Columbretes Island Nature Reserve, a visit to a volcanic archipelago
Considered as the most characteristic archipelago in terms of maritime environment throughout the Valencian Community, the Columbretes Islands (or Illes Columbretes, its name in Valencian) constitute one of the most interesting options for a beautiful excursion in Castellon.
The Columbretes Islands ’Nature Reserve is one of the most ecologically important reserves in the entire Mediterranean Sea. The archipelago is composed of a series of islets and pitfalls, all of them settled on a depth of more than 80 meters and about 60 kilometers from the coast of Castellon, so it is a highly recommended visit if you are staying in one of our hotels that we have located in this province.
What islands form the Columbretes Archipelago?
This natural wonder is a very clear example of volcanism in which four groups of archipelagos can be distinguished which make up the Columbretes islands.
Therefore, although it constitutes a difficult environment, it seduces both visiting tourists, as well as researchers and divers, which is why the Archipelago of the Columbretes Islands of the province of Castellon is an indisputable laboratory for archaeologists, geologists and biologists from many different parts of the world.
This is the largest and main island of the archipelago; it has an ellipse shape and is the most visually shown. Both ends of the island are the highest, in one of them is the lighthouse, an indispensable place to visit for its views and one of the points of special interest of any excursion through these islands. It is the only inhabited island of the whole range that makes up this archipelago.
Another very important attraction of this particular island (and of the archipelago in general) is the great marine diversity of its waters, with unique marine species, this encourages many people to practice scuba diving.
Isla La Foradada (The Foradada Island)
The second group of islands that make up this archipelago has as its principal attraction, La Foradada, accompanied by the island of Lobo and Méndez Núñez this is also a fantastic area to dive. It is part of the nature reserve, so you are not allowed to go onto the island.
Isla La Ferrera (Ferrera Island)
The Ferrera Island is the main one of this mini archipelago, formed by eight islands, some so small that they are considered large rocks, the result of the aforementioned volcanic environment. Espinosa Island, Bauza, Navarrete and Valdés are some of the islands that make up this mini archipelago.
Isla El Bergatín (Carallot)El Bergatín Island (Carallot)
This is the main island of the smallest of the archipelagos, also known as Carallot Island, it is formed of around 10 very small islands, the main ones are El Bergatín, Churruca, Beleato and Cerqueiro.
Prepare your trip to the Columbretes Islands
Visiting the Columbretes Islands is undoubtedly one of the most interesting excursions on the Costa de Azahar... the seabed, the volcanic landscape and its history will make your excursion a day to remember.
There are several companies or individuals that organize visits for groups to the island with different departures from the various coastal towns of Castellon.
- Excursion to the Columbretes Islands from Peñíscola:From the port of Peniscola you can request a guided tour of the island for groups, it is approximately two hours of travel, but it is an excursion that you should not miss if you stay at the Hotel Papa Luna, (you can request more information at the hotel).
- Excursion to the Columbretes Islands from Alcoceber: From the town of Alcoceber you can visit the Columbretes island by Catamaran, the journey time is approximately 2h 30min - 3h and the visit is organized for groups. So, if your option has been the Hotel Romana, you can opt for this route (you can request more information at the hotel).
- Excursion to the Columbretes Islands from Oropesa del Mar: From the Marina of Oropesa del Mar, guided tours of the islands are organized for groups, the journey is 3 hours and it is one of the most recommended excursions of Oropesa, so You can take advantage if you plan on spending your holidays at the Koral Beach Hotel (you can request more information at the hotel).
There are several types of boats that can be boarded for these organised excursions: pleasure-boats, catamarans, or sailboats ... to help you to enjoy the visit in the same day and enjoy and learn about the history of this archipelago, remember that the 'Illa Grossa' is the only one in which you are allowed to disembark and you can stroll with the rest of the group and visit the lighthouse of the Columbretes Islands.
Diving and Snorkelling in the Columbretes Islands
One of the major attractions is to walk along l’illa Grossa or enjoy the views from the lighthouse, but it is the seabed of the Columbretes archipelago that is incredible and certainly worth exploring.
For this reason, there is an option of scuba diving and water activities such as snorkeling or diving along the Columbretes Islands. For some of these practices, permission is not even necessary.
Many people take advantage while holidaying along the coast of Castellon to discover all the wonders that exist along the magnificent seabed of these unusual islands, both amateurs and professionals. For those experts who already have their diving certificates, excursions are organized to make enjoy dives from Alcoceber and Castellon.
Columbretes Islands Marine Reserve: Flora and Fauna: Flora y Fauna
Formerly known by the Romans as the snake islands (although there are no snakes on the islands), this volcanic archipelago is located halfway between the Castellon coast and the Balearic Islands, and has an increasingly rich environmental wealth Unusual in the Mediterranean Sea with a variety of animal and plant species.
Some very unusual specimens of fauna, can be found around this area, such as the Andoain Gull, the Eleonora Falcon, the Columbretes Lizard and snail species of immense value, as well as other unique specimens worldwide.
As for the flora, it closely resembles the Balearic Islands, during the spring months the vegetation is more colorful and you can see some lovely specimens such as the lentisk, fennel or the sea carrot. Given that we are talking about a volcanic environment, it is really unusual for this fragile ecosystem to preserve its environmental richness.
In 1988 the area obtained the official status of “nature park”. And it was that year when a special effort began in maintaining certain species of fish that had been in danger of extinction. For these reasons, the archipelago of the Columbrete Islands obtained a new marine reserve rating a little later.
Therefore, this peculiar nature reserve has gradually become one of the richest maritime environments of the Costa de Azahar.
History and Myths about the Illes Columbretes
For centuries, these islands were only recognized from the coast of Castellon or visited by people who were essentially engaged in the sea, such as sailors and fishermen, although they were also a strategic point for smugglers and pirates from different eras.
That is why these islands have always been an inspiring source of myths and stories for the locals of this coastline. In fact, many people conceived the archipelago of the Columbretes Islands, as an imaginary place where many legends have been formed without absolute proof of their existence. It was these seamen who mentioned the islands and aroused the curiosity of the people of the nearest towns. Perhaps, the most typical and well-known is a legend that relates the Columbretes Islands with a treasure hidden by pirates: a loot that has never been discovered.
It has also been connected to the Phoenicians, the ancient Greeks and Romans, since many objects have been discovered at the bottom of the sea which are related directly to these civilizations. Clear testimonies that have constituted authentic references, such as dishes, anchors and jars of those times.