Mountain walking in the Costa Blanca
Stunning mountain trails, secret valleys and spectacular peaks abound in this surprising corner of Spain - let Tom Phillips guide you through some of the highlights.
From the UK it is just a couple of hours travel to Alicante, then a quick transfer and you are in a different world where adventures on two feet await those willing to explore.
The Guadalest Valley has seen many changes over the last 1,000 years, and presently it is slowly reverting to a haven for wildlife.
The Mediterranean pine forests are reclaiming the rugged mountain slopes and red squirrels, wild boar, foxes (zorros), wild sheep and goats are on the increase, while high above the mountains Golden Eagles ride the thermals as they cruise along the ridges.
Valencia's highest summits
At over 5,500 feet (1,558 metres) the Sierra Aitana is the highest peak in Valencia Province and lies to the south of the Guadalest Valley. Hidden on its Northern flanks are an amazing series of rock crevasses, formed by colossal cubes of rock, many hundreds of metres across, which have become detached from the mountain and are descending like a rock glacier down the slopes.
Heading towards the Sierra Aitana
It is possible to escape from this maze by a squeeze (called fat man’s agony), and a long descent follows down through olive and almond terraces, and you can then visit one of the valley’s amazing ruined Moorish castles which perch precariously on a pinnacled outcrop.
Further west, the iconic peak of the Puig Campana towers over the Mediterranean coast, a seemingly impregnable fortress of limestone guarded by cliffs many thousands of feet tall.
Other peaks have equally dramatic and unique features, such as the Sierra Bernia, which has a natural tunnel that allows you to make a bizarre short underground trip between the north and south sides of the mountain. Or the Sierra Helada, which has precipitous cliffs of sandstone which plummet over 2,000 feet into the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
The rocky pinnacles of the Monks Towers
On the other side of the valley, the long, complex Sierra Serrella holds many secrets which are waiting to be discovered. A visit to the Monks Towers (Agulles Frares) is certainly not to be missed.
The mountainside has eroded to leave a forest of bizarrely shaped pinnacles, arches and fins of rock, a great trail runs right the way through the middle of them.
This leads to the summit of Pla de la Casa, the location for an incredible 50-foot deep snow hole which is one of many in the area, and all that remains of a once-thriving industry that provided ice for the villages and towns - it was even exported it abroad!
A mule trail cuts through the mountain
Mule trains heavily laden with blocks of ice would descend in the night with their valuable cargo which before the invention of mechanical refrigeration was of course a luxury item.
We make use of many of these trails on our walking holidays.
Abdet walking holidays
Hidden between these peaks are some superb valleys and canyons that provide less challenging but equally exciting walks.
People are always amazed by the Tancat Canyon walk which traverses the side of a deep limestone gorge giving spectacular views, and then visits a huge double limestone arch which is supported by a narrow pillar.
On our Secret Sanchet walk an ancient staircase built by the Moors links two valleys together through a notch in a sheer limestone wall. You may be watched by Arui (impressively large wild ancestors of the domestic sheep) which scramble on the ridge tops!
TOP 5 EXPERIENCES
1. The tranquility of the Secret Sanchet Valleys
Get away from it all in these remote valleys.
2. Explore ancient castles
Perched on top of spectacular pinnacles, thousands of feet up in the mountains, the Moorish castles are amazing places to explore.
3. Almond blossom and Spring flowers
February to April you can experience a riot of colour with whole terraces ablaze with fragrant almond blossom - and spring flowers in abundance.
4. Bernia Ridge
Take a short cut through from one side of a mountain to another! A cave through the limestone is a bizarre and never-to-be-forgotten experience.
5. Sierra Helada sea cliffs
Superb views from these 2,000-foot high cliffs above the Mediterranean.
WHEN TO VISIT
Best times to go:
It's a great venue for walking from Autumn to spring, as you benefit from the warm and sunny climate and the relatively long days.
Summer can be a bit too hot for some people, although on the higher peaks it can be quite pleasant.
Throughout the year, different treats are available.
In Winter and Spring oranges and almonds are still on the trees. Early summer brings an incredible harvest of cherries in the orchards on the higher terraces, and also the local speciality - the nispero or loquat which is very energising and has a flavour mix of peach, citrus and mild mango.
Late summer is fig season, and you can fuel a long run with their energy! Self-seeded grapes and super sweet blackberries can also be found. Don't be tempted to try the olives though, without processing they are completely inedible.
Abdet walking holidays
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