractions here, and something called Pirámide de Keops. Okay, first off, in the English translation it is still spelled Keops, but we call the pharoah Cheops in English. At least in America (what do you call him in England, Ben?). Obviously this is named after the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza, the tomb of Cheops/Keops who was also known as... wait for it... Khufu! (I am very interested in ancient Egypt, but I always find myself bored halfway through a great exhibit, like at the Met in NYC, because the names are NEVER the same. Seriously, the whole thing is worse than the ever-changing spelling of al-Qaeda/al-Qaida/Alkie-duh.) Anyhow, whatever it was in there was closed. I have heard of some sort of elevator thing, like a ride, but the guidemap places it under the heading Área Recreativa, which is also used for arcades, remote-control boats, the water pistols over the rapids ride and the carny games. So I dunno. (Ben is visiting soon, so he can tell us.) Around the bend (yes, ANOTHER curvy road up to the next land... GRRRRR) we came upon the Cataratas del Nilo (Falls of the Nile, cuz the Nile is just loaded down with waterfalls... did you know cataracts is another word for waterfall? I didn't.). The loading area had some nice somewhat Egyptian buildings, but the Cataratas are just right out there in the open. There are two stations where the log-barges make a 90-degree turn, one to flip you backwards and the other to return you to the right direction. Just having a backwards drop makes this better than the similarly-not-too-themed flume in PortAventura, but couldn't they have enclosed the turntable sections and added some effects of some sort? I'll give it a 7. Next door is the requisite kiddie version (seriously, what is UP with this lame trend?) with no hills. Needless to say, we did a Dionne Warwick and walked on by. (The other ride here is the boat to Iberia.. yawn!)
The curving walk to Grecia ended up being not as bad as the Polynesia/China walk at PA, and once inside the gate to the land, we immediately came upon another ride. El Laberinto del Minotauro. I had no clue what we were getting into, motion simulator, dark ride, an indoor maze? But one look at the loading station cars and I knew we were at a shooter! Alas, a fairly lame shooter. The scenes were nice enough, but the guns truly sucked. They didn't have a non-stop feature like those on Men in Black, so you have to pull the trigger over and over and over. And the red dot it emits is so tiny, and disappears so quickly, you never really figure out how to correct your aim. The story didn't make a lot of sense either, as the Minotaur gets pissed at the end of the ride... or something. He did the same exact thing on a later ride, and we performed pathetically that time. An okay ride that could use a technology update and some sort of outcome. A 6.
Around a corner we hit the main Grecian area.
Athens, I guess. They have the Acropolis, and the islands were probably not this "monumental". We came upong El Templo del Perdido next, which I figured had to be the simulator. I was right. Unlike PortAventura's though, this one was some retread. It had a major Superstition feel to the CGI, and hilariously enough, I found the thing (called Secrets of the Lost Temple) had been done by the same company. It was obviously dubbed, but to have such a cheap ridefilm (one I would guess has been here since opening, due to the Temple theme), in a supposedly major park really ruined the experience for me. A generous 4.
Then onto the new ride, Synkope (seen-KOE-pay, no English translation so I thought this was something from Grecian history, but the best I could find was a definition about a massive rush of blood to the head or fainting, which kind of fits), a giant frisbee. I was quite impressed with the queue:
If Disney put this much effort into DCA's flat rides, maybe there wouldn't be so much hate. Anyhow, you'd think a big red swinging discus (probably why the queue has an Olympics theme) would look out of place amongst the buildings of ancient Greece, but it really doesn't.
I swear half the park was on this ride throughout the day. Just look at all the legs! I'm not sure why, though, because I thought the ride was boring. Unlike other frisbees I have been on, this one didn't spin very much, and that's the whole point of the ride. This one spun just enough to where we were on the high end every single time it swung up. Something is wrong with the way this ride is being run, and I give it a 5. Which is sad, because this ride has the ability to be a 9.
