The Valencian Community (Comunidad Valenciana) is of course best known for its superb beaches, but did you know there are also ski resorts in this area, which are open during the winter months.
The two main ski resorts are called La Estación de Valdelinares and Javalambre, out of ski season these areas are very popular for hikers, so are busy all year round.
Ski Season in this area is generally between mid December to early April.
Only two hours by car and 144 km from the centre of Valencia and just over a 3 hours drive from Benidorm (291km).
Valdelinares is a, small, picturesque ski resort set in the pine-forested Sierra de Gúdar mountains, the nearest major town is Teruel.
Valdelinares is situated at a height of 1,700 metres (maximum elevation 2024 metres). Although higher up it doesn’t tend to snow much, but skiing is now guaranteed thanks to the artificial snow cannons.
There are 7.5 kilometres of runs comprising of 9 runs, 3 green and 3 blue runs for beginners and 3 red for intermediates, ski lessons are available as is ski hire.
Valdelinares has thirteen tracks five green, four blue and four red, a snowpark and a skill practice area.
Facilities at Valdelinares include a restaurant, cafeterias.
Although there is no accommodation at the ski resort itself, there are a number of nearby villages such as Mora de Rubielos and La Virgen de la Vega which have some lodges and hotels.
Javalambre ski resort is situated 140km from the centre of Valencia and about a 3 hour drive from Benidorm (289km).
The ski resort itself is situated at a height of 1,775 metres (maximum elevation of 2000 metres). This is a very open ski resort, with few trees and wide runs, making this the ideal place for beginners. Experienced skiers will find the skiing here quite limited.
There are thirteen tracks, four green, eight blue and one red, a freestyle track and another for skicross, this area has over 95 artificial snow cannons, to ensure good skiing conditions.
Sabina, Lapiaz and Portillo are the three areas at the ski station that have restaurant service, toilets and equipment rental.
There is no accommodation at the ski resort of Javalambre itself. The nearest major town would be Teruel.
Pantano de Elche is situated just over 70km from Benidorm and 5km north from Elche itself and is a wonderful area to visit with nature reserve and swampland teaming with interesting and colourful flora & fauna.
The best place to park is at Aparcamiento Pantano de Elche, the walk to the dam from here takes about 20 - 30 minutes. The trail follows the valley of the Rio Vinalopó There are a few steep and rocky bits, which do get muddy and slippery during wet weather.
There are handrails in the tricky sections and wooden bridges where the path criss-crosses back and forth over the river follow the posts with arrows to keep you heading in the right direction.
This walk is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties are some areas are very rocky with steep inclines
The lake and vast swamp marshes have been formed over many years after the construction of the dam wall which was the first arch type dam wall to be built in Europe since Roman times. It lies in a vast natural basin which forms the lake, surrounded by arid countryside, orchards with ravines. The whole area has many excellent hiking and mountain bike trails.
When you get up to the dam itself, there’s a spectacular curtain of water cascading over the top and crashing into the valley of the Rio Vinalopó below, This is the most popular feature of the nature reserve, especially with families out for a picnic, is the area below the dam wall where the water overflows from the lake creating spectacular natural waterfalls. .
There is a ladder set in the rocks beside the waterfall which gives you assess to the upper part of the reservoir or follow the rock path set just behind the centro electrical building., this gives you fantastic views of the top of the falls and the reservoir itself.
The dam built in the seventeenth century (1632) and contains the water of the Vinalopó River and is the second oldest active reservoir in Spain. The dam was damaged due to heavy rain and flooding in 1793 and was out of action until 1846 when it was repaired, sadly in 1995 the regulatory gate of the dam was broken and was repaired in 2007. The dam itself is no longer in use which allows water to permanently over the dam wall.
The river also used to generate hydro electricity; you can still see the installation just below the dam, this building is dated 1922.
Today the Elche reservoir is recognized as an Asset of Cultural Interest by the Valencian Community.
The dam is 22 meters high and 75 meters wide., the walls are 12 meters thick at the base and 9 meters at the top.
