Albufera Natural Park
HistoryAlbufera is Spain's largest lake, and was originally a saltwater bay gradually separated from the sea by a large spit, which finally closed off the lagoon in the Roman period.
Fishing has always been the primary human activity in the area. The reclamation of land for growing rice began in the 17th century, which drastically reduced the surface area of the lake from approximately 30,000 to 2,800 hectares. Over time the water also became more diluted, and today is mostly freshwater. In the mid-twentieth century the lake was further threatened by rampant development. Since the establishment of the natural park in 1990 the region is now protected from further development, and there has been progress in reestablishing vital wetland areas.
Flora and faunaThe Albufera provides summer breeding habitat for many birds, wintering grounds for others, and for still others is a critical layover spot during migration; in total more than 340 avian species have been identified here. Birds make good use of not only the lagoon itself but also the rice paddies surrounding it.
By carThe two-lane motorway CV-500 hugs the coast, connecting Valencia in the north with in the south, before heading southwest toward . From in the south, CV-502 heads directly north toward El Perellonet.
Traffic heading toward Valencia can get very congested on Sunday evenings; the only possibility to bypass this is to use CV-401, which begins just south of El Saler.
By busValencia's EMT Bus 25 leaves from Carrer Navarro Reverter near Plaça Porta de la Mar. This route alternates between two final destinations; if you want to reach any of the beaches south of El Saler, make sure to get on the bus labeled El Perellonet and not El Palmar. These buses run every half-hour 07:00-22:15, and a single journey costs (Bonobus and Bono Transbordo cards are accepted). A routemap and timetable can be downloaded here.
Alternatively, you can take the yellow Metrobus (operated by Autocares Herca) from Gran Vía de les Germanies near the train station, in direction Perelló. The trip takes about 30 minutes; the bus runs hourly 07:55-19:15 with a single journey costing .
By bicycleA paved, dedicated bike trail follows the coast for 10 km from Valencia, beginning at the large near the Centro Comercial El Saler and continuing to El Saler, avoiding traffic for most of the way. In El Saler the trail splits: the main trail stops just south of , and a side trail terminates at El Saler beach.
By taxiA round-trip taxi ride from Valencia should cost between , depending on how far you go.
By tourist bus
Fees and permits
El PalmarWith a name derived from the many palmettos on the island, this village was originally a Moorish farmstead. After the forced deportation of Muslim residents in the mid-13th century, the island was essentially abandoned until the late 18th century when fisherman and their families began to take up permanent residency here. Most modern visitors come here primarily to eat paella (see listings below in 'Eat'), but it is worth taking some extra time to explore the surrounding canals and to see the barracas, traditional thatch-roofed dwellings.
Barraca dels Arandesaddress: Carrer de Francisco MonleónThe oldest building in El Palmar dates from the 19th century, and is the only one which still has the original construction of adobe walls, packed clay floor, wooden ceiling, and thatched roof. It is not open to the public, but visitors can appreciate it from the outside.
Muntanyeta dels SantsLiterally 'Mountain of the Saints', this low hill of 27 m altitude is a good spot to view the surrounding landscape of rice paddies and orange groves.
Ermita dels Sants de la Pedraaddress: Plaça Numero 48The 14th-century chapel was modified in the 17th century, and is a good example of Gothic architecture from the Reconquista period. It is dedicated to Saints Abdón and Senén, patron saints of the nearby city of Sueca, and on 29 July it is a pilgrimage destination from Sueca during the festival of Benissants de la Pedra.
Batería republicana de El SalerA Republican battery and artillery site from the Spanish Civil War.
Embarcador de la Gola de Pujoladdress: Ctra El Palmar, s/n
Embarcadero de El Palmar
phone: +34 963 868 050The visitor centre can offer information on bird life in the area, and has an observation tower, two bird observatories, and a nature trail through a smaller lagoon. Ample parking is available nearby, and the nearest is located a short distance to the north.
Mirador de la Gola del Pujoladdress: Ctra El Palmar, s/nThis is a good viewing spot for waterbirds especially between the months of October and March, when fixed fishing posts with nets are placed in the water. This spot is particularly popular in the afternoons and on weekends, and there is limited parking available.
Platja de PinedoThe closest beach to Valencia and the most urban, with a number of cafés and snack vendors. Has disabled access and showers, sun loungers are available for rent, and dogs are permitted on the northernmost section of beach.
Platja de l'Arbre del GosA stretch of beach with a more natural setting, and a nudist section. Facilities drinking fountains, showers, and picnic benches.
