Another addition to my Blog Series Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region and lots of new secret places in the province of Valencia for you to explore. Save these 10 places in the province of Valencia you´ve never heard of and get ready to pack your bags to set off exploring the Undiscovered Spain.
Valencia Hidden Gems
Valencia Off The Beaten Track
As my local travels across La Comunidad Valenciana keep fueling my personal travel wanderlust (as well as extending my Spain Travel Bucket List) I can’t help but share with you more inspiring locations along the way. Are you ready for more Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region, after the last week´s Part 1 post?
With those tough travel times we are all living right now, off-the-beaten-track destinations have become trendier than ever. Some of us simply try to avoid the crowds on the road. Yet there are also lots of touristic sites with a limited visitors capacity leaving us no personal choice at all. And all this ends up messing up with our long-term and deeply cherished travel plans.
Look no further: this weekend I went to Teruel and there was a line to visit The Lovers of Teruel Mausoleum. But as I´ve already visited the place years ago, I´ve just skipped it for this time. But it made me realize how spoilt have I become recently, while mostly traveling across Spain where no international tourist has ever been before. I just can´t tolerate a small wait anymore. Nevertheless, I also believe the whole future of tourism lies in more tailored and less-cliche experiences when people will start looking for more authentic and hands-on escapades.
Therefore, following last week´s Part 1, I’m already preparing for you Part 3 and Part 4 of Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region, so that you can use this knowledge to make smarter travel choices.
The Valencia Region Off The Beaten Path Part 2
This will be a brief spoiler of the upcoming post – Spain for Ceramic lovers. Those of you obsessed with Spanish pottery (like me) will soon get a glimpse of the 700-year-old Spanish ceramic tradition and get your checklist of ceramic sights.
The region of Valencia, with Manises and Alcora on the top of the list, is one of the cribs of Spanish ceramic art. Plus, the province of Castellon (the northern region of the Valencian Province) is the headquarter of the Spanish ceramic tile industry. Even the worldwide famous ceramic tile exhibition of Cevisama takes place every February in Valencia.
The small town of Manises, near the Airport of Valencia, will surprise you with its gorgeous ceramic facades and expositions. Your must-stops should be Museo de Ceramica de Manises, Edificio “El Arte”, and Sala de Exposiciones “Els Filtres” (which, by the way, was housing modern ceramic art pieces from Biennal Internacional de Ceramica Manises during my visit).
Additionally, you can enroll yourself (booking in advance is required) to take part in one of the local ceramic workshops. I suggest you stop by the local Tourist office (address: av. dels Tramvies 15) to get a map of beautiful ceramic-decorated local buildings.
2. The Sant Joan de Penyagolosa Mount
The Sant Joan de Penyagolosa Mount is the highest peak (1,814 m) of the Valencian Community and one of the top places to visit in the province of Castellon. Yet it is quite unknown in between the international visitors, so Penyagolosa Mount totally deserves a mention on this list of Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region.
Although it is actually quite a hike through the woods all the way to the top (approx. 4.30-5h). This weekend with kids we didn’t make it to the top as we used to. It ended up being a 2h-long walk into the woods in random directions. We are currently in the stage of following butterflies rather than hiking routes.
Years ago you could leave your car halfway through, which made it more family-friendly if you planned to track the Peñyagolosa peak. Right now, the whole area of the Natural Park has restricted access for vehicles and the parking is located in the small village of Sant Joan de Peñyagolosa.
Vilafames is another one of the Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region and of of the most most beautiful villages in the region. With its tiny medieval streets, XV-century Cathedral, and Modern Art Museum MACVAC, this small town belongs on the lists of perfect weekend getaways and Valencia day trips.
4. Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo
If you’re a nature and animal lover or visiting Spain with kids, you simply can´t miss Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo. The city of Benicarlo is famous in Spain as an Artichokes region and it hosts the Gastronomic week of Artichokes every year (from the end of January till the beginning of March). Nevertheless, El Jardin del Papagayo is still one of the Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region you can enjoy for yourself. Plus, if visiting in February you could really kill two birds with one shot here and add a gastronomic twist to your trip.
Fanzara is a small village in the Spanish province of Castellon with the most amazing story behind it. To start with, embracing graffiti and street art has saved it from disappearing. You can read the detailed story in my Fanzara post.
Also, the small town of Fanzara made it to my list of The Most Colorful Villages in Spain.
