Sightseeing Silves, Algarve

Sightseeing Silves, Algarve

The ancient capital of Portugal’s Algarve, Silves may sit inland 10km away from the golden beaches and rocky coastline, although don’t be fooled, this town packs a mighty punch.  Whether it is history, archeology, bird life, street art, walking or cycling, this Algarvian town has it all.  And Silves is definitely worth a diversion away from the sand between your toes.

Like so many coastal destinations, the real joy of a country’s culture and natural beauty can often be found just a little way inland. We found the same in Spain and France. And Portugal is no different. At one end of the Algarve you have the lure of Loulé and at the other Silves. Both will delight you and transport you back in time as you immerse yourself in just a little bit of Portuguese history.  

Our first visit to the Algarve was not blessed with joyous memories; in part I think this was just the space we were in 15 years ago, deep in the seat of our corporate merry-go-round. So revisiting of this part of the world seemed important to test out our past perceptions and reconnect with the country’s true values. 

As we approached Silves after a week along the Rocky Algarve, the hilly fortress and cathedral stood proud and providing a vista that we were sure would surprise and delight. Although as we drove over the bridge and along the outer rim road, there was definitely a deja-vous moment. Slowly memories popped in my mind as we moseyed past the Parça Al-Mutamid and flash backs of our previous visit tumbled back to me. We had been here before…. so what new adventures could we have all these years on? Well plenty I can tell you, so if you’re ready, let me tell you a bit about what you can experience in two or three days in this little gem of a town.

 

What to see in Silves

1. The Castle

Well as obvious as it might seem, the castle is an instant draw. What is it about castles and their ancient history that bring out the intrigued historian in us? With its renovated walls that surround a large part of Silves in a protective embrace, you instantly get the feeling of tales of old. Battles, slavery, and torture – who would have thought that this tiny town could have such a story to tell.  A story that takes us back as far as 8th century when the Moors were the dominant force building their fortress on Roman fortifications. Although it has had some renovation work through 20th century, the castle is the largest in the Algarve. For €2.80 you can enter the castle and walk around its walls and take in the panorama in front of you. Or simply keep the statue of King Sancho 1 company, slayer of the enemy in 1189 and admire the castle from the outside with its blossoming cherry tree and blue sky background giving instant photographic appeal.  

Check out our gallery below…

 

2. Sé de Silves

Whilst you are perusing the magnificence of the castle’s conquests, you cannot ignore its Gothic neighbour. Silves’ Cathedral requires some neck straining as you gaze to is tower pinnacle. It was built in 13th century and despite being damaged by the earthquake in 1755, it has been rebuilt keeping its Gothic features. It is now on the Portuguese National Register of Monuments list and is thought to be one of the most significant Cathedrals in the region. Reason enough to take some time to admire it.

3. Street Art

As you wander around this compact and bijou town, you will be impressed by its colourful facades. The streets are undoubtedly full of history which somehow still feels etched into their brickwork. Although a more modern feature stands out from the ancient tales; the street art. Now I must stress this isn’t graffiti, this is genuinely beautiful pieces of art. From the Firestation, to the Electricity boxes and the walls adjacent to the Parça Al‘Mutamid. They each have their own narrative to tell and demand to be admired. 

3. Roman Bridge, Parça Al’Mutamid and Artaska Café

With a town so steeped in Arabian legend, it seems hard to imagine the role the Romans had on the area well before they conquered Portugal. Although their legacy is still in tact by way of the Ponte Romana, which today is being restored. It is a grand feature of the town, spanning across the Arade River and creating a stunning vista along the river walkway. 

Immediately opposite there is a famous landmark, although not in the same guise as its historical cousins. The Café Art’aska is a huge building that whilst dishevelled in nature has a real vibe going on. On a Sunday night this is the place to hang out and listen to some jamming and even partake with your own penny whistle if that takes your fancy. Imagine on a warm summer’s night, strolling along the Arade with the rhythm of music floating through the air. And add to that the chatter of storks that fly above you, who also call this place home, and you will instantly notice the appeal of this ancient capital grow, slowly and surely.

A short walk up the road will bring you to the Parça Al’Mutamid. This long stretch of park is so characterful and colourful. With its palm and pomegranate trees, fountains with floating figurines that depict characters from Silves of yesteryear and Muslim buildings that transport you back to an Arabian night, it feels quite surreal. It was created as a tribute to the Lord of Seville, Al’ Mutadid who conquered the Silves in 1053 and his son Al’Mutamid who was put in charge of the town at the tender age of 12! It’s Islamic feel is evident everywhere and you can almost imagine that you are not in Portugal at all. 

