I’m back in Spain with Linda & George. It’s always lovely to return to a familiar place and spend time with good friends. I’ve been coming here regularly for about 10 years and know much of the area fairly well, so was delighted when Linda suggested a trip yesterday to somewhere I hadn’t been before and she hadn’t visited for a long time – Guadalest, or more formally El Castell de Guadalest.
Guadalest is a hilltop village perched high in the mountains about 25km inland from the Costa Blanca, from a point about halfway between Benidorm and Altea. It overlooks a valley through which the Guadalest river runs. Carved out of a mountaintop, the village offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Spain.
The castle, built by the Moors in 715AD, was an important strategic point at various points in history. It suffered much damage from a major earthquake in 1644 and during the Spanish War of Succession in the early 18th century. Its fortifications are so strong you can access it and its village only through a 15-foot tunnel cut through rock – the Portal de San Jose – at the top of steep steps.
Once inside you find the entrance to the castle itself, which you can visit, or follow a path up through narrow cobbled streets to the main square where you can enjoy more views, including looking down onto the reservoir below.
Linda has warned me it was a big tourist destination and so might be busy and all the shops and cafes very ‘touristy’. That was true to a certain extent, the cafes all offering similar fare. We chose a small quiet bar in a side street – Cafeteria El Castell – to have beers and a few tapas (which turned out to be enormous!) for lunch.
It wasn’t exciting food but good and fresh and suited us just fine. After eating we wandered through the narrow streets and looked in some of the shops. They were ‘touristy’ but actually a rather upmarket kind of ‘touristy’, some selling some very nice things, from foods and ceramics to leather goods like handbags and belts. I couldn’t resist buying an ice cream (Crema Catalunya) in an ice cream shop while Linda’s bought some things in a shop specialising in oils, vinegars and preserves.
There are a number of small museums to visit, a traditional house, or you can just wander around as we did enjoying different amazing views from various viewpoints. It was a glorious day of sunshine and clear air for making the most of our outing. As we left early afternoon a few coaches were arriving full of tourists and we were glad we’d got there early in the day when it was still reasonably quiet. I really enjoyed seeing it and the stunning scenery, both at Guadalest and on the drive to and from it.