Platja d'El SalerThe nicest and best-developed beach. Facilities include disabled access and showers, drinking fountains, and picnic tables, and sun loungers are available to rent.
Platja de la GarroferaHas a nudist section. Facilities include disabled access, a walkway, and showers.
Platja de la DevesaUndeveloped, with natural surroundings, this beach can be reached on foot walking for about 5-10 minutes from the parking area. Has a nudist section.
Platja del RecatíAn urban beach with fine sand. Has disabled access and showers.
Festivals and events
Romería del Cristoaddress: El PalmarThis religious festival celebrates the pilgrimage of Cristo de la Salud (Christ of Health). The procession begins at the in front of the parish church, and proceeds to the boat launch. Here, with much music and fanfare, the Christ effigy is placed into a boat and taken out onto the lake, followed by other boats packed with villagers from El Palmar and neighbouring villages of Catarroja and Silla. After being taken around the lake the effigy is returned to the church and there is a mascletà, or gunpowder celebration.
Spectators wishing to book a spot on a boat to follow along should make arrangements at least six weeks in advance, although with a bit of luck it may be possible to find a spot on the same day by asking around; going rates are per passenger.
Corregudes de Joiesphone: +34 963 248 964address: Platja de PinedoThis annual event is a series of 500m-long bareback horse races on the beach. Formally organized since 1823, the races date back to the 18th century and were once held in most of the agricultural districts immediately south of Valencia; today they are still held only in the village of Pinedo. They came about as a competition between orchard farmers betting on the strength and speed of their farm horses. Literally meaning 'race of jewels' in Valencian, the 'jewel' is a silk scarf tied to the racer's arm and formerly given to the beloved of the winner. Nowadays the final winner receives all scarves tied to a laurel wreath.
Mercadilloaddress: Plaça de la SequiotaA weekly street market, good for picking up fresh local produce and other food items.
Most restaurants are clustered in the villages of El Saler and in El Palmar, which has highest concentration, almost all of them specializing in rice dishes and equally reliable. As eating paella in El Palmar is a very popular weekend excursion for Valencians, it's a good idea to choose a place to eat before the 14:00 midday rush when tables quickly disappear.
phone: +34 963 757 970address: Casa El Llarc, 1Located in an orange grove on the northern edge of the Albufera, the former farmhouse is now a favourite spot with locals, with a focus on locally-sourced, traditional rice dishes and seafood. Reservations are essential, especially on weekends.
phone: +34 963 247 172address: Camí dels Muntanyars, 161
phone: +34 961 830 490address: Paseo Pintor Francisco Lozano, Módulo 3, s/nOn the beach. Reservations are recommended, and can be made online.
phone: +34 961 830 540address: Paseo de la Dehesa, 3Also on the beach. Reservations recommended.
phone: +34 692 640 720address: Plaça de la Sequiota, 11
phone: +34 961 620 100address: Camino Estell, s/nIn a former farmhouse set by a canal and surrounded by rice paddies, this restaurant is rather more expensive but very highly-regarded by locals. Reservations recommended, especially on weekends.
Restaurante L'Illaphone: +34 961 620 242address: Plaça de la Sequiota, 22
phone: +34 961 620 162address: Carrer dels Redolins, 4
phone: +34 961 620 148address: Carrer de Francisco Monleón, 29
phone: +34 650 362 480address: Carrer dels Redolins, 98
phone: +34 632 018 663address: Carrera del Riu, 399A long-established part of the Valencia nightclub scene, with four bars and a dance floor.
phone: +34 961 611 186address: Avda de los Pinares, 151The hotel is on the grounds of a golf course, and has an onsite spa, restaurant, and indoor and outdoor pools. Pets permitted.
phone: +34 961 830 036address: Ctra del Riu, 486Can accommodate tents and caravans, and rents out bungalows and runs a hostel. Facilities include an outdoor pool, onsite bar-restaurant; pets permitted.
phone: +34 961 830 212address: Carrera del Riu, 552Has spaces for tents and caravans with/without electricity, and also rents out bungalows. Facilities include an outdoor pool, barbecue equipment, restaurant, and free Wi-Fi.
phone: +34 961 611 136address: Ctra de El Saler, km 13Has spots for tents or caravans, and rents out bungalows and cabins. Amenities include a water park, pet boarding kennel, tennis courts, and horse riding facilities. Has an onsite bar and restaurant. Free Wi-Fi, pets permitted.