Easy Escapes

An Affordable Valencia Road Trip

by  Lavanya Sunkara | Feb 21, 2019
Valencia, Spain
Valencia, Spain / tacstef/iStock

With its shining namesake city along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Valencia features an abundance of beautiful scenery, including fairytale-like hilltop villages, medieval castles, pristine beaches, and plenty of architectural gems. The region itself consists of the Castellón, Alicante, and Valencia provinces, all connected via well-maintained roads (some with tolls) and railway lines, which make for an easy road trip.

What’s more, thanks to its natural beauty and rich cultural history, a visit to Valencia will leave travelers of all ages and backgrounds awestruck. The legacies of the Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, and Arabs resonate in centuries-old architecture  each in their own distinct design styles. Here, majestic castles overlook bustling towns, rugged mountains reveal cave dwellings built by the Moors, and 325 miles of picturesque beaches line the coastline. 

What to See and Do 

Begin your Valencian getaway with a stroll through Central Market, the oldest food market in Europe. After you grab a bite to eat, wander through and explore the Old Town. As you take in the city, be sure to spend some time admiring the stunning architecture (which includes Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles). 

Afterwards, check out La Lonja (the Silk Exchange), a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 15th century. Then, rent a bike from DoYouBike (€25 or $28 USD for three hours; €30 or $34 USD for the day) and ride through the scenic River Park and the City of Arts & Sciences. This magnificent city features futuristic buildings and gorgeous performance centers, including the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (Valencia Opera House), Hemisfèric (IMAX Cinema), Oceanogràfic (aquarium), and Ágora, the latter of which was designed by Valencia native Santiago Calatrava.

Once you finish your bike ride, drive up north to Peñíscola in Castellón and take in views of the Mediterranean Sea from the roof of the Peñíscola Castle (€5 or $6 USD). From there, drive two hours to reach the El Maestrat region, where olive trees planted thousands of years ago still thrive. Once you arrive, take a three-hour guided bike tour with Itinerantur to learn the history of millenary olive groves, which will cost you €165 ($187 USD) for a group tour (the cost of the tour does not include the additional cost for bike rentals and the olive oil tasting; expect to pay an additional €15, or $17 USD per person). 

After your tasting, drive inland to the walled city of Morella and go truffle hunting with L’Escudella Restaurant. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and feast on a delicious meal comprised of several truffle-themed dishes. The activity will set you back €85 ($97 USD) per person for a day tour, which also includes breakfast and lunch.

In the province of Valencia, be sure to visit the quaint town of Bocairent, which features charming streets, rolling hills, Moorish arches, and picturesque gardens. Wake up early to get a bird’s-eye view of the landscape via a hot air balloon ride with Totglobo (packages from €190 or $215 USD for a family and/or group balloon tour).

Spend the rest of the day exploring the Moorish cave dwellings in the nearby mountains (free). You may want to consider driving another hour towards the coast to visit Alicante’s seaside town of Dénia (a UNESCO World Heritage Creative City for Gastronomy). Here, be sure to sample some Arroz a Banda, a traditional rice dish prepared with freshly-caught fish. Before you journey back to Valencia city, visit the historic buildings of Xàtiva and its majestic castle, and end your trip with a night out at the lively Plaça del Mercat. 

Where to Stay 

AC Hotel Valencia is located near the City of Arts & Sciences and offers modern amenities, as well as daily breakfast (rates from €88 or $100 USD per night, depending on the season). In Peñíscola, consider booking a stay at Hotel RH Porto Cristo, which overlooks Peñíscola Castle. The hotel is within walking distance to many restaurants and nightlife (rates from €59 or $67 USD per night, depending on the season). Additionally, Bocairent’s Hotel L’Estació is built on a former railway station and offers charming accommodations. The property also features an elegant restaurant – so you won’t have to travel too far to enjoy a great meal (rates from €77 or $88 USD per night, depending on the season). Located two miles from Dénia city center, Hotel Les Rotes features lovely rooms, complete with balconies that overlook the pool. Additionally, the property’s Punta Negra Restaurant serves excellent Mediterranean cuisine (rates from €87or $99 USD per night, depending on the season). Lastly, you’ll find Hotel Casa Cigroner in the heart of Xàtiva. The property is a former 18th century manor house, and has an onsite restaurant and lounge area (rates from €41 or $47 USD per night, depending on the season).

Getting There

Fly direct to Madrid or Barcelona from plenty of U.S. cities. Once you land, take a short flight (about an hour) to Valencia (one-way flights from $57 USD from Madrid, and $63 USD from Barcelona). Alternatively, you can take an AVE speed train from Madrid (which will cost around €33 or $37 USD and take two hours), or Barcelona (which will cost around €25 or $28 USD and take three hours).

Rental cars are available at the airport and train station, as well as in downtown Valencia. However, to rent a car, it's important to note that you'll need an International Driver’s license. Here, gas costs as much as €1.009 to 1.507/L (approximately $4 per gallon).  


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