La Vall de Pop
Continuing your visit to the valleys in the interior of the Marina Alta region, Vall del Pop:
Go towards Ondara, Gata de Gorgos on the N-332, then to Senija, Llíber, Xaló, Alcalalí, Parcent, Castell de Castells, Benigembla, Murla.
Its 18th century church is built on top an old Arab mosque, and it would seem that some significant remains are still hidden below the new construction. Another curiosity is the Verge Negreta Chapel. A walk along the Camí dels Murtalets path leads you from “Les Bassetes” to “Cova de la Gola” , a rocky cave traditionally used as a corral.
In the centre of Llíber: The Parish Church of San Cosme and San Damián is located just beside the charming promenade Paseo del Calvario. This neoclassical style church was built in 1700 and the wood carvings of San José and San Damián are particularly beautiful. It´s also worth strolling around the outside of the church and the Stations of the Cross, as well of course as visiting the historic town centre, which is an excellent example of good conservation, with many of the old town houses retaining their traditional façades.
In the centre of Jalón visit the church Iglesia de Sta. Maria in the main square, built in the neoclassical style. Opposite the Antique Market you will see the Ermita de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, which was at one time the Parish Church, and just beside the Chapel you can call in at the Jalón Town Museum.
The Antiques Market. On Saturday mornings the well-known Antiques Market is held here, opposite the Virgen Pobre Cooperative and spreading out all along the L'Assut walkway. In the Cooperative you can enjoy wine tasting and sample the local mistela.
Jalón and Alcalalí are two well-known towns locally nick-named "parada y fonda" (stop here and eat your fill), offering many kinds of traditional home made sausages and cakes.
"Arròs amb fessols i penques"(rice with green beans and cardoons), a wide variety of home made 'cocas' (with vegetables, olive oil and anchovies, or with tomato, etc), oven baked rice, etc. For dessert, try the "pastissets d'ametla" (little home made almond cakes) etc.
Visit the areas all around Jalón
On the Xaló-Alcalalí main road you will find the Bodega Cooperativa Virgen Pobre,; here you can buy local dried fruits, wine and olive oil. The wine from this Cooperative is sold under the labels of "Vall de Xalò", "Bahía de Dénia" and "Castell d'Aixa". The red Moscatel wine, made from the Garnacha grape, merits a special mention here as one of the exceptional products of this Cooperative, as well as the sweet wine known as "Fondillol". Apart from these wines, you can also buy white wine, muscatel wine, mistela, garnacha rosé, new season red wine, oak matured red wine, and vermouth. There are various other bodegas/wineries on the same road, which also produce and sell their own wine.
Here you should try to visit the Plaza del Ayuntamiento with the church Iglesia Parroquial de la Natividad de Nuestra Señora. This church was built following the historic Council of Trent at the end of the 17th century on the orders of San Juan de Ribera. The Town Museum is located inside the church. The most important monument in the town is also situated in this square: the Medieval Tower (16th century) a magnificient view point of the valley. You can also visit the Raisin Museum located on 33 Porche Street.
In and around the historic town centre you will find the Ermita de la Virgen del Calvario and Ermita de San Juan de Mosquera (XVII century), situated in the Moorish quarter, near to the river. It should also be mentioned that in Alcalali the almond is the product par excellence.
Leave Alcalalí in the direction of the next village in the valley. You are now deep in the heart of the valley and surrounded by agricultural countryside filled with orange groves.
From here you can also get up to the Bernia mountain: El Fort de Bernia (a 16th century medieval fortification) and the Castell de la Solana mountain range where you can still see the ruins of one of the two Arabic castles which dominated this area: the ruins of the Castillo d'Aixa, rising up to the peak of the Solana mountains. However, nothing remains at all of the other castle, which once crowned the Sierra de Bèrnia,
The village of Parcent is surrounded by impressive mountains, of which special mention should be made of the Coll de Rates; if you go up to the top here, you will be astounded by the marvelous view of the Vall de Pop and the neighbouring valleys. From the Coll de Rates you have the option to take the walking route via the "carrascar de Parcent," map ref. (PR-V158).
Take a gentle stroll through the centre of the village and visit the church Iglesia Parroquial de la Purísima Concepción with its unique bell tower completed in 1929, and restored in 1949. You will then come to the house where the famous Spanish writer Gabriel Miró lived and where he wrote his master work entitled "Del Vivir"; and of course, why not visit yet another of those communal washing fountains, situated near the river where the views are especially interesting.
