If you haven’t been to Benidorm before, then chances are your cousin or your neighbour has. And if they haven’t told you about the tiny town of Guadalest then I will. It’s easy to write off as a tourist trap, especially when you arrive at the large car park in the centre of the modern part. But if you only have the time and/or the money to make one excursion out of Benidorm, this has to be the one. The real secret is in timing your trip. If you are not visiting in an off peak holiday period, then do try and pry yourself out of bed early one morning. It’s well worth the effort.
I last went there during the Christmas break, on a spur-of-the-moment trip we’d found to Benidorm with Jet2holidays. We left not so early in the morning, and managed to escape the crowds that took the edge off my previous visit one July. Hire a car for a day or two and Guadalest also makes a great first stop on a trip into the mountains.
It’s less than 20 miles along the main road to Alcoy, and one of the joys of driving there was being able to pull off into a well-placed lay-by for a few minutes. The view through the pine trees took in the tiny hilltop town in one direction, and in the other huge feathery banks of cloud floating back through the mountains towards the sea.
With all the souvenir shops and bars and restaurants near the car park, on arriving you might start to think you’re in for a mini version of Benidorm itself. But keep following the signs to the Castle and the pedestrian-only alley leads you out on to the side of the hill, past rows of lanky palm trees and flowering shrubs to the main gate to the old town. And what a gate it is – one worthy of Alice wandering into Wonderland – as you step over the threshold of a solid wooden door embedded right in the middle of a huge rock into a tiny world of its own.
As the cobbled street winds round to your left you are immediately confronted by the 18th century Baroque church and beyond that a small plaza. Walk across to the open right hand side and you can look way down to the bright blue waters of the town’s small reservoir, with the outline of the high peaks behind clearly reflected in it.
To get up to the highest point of Guadalest you can pay to go through the old family house that stands on the site of the original castle, taking in its mostly modern art collection as you climb up the stairs. Or if you prefer you can head for the cemetery gate at the end of the square, and walk up through a miniscule graveyard where the ‘residents’ really couldn’t get much closer to their ‘Maker’. There are views everywhere around the old town, over the terraced hillsides with their almond trees that source the honey and hard turron nougat that the region is famous for and way up the slopes of the surrounding mountains. But the classic one from the top is looking back at the squat whitewashed bell tower sat firmly on the top of another pedestal rock, high above the gate where you walked in.
Of the various small museums dotted around the town, my favourite is the ethnological museum virtually opposite the church where you can see many of the tools used by local farmers and tradesmen over the centuries. Others house historical motorbikes and a miniature collection, including minute paintings on rice seeds – plenty to keep you busy if you want to make a day of a trip to the town.
This article is brought to you by Jet2Holidays who offer a wide and exciting range of great value package holidays to over 40 beach and city destinations.
More Spanish sojourns:
Podcast Episode 8 in my travel podcast series takes us to the coastal city of Valencia, Spain that I visited with my family in April 2008. Hear me talking to my local Valencian friend, Angel, about the best things to enjoy as a visitor to Valencia. You can hear the dancing and folk music of Valencia, about the pyrotechnical Fallas festival that takes place in March, and about the other places to go such as the beach, Turia Gardens and Mercado Central.
I contacted Angel through the travel networking website, Hospitality club, and he spent the day with my family, cycling with us through the Turia Gardens and to the beach where we relaxed for a while before returning the same way.
I hope you also enjoy the slideshow below with my photos from Valencia, that you can watch while listening to the podcast.
Shownotes for Valencia in the Spring
In the podcast we covered the following;
- Meeting other travellers through the travel networking website Hospitality Club, either for accommodation, to meet for a drink or a meal or just for tips on things to see.
- The Fallas Festival that takes place in March, when different neighbourhoods of the city club together to create wooden and paper sculptures, set off fireworks and bangers, eat Paella, parade through the streets and then set alight the sculpture at the end. The best sculptures from each year’s festival are preserved in the Fallas museum that you can visit at any time of year.
- The Mercado Central in the centre of Valencia where you can look at all the different food stalls and buy a picnic – don’t miss the fish section at the back and you can also try some tapas at the small bar in the Mercado.
- The Turia River Park where we spent the day cycling with Angel. The park was created from the bed of the river that used to run through the city but was diverted in the 50s due to flooding. You can hire bikes from several different bike shops in the centre and then ride along as far as the port and the beach.
- Going to the city beach which is a favourite place for Valencians to go at the weekend and is the best place to eat seafood or Paella in the restaurants along the boardwalk – you can cycle as we did or take the tram from the centre.
- Walking around the centre at night, especially the area around the Cathedral and the Plaza de la Virgin that is close behind it – you’ll also find plenty of nightlife in the Bario Carmen
- Visiting the modern leisure complex of the Cuidad de las Artes Y Las Ciencias or City of Arts and Sciences, where you’ll find museums, cinemas and concert halls as well as the Aquarium or Oceanographic where our kids enjoyed the Dolphin show when we were there.
