Valencia is full of exciting things to see and do, but sometimes the best idea is to get out of the city and see the surrounding countryside and smaller towns. Take the time to explore the Valencian region, and you’ll discover incredible nature, pristine beaches, delicious food and enchanting castles.
Anyone who loves food and nature will be in heaven at the Albufera Natural Park, just a ten-kilometre bike ride or bus trip from the city. Albufera Natural Park is famous for its lake, for being the original home of Valencian paella, and for being surrounded by diverse wildlife. The lake here is the largest in Spain, and it’s separated from the sea by a thin strip of coastline. Taking a boat trip out onto the serene lake at sunset is one of the most romantic things you can do in Valencia.
Just 30 kilometres from Valencia, you can find this Roman city with its hilltop fortress and an incredible history stretching back two thousand years. The Roman ruins and the Castle are just two of its main attractions, both are free and involve a lot of walking. You also can follow the footsteps of its former Roman inhabitants by walking the sloping cobbled streets of the Old Town. It’s easily reached by car, bus or train from Valencia.
Xátiva, famous for its castle and steep slopes, is less than an hour from Valencia by car or train but has its own distinct personality and heritage. After climbing to the castle and taking in the views, don’t miss the other sights in town, including the black cave (Cova Negra) and the beautiful Jardin del Beso gardens. Visit in the cooler months, as the other thing this town is famous for is its scorching summer temperatures.
This medieval town dramatically crowned by its hilltop castle is located inland in the province of Castellon, north of Valencia. It’s been declared one of Spain’s most beautiful towns, and it’s not difficult to see why. Explore the castle and the city walls, or go further back in time as you discover prehistoric paintings in the nearby caves of María La Vella, a world heritage site. It’s perfect for an overnight or weekend stay, as there’s a lot to see and do. It’s a two-hour drive, or there’s also an indirect train and bus connection from Valencia.
The Requena-Utiel region is the centre of local wine and cava production, and this is why most people visit. You can drive through the countryside and get lost among the vines, stopping in for a quick tasting at various local wineries, or there are some vineyards where you can take a tour and tasting in English, including Hoya de Cadenas. Utiel Requena is the local speciality, a red wine made from the Bobal grape. Don’t miss the town of Requena itself with its pretty Old Town and the Fiesta de Vendimia in late August, celebrating the end of the harvest and asking God for plenty of rain next year.
South of Valencia in the Alicante region, you’ll find various pretty coastal towns, but the most beautiful has to be Altea, with its whitewashed Old Town, six kilometres of beach and clear, warm waters. The Old Town has attracted various artists and painters over the years, and it’s easy to see why they fell in love with the place. The Old Town centres on the important church of Iglesia Parroquial de la Virgen del Consuelo, a fantastic sight with its two domes, decorated with blue and white ceramic tiles. Reach it by car from Valencia in about just over an hour. You could also stop by the coastal towns of Javea and Denia on the way, popular with visitors from all over Europe for their clean, sandy beaches.
With its castle perched on a rock overlooking the sea, no wonder this town has been voted one of the most beautiful in Spain. It’s famous for culture, gastronomy and festivals, as well as for being part of the Sierra de Irta Natural Park. Peñiscola is located on the Costa del Azahar, some 90 minutes from Valencia by car. You can also reach it by direct bus or train from Valencia.