In 2019 a floating platform was built on the reservoir where you can walk above the water for a short distance, from here you can also walk further along the lake shoreline.
Nature enthusiasts will be in their element due to the amount of flora & fauna of the area. The surrounding countryside, ravines, swampland, marshes and lake form an intricate microclimate and this area is an important natural feature of the municipality of Elche and the entire area is protected.
There are literally hundreds of different species of trees, plants, shrubs and flowers, bird life includes a variety of waterfowl as well as majestic birds of prey. The lake and marshes are teeming with fish and reptiles, and you may even spot the odd wild boar. You can also see foxes, ferrets, various types of mice, and if you're lucky, a very elusive Genet cat.
El Cau de Elche
Whist in this area another great place to visit is the El Cau de Elche, a FREE open air museum, containing over 100 sculptures made of sandstone and just a short drive or an hours walk across the mountain trails. Find more information here.
Dams are great places for a walks with their beautiful blue water and spectacular mountain scenery. Try these:-
Spanish Road Trip 2022 - 4th August. The Journey home Nogueruelas to Benidorm via Montanejos and Sagunto 283km
After another amazing Spanish Road trip its time to head home, but not before stopping off at one of our favourite places Montanejos.
We visited Montanejos last year and fell in love with the area. Montanejos is located in the Province of Castellón,, which is part of the Valencian Community and only about 247km from Benidorm.
Embalse de Arenós This reservoir is about 3km from the town of Montanejos, work on the reservoir began in April 1970 and it took until 15th July 1977 to relocate everyone that lived in the area. Under the waters are several villages, Romeral, Torcas, Masadica and a few others that seem to have been forgotten over time, the dam itself was completed in 1977, it is 109 meters high and about 500 m thick at the base.
Today tourists can enjoy kayaking adventures on the pristine waters of Lake Arenós.
El Chorro - The JET
The real pièce de résistance in this area for us is what is called El Chorro, The JET, which is a giant water spout (drainage point or spillway) from the Arenos Reservoir. This is so amazing, its hard to describe just how beautiful and how powerful it is abut 41,000 litres of water flow out per second.
Walking through what seems like a fine mist of icy cold water is an experience you will never forget, it feels like you are in the middle of a storm of icy rain and wind as you get pulverized by the spray, and the noise is out of this world.
If you are not brave enough to walk through the mist to get to the river on the other side there is a observation bridge where you can get some fantastic photos, which is where the video below was taken from.
To be honest we are never sure if we should be here, but there are parking space for a few cars and there are always others here, but there is also a sign stating "passage is forbidden" most people clamber down the rocks to reach the path to the jet, but there is a road which is a lot safer.
Montanejos and Fuente de los Baños de Montanejos
The town itself is very small with only 2 or 3 hotels available and just over 600 residents, but it is such a popular area, especially during the summer months, that you would need to book a hotel here well in advance.
What makes this area a favourite for many is the Fuente de los Baños de Montanejos which we spent time at last year, enjoying the Mijares River with its natural thermal swimming pool, the river is dotted with pebble beaches and areas suitable for swimming and paddling.
The water at the main font is said to maintain a constant temperature of 25ºc all year round. although we didn’t feel it was that warm, but then it was 38ºc. This thermal pool has hydrogeochemical and biological properties (mineral baths), which are said to have positive effect on our health.
According to a legend, the Moorish king Zeit-Abu-Zeit built some baths here so that the women in his harem would always remain beautiful and young. We also tried this last year, and are neither younger nor more beautiful...... Remains of the ancient Arab baths from the 12th century can still be seen on the bank of the river.
There are quite a few different car parks in the area, and there is a small entry fee (around 4.00€ for adults) to the river and thermal spring, but its well worth it. during high season there are toilets and showers and somewhere to change and a kiosk for refreshments and snacks.
There are some amazing rugged ravines and this whole area is well worth a visit.
Spanish Road Trip 2022 - Sad to be leaving one of our favourite places we continue on with our journey home, stopping off at Sagunto.