There is also a larger-boat flume here, La Furia de Tritón, which has two drops coming out of a rocky "mountain" right at the base of the real thing. It's pretty, and is spectacularly located, but it isn't much of a ride. One drop is very short, and the other is a decent height. This thing is basically an expanded up-and-down flume, the kind meant to create a huge splash, so why not use the usual two-step drop for one of the drops, just for a little variety? It gets a 7 just for how well-thought-out it is, and it's pleasant enough. We also rode Alucinakis (no clue, something to do with Hallucinations?), which is supposed to be the kiddie replica of Magnus Colossus, but this is a steel coaster with minimal wood attached, so whatever. It's basically one of your standard Flying Unicorn-level coasters, one step above the kiddie coaster in the Universal and Disney kiddie areas. It's okay, the turns are fun, and it does have a little height to it, but it is a bit short. 5. The two other rides in Grecia are Los Ícaros (The Icaruses.. Icarus was winged), swings and Arriarix (again, no clue... it sounds a little flight-oriented but there aren't Pegasuses here), another kiddie horse-on-a-rail ride that would never happen in the states.
On to Roma! In this direction, you reach Roma via a bridge across a "moat" into a large castle wall. This is really a wonderfully-designed area as it does seem like the castle walls completely surround you. They don't, though, but Magnus Colossus comprises one missing "wall" and the huge dining complex makes up the other. Unfortunately, other than Magnus Colossus, this is just an enclosed kiddie area, with six kiddie rides and a games-of-skill area. I'd complain, but rides like this work better all concentrated - and hidden - in one area than they do littered amongst the pretty buildings elsewhere. As for Magnus Colossus...
Considering they used the side of the mountain, you'd think they could get a major drop on this thing, but the big drop is only 118 feet. Still, this thing gets going, and the speed seems pretty constant throughout. There is some decent airtime, which comes late in the ride, but it is still one of those "old-time" woodies with no banked turns or steep-angled drops. I think I liked it more than Stampida at PA, but it gets the same 8.
Outside the other wall of the castle, there is more to Roma. This is when I realized that each land we have seen has basically two distinct areas. I think this is great, as the lands here are fairly large and having distinct squares instead of one long land, like at PA, keeps you enveloped in the theme, instead of seeing just a couple of aspects of the theming at a time.
This "square" has a lovely sit-down restaurant called Via Apia - where we ate lunch - and the requisite copy of the Colosseum, where the show we saw was Imagina (ee-mah-JEE-nuh, meaning it was being pronounced in Valencià), ANOTHER Cirque du Soleil wannabe. If only! This thing was a mess. Two wretched "clowns", no apparent storyline (unlike the Cirquey show at PA), and no real interesting act. It seems like every TM employee was forced to leave their posts to appear in this show, since the creator was clearly more interested in filling the large theater with people doing little than in creating something interesting enough to actually watch. (I'm not being that sarcastic either. The people we saw performing in a street show when we entered the park were in this show and two others we saw, and were probably in every other street show as well.) The worst part was we sat very near a middle aisleway where the cast would often "perform", so I was forced OVER AND OVER AGAIN to pretend like I was having a good time. I wasn't. 4. And I'm being nice because this wasn't the worst show here!
Around the corner we found yet another "square" (in quotations, because not everything is actually squarish in shape) which held the requisite drop ride, El Vuelo del Fénix (The Flight of the Phoenix), a gorgeous restroom complex, another beautiful souvenir shop and another highly-detailed archway representing the boundary between lands.
You can kind of tell through the arch that the road outside is lined with statues. A nice touch. Unfortunately, the land outside is Iberia (and do not ask me to pronounce this... the correct pronunciation would be ee-bear-EE-uh, but for some reason I pronounced it ee-BEAR-ee-uh to an Iberia airlines clerk, and she didn't freak out... Iberia is not a Spanish word, it's Roman - and this is the Iberian Peninsula.. Iberia was actually the area that turned into Georgia - and Spanish variants on the word stress the second syllable... as if you cared), and I don't see a need for an Iberia land INSIDE the real thing. They apparently focused on the Moorish legacy of the country, which is located mostly in the southern region of the country, but still. Compared to ancient Greece and ancient Rome and ancient Egypt, this doesn't compare.