- Best time to visit is spring and early summer or autumn – you’ll probably find it too hot in July and August when all the Valencians head for the coast and the beach.
If you enjoyed this travel podcast please check out my other podcasts in my Travel Podcast Archive
Other Valencia Podcasts
Listen to my podcast interview about our trip to Valencia at the Amateur Traveler Podcast
January 15, 2009 by Guest Author
Filed under United Kingdom, Europe, Accommodation, Leisure, Misc, Blogging, Bristol and Bath, Greece, Guest post, London and around, Spain, Street art, Valencia, Zakynthos
Here’s your chance to catch up with some of the other articles of mine that have been published recently around the web.
Over at Europe a la Carte I’m posting regularly on a Thursday and have covered a few different themes recently;
If, like me, you enjoy colourful surroundings, then you’ll want to read my post on Great street art around Europe. I wrote about the street-art I’ve seen, not only in my home town of Bristol but also in Valencia and Orgosolo in Sardinia. When I visit Berlin this spring I’m planning to take a look at the East Side Gallery, where part of the old Berlin Wall has been turned into an outdoor street gallery to celebrate the re-unification and re-generation of Berlin.
Bandits and Murals in Orgosolo in Sardinia
Old town Valencia and street-art
Graffiti tourism in Bristol
Inspired by a pre-Christmas weekend in London to do some shopping and take in a show, I suggested you Visit Covent Garden in London. It’s an old fruit and vegetable market, now turned into a shopping centre for individual shops, market stalls and street-theatre. The place is teeming with bars and restaurants for that pre-theatre meal and you should also visit the Actor’s church and maybe a spot of pampering at the Sanctuary spa.
A free day out in Greenwich in London
An artistic lunch at the V & A
They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace
Dreaming of sunnier days, I wrote about Cycling in the Turia Gardens of Valencia when I visited the city with my family in 2008 for some spring sunshine. The Turia Gardens were once the bed of the river that ran through the centre of Valencia which was diverted due to flooding. It’s now a string of parks, sports grounds and other leisure facilities and we enjoyed hiring bikes and cycling as far as the port and beach where we dozed in the sun for a couple of hours.
A cycle in the Turia Gardens in Valencia
The city of Arts and Sciences in Valencia
A picnic from the Mercado Central in Valencia
Still on theme of sunshine I enjoyed a Mama Mia fantasy on the Greek Island of Skopelos, inspired by the film Mama Mia recently released on DVD. The island of Skopelos was chose by the location scouts for it’s unspoilt beauty, but all was not as it seems, as Donna’s hotel, where much of the action took place was in fact all part of a film set (or I’d be checking in immediately). It all reminded my of my trips to visit my sister on the Greek Island of Zakynthos, although her wedding to her Greek husband was somewhat less fraught with drama.
A hunter’s view on Zakynthos
How to find a real Greek taverna on Zakynthos
My top three beaches on Zakynthos
I read that Bristol is one of the top cities to visit in 2009 according to guidebook publisher Dorling Kindersley and it was the only UK city they named. Well, as I’ve lived in Bristol for 15 years, I already knew that it’s a great place to live and to visit, and I gave you some of the reasons you should consider coming in 2009. Well there’s the thriving harbour area, many parks, free museums, fantastic shopping, beautiful architecture, historic past and… (need I go on?) Fellow bloggers can always find some tips and maybe even a bed for the night at Heatheronhertravels-central so do let me know when you’re coming.
To Bristol cathedral for a contemplative lunch
An introduction to Bristol
A visit from Nomadic Matt
With low cost travel being on the agenda this year, why not travel on a budget with Hospitality Club, the website that brings together likeminded people as travel hosts and travel guests. If you’re wondering how you might enjoy more travel destinations at lower cost, you might like to hear about my experiences of being both a host and a guest through Hospitality Club.
A visitor from Riga
Meet the locals in Valencia
Places to visit in Turkey recommended by Sedef
Finally, hot off the press, check out my Guest Post over at Ciao Bambino, published today. Ciao Bambino specialise in family friendly accommodation, but their site also features travel tips and destination guides as well as reviews of hotels and other accomodation that are ideal for family holidays. If you’re visiting London with the family, check out my post on Free, family-friendly museums in London in which I reviewed the Big Three museums in South Kensington; the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. They each make a great half day out with the kids, combined with another activity such as some playtime in nearby Hyde Park. You can see all my photos of the museums on Flickr below;
See my photos of the Science Museum on Flickr
See my photos of the Natural History Museum on Flickr
See my photos of the Victoria and Albert Museum on Flickr