Sagunto - Situated 30km from Valencia and is best known for the remains of the ancient Iberian and Roman city of Saguntum. One the most visited sites is the Castillo de Sagunto this fortress overlooks the town. The site's history extends back over two thousand years and includes Iberian, Roman and medieval remains The castle was declared a National Monument in 1931.
Sagunto´s Roman theatre was built in the 1st century and has also been declared a National Monument. It was built making use of the concave shape of the mountain and has exceptional acoustics, with two semi-circular seating areas carved out of the rock, with room for 6,000 spectators.
Unfortunately it was just too hot at 38ºc for us to explore the area as much as we wanted, so Sagunto is on the list for a return visit another time of the year, when its a bit cooler.
A short distance from Sagunto town is the port, with 13 kilometres of sandy beaches dotted with sand dunes making this a popular area for tourists.
The last part of our journey Sagunto to Benidorm, when you are on your way home, you just want to get there quickly, so for the 1st time in 11 days we used the motorway, hence nothing exciting to report.
Arriving safely back in Benidorm, that is the end of this years road trip, we have thoroughly enjoyed it once again, having visited some amazing places, stayed in various accommodation, some good and some that will be remembered for other reasons.
If you love driving and exploring then this is definitely the holiday for you.
Spanish Road Trip 2022
Distance driven - 2, 299km
Total cost of 10 nights accommodation - 554.05€
Additional car parking expenses - 32.00€
Total Diesel cost - in the region of 200€
Best value for money accommodation - A tough choice but Day 7 Puerto Lumbreras Hostal del Sol 2 star, 40€ breakfast included and the other has to be Quenca, Day 9 Hospederia Seminario Conciliar de San Julian, 3 Star - 65€ including breakfast
Worst accommodation - This has to go to Las Banderas, 3 star 44.00€ (4.00€ tax) ample FREE Parking and FREE room upgrade which although cheap was dated and smelly - Day 8 - Villafranca de los Caballeros
Favourite place visited - Cuenca wins again - Day 9
Most disappointing - Unfortunately our last night at Nogueruelas. day 10
Best surprise along the way - Day 2. the Santurario de Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza (Sanctuary of the Virgin of Hope) Calasparra.
What we found different this year - The HEAT, wow! was it hot? To be honest it was hot in previous years but this time we both seemed to struggle more, which made seeing the sights more difficult. We may need to re-think next years trip, but this years was governed by work and as August is the quietest time in Benidorm for British tourists was the only time we could fit in our own holiday.
Accommodation - We found it much more difficult to find accommodation in the places we wanted to visit. What we did find strange was that even though there was limited accommodation available, very few hotels were actually busy.
We love these unplanned ad hoc trips but may have to actually pre-book next year to make sure we get the right accommodation at the right prices, time will tell.
If you have any suggestions for next years road trip please comment below as we are always looking for new places to visit.
Find more photos below (please note some of these are from our visit to Montanejos in July 2021
Spanish Road Trip 2022 - Cuenca to Nogueruelas 203km, 3rd August. Our last night on this years road trip, and unfortunately once again we could not book the accommodation we really wanted in Montanejos, so had to book what was available in the nearby village of Nogueruelas about 30kms away.
The journey from Cuenca was simply stunning, driving through the heart of the Cuenca Mountain Range with its majestic rock formations and miles and miles of thick pine forests.
The vast majority of our journey seemed to be following the course of the Jucar river where we came across the wonderful Emblase de la Toba, which is the largest lagoon in the Natural Park of the Serranía de Cuenca.
The Toba Reservoir was built in 1925 to regulate the flow of the Júcar River, bathing and canoeing is actually permitted in this reservoir so its a popular area during the summer months, and for those more adventurous there are various caves and canyons to explore.
We drove through a couple of places that may be worth exploring next time we are in this area, Albarracín, which we did try to stop at but it seemed to be very busy and there was no parking available and Teruel.
