Hiking the Alzira Valley

An incredible trek through the Valencia Natural Park
Valencia is known for its architecture, its broad sandy beaches, its oranges, and its paella. The unsung marvel of the Mediterranean city though, is the plethora of incredible hiking trails that lie in the natural parks that surround the province.

Any visitor to Valencia will confirm that it is an active Mediterranean metropolis. Walk down the reclaimed Turia river park in the evening, and there are thousands of people running, walking, taking yoga classes, and enjoying the green artery that has been created in the dried out riverbed. This is a city that embraces the fine Mediterranean climate and makes the most of every opportunity to get outside.

Venture a little further, beyond the city’s perimeter, and you will find a whole new world of natural wonder. Valencia boasts five natural parks within the province that encapsulates the city, and each of them offers a uniquely different backdrop to explore.

We headed to the Parque Natural de la Murta close to the town of Alzira, just a short drive south of Valencia. The valley holds a wonderful rare offering; a vibrant and beautiful eco-system, as well as a historical treasure-trove.

We began our trek from the Monasterio de Aguas Vivas (water of life), in the region of Colonia de Santa Marina. This ancient building has long been abandoned, but its grandeur and heritage is evident in every detail; walking down the broad stone steps to the fountain in its foregrounds, you feel like you are walking in the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims.

Our route is indeed a pilgrimage of sorts—our final destination is the Monastery of Santa Maria de la Murta in the neighbouring national park. The trek between the two ancient buildings is a beautiful trail of discovery.

From Aguas Vivas we hike into the Sierra de Agujas; through the blossoming orange groves, and up to the El Mirador de la Casella ridgeline. The panoramic view from the summit is as breath-taking as the climb itself; a vista looking out over the green valley below, and the distant blue Mediterranean Sea.

Every step in this peaceful and picturesque landscape is an awakening of the scenes. The rocky landscape is full of fragrant herbs and bountiful fruit trees; the invigorating smell of wild thyme and the tastes of wild quince and pomegranate surround you along the path.

From the Mirador de la Casella ridgeline we head down through the wildlife park. Wild deer graze the slopes, and lizards dart out onto the sunny rock faces. This is a region that is unspoilt and untouched by development or time.

Arriving at the Santa Maria monastery, the ancient history of the region proves as captivating as its natural beauty. The ruins of the once grand castle-like building remain an impressive landmark, and the work of the local people to restore and preserve the magnificence of the architecture is impressive to see.

We wander through the grounds of the monastery; learning about the ancient ‘ice house’, watching the colourful fishes in the tranquil pool, and cooling off in the fast flowing aqueduct. This is a marvellous place to discover; it provides the perfect end to our exploration of this natural park.

We refuel after our 16 kilometre trek with an exquisite tapas lunch in the town of Alzira; sampling local produce and flavours from the hillsides that we have just hiked through.

Back in the city of Valencia in the evening, there is another new world of urban culture to embrace. Then tomorrow, with enthusiastic vigour, we will venture out to one more of the many natural parks—to walk through another paradise found.

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