Check out our gallery below.

 

What to do in Silves

Apart from the obvious walking tour around the town or may be the Archaeological Museum if that’s your thing (37.188967 -8.438888), there are a couple of other things to whilst you are in this area. 

1. Partake in a Port Experience 

You can’t come to Portugal and not dabble in a bit of Port. When I saw the advert for a Port Experience, I was in! This is part of the culture and it had to be done! Well that was my excuse anyway. Crazily we didn’t ask the price and being next to the castle we did give a momentary thought to the bill at the end, although hey! So they arrived at our table with three ample sized glasses of port to try; a Tawny, a White and a Rosé. And we ordered a fig cake, which is also a local delicacy. Figs are super important to the Portuguese economy. Well the Port was delightful and we enjoyed it enough to purchase a bottle of the Rosé which appealed to both our palettes. The whole experience, which whilst sat underneath the shade of the castle walls, listening to the storks go about their business, cost us €10.00. The bottle we took home was only €9.50.  One word of warning. If you’re going to order the fig cake, make sure you share it with someone otherwise the laxative effects the next morning could have you running for the loo. 

2. Take a walk up to the windmill

The walks in the area have huge potential for those who love a good ramble. It’s not far out of town before you find quiet roads, gently rolling hills and miles of hiking opportunities. To reach the windmill (37.203102 -8.435254) you wander through countryside strewn with lemons and orange groves bordered by wild flowers and herbs. At the right time of year, the smells are just amazing as the orange blossom tantalises your nostrils. It’s a bit of a steep hike up to the windmill, although the views from here are just amazing. From the town it’s only about 45 minute walk, although lovely none the less. 

3. Cycle to Arade Reservoir

Equally rewarding is the 12 mile return cycle ride that takes you through rural villages who survive on their agricultural trade up to the source of the Arade river. The reservoir offers gorgeous views of this water scape and to sit beneath the pine trees and take in the vista or cycle some more around the plentiful footpaths, will certainly while away an afternoon. 

 

Here’s our gallery…

 

Where to stay and eat 

1. Camping 

As we travel in our campervan, staying at Silves is easy. There’s two great little Aires, one either side of the town. Parque do Castelo is an excellent and well run Aire for €9.50 which includes EHU and free wifi. Showers are extra – 50c per person and washing machines €4. You are within walking distance of the town and the Windmill from here.

The second official Aire is beside the river on the other side of town (37.185115 -8.445415). I’m unsure of the prices or services.

If you wanted to go wild, then you can stay outside of Silves some 6 miles away, by the Arade Reservoir I mentioned earlier. There are two spots; one just beneath the reservoir (37.236863 -8.378789) and another at the top of the hill in a small parking area that has some views. Neither have services, although these are available in Silves for a small fee. 

2. Accommodation

If you are looking to stay in a hotel or Air BnB, then check out these options with Booking.com

3. Somewhere to eat

We love France’s style of Plat du Jour – often a canteen affair with basic food cooked well for a phenomenally cheap price. Well Portugal has these too. We were recommended to go to Casa Velha, which is opposite the Town Hall in Silves. They offer, every day a three-course meal for just €7.50, including wine/beer/port. Just asking for the ‘Camping Menu.’  Whilst the food is never going to be gourmet we thought the ambiance of the place and their service was great. Their fish dish was amazing – Portugal seriously knows how to do fish. 

Check out our gallery below.

 

Our conclusions on Silves

On our travels we continue to love heading inland to experience the heart of a country and its rural culture. It is here we find hidden gems that seem to only fall to the cutting room floor and not make the glossy magazines. We feel that way about Silves. Charming, characterful and full of charisma and most definitely worth the detour for a day or two. Walk the cobbled streets and listen to the chattering storks whilst knowing that somewhere, somehow Muslims, Roman and Christians placed their feet upon the same stones as you.  

 

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5 Algarve Coastal Hiking Trails

5 Algarve Coastal Hiking Trails

Portugal’s Algarve coastline is ready to astound you, appeal to your inner artist and challenge you in more ways than you can imagine. Join us as we hug Portugal’s coastal fringes in pursuit of visual experiences that are set to blow our tiny minds.

