Walking in the Serra Serrella and Serra Mariola
The region of Valencia has two natural areas, La Serrella and the Serra de Mariola. These two areas are just 50 kilometres or so from the popular Mediterranean coast and yet you could be in a different world. They lie either side of the large town of Alcoy, which is famous for its annual Moors and Christians pageant. This takes place every year between the 22nd and 24th April and commemorates the defeat of the Arab occupiers by the Christians. It has to be seen to be believed, but do not come walking in the area over those dates – hotel rooms are hard to find and very expensive. The wonderful city of Valencia is just over a hundred kilometres to the north and the coastal port town of Alicante 50 or so kilometres to the south.
Both regions are mountainous with good hiking available up to around 1200 metres above sea level. The highest parts are quite barren but lower down there is a mixture of pine and oak forests and the lower areas are extensively cultivated with olive and almond groves. The scenery is simply stunning and the area is full of ruined castles bearing testimony to Spain’s turbulent history. In spring the air is full of bird song and high above we are quite likely to see griffon’s vultures and even golden eagles soaring. There are many icehouses to be seen on some of the hikes. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the winter snows were gathered and compressed into these massive stone lined pits to form ice. This was removed and cut into manageable pieces to be taken down by donkey and mule transport to the railways for transportation to Valencia and other large towns before the advent of refrigeration.
The area abounds in charming little villages all remarkably unspoiled. Even Guadalest, which overlooks the Guadalest reservoir and is much visited by day-trippers from the Mediterranean resorts, retains a certain attraction. The town of Bocairent just a few kilometres west of Alcoy is a particularly charming place to visit.
Probably autumn and spring are the best times to hike in these two areas. The summer months are likely to be far too hot and winters can be quite cold and bleak – the icehouses give us a clue, though hiking at lower levels should be snow free. Generally speaking the standard of way marking is pretty good. There can be very heavy rainfall that can quickly cause the normally dry torrents to race down the mountainsides.
Probably the best area to base yourself would be in or around Alcoy where there is a wide selection of hotels and hostels. This will ensure that you drive no more than an hour to the furthest walks we have described. The drives themselves are delightful anyway!
This is an area of great natural beauty and with the Mediterranean and the wonderful city of Valencia close by it is an ideal hiking holiday centre. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.