Since the theming of the entire park seems to be ancient Mediterranean countries, couldn't they have gone with Turkey? Or even Morocco? Oh well. I guess they decided they would go with Iberia so they could get a Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón in Spain) show, since the whole Iberian peninsula is obsessed with Colón. I guess considering how many Spanish colonies they ended up with, they should be obsessed with him. But couldn't they have shown their love with something better than the Las Visiones de Colón show? Located on the other side of the lake is a little stage where those "visions" come to horrendous life. The story, if it can be called that, takes place after Colónbus returns from "the Americas" and introduces the dances he discovered. Yeah, you read that right. So they start dancing in this Mexican style (which is odd since Colónbus never landed on the continent itself, AND since he thought he had just rediscovered Asia at this point) which then leads to dances that WOULD HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE, like the Flamenco, the Tango, the Waltz, Squaredancing (yeah, you read that right) and rockin' out! I'm not certain what all the dances were, but all costume changes happened awkwardly while the Queen kept threatening Colónbus with the guys from the street show we saw earlier because dancing was evil or something. The whole thing isn't helped any by having a roller coaster as its backdrop. I actually walked off halfway through to explore, but it STILL wasn't the worst show we saw on our trip (SPOILER!). An extremely generous 3.
It was over and I dragged my roommate over to that coaster.
My favorite coasters are inverteds, but Tizona (the name of the sword carried by El Cid, hence the castle) is soooo sloooooooow. With a first drop of barely over 100 feet and only five inversions, you'd guess it wouldn't be so great. But Batman at Magic Mountain has similar specs and it is a great ride. After that first drop, the ride just seems to lose speed quickly and it feels like it is barely going to make it back to the station. The ride is smooth, though, so it gets a 6.
There is another coaster in the area, El Tren Bravo (duh), which is yet another kiddie coaster, but this one is 50% longer than Alucinakis and a little more fun. It also has twin tracks that move in different directions, though only one track was running when we were there. Every time I see a fun kiddie coaster, it irritates me that Islands of Adventure built the crappy Flying Unicorn. (And, yes, I AM bitter, thank you!) It gets a 6 because it is better than Alucinakis and there is a little ingenuity going on here, but the endlessly-long trains make parts of the ride too slow. There are two other kiddie rides here are Arietes (Bumper Cars... "arietes" refer to hydraulics, but the translation of that is "ram" so maybe it has something to do with "ramming"... maybe...) and Jabato (haw-BAW-toe, a young wild boar, which is what the cars are shaped like) a junior version of the Arietes. Seriously, what is UP with having kiddie versions of Bumper Cars, which are already kiddie rides??? Seriously!!!! There is also the boat back to Egipto, which is right next door. So, yeah, whatever again.
Okay, so we had a Cirque show and a dance show, so what are we missing? Oh yeah, a stunt show! Barbarroja (which combines the words "barbar" and "roja"... "beard" and "red") is that stunt show. Spain takes a perverse pride in its attacks by the Barbary pirates, so a show involving the most famous Barbary pirate shouldn't be as surprising as seeing Colónbus talking about Squaredancing. Like most shows we saw on our trip, there was audience participation at the beginning, with some woman leading the "zany" antics. Of course a guy falls in the water, which screams "PLANT!" but I had already figured that out, even though the guy did a pretty good job pretending otherwise. Anyhow, they do some stoopid stuff we didn't need to see before Redbeard and his cronies come around the corner on their pirate ship.
Naturally, plantboy becomes the hero and the woman from the pre-show is our heroine and they run around the boat and the mountain and the town and stuff explodes and the ship goes down. After the other two shows we saw here, this one was quite pleasant. Knowing Spanish isn't really a necessity, and there are definitely more stunts than in the PA stunt show, but this still doesn't compare to that delightful creation. Still, it's fun enough and gets a 7.
Over to Las Islas, which really confused me. The only real "islas" in the Mediterranean are either Spanish, Italian and Greek, but those places are already represented. I have a feeling this land is just an excuse to play a little more with the mythical creations of ancient Greece (this is Terra MITICA after all). Especially since one of the "Islas" is actually landlocked right next to Grecia. This area, which is accessible, strangely enough, from Roma and Egipto, really only has the Mithos carousel which has mythical creatures instead of horses. There is another sit-down restaurant (which might have been closed) and Los Sorpresas de los Dioses (Surprises of the Gods), which is really just a mini-Innoventions focusing on videogames (a big Pokemon ball sits outside the building... really the only glaring exception to the thorough theming in the park). We also saw a bit of the Pasacalle Imagina (a kind of bastardization of familiar words, I think, basically Imagination about the Street) which was less a show than weird creatures roaming about adding atmosphere. Which was fine, as the other characters that would be about the Street would be Nintendo characters. Mario, Luigi, Link and Samus would be cool, but I feared this would be those Pokemon freaks.