We’ve seen some stunning sights around Europe over our three years on the road, although none so evocative for me as the rich experience of the coast. There’s something that grabs me deep within when I hear the sound of the crashing waves pounding against the rocks, the seagulls’ cries as they skim above the brilliant blue seas and the contrasting colours of the sand against the ocean. It truly brings out the poet in me and I find a seaside fix almost a necessary dosage to my inner happiness.

So you can imagine my delight when we started to explore the craggy Algarve coastline. From a previous holiday 15 years ago we knew that the south west was pretty spectacular, although had no idea about the bits in between. It was like visiting Willy Wonker’s Chocolate factory. 

We have hiked the coast, taken a gazillion photos and exclaimed in sheer delight at the wondrous sights before our eyes. Mother Nature playing a starring role in her shaping of this most southerly coast of Europe. Here we share our thoughts on the routes we’ve taken from Algarve central at Armacão de Pera to Alvor. 

 

Portugal’s Coastal Geology

Now I don’t intend to complicate matters with the composition of this Algarve coastline. Let’s keep it simple! This coastal region is a predominantly limestone with karst features along this southerly edge, blended with rich mineral deposits. Whilst over thousands of years, the land has been battered by winds and waves that sweep in from the Atlantic Ocean, the Algarve coastline is also significantly shaped by seismic activity due to the Loulé fault that lies through the region.  There is also a fault line that lies off the coast and these have had and continue to play a huge part in the shaping of this coastal beauty.  The Lisbon earthquake was a massive event in 1755, although in 1969 the Algarve was hit particularly hard. Smaller events are noted and undoubtedly affect the coastline together with its weather buddy. (For information of Portugal seismic activity you can check out this website which gives up to date information.)

During the winter particularly the seas take on a personality that seems something like a tempestuous teenager. Enormous waves forming way out at sea, roll in tune with the fresh winds as they hammer their way to the coast. Crashing and thumping their full weight onto any shore and cliffs that happen to get in their way. This southerly coastline slowly buckles beneath its force and decades worth of natural forces slowly make their mark on the landscape. Leaving for us a stunning coastal perspective that puts one of its beaches in the Top 100 Best Beaches in the World. 

So geology lesson over, let’s place our focus on the beauty that these natural forces continue to carve for our delights. For this particular post, we explored what is known as the Rocky Algarve due to the craggy and gnarly limestone artwork that is evident here. Giant and sheer cliff faces defy access to those who wish to conquer the land and yet conversely the little bays, coves and caves that have formed thanks to the relentless pounding of the seas, is enough to have your heart melting. 

 

Our 5 Coastal Hikes

 

1. Armacão de Pera to Galé

Easy beach walking up to 6 miles return (approx)

Heading east to west, our first hiking recommendation is from Armacão de Pera. This is a tourist town just 50km west from Algarve’s capital Faro. From its peninsular at Galé, this arcing bay is wall to wall sand that can often look like a scene out of a Desert Monthly magazine. With mounds of sand moulded by the incessant winds that blow on-shore, camels are the only thing missing from this evocative painting. The town, whilst certainly a tourist hot spot, has its areas of authenticity; namely the fishermen’s huts from where they still launch their boats from the sandy shore as there is no harbour here in Armacão.  Beach walking is extensive around here and it is possible to reach Our Lady of the Rock fortress and peninsular, which offers great views back across the town. Although a little bit of road walking is necessary to reach it.

 

2. Alabandeira to Our Lady of the Rock

Medium difficulty – some clambering required. 75 mins duration and 4 miles return

We wilded overnight at the parking here for two nights. What an incredible spot with waves crashing to the twin beaches below. At low tide they are worth checking out. Just thirty seconds to the west you will find the most incredible archway that offers great views up and down the coast and it is especially beautiful at sunrise.

The walk to the east from the parking area took about an hour and fifteen, including photostops and using the orange dots that mark the way, you can deviate to the edge of the cliffs for some amazing views. There’s a number of blow holes that you can just about see into on tip toes and the cliff line and secret beaches are incredible. There is one point where you are required to climb down the cliff on a rough path, and then scale up the other side. At times the path is narrow and eroded, although unless you have vertigo is doable.

The destination is Our Lady of the Rock which is a peninsular on which a fortress was built to protect the area from pirates. A chapel was also built here, which was partially destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. The 16th century chapel stands today and has the most staggering views perched on this small peninsular at the mercy of the sea gods. And as such it is a monument of Public Interest Patrimony. 

The walk back will take you significantly less time without the indirect route and photos  – I made it back in 30 minutes. 

Click on the image below for our Gallery of Pictures.