6. The Palm Groove of Elche
I bet you had no idea that the biggest palm groove in Europe can be found on the Iberian Peninsula. After my trip to Crete I used to believe that it would be the biggest number of palms one could ever find in Europe. Nevertheless, Spain has an unlimited palette of otherworldly natural wonders and The Palm Groove of Elche or El Palmeral is definitely one of them.
With 200 000 palms, El Palmeral has been a part of Elche´s unique urban landscape for over 1000 years.
The origins of the Palm Grove of Elche date back to the X century when the Arabs relocated the city to its current site. The Moorish cultivation methods employed in Elche centuries ago have survived to the present day. El Palmeral was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Head to the top of The Santa Maria Basilica for the stunning palm view. However, keep in mind you´ll need to walk your way up and it´s a lot of stairs, so this might not be a match for everyone.
If visiting Elche, Valencia in August don’t miss Misterio de Elche, a unique theatrical and musical performance dating back to the 15th century. You can read more about my Elche trip here.
7. The Bride´s Jump Waterfall in Navajas
The Bride´s Jump Waterfall is a beautiful natural setting in the small town of Navajas with a creepy legend behind it. You can read a detailed story here.
8. Coves de Sant Josep
Coves de Sant Josep is of the coolest cave experiences in Spain, especially due to the fact that it’s Europe’s longest navigable underground river. I’ve briefly mentioned this place in my posts The Best Day Trips From Valencia and Top Valencia Day Trips by train. During your visit, you´re partially navigating by boat with a guide ( and more or less 10 other people) and partially walk through the cave. Note that you need to book your entrance in advance on the official website.
While I liked my visit to Coves de Sant Josep, there´s one small detail I didn´t quite get. They don´t allow pictures inside. So you won´t find the alluring photos of this place on my blog: I don´t want to go through any kind of hassle for special permissions to end up featuring and promoting them. It´s in every touristic site’s best interest to fuel the social media presence. And let´s face it – for Europe’s longest navigable underground river, Coves de Sant Josep is not very well established on the tourist track. It´s still one of the Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region.
I mean, the no-pictures policy is understandable in terms of safety while you are inside the boat, the no-flash policy is also fine to preserve the flora, but taking pictures is an important part of every travel experience. It´s like a return ticket you take to a moment otherwise gone. Long story short: I´ve visited this place 4 times and seen people secretly taking pictures every single trip, what´s the point of the restriction then?
9. Rincón de Ademuz
Rincon de Ademuz is a very peculiar location. It is the only territory of the Valencian Community located not within its borders. Technically, Rincón de Ademuz is a small Valencian island between the provinces of Aragon and Castile-La Mancha.
Rincon de Ademuz is known for its rural landscapes, charming local villages, and great hiking routes. As one of the Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region, it´s been on my radar for quite some time.
Although this weekend Ademuz also ended up being my biggest recent travel failure.
As it is really hot in Spain these days, we were aiming for the hiking route of Cascada del Bohilgues in Rincon de Ademuz. But we had bad luck. All the hikes in the area were closed by the local authorities 15 min before our arrival (in light of the recent fires in Greece and Turkey). So the only thing we had left was to explore the small village of Ademuz (which was not the most pleasant walk in my life with +42 °C outside). Afterwards, we headed to the nearby city of Teruel, as I always have a plan B.
Hopefully, I´ll have more luck with hiking in Ademuz on my next visit.
10. The Monastery of Simat De La Valldigna
The Monastery of Simat De La Valldigna is one of the must-stops on Valencia´s Borgia Route. Apparently, this place went through a significant deterioration since its foundation in 1298. However, the restoration works started only after its acquisition by Generalitat Valenciana (The Government of Valencian Community) back in 1991. Even though it´s already been a while since then – The Monastery of Simat De La Valldigna is still work in process. Nevertheless, you could currently visit its church and gardens.
Here, in Simat De La Valldigna Rodrigo De Borja (future Pope Alexander VI of Rome) was an Abbot once. And the building of the Capitular Hall (Spanish La Sala Capitular) which started during his presence at the Monastery, was finished later when his son Cesar became an Abbot at The Monastery of Simat following the steps of his father.
Even though you clearly see there is a lot of work to be done at The Monastery of Simat in order to return it back to its original state, there is something majestic about this place… Especially cause you might be the only person walking through its halls and historical ruins. Or maybe the spirit of the almighty the Borgia Family is still there?!
More Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region you’d like to add to this list? – Let me know in the comments.