Barely 30 minutes separate Benidorm from the small town of Castell de Guadalest, and it seems incredible that the landscape can change so much in so few kilometres. The Costa Blanca is much more than amazing coastlines and sea, and the Guadalest valley, with its famous reservoir, is the best option to experience the wonders of the Alicante mountains.
A picture postcard town, a fairytale castle, a movie landscape and the most authentic gastronomy are more than enough arguments not to miss this corner that attracts thousands of visitors of all nationalities every year. You still don't know it?
The Castle of Guadalest
This 11th-century fortress, officially known as the Castillo de San José, crowns the picturesque white town of Guadalest with stunning views of the reservoir. The castle is located on a rock at the highest point of the municipality and played a fundamental role in the Middle Ages as a Muslim defensive bastion.
Unfortunately, two earthquakes, one in 1644 the other in 1748 severely damaged the castles' structure, which also suffered a major blast in 1708 during the War of the Succession. Despite everything, its walls still remain upright, offering an essential appointment for everyone who visits Guadalest.
But did you know that Guadalest actually had two castles? The Castillo de la Alcozaiba was located in the lowest part of the town, on the slope above the reservoir, and today only one tower remains in a dilapidated state.
The Guadalest reservoir
At the foot of the Sierra de Aitana, the Guadalest valley has as its main protagonist its famous reservoir, known as the emerald heart of the Marina Baja. With more than fifty years of history, the works on the reservoir were completed in the summer of 1966 and since then it has become the source that supplies water to the rich orchards of the Marina Baja.
In addition to enjoying the impressive panoramic view of the reservoir from the old town of the municipality, it is well worth visiting its perimeter and enjoying the forest that surrounds the 86 hectares that its sheet of water covers. To do this, next to the enormous 94-meter-high dam that contains the water of the reservoir, there is a small parking area from which a beautiful and comfortable circular route starts.
The road is smooth with little unevenness. In total, it stretches for 11.5 kilometres, of which around 75% are paved and the rest run through a forest track. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful section and it begins in the parking area itself, just before crossing the dam. The most daring will be able to enjoy the different bathing areas that the reservoir has, in which you are also allowed to fish from the shore.
A picturesque old town
With the particularities that an orography as complicated as that of this valley possesses, the old town of Castell de Guadalest extends its well-kept white streets along the side of the mountain until it reaches the top. This is where the beautiful Plaza de San Gregorio is located, the nerve centre of the town, where you can enjoy the best views of the reservoir.
To get to it, you will have to cross the pretty streets of the town's steps, several small viewpoints, the baroque parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and even a cave dug into the rock and baptized as the Arch of San José. All this surrounded by forest and palm trees with the sea in the background, perfectly visible on clear days. You will want to photograph every corner!
Museums of Guadalest
Despite the small size of the town, numerous museums populate its old town offering the visitor countless experiences that will enrich their visit. Some of the most interesting are the following:
A pesar del pequeño tamaño del pueblo, numerosos museos pueblan su casco antiguo ofreciendo al visitante infinidad de experiencias que enriquecerán su visita. Algunos de los más interesantes son los siguientes:
Municipal Museum of Casa Orduña (house of family Orduña)
The Orduña family was made up of nobles who were truly trusted by D. Sancho Cardona, who was the Marquis of Guadalest. In this way, the Orduña became the governors of the Castle and, at the same time, the defenders and governors of the Marquis's lands.
His palace, perfectly preserved, is today an authentic documentary centre with a library of more than 1,200 historical documents where, in addition, there are religious oil paintings and other works of art inherited from the glorious Orduña family's ancestors. In this museum is the access to the Castle of Guadalest.
Museum of microminiatures
In it you will find such curious objects as a replica of the Statue of Liberty inside the eye of a needle, Picasso's Guernica painted on a seed or Goya's executions depicted on a grain of rice. Could they be the smallest works of art in the world?
Museum of instruments of torture
Its collection is made up of more than 70 ancient torture tools that were frequently used by the Holy Inquisition, both for its continuous torture and for execution by capital punishment.
This interesting museum makes a spectacular representation that reflects what life was like in the Guadalest of the 18th century. Built on a rock, the Guadalest Ethnological Museum is located in the rooms of the old Arab fortress which is accessed through a tunnel.
In addition, it also has an attached house furnished and decorated with original contemporary objects. Its objective is to convey what the way of life of its people was like, which was largely dedicated to vines.
Historical Vehicle Museum
Located between Guadalest and Callosa d'en Sarrià, this museum exhibits different vehicles from the last century, between 1920 and 1970. Its collection consists of 130 motorcycles of 25 different brands and of all nationalities, as well as characteristic cars of the most classic Spain. On the other hand, the museum is decorated with objects and utensils also typical of the time. It's like a nostalgic trip to a not so distant past!
Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers
Unique in Europe, it constitutes an entire artistic compilation made up of more than 20,000 salt and pepper shakers typical of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. All salt shakers stand out for their unbeatable creativity, as they exist in all possible shapes and characteristics: magnetic, speaking, animal-shaped... As for pepper shakers, their peculiar pepper mills are surprising, as some reach a metre in height.
Museum of Antonio Marco
Antonio Marco is its owner and artist. His museum is a compendium of model houses and churches, built with an infinity of natural materials and perfectly furnished and decorated. The museum also has a monumental nativity scene of around 12 tons.
The surroundings of Guadalest and its routes
Beyond the reservoir and thanks to the unbeatable location of Guadalest in a natural area of high ecological interest, there are numerous perfect routes for hiking. Here is a small selection of them:
Sierra de Aitana
One of the most emblematic itineraries is the one that starts from Guadalest and ascends to the top of the Sierra de Aitana, the highest in the province of Alicante. This excursion of medium difficulty forms a circular route in which its fountains and springs, the Simas de Partagat, and its micro flora reserves are a real delight for walkers.
Castell de Castells
The excursion to Castellet de Serrella is very popular, which consists of visiting the ruins of a castle of Muslim origin located on a rocky ridge in the same mountain range. Although it is a path of low difficulty, its duration usually exceeds three hours, along a path of great beauty that is well worth it.
Font del Molí
Another interesting place to visit if you are going to visit Guadalest or its surroundings is, without a doubt, the well-known Font del Molí. It is a source from which excellent quality water emanate, that supply both tourists and the inhabitants of the town of Benimantell. Around it there is an ideal picnic area to enjoy some time with the family.
As you may have seen in this post, Guadalest is a unique place a few kilometres from your hotel in Benidorm that offers you the possibility of carrying out many different plans over the course of your holidays. If you are thinking of enjoying a few days of sunshine on the Costa Blanca, come to Benidorm and encourage yourself to explore its surroundings. There is so much to discover!