3. Albandeira to Benagil Caves

Easy to medium difficulty, 5 miles return taking 2.5 hours 

Heading west from the car park area, you get a chance to savour the magnificent view of the archway, which like most things looks so different at various points in the day

The views will have you wowing pretty regularly and with a path that is continually bordered by wild juniper bushes sheltering all sorts of wildlife, you will be in for a natural world treat.

There is one part of the walk that has the feel of someone’s back garden, as the path becomes landscaped and walled with the most divine wild freesias creating a heady scent that boosts any weariness that you may be experiencing.

Just around the corner comes one of the main sections of the walk and a big bucket list tick if you are determined to visit every one of the 100 Best Beaches in the World – Praia de Marinha. Used on advertising for the Algarve, this beach can easily rub shoulders with the best that Malaysia and New Zealand can offer. Steep steps carry you down to the beach from the cliff top and at low tide you are able to walk to the famous M Rocks.    

Continuing on from there, you eventually reach the famous Algar de Benagil. This is the must see of the area and sadly during the winter season when the seas are rough getting entry into this sea cave by boat or canoe is a no go. Still being able to get a glimpse of it from the clifftop gives you a suitable tease for what might be beneath you feet and have you rushing back to see it in calmer seasons.

Click on the image below for our Gallery of Pictures.

 

4. Alvor to Portimão 

Easy to medium difficulty, 7 miles one way taking 2.5 hours

Alvor has a brown sign off the main roads – we like brown signs as it always means there’s something pretty to see. And Alvor is delightful. It has many features; the town, which is predominantly restaurants enticing tourists to sample their fare. Then there’s the harbour and fishing area, where the traditional Algarve fishermen’s sheds take the beach hut to a whole new level. With locals chilling or mending their nets, this is a bit of culture right before your eyes. Alvor also has its sandy beach, its peninsular and then…. Then there are the rock formations. Of all the sections of coast we saw this was our favourite as at low tide you could get down and personally with these naturally carved pieces of art. Arches, stacks, tunnels and cliffs that look like Leonardo has painted its intricate layers of gold, yellow and orange streaks. Set against the blue ocean and the green juniper shrubs, this place will wow you. I felt like a child at a fun fair – not knowing which way to turn and certainly not wanting to leave. 

Up on the cliff tops, you can then walk miles – sometimes slightly inland, sometimes hugging the edges of this precarious landmass that is surrendering slowly to the sea. Whilst the sea may ebb and flow from your view, you will still be captured by the fields of wild lupins and daisies. Hoopoes and finches flying around you as you meander around the coast towards Portimão. A stop for lunch at one of the beaches is a must surely? 

And as you see the skylines changing from the natural architecture of the cliffs to modern, high-rise tourist homes, the feel of the coast does change. Although I still found myself marvel at the show th coastal fringes displayed.

However you feel about tourist destinations, Praia de Rocha will certainly help you overcome any dislike you may have the towering giants looking for the picture postcard view. The beach stretches out for 1km with its curvaceous bay and golden sands inviting you to strip off your shoes and walking socks and get down and dirty on the beach. Allow the grains of sand to wedge between your toes and feel the warmth of the day’s sun on the souls of your feet. Or if you prefer there is a boardwalk you can promenade along instead.

At the end of the beach, the personality of the area changes to a high class marina with identical apartments lining the water’s edge. Across the water you see Ferragudo and yet another masterpiece in the Algarve coastal gallery.  At this stage we decided to organise a taxi back, using the Uber app. For €7.71 and 10 minutes we were soon home with our feet up and a refreshing cup of tea. 7 miles was more than enough for one day.

Click on the image below for our Gallery of Pictures.

 

5. Carvoeira to Ferragudo

Cycle route taken – 10 miles round trip 1.5 hours

After the miles we walked this week, Myles’ foot injury from two years ago came back to haunt him – so no more walking for a couple of weeks. Instead we took to our bikes instead to capture the Carvoeira coastline. 

From our campsite we cycled 10 minutes into the village, which is charming. Its one way cobbled street, lined with elegant shops leads down to a pedestrian area full of vibrant bars. The golden sand beaches just implore you to place your naked feet upon its velvet covering.

If a beer tempts you, then succumb and people watch – even in February there was plenty going on. We continued up the west side of the village to catch a glimpse from the vantage point. Taking the quiet roads we cycled through the very neat and very smart area on the outskirts of the village, home to millionaires we’re sure. 

The Arriba da Salgadeira peninsular is amazing with views east and west show-casing its magnificent cliff face and hidden bays carved out by the pounding seas.

