Ah Valencia! Oranges, beaches and the Fallas! A vibrant city on the east coast of Spain. Back in July 2020, we spent six weeks in the small town of Náquera, 25km north of Valencia. It was the start of our international housesitting adventure. Six weeks of pure bliss in a village where tourism is almost non-existent, a place with only a few holiday homes for rich Valencianos dotted around the town. No horrible breakfast buffets, Irish pubs or cheap sangria places here, Náquera is ‘local Spain’.
During these six weeks we had plenty of time to explore the area and made a few lovely day trips from Valencia. Turns out the area has an awful lot to offer!
1. History in Sagunto
The town of Sagunto has had its fair share of history. Its main claim to fame is the siege of Saguntum (in 219 BC) when Hannibal decided to sack the city during the 2nd Punic War.
Above the hills of Sagunto stretches an ancient fortification of almost 1km long: Sagunto Castle. It goes back to the first century AD and has been inhabited by Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Christians: this was a well sought-after piece of real estate! You can walk along the walls for about an hour, discovering the various plazas from different eras. You’ll need a bit of imagination though, cause signposting and explanations are non-existent. On the plus side: the entry is totally free! At the bottom of the castle lies a Roman theatre. Unfortunately it was closed during our visit, but we did get a glimpse from it through the gates. If you have more luck, make sure to go in!
When you’re in Sagunto, take time to wander around ‘La Judería’ or the Jewish Quarter. Back in the 15th century, Sagunto had a vibrant Jewish community and it’s worth entering the main arch and walking around. It still has the same layout as in the Middle Ages with its narrow, irregular streets, dead-ends and small squares.
Sagunto is about 30km north from Valencia.
2. Hiking in the Serra Calderona
If you’re fan of the big outdoors, then the Serra Calderona is for you! It’s a 50km long mountain range and home to some beautiful hikes and stunning scenery! We were lucky to stay at the foot of the Serra, which meant we could enter the mountains literally from our front door!
Make sure to hike up to the ‘Mirador de Garbi’, a beautiful viewpoint to watch the sunset. You won’t be alone though, so if you prefer quieter moments, go during the day. The rock formations are just as stunning!
Another walk is up to ‘La Creueta’. You’ll notice the big cross on top of one of the hills when you enter the town of Náquera. It looks like quite a slog, but it’s actually not that hard. You might want to avoid the hotter hours though.
If you’re into history, take a hike up to Serra Castle. As many castles in the area, this one has a Moorish origin.
And if you prefer to walk on flatter territory, venture toward the Portacoeli Carthusian monastery. You aren’t allowed to enter, but the surrounding countryside is worth the walk!
Náquera, at the foot of the Serra Calderona, is a 25min drive from Valencia.
3. Rice dishes at El Palmar and a boat tour in Parc Natural de l’Albufera
We’re heading south of Valencia this time, into rice territory!
Now, what is the most famous Spanish dish abroad? That’s right, paella! Well, Valencianos wouldn’t dream of ordering a paella in any other part of Spain. Paella is Valencian, and that’s the end of it!
South of Valencia, you’ll come across acres of rice fields, the key ingredient to this tasty dish, especially around the town of El Palmar. El Palmar is probably one of the most popular day trips from Valencia. Its main street is filled with restaurants where everybody orders paella or fideuá (similar to paella but with noodles instead of rice) . As always, it pays to do some research. We went to Arrocería Mirabel, situated in one of the back streets, next to a canal. It is mentioned in the Michelin guide and rightly so, the fideuá was to die for! Highly recommend it!
Take a walk in the back streets of El Palmar, near the canals and you’ll practically be able to dip your toes in the rice fields! (but don’t!)
El Palmar is on the southern tip of the Parc de l’Albufera, a nature reserve famous for its fauna, flora and natural biodiversity. Go for a boat tour on the lake at sunset. And don’t worry about clouds, as these pictures prove, the sky is all the prettier for it!
It takes a bit less than 1h to get to El Palmar from Valencia.
4. A daytrip to Alicante
You can easily spend a few days in Alicante, and I suggest you do, but if you’re stuck for time, then a day trip from Valencia might give you a nice introduction to this vibrant city. It has a bit of a reputation as a holiday resort, but Alicante is so much more than that! Its original name was ‘Lucentum, which means ‘City of Light’ … promising, isn’t it?
If you’re stuck for time, head straight to the Castillo de Santa Barbara. The castle dates back to the 9th century, but is really well preserved. It’s quite a slog uphill, but worth the walk! (the less adventurous or less mobile can take the lift) You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views and plenty of history. If you’ve got time, wander around the Barrio Santa Cruz, a maze of little streets and colourful plazas that makes you totally forget you are in a big city!
Take a wander through the old town of Alicante and stop for a delicious and cheap ‘menú del día’. Or go to the market for some local atmosphere. To digest, wander along the Explanada or head for the beach in the afternoon. Alicante is a 2h drive from Valencia.
There are plenty of more day trips from Valencia. The town and castle of Xátiva is said to be worth a visit and Jávea too. But those will have to wait till next time.
Did you do any of these day trips from Valencia? Any other places you would recommend?