Spanish Road trip 2022
Nogueruelas - A municipality located in the province of Teruel, Aragon and was really just a stop over, so we did not expect much knowing it was just a very small village, in fact the village only had 227 inhabitants at the last count, all of which seemed to know each other and we were lucky enough to come across some kind of children´s party going on in the small square, with children of all ages participating in water games, nice to watch but slightly inconvenient for us as all the roads were blocked during this event, so we could not go anywhere even if we needed to.
This whole area is popular with hikers, cyclists with various routes available for those feeling fit, and of course skiers in the winter, as the ski slopes of Valdelinares are just a 35-minute drive away.
Night 10 accommodation - Hostal de Montaña La Cas Grande, 3 star 66.60€ including breakfast. Free Parking
Looking forward to our last nights stay and picking this Hostal simply because it looked nicer than some of the others available and had an onsite restaurant, this turned out to be a big disappointment.
The first thing we noticed about the room was that there were plenty of radiators but NO air con, to be fair this was our fault for not double checking when booking.
The room was a good size with a nice big comfortable bed and the bathroom was more than adequate for a one nights stay.
The outside terrace area which looked so nice and inviting in their photos, was sadly untidy and uncared for.
The only bonus was that this Hostal had a lift, which is quite rare, the only problem was we had to stand cheek to cheek, but it did get us to the 3rd floor.
The real problems started when due to lack of anywhere else to eat in the village, we headed to the onsite restaurant, we asked to see the menu del dia, which we saw another couple had and were told "no sorry, this is not available at night" not to cause any trouble we ordered from the normal menu, which did not have a great deal of choice and was expensive. Bread and our bottle of wine were delivered to the table, all ok so far, but I had ordered the sirloin steak, when it appeared, there was more fat on it than meat and it could not even be cut with the steak knife provided, when this was pointed out to the waiter, he promptly gave me a butter knife..... not quite sure how that was going to be better than a sharp steak knife, complaining again they offered to cook me another steak, was this any better.... NO just the same, fatty and inedible. To be honest this was the worst meal during our whole 10 day road trip, and such a shame as it was our last night.
Sleeping - You would think being in the middle of the mountains in a small village, it would be quiet at night, sadly this was not the case and we were both awakened at around 5am with dogs barking which sounded like something from the hound of the Baskervilles movie and the local council emptying the bins, going outside for a cigarette we actually discussed leaving and cutting our losses, (we had already paid, but would be skipping breakfast) but decided it was too early to really go anywhere, so back to bed and managed to make it until breakfast was served. This again was a bit of a disappointment, the baguettes were already pre toasted and cold,, so our tostada con tomate was not up to its usual standard and every other guest seemed to be served their coffee at the table where as we had to go to the bar for ours.
Would we stay here again? That would be a NO, we have no idea how they have a 3 star rating and a 9.2 score from the booking company, they certainly did not get a glowing review from us.
Next stop - Home via one of our favourite places, Montanejos.
Additional Pictures Below
Day 9 of our Spanish Road Trip 2022 2nd August - Villafranca de los Caballeros (Toledo) to Cuenca (Castilla–La Mancha) 159km
It is now time to start heading back towards Benidorm, and we decided on Cuenca for our next overnight stop, having previously visited Cuenca during our 2019 road trip we enjoyed our stay although we booked accommodation in the wrong area, with more knowledge under our belts this year we wanted to spend some more time in this wonderful city.
The journey to Cuenca was uneventful, generally once you enter the region of Castilla–La Mancha there is an abundance of sunflower fields, sadly this year there did not seem to be many, and those that we did see no where near as spectacular as in previous years, blame global changes. We did however have some wonderful cloud formations to brighten up our journey.
Cuenca - Its name is thought to derive from the Latin conca meaning "river basin", which refers to the gorge of the rivers Júcar and Huécar, it is also known as the "Eagle's Nest" because of its very precarious position on the edge of the gorge.