Our final destination was the Torre do Lapa, which is a 17th century watchtower, protecting the locals from pirates. It is one of many similar structures located along the coast, which on in the event of danger would send out smoke or fire signals to the other towers so they could keep alert to the dangers. From here we were able to cycle the 3 miles back to to the campsite happy in the knowledge that we had seen a bit more of the coast, without putting any pressure on Myles’ injured foot.

 

Practical Tips for Hiking the Algarve safely

As with any type of hiking, a few basic rules and common sense apply. Although given the precarious geology in the area it is worth being a little more alert to the dangers than on some other coastal routes.

1. If hiking out of season watch for slippery rocks as whilst the days are warm even in January, the nights are cold and there is often a dew.

2. During winter hiking take plenty of layers. The winds along this exposed Atlantic coast can be harsh, so be prepared.

3. If hiking in the height of season take plenty of water. Whilst there are cafés on some of the routes, dehydration can be a big issue, so walk responsibly. 

4. You are walking in an area with seismic activity, so be mindful that tremors could happen at any time and create crevices in the rocks.

5. Keep away from the cliff edges – whilst it is tempting to get up close and personal, the cliff fringes are delicate. 

6. There are areas that have been cordoned off with wooden barriers. Observe them, they are there for a reason. In the Benagil area there are fines for anyone caught climbing over the fences.

7. Make sure you wear solid walking shoes and not the flipflops we saw so often! The cliffs are stoney and uneven, so caution is required. 

8. There are orange blobs and arrows to follow so you shouldn’t get lost, although I suggest taking your phone with the app maps.meFor walking this is far better than Google Maps as it shows footpaths and will guide you back should you loose your way.

9. As so often stressed in any nature walk, “Take only pictures and leave behind only footprints.”

 

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Bella Italiano – Our Highs and Lows

Bella Italiano – Our Highs and Lows

 

Buongiorno e benvenuto!

Italy has been our home for over three months in the last three years and it’s been an experience of Highs and Lows. One thing we adore is the language. I’ve had some great teachers along the way from a Campsite Receptionist, who is now a friend, to camper neighbours who shared their local knowledge.

Imagine the scene; Emilio in his 70’s, looked like he had come straight off the set of an Italian Mafia film and his younger wife Anna by at least 15 years, who fulfilled most of the duties, not in a subservient way, just as though it were the most natural thing in the world to do. They spoke very little English, so between us we spoke French, pigeon Italian and the odd word of Queeny’s tongue. What an incredible hour we had together and thanks to them, had some amazing experiences in Tuscany. They even gave us their phone number is case of any issues whilst in Italy. And oh boy! Could we have used that half a dozen times in the last month.

During our time here, we’ve experienced Lakes in the guise of Garda and Trasimeno, stayed in a volcanic crater just outside Naples and overnighted outside a Benedictine Monastery up in the mountains; we had two free, wild jacuzzis and mud wraps in the mountains – courtesy of Tuscany’s natural thermal springs. We’ve watched the sun go down on our lakeside ‘home’ in Umbria and watched it rise through Tuscany’s evocative poplar trees.  We found flamingoes on the Po Delta together with a few million midges that must be on their winter retreat from Scotland. We’ve seen Pisa’s tower lean a bit, Florence’s iconic Duomo Cathedral and Pontevecchio bridge, been treated to sunset in our beloved Venice and visited the iconic hillside towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino of wine fame.  And that’s before we mention the Cinque Terre and the famous Stelvio Pass which was hair-raising and brilliant all at the same time. 

And then we had adventures of getting ripped off in San Marino’s tax haven principality, had our bikes stolen from a public space in Lucca, been subjected to the worst roads and motorways we’ve ever been on and took part in a chaotic, free-for-all junk-yard derby that made Delhi look like an empty supermarket car park.  Sadly our road-trip south, which had the intention of experiencing Pompeii, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, was thwarted by the crowds, crazy-frog drivers and a bit of rubbish navigating on my part. How we came away sane and unscathed is beyond us.

Although despite all this, I have to say that each time we return to Italy, we love it a little bit more. I think our first visit scared the be-gesus out of us. Once you know the rules for navigating Italy mindfully, then it’ll end up being a fabulous experience. So you must come and make up your own minds.

Check out our Interactive Map below for all our Italian highlights from 2016-2018.

