Spain is blessed with a rich variety of great walking country – from the mountains of Andalucia to the sand-dune cliffs of the Donana, from the rocky peaks of the Costa Blanca to hilly vineyards of Catalonia. Much less well-known, though of at least equal merit, are the Sierras of the Orange Blossom Coast just to the north of Valencia. The coastal area, known as ‘La Huerta’, the ‘orchard’, is ancient, irrigated farmland which has provided nearby cities with fruit, vegetables and rice for centuries. Not far inland are the dramatic landscapes of the Desert of the Palms, the Sierra de Espadan, and the Sierra de Irta. The resort of Benicassim is the ideal base from which to explore these lands of white villages, watchtowers and Carmelite monastic ruins.
8 days September & October
- 7 nights half board in Benicassim
- Walk in the Sierra de Irta, near Peniscola
- Walk in the “Desert of the Palms”
- Walk in the mountainous Sierra de Espadan
- Return direct flights with coach transfers
DAY ONE: Flight to Valencia or Castellon. Transfer to your hotel in Benicassim (an hour from Valencia, 30 minutes from Castellon), for seven nights’ half-board accommodation.
Benicassim has a pleasant town centre a mile inland from the beach, but its pride and joy are the splendid Modernista villas towards the northern end of the seaside avenue. It also has a 3 ½ -mile Via Verde Greenway linking the resort with Oropesa del Mar – this is a disused coastal railway line suitable for walking or cycling and featuring spectacular sea views. Take a torch for the tunnel! You will learn about the influence of the Carmelite order in the area during your walk in the Desert of the Palms. In town, you might fall under their influence yourself at the Carmelitano distillery where aromatic liqueurs and sweet Moscatel are produced from old recipes! There are train and bus services from Benicassim to surrounding areas, and neighbouring Castellon has both a main line station and frequent suburban services to Valencia.
DAYS TWO TO SEVEN: In resort with three included walking excursions.
Walk 1: The Desert of the Palms and its Hermitages. You drive the short distance inland and up into the Palms Desert Natural Park, just behind Benicassim. Rising up to over 2000ft, the park begins just three miles from the coast as the crow flies – a bit further by the rather twisty road! It is a land of rich Mediterranean vegetation and wildlife, scattered with castles and hermitages, and offering fantastic views both of the coast and the precipitous mountains inland. The circular walk starts at the monastery where there is a short visit (entrance fee included). 5 miles, 350m of ascent/descent.
Walk 2: The Sierra de Espadan, Ain – the water route. Just under an hour’s drive inland is the impressive Sierra where you walk today, near the white-painted village of Ain, set scenically on its hillside. The village’s name means a spring in Arabic, so it is appropriate that your route has water as a theme. You walk from the village up to the castle and then begin a circle on the side of the hill overlooking the village. Along the way, there are pines, cork oaks, and – of course – several springs, used for irrigation. 5 miles, 300m of ascent/descent.
Walk 3: The Coastal Sierra de Irtá. Coach transfer (45 minutes) to Santa Magdalena de Pulpis, from where you walk through the Sierra to the coast. Starting through a wooded area, you reach a Templar castle, which was built on an older Moorish fortification. Shortly afterwards you reach the high point of the walk; it’s all downhill to the coast from here! There are carob and ancient olive trees as you descend towards the medieval Badum watchtower on the coast, near the resort of Peniscola. 6 miles, 330m ascent, 450m descent.
You have a little time to explore Peniscola. The town’s name is a corruption of ‘Peninsula’ and the castle is, indeed, almost an island. It was built by the Knights Templar in the late 13th century, but in the 15th became the home of Papa Luna, Pope Benedict XIII, the last of the Avignon Popes of the Great Schism, who took refuge here after being deposed.
DAY EIGHT: Depart to the airport for your flight home.
Hotel Intur Bonaire 4*, Benicassim
Walking – in the Sierras of the Orange Blossom Coast
- East Midlands
- London Gatwick
- 5th October 2020
- 6th October 2020
- 18th May 2021