Cuenca is one of those places that everyone should try to visit and it has been classed as a World Heritage UNESCO Site since 1996 The city is basically divided into 2 parts the "new" city which is fairly bland and the old, which is the area most tourists visit, on our last visit we made the mistake of staying in the new town, but this year we certainly made the right choice staying right in the centre of the old.
After checking into our hotel we headed to the Plaza Mayor to enjoy a fabulous menu del dia and soak up the atmosphere. Considering this is such a tourist attraction the prices were excellent 14.00€ for the menu of the day, including bread and wine, the views were free.
There really is so much to see and do here with one of the main points of interest being the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace and Saint Julian, (pictured to the left above) which is the main cathedral in the town. This was originally built between 1182 and 1270, the façade was rebuilt in 1902 from ruins due to the collapse of the former bell tower. In the early 1900s coloured glass windows were added. This cathedral is classed as one of the first gothic cathedrals in Spain (Avilla being another). The Cathedral is open to the public at certain times of the day but there is an entry free, which out of principal we chose not to pay.
The Mangna Tower - Another area of the old town well worth exploring and just seconds from our hotel. The origins of the Mangana Tower seem to be unclear but it has certainly been around since before 1565 s there are records of it being painted that year. It was hit by lightening during the 18th century and was badly damaged. It was then rebuilt in Neomudejar style – inspired by Arab decorative motifs – in 1926. Finally Victor Caballero gave the Mangana its current look, fortress style in 1968.
It has a clock on one of its walls with a recording of bell chimes which can be heard all over the old town every 15 minutes.
There are wonderful views from this area of the river Jucar's gorge.
After a bit of a siesta back in our hotel room, we were ready to explore more of this amazing place, unfortunately the weather had other ideas and whilst having a drink in the plaza mayor we were caught in a quite heavy thunderstorm, this did not dampen our spirits as we enjoyed our drinks and free tapas, squashed into one of the local bars, a few drinks and we are well fed.
Spanish Road Trip 2022 - Cuenca
The Bridge of Saint Paul
The original bridge of Saint Paul (Puente de San Pablo) was built from 1533 to 1589, over the gorge of the River Huecar and connects the old town with St Paul convent.
The current bridge made of wood and iron was built in 1902 after the collapse of the original bridge, it is still supported by the remains of the old bridge.
On our last visit, even though I was determined to cross this bridge, nerves go the better of me and I only made it a couple of metres, Derek got half way, but this year we were not going to be beaten and with knees trembling we both made it across the bridge in both directions.
Hanging Houses - Las Casas Colgadas These are considered the most famous buildings in Cuenca and are the background for millions of photos every year, and of course we were no different.
These famous houses were built in the 15th century and hang precariously over the rocks above the Huecar River gorge, sadly they are the only buildings of this type which remain preserved in the city although long ago they were a common sight. Today they house a restaurant and the Museum of Abstract Arts.
One of the highlights of our time is Cuenca was an open air Opera performance, that took place in the square right outside our hotel, the event was packed with everyone enjoying the singing, even though it was in Italian, with Spanish subtitles on a large screen, the atmosphere will be something we remember for a long time to come.
Night 9 Accommodation - Hospederia Seminario Conciliar de San Julian, 3 Star - 65€ including breakfast, car park and additional 14€ (discounted by the hotel)
This accommodation was in the most amazing building, built in 1741, had centuries of history and is actually the (working) Major Seminary of San Julian, we stood outside saying we can´t seriously be staying here, as it certainly did not look like a hotel. It was situated just minutes from the main square and all the tourist attractions of the old town, so was the perfect location. The whole building was just stunning.
The rooms were a good size, quite basic but with wonderful comfy beds and a great shower. Breakfast was served in opulent surroundings and the attention to detail was like nowhere else we have stayed, each guest even had their own set of tongs.
The only thing missing was a TV, but who needs a TV when you have Cuenca to explore.
This has to be one of our all time favourite hotels of the many we have stayed in over the years, we would have stayed for another night, but this year, unlike others we had to be back in Benidorm by the 4th, but we look forward to our next visit here and would highly recommend it to anyone.
Find more photos below.