 

 

Our Italian Realisations

As we reflect on our Italian adventures over the years, we’ve learnt a few things about our pizza eating, pasta making friends:

  • They have little road sense or road politesse 
  • The country seems strapped for cash and lots of the seaside towns in the south are really run down and unloved
  • Drivers NEVER make eye contact behind the wheel of their cars
  • They disregard any rules of the road – in fact there are no rules
  • They think nothing of driving on your side of the road and overtaking right in front of an oncoming vehicle
  • They love honking their horns
  • They will only fix Toll roads, the rest are at the mercy of time and grass
  • They don’t seem to worry about volcano eruptions or earthquakes – if it happens, they get on with it as they live in one of the most seismic active areas of the world outside New Zealand
  • The north/south divide seems to be opposite that in UK. The north is definitely the most wealthy and most populated with BIG tourists sights. Whereas the south seems to be more rural, less commercialised and where fewer tourists come
  • Italy has by far the best sunsets we have ever seen – there must be something about the seismic dust that makes it so evocative and romantic
  • And talking of romance, Italy has the most romantic vibe of all countries we have visited. Love seems to be expressed everywhere in the most idyllic of places – except behind the wheel of a car
  • And above all, we’ve found some of the sweetest, kindest and most wonderful people here.

Our 14 Highlights

1. Venice

Well you can’t say Italy without immediately thinking about Venice. And whilst it suffers hugely from both tourist erosion and flooding, somehow this community seems to continue life as if there were no problems – typically Italian. With its canals, gondolas, bridges and islands, Venice has to be seen both by day and by night.  Both deliver a completely different vibe.  Check out our experience here.

2. Dolomites

Northern Italy that rubs shoulders with Austria and Switzerland is all about the battle of the mountains. At one end you have the Dolomites with their towering spikes that can be seen for miles, to the more femininely curvaceous Alps at the western end. Both mountains spectacular in their own way, each offering a unique personality and Italian experience. Either way you will hold you breath and gasp. 

 

3. Stelvio Pass

When we think of Italian roads, the image isn’t good. Although think again when you ponder on the driving challenge that is THE STELVIO PASS. We’ve driven a couple of Europe’s ‘most dangerous roads’, although I have to say this was the most challenging of them all. Not only is the road in good condition, it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever experience. Driving from Bolzano is a must, if nothing more than to save your brakes. The wiggles that snake up to the mountain’s snow line are just so testing; one after another, after another. It is exhausting especially in a motorhome, although out of season most definitely doable and we highly recommend it. Check out our footage here.

 

4. Lake Garda

Nestled in the bosom of the Alps, Lake Garda is the largest of all the Italian Lakes and whilst it is incredibly busy, even in September, it is a great experience. Whether you choose to do it by car, bicycle (using any one of the ferries), kayak or moped, Lake Garda is a gift that keeps on giving. Intense blue waters, northern winds that provide the sail power for the windsurfers and atmospheric villages that cling to the lakeside edges, Garda has it all. Limone is a delight, Gargnano charming and Riva in the north, buzzy.

 

5. Porto Venere

Sat on the eastern fringe of the Cinque Terre National Park, Porto Venere has sadly been missed off the ‘Famous Five’ list. And it is beyond our comprehension why. With its harbour, peninsular and iconic Gothic church, its narrow alleyways full of characterful houses, Porto Venere is supremely more beautiful than the ‘five’ in our opinion. With fewer crowds to affect your experience, this is definitely one to put on your list.  Check out our footage here.

 

6. Tuscany

What superlatives can I use to aptly describe Tuscany that won’t undermine its tend charm and infinite beauty? So I will conjure up an image for you that may entice you to this Italian region. Imagine rolling hills, carved with sunflower fields and poplar trees that cluster together along roads and driveways, that in the autumn mists and sunrise light offer you a scene out of Gladiator. With natural springs hidden in forests that bubble and soothe away your aches and villages perched on hills that offer a grandeur in their lofty status and wine oozing from the acres of vineyards that cover the land. Tuscany has romance at its core with divine beauty etched into every piece of soil. I defy you to not fall in love with this region. Volterra, Montepulcanio, Montalcino, Pomerance, Talemone, Bagno Vignoni and the White Whale of San Felippo Bagnoni. Deliciousness on a map.  Check out loads of footage we have here.

 

8. Po Delta

On the western coast, just a stone’s throw from the Venice magnet you come to flat lands that you wonder what beauty they can hold. Although for a completely unique and diverse landscape the Po Delta region is awash with wild life and salt-flats. And with this type of scenery you get flamingoes. Swarms of them – and mosquitos sadly. Although if timed right, a tour around the delta and Comacchio will give you a completely different perspective of Italy.