CASTELL DE CASTELLS
Follow the winding Coll de Rates mountain road, almost as far as Tárbena, where you will come to a right hand turn off signposted for Castell de Castells; this is your next stop.
Typical local dishes: coques, paella, espencat, cous-cous, ...just part of the very wide variety of dishes on offer in this region. You can try these in any of the local restaurants in Parcent.
500 metres before entering the village of Castell de Castells you will come across the fountain Font de la Bota and on your left hand side you will see the children´s play area.
CASTELL DE CASTELLS
The church Iglesia Parroquial de Santa Ana, built in the 17th century, is especially interesting. The Old Town is also worth a visit, particularly the Town Museum and the Museum of Ancient Cave Painting (el Museo de Arte Macroesquemático), which is housed in a 200 year old mansion situated in C/ San Roque.
PLÀ DE PETRARCOS
From Castell de Castells follow the road in the direction of Benigembla and on the left hand side you will come to the turn off for the Santuario del Plà de Petracos; this has been declared a Spanish Cultural Heritage Monument, being unique of its type. Here you will find prehistoric abstract paintings which have been described by archaeologists as 'macroschematic art' preserved in one of the best cave painting sites to be found in the whole of the Valencian Community.
The Plà de Petracos is well signposted. Park your car here and then walk up the path. Although you can´t access the site directly (there is protective fencing around the site for conservation purposes), you can see the site very clearly from the outside.)
Hiking route: From the "font de la bota" and the Rest Area, take the footpath to the castle rock, where you will find the ruins of an Arabic Castle. The route is clearly signposted (footpath PR-V 149; medium difficulty, distance: 8.9 kms, time: 3 hours, and connects with other footpaths taking you on some more short walks around the area.
This site is over 7000 years old and is composed of eight caves, five of which contain paintings in fine condition.
In the days when these paintings were created this place was used as a Sanctuary: a cultural meeting place for people brought together by a deep faith and belief in the concepts of fertility and fecundity, the natural farming cycle and family bonds, at a time when these ideas played a central role in the daily life of the community.
After visiting this exquisite place of incalculable historic value, continue by car along the main road, passing the Plà de Petracos, the site of the battle of Plà de Petracos, between the Moors and Christians, at the time of the expulsion of the Moors (they were then taken to Dénia port from where they were deported back to Africa, in 1609).
Go back on to the Castells de Castells main road towards Benigembla; in this village you can buy virgin olive oil in the Cooperative, situated right in the centre of the old town.
Stroll around the historic centre, and take a look the church Iglesia Parroquial de San José, a neo-classical building dating from the end of the 18th and 19th centuries. You can also see the 3 m high town wall built in 1958 as a defence to protect the town from the force of the river. At the start of the 20th century at least 40 houses are recorded as having disappeared in a landslide due to the surge of the river water.
Now take the route past the communal laundry and fountain and past the leisure area situated just beside the wall. It´s well worth wandering through the maze of streets in the town centre, if only to take a closer look at the typical riuraus (these are traditional constructions used, amongst other things, for drying grapes to produce raisins), the various fountains still in use: the Font de Baix, the Font de Dalt, the Font del Ullet, the Font de Murtetes and the Font de Pascualet, as well as the local caves: the Cova de l'Hedrera, the Coves de la Cistella and the Cova Roja.
And, finally, you are now on your way to the municipality of Murla.
Murla´s historic presence in the Vall de Pop was of great importance during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance periods. In the 16th century this was the only town in the interior of the Marina Alta with a Christian population, and played a major role in the resettlement of the surrounding municipalities, following the expulsion of the Moors in 1609.
The monuments and buildings of particular interest here are the Castillo-Iglesia de San Miguel – with its 25 m high bell tower dating from 1861, mostly destroyed in 1990, but now restored as a tower -, the Ermita de la Sangre situated right in the town centre, the Ermita de San Sebastián, probably dating back to the 15th century (from here you can go up to the Sierra del Penyal de Laguar (about which much literature and legend has been written, including the famous story of the "Cavall Verd"), the communal laundry and fountains and the town centre itself, with its iron railings and decoratively forged balconies.
In Murla, like in the other villages of the Vall de Pop, one of the oldest traditional sports played by the Valenciano people has been preserved intact: the game of "pilota". This town is the birthplace of the sport in the Marina region. Just like in the other towns in the area, the sport is mostly played here following "a llargues" rules, the ancient original rules of the game, and always played out in the street. However, you can also enjoy watching a game of "pilota valenciana" at the municipal pitch, known as "el nel" where the game is played using the "escala i corda" and the "al raspall" rules.