We crossed the bridge to the real Isla in Las Islas, where the two big rides are located.
But first we needed food. Lunch had worn off, so we got some snacks at Rodas (Rhodes, the sit-down was called Corfú, so I guess my Greek guess was right) before heading to the Rápidos de Argos (Argo being the name of the ship Jason owned... as in Argonauts?). It had some okay scenes, but once again the rapids portion SUCKED. In fact, the area heading back to the station was so wide, we sat motionless in a corner while three other Argos passed up by. After slamming into us first, of course. Which at least got us going. So it ended up being only a little better than PA's rapids, so they get a 4.
Then onto El Rescate de Ulises (The Rescue of Ulysses, which is still Ulises in the guidemap), which was a total mystery to me. It ended up being being basically a more-themed, less-rapid version of the rapids ride across the way. There are like nine scenes here, but I am a little too unfamiliar with Homer's The Odyssey to figure out what exactly was going on. I didn't even recognize many characters outside of Poseidon, the Hydra and the Cyclops.
I don't remember everything, but the whole thing created less sense than atmosphere. Not that all of Disney's dark rides make a lot of sense, but they are based on well-known properties, and I think that hurts this ride, since most of us know bits and pieces of the mythologies but not everything. Even so, it was refreshingly unexpected and was pretty well done overall. A 7.
And then back out of Las Islas.
And that was it. We decided the only thing we wanted to ride again was Magnus Colossus, which we did, then we shopped a little and left. Before the park closed. We went on a Thursday, because I knew it would be slower, but I have a feeling this place wouldn't have been too busy even on the weekend. So then why were they open this week on Thursday and Friday? Weekends only until the busy season would make more sense, which is the case most of the year. So why a Thursday/Friday in the middle of April? Oh well.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
That's a weird one to answer. Mainly because I really wouldn't recommend the Costa Blanca as a destination. At least not compared to the riches of Catalunya. When the two most popular excursions are to a big rock (Penyal d'Ifach) or a belfry up on a rock (Guadalest), you know there aren't a lot of comparisons to make. Many people make fun of Benidorm itself for being so overbuilt, but it's still better than the far-too-touristy Costa del Sol. Unfortunately, that also means there isn't a lot to do here beyond the beach. We did see the show at Benidorm Palace, which was surprisingly good (except for the weird really-long dance break at intermission and the woman that kept giggling during the topless portion).
So if you come here, try to find other things to do. It was our rest period, so we didn't head off to the "must-see" Guadalest or up the coast to Penyal d'Ifach, much less north to Valencia, which is supposed to be quite beautiful and modern. If I ever visit again, for more than a few days (we were here for three), I'd do all those things and maybe drive around and visit some of the smaller towns. We didn't bother renting a car here, and if you need to get out of town, a car is a must. The train station is between Terra Mitica and the main town - so inconvenient - and Alicante's station, where we flew in, is nowhere near the airport - even more inconvenient. The whole train system here seems like such an afterthought, when it is so important elsewhere in the country. The bus system within Benidorm is very hard to figure out, which is why we took a taxi everywhere, including to the park (though the bus back had a stop a block from our hotel). If you head there, do your best to figure out the system, because it would've made everything much easier, as well as much MUCH cheaper.
So, while I think there are better places to visit, a visit here should include Terra Mitica. It doesn't have nearly enough attractions, and some of the shows are dreadful, but overall it was a better day than our day at PortAventura. You can also find cheap tickets to the park in the old town, so definitely look into that.
As of this writing, Terra Mitica doesn't have a link on the main page, so click here for the page until that is fixed. Also, for some reason, the correspondent for that page has translated all the rides. If it were me, I'd put them in Spanish/then English, if there is an English translation. Hint.