 

9. Alberobello and Matera in the south

The south has many undiscovered gems and given that most tourists go for the easy to reach northern regions, Alberobello and Matera are relatively unscathed by tourists.  Alberobello with its famous Trulli houses are quaint and one of the most unique buildings I’ve ever seen. White washed buildings and their round stone roofs transport you back in time as you wander around the cobbled streets of this UNESCO village. In contrast not more than 45 minutes drive away you have the rock village of Matera. Carved into the hillside with caves that dwellers called their homes Matera will delight you. Overlooking its river gorge, walks, bird watching and café culture will entice you to this place and make you wonder why you have never been before.  Check out our footage here. 

 

10. Paestum – Greek Temples

So many flock to Pompeii to see the famous, ancient Roman city and its fickle volcano Vesuvius.  Although it is for this very reason that we searched for something more authentic and not an expensive tourist trap. Heading past Naples, past Solerno and on towards Agropoli and you will find a far more genuine and less crowded monument. In fact Paestum is a Greek archeological site and its temples are in a great state, the best we have ever seen. It is definitely worth travelling a little further south to see this place.  Check out what we saw here.

 

14. Amalfi

The Amalfi coast is certainly beautiful and given that driving a motorhome along its roads is forbidden, we decided on approaching it by sea. We took a ferry from Salerno (where there is a campsite about 15 minutes down the road) and disembarked at the town of Amalfi. The town is, like many of it sibling resorts, crowded with coach loads of tourists, although if you get away from the main high street some of the views of the town from up above are great. Just for the sheer hell of it, we would highly recommend taking the bus back. Although it takes nerves of steel as the bus driver throws the vehicle around narrow lanes and steep overhanging cliffs, it is certainly an experience. Check out our experience here.

 

Making the most of your Italian adventure

 

1) Despite Italy’s reputation, do come as it is beautiful – if you plan ahead to the specific sites you want to see then it becomes much more pleasurable.

2) To cover Italy’s extensive miles, we suggest you take the toll roads and suck up the fees if you want to minimise brain ache and wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s not always pretty, although the ride is not pretty on some of the main roads.  Even the non-tolled motorways are shocking.

3) Italy has some amazing cities and palatial cathedrals, that rival Spain, although when visiting these Italian icons, stay in a campsite and take the bus. Crime here is rife.

4) Don’t make our mistake – pay for car parks and DO NOT park in side streets, even if there are cameras and other vehicles around.

5) If you go to Pisa, you’ll only need to see the main Cathedral and tower – there is nothing else – so an hour tops we would recommend.

6) Put Venice on the list, although stay at the site (if with a motorhome) on the inside of the city – Tronchetto, which is just over the bridge, that way you can experience Venice by day and night, which is very special.

7) See Florence out of season as the crowds are crazy and go early if you want to climb the Tower. Our advice for the best view of the city, is to walk to Michaelangelo’s statue, up the 167 steps – yes we counted them – the view over the entire city is exceptional.

8) Do not miss Italy’s eastern coast, south of Venice into the Po Delta. It is a nature lover’s paradise and a stunning natural environment, although keep away from the coastal towns as they are not pretty.

9) Bare in mind that any Italian with a motorhome will go away in it over the weekend, even out of season. So don’t expect to find Sostas (equivalent to French Aires) with much space.

10) Italian kids don’t go back to school until third week in September, so campsites are still classed as high season until then and then they close down anywhere from end of September to end of October.

11) I’m sure the Amalfi coast is lovely, although do not go in a motorhome unless you have a very strong constitution for driving. Campsites are limited and Motorhomes are not allowed on the Amalfi road. Go for a week’s holiday instead or even better, go on a cruise! It is the maddest area of Italy that we have experienced and that includes other main cities like Florence and Venice.  

12) Expect the unexpected here and you’ll be ok.

13) The fresh pasta and mozzarella here is incredible, as is their cheap wine. Stock on their baked beans found in larger supermarkets so that in your trip back up through western Europe you have supplies, as the French just don’t do Baked Beans!

14) Learn a few words of Italian as it is the most musical language ever and actually not difficult to converse with a handful of stock phrases. The best phrase I learnt was ‘Posso’, which means ‘Could I?’ From here you can say ‘Could I have’, ‘Could I pay’, ‘Could I buy’.  They appreciate the effort, even if it means you have to resort to Google Translate for the rest.

15) And finally, do come. We’ve not seen half of Italy yet and we still love it, you just keep your whits about you.

 

So our conclusion on Italy? There are many pockets of beauty in amidst some unlovedness, with crazy drivers and rubbish roads.  It is a bit like a sweet and sour dish. There are most definitely two flavours to Italy and whilst we will always go back, we do so with eyes wide open and our nerves braced.  For all our Italian adventures including Florence, this page gives you all our posts and videos. Italy in a nutshell.

 

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Top Spots in UK – An Interactive Map

Top Spots in UK – An Interactive Map

Quintessential England with afternoon teas on the lawn, chocolate-box villages with thatched roofs and duck ponds and swans. Just some of the images that come to mind when I think of our home country. And whilst for the moment we choose to roam around Europe and explore foreign lands,  there’s no doubting England has some gems.

A friend is coming to England this summer from New Zealand and so I have put together the highlights that we have come to know and love about this stalwart island and compiled it all into an interactive map. As a guide, it is of course not complete. It never could be as this is a personal journal of our highlights over the last fifty years as Britains. Although it is a start….

So we invite you in to explore:

  • The southern shores of Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset
  • The delights of the south west, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset
  • The quintessential heart of England in the Cotswolds
  • Bath and Avon
  • Wales and her borders
  • Up north including the Lake District, Northumberland, Derbyshire and York
  • Isle of Man – we couldn’t pass this opportunity up after living there 18 years.

 

For our interactive map combining all our highlights, click on the link below. Of course for more information why not check out the Lonely Planet’s Guide to England.

 

 

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Loulé – Algarve Authenticity

Loulé – Algarve Authenticity

The Algarve’s inland gem, Loulé is set apart from its tourist coastline cousins and was our first reconnection with the region after 15 years. Would our disappointing memories from that package holiday be erased, replaced by a more mature travel perspective? And would Loulé be our first healer? We really hoped so.

Our entry to Portugal from Spain was 40 miles inland away from the Algarve’s Atlantic coastline. And whilst I had my heart set on revisiting the craggy cliffs and rock artistry from Portimão to Sagres, we consciously chose to avoid the full length of this southern most region.

Loulé would be the first dipping of our toes in the Algarve’s proverbial waters, and after a recommendation to visit, I hit the research jungle drums, to find out more. I was captured by the phrases “authentic Portuguese village”, “not a tourist destination”. Now that was my kind of place.

 

Mértola

Although before I launch into regaling you with our tales of this fine town, let me tease you with a little preamble. Inland Portugal was a soothing introduction to our uncertain return. Winding our way through the curvaceous lands towards the Alentejos region, Mértola and its Natural Park of Guadiana was our first station stop. This Islamic icon initiated our Portuguese history lesson. Mértola, perched high above the river that courses its way to the Atlantic, is a walled city that houses Arabic tension and Christian dominance from way back in 10th century.  It was a lovely place to check out for a couple of hours. Here’s a little taster in a gallery below. 

 

N2 – Portugal’s Answer to Route 66

As keen motorbikers back in the day, our route south towards Portimão was shaped by the lure of Portugal’s answer to the famous Route 66. The N2 was in spitting distance from Mértola and this route had our names written all over it. The N2 glides from Chaves in the north to Faro in the south of the country, covering some 450 miles, tip to toe. It is classed as the longest continuous road in Portugal, winding through 4 different mountain ranges and crossing through 29 different municipalities. We joined it at Almodovãr and soon found ourselves snaking through the oak forest landscape that was as curvaceous as Marilyn Monroe. I could see why this is a Mecca for motorbikes. Traffic, now diverted onto the toll motorways for quick access north and south, leaves this road quiet, free and magnificent to drive. With the cork industry evident thanks to the half naked oak trees lining the roads, we wound our way to Querença having had a rich hour’s drive on this ‘not to be missed’ route through Portugal’s beating heart.  Click below for our gallery.

 

 

Loulé, a town of authentic charm

So back to Loulé and the reason for writing today. We love the charm of authentic villages. Communities where the locals hang out for morning coffee, buy their fish from the daily market and gratefully sell their wares to any passing trade. Would Loulé satisfy our search for such genuine communities?

Our arrival to Loulé initially didn’t give us the image we had hoped for. Although we have come to appreciate that, just like a cracker, it is what is on the inside that really counts. We found ourselves a safe place to park (37.13815, -8.02614) just a few minutes walk from the southern gate of the city