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Valencia travel guide
Valencia is one of the most recognisable regions of Spain, famed for Valencia football team, and the region’s famous orange juice and paella. But while you might know of Valencia, it’s a little harder to get to know. Old, sometimes impenetrable traditions hold court in even the smallest towns. At the region’s heart is an old city, Valencia, and its cathedral is said to hold the Holy Grail.
Slip-stream behind the peletons of package holidaymakers, then make a sharp turn inland, and discover the rest of the region in all its sun-soaked glory.
This part of Spain has a breathlessly busy coastline. Regular flights from every corner of the UK make both Alicante and Valencia supremely easy to reach, and the white sandy beaches of the Costa Blanca are splattered with sun-ripened holidaymakers from northern Europe. But inland, Valencia breathes out, wildflowers tremble in between high limestone rock formations and crucifix-topped hills offer hazy valley views. You might be surprised to learn that this region is great for wellness retreats, but once you’re here, breathing in the herb-scented evening, it all makes sense.
all about under-tourism, despite the Costa Blanca crowds. Swap over crowded Barcelona for less visited Valencia city, and the smaller towns around it – you’ll be richly rewarded.
afraid to spend its annual budget on a few tonnes of gunpowder for its all-important festivals.
Valencia map & highlights
With 450km of coastline, Valencia is a lot longer than it is wide, but inland its semi-arid interior is both surprisingly fruitful, thanks to underground springs, and very peaceful. The region is made up of three coast-facing provinces: Alicante, Valencia and Castellon. Alicante is probably the most popular gateway to the region, and several brilliant retreats and outdoor specialists operate in the area. Valencia province has fertile plains where fruit trees grow, and mountains rise to the north and west. Castellon has fewer large towns, with Peniscola on the coast getting most of the tourists, but the mountainous El Maestrazgo region might pique your interest a little more if you’re looking for an adventure.
Alicante is Valencia region’s second largest city. It’s a manageable size to explore in a day or two – so perhaps extend your stay by a day to spend time there. Start with the enormous Santa Barbara Castle (a hike or a lift ride away), then make your way down to Postiguet Beach. The nightlife is fun in town, and residents love nothing more than taking their time over dinner – order a bottle of tinto Alicante (red wine) for the table, and take it from there.
2. Alicante Province
Looking for an out-of-the-way holiday? Alicante’s ancient hiking trails, charming converted country houses and bird watching come as a surprise if you were expecting the province to be wall-to-wall with apartment blocks. The region is great for a yoga retreat or biking, attracting international cycling teams to its high sierra scenery. On the Costa Blanca, Altea, Denia and Calpe are three great reasons not to stay in Benidorm.
Avoid the all inclusive resorts of the Costa Blanca and choose a locally-run residence in Altea which will use far less water, and give far more back to the community. Altea has it all: a graceful bay, a charming historic centre topped by the twin-domed Església de la Mare de Déu del Consol, and a large market on Tuesdays.
A town that seems too tiny to cope with its own impressive views, Quatretondeta sits under the Sierra Serrella, a mountain which once served to supply the region with ice. Els Frares, ‘the friars’ sit stony-faced above the houses. You can hike between these striking limestone pinnacles as they stand, engrossed in silent convocation. The whole area around Quatretondeta is popular for both hiking and biking holidays.
This little village is in the north of Alicante province, surrounded by terraces of almond trees. On a clear day you can see all the way to the high rises on the coast, but Tarbena’s real high rises are its surrounding mountains. The village is a popular base for walkers – from here you can reach the Coll de Rates, the Algar Falls and the vineyards of the Jalon Valley.
For the third largest city in Spain, Valencia doesn’t feel mobbed by tourists. Get to know the city by relaxing in the sunshine, drinking horchata (a nut milk drink) with fartons (sugar-dusted pastries, stop giggling). The streets have a sunny disposition, and there’s often some lively evening entertainment thanks to the large student population. It’s a three-kilometre jaunt to the beach from the town centre.
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More Valencia articles
If you want to visit Valencia in time for its famous Fallas festivities then you’ll need to arrive in mid-March.
True, a lot of people are here for the refillable sangria, but there are great fitness retreats too.
Perfect paella, freshly squeezed orange juice, abundant seafood and omnipresent almonds are on your Valencian plate.
V is for Valencia and also for variety, and the two go hand in hand.
You don’t have to go anywhere near Benidorm; travel inland, and travel off season, cycling on quiet roads along riversides.