Sometimes the best things you can do when visiting a city is to get out of it. We all know about the Versailles outside of Paris, but what other treasures like outside the city limits? Sometimes we don’t have time, but when we do, a simple train or car ride can open up a whole new world of discoveries.
Here are my favorite day trips from Valencia, Spain. Each one is a treasure in itself.
(25 minutes away – Free – by Train or Car – Castle)
North of Valencia, on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea, is a sprawling city ruin that dates back to Hannibal’s era. Yes, Hannibal was here and a small plantation
still bears his name.
A 25 minute drive or a 35 minute train ride from the Valencia Nord main station in the city, Sagunto
is one day trip that you don’t want to miss. It’s too close to ignore and that hilltop ruin is really phenomenal. Plus, it’s FREE, kid friendly, and dog friendly too!
This is a walking day. The hill top is long and though there are some small restaurants near the amphitheater, there are no venders at the ruin itself. Bring water. If it’s a cold day, bring a jacket as it does get colder at that height.
The views are beautiful and the ruin is in great shape. Get food at the Restaurante Serp. The tapanades are fantastic! If you have time, enjoy a leisurely stroll around the tiny streets just below the ruin. There are quaint chapels, fabulous restaurants, and darling narrow streets that while terrifying to drive, are a delight to walk.
(15 minutes away – by Car – Boat Rides)
A 15 minute drive south of Valencia will bring you to Europe’s largest freshwater lake (according to locals) and the edge of a massive expanse of rice paddies growing the crop needed for Valencia’s signature dish, paella.
The lake isn’t what you might expect. There aren’t easy walking trails. You can’t rent a boat and waterski or fish. This is the local’s lake and to see it, you go with a local. It’s a beautiful area, a quiet escape, and a wonderful afternoon if you have some time to relax. Go to El Palmar
, the town that was once an island. They live much the same now as they did then, relying on the lake for their sustenance. They are fishermen and boatmen.
Follow the signs for “Paseo en Barca” and stop. You may end up walking into some one’s yard and that’s ok. They’ll be waiting for you at the water’s edge with their boat ready. Some of these boats have been in use for 200+ years. It’s pretty amazing.
The restaurants… Mmmm. Delish. Even local Valencians come here for amazing seafood caught that morning and ready in time for lunch. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the aguila. It’s eel, the freshwater kind that they catch in long tubular nets in the lake itself. It’s fishy and soft, so not every body’s cup of tea, but it is definitely local.
3. Cava Tasting in and around Requeña
(1 hour away – Free/Nominal cost – By Car – Wine tasting)
Once upon a time, this region made champagne. Local vintners had traveled to France and learned the process there. They brought it back and quickly learned that the soils here are good to the grape and fabulous to the bottle. France claimed Champagne as their regional product, and so, Spanish Cava was born. Milder than the French counterpart, I actually prefer Cava. It’s light and fruity and available in both dry and sweeter varieties.Requeña is one of Spain’s largest producers of Cava so this is a great place to get lost among vineyards and stop in for tastes. Call ahead for a tour in English. Below are a few of my favorites and a sample schedule.
1600-1700 – Appointment to visit
Pago De Tharsys
Calle Fuencaliente Carretera Nacional III, Km 276
46340 Requena, España
962 300 145
*Monday to Saturday from 10.30h to 14.00h and from 16.00h to 19.00h
(1+ – 2 hours away – Free – by Car – Hot Springs)
Montanejos is a tiny village in the mountains just beyond Valencia’s borders in the province of Aragon. There’s a 200 year old stone bridge and a hike to a ruin. A small stream runs through the town and just beyond it, is another ruin, a beautiful fountain where you can fill your empty water bottles, and hot springs where you can swim and play in crystal clear water.
There isn’t a train here, so you’ll have to drive, but it’s beautiful. You’ll go north towards Sagunto, then take the highway west towards Teruel. It will take 1 1/2 – 2 hours to get here, so leave early and relax. If you have time to do the circular drive back, you’ll see some more amazing things including an old Roman aquaduc, a lake, and beautiful hidden villages. This is real Spain.
5. Teruel and Albarracín (Links will come later as I finish up the more detailed posts)
(1 Hour+ away – Free/Nominal Cost – by Train – by Car)
Teruel needs time. Yes, you can pop in and see a bit in just an hour, but to really take it in, consider a long day or overnight. Known for ham and beautiful green and white pottery, this town boasts several towers in the Mudejar style and is famous for two lovers – a real life Romeo and Juliet story – who are interred in the Cathedral here. This tiny town has two amazing churches to visit and many towers to climb. I left twice wanting more. If you love pottery, you’ll enjoy the unique green and white pieces here.
Just 30 minutes beyond Teruel, nestled in the hills, is Albarracín, a tiny little village surrounded in part by a river with a village that seems to climb up the hill towards the castle and fortified wall above. It’s quaint, beautiful, and steeped in history. You can easily spend a day here hiking in and around the town, walking along old walls, and snaking between the tall homes lining narrow streets. There’s an old church, the castle, walls, and old gate, and iron. Albarracín was home to one of the most gifted iron workers in the province who created phenomenally detailed work. You’ll see a lot of his work scattered throughout the town and in a museum still run by his family. You’ll also see a lot of replicas, but even they are exquisite.
(1 Hour+ away – Free – By Car – Waterfalls/River – Hiking)
Bejís is a small town and quaint with a very ruined castle on the hill and an unimpressive Roman aquaduct below. What’s special here are the beautiful waterfalls just beyond the town. Follow the signs to “Los Clóticos” and you’ll find some stunning waterfalls near the mouth of the Palancia river. The water is clear and icy cold, so it’s refreshing on a hot Spanish day. Bring good shoes that you can wear in the water and swim in one of several little swimming holes there. Bring your empty water bottles and you can fill up at the fountains near the parking lot like a local.
Jérica is on the way to Bejís about 30 minutes away and near the turn-off from the highway, so it’s a convenient stop either on the way there or on the way back. Stop there for a sunrise hike to the top of the hill to see the ruin and the river winding below and take some time to walk around the base of the river Palancia itself where you’ll find little waterfalls and lush greenery at the base of the cliffs. Or, you can stop on the way back from a long day at Bejís and enjoy tapas or a nice dinner in town and see the sunset from the ruin instead. Either way, it’s a convenient stop and a nice little town to visit either alone, or in conjunction with something else wonderful in the area.
(1 hour minutes away – Free/Nominal Cost – by Train or Car – Castle)
Just an hour south of Valencia and inland slightly, you can go by car or take the train directly from the Valencia Nord station to Xátiva.
The town itself is quaint enough to enjoy, but towering above it along a wide ridge are the ruins of two castles (pre-11thC) and the gardens, fountains, and buildings in between. It’s a steep walk to the top, but it’s also accessible by car or taxi. It isn’t free, but isn’t expensive.
8. Guadalest and Callosa’s Waterfalls (Links will come later as I finish up the more detailed posts)
(1.5-2 hours away – Nominal Cost – by Car)Guadalest is a tiny town built precariously on top of a mountain ridge with what’s left of an old castle at the top. It’s tiny, so it won’t take you more than a half day to walk around it even if you stop for lunch, but it’s really a beautiful location and worth the drive. If you have more time, combine this stay with a trip to Callosa’s waterfalls and/or Benidorm and Benissa on the coast.
Callosa’s waterfalls are at a place called Los Fuents de Algar. Now, there is a small cafe and a gate where you pay a small fee to enter for the day and enjoy the waterfalls, but many years ago, the waterfalls were free to see. Some of the old families who have been in the area for generations still own rights to the water here and can fill their pools from tiny canals that run from the falls. As you walk up the stairs, you’ll find more falls and large calm, shallow areas where you can swim and have a picnic.
The town at the Fuents is tiny with just a few shops and restaurants. If you are hungry, go to El Algar de Don Juan where you can eat a delicious meal while the children play in the pool.
9. Snorkling in Benissa & Sunbathing in Benidorm
(Links will come later as I finish up the more detailed posts)
(1.5 hours away – Free – by Train – by Car)
Benissa is a small town just north of Benidorm that runs along the coastline where it’s scalloped as if a giant fish has come to take a bite. That’s left a series of beautiful clear-water coves that are quiet, secluded, and perfect for snorkeling or diving. In town, you’ll find a nice little international grocery store and several good restaurants.
Benidorm is absolutely huge. In fact, the Benidorm skyline is bigger than Madrid’s with high rise apartments that support the huge expat and tourist populations. There’s an amusement park, shopping, and, of course, the beaches. From here you can take a glass bottom boat to a nearby island, snorkel a bit, and stop for a bite to eat along the beach boardwalk or in the old town on up the hill where there are beautiful views of the rest of the city.
(90 minutes away – Free/Nominal – by Car)
In Peñíscola, you’ll find a wide expanse of fine-sand beach that stretches all the way to the next town, and a peninsular hill that juts out into the sea where you can explore an old church, a significant historical castle, and a beautiful town with tiny streets and hidden cafes.You can spend a full day here or a few if you want to take advantage of the beaches as well. Avoid July and August due to crowds, but spring and fall are beautiful here and still warm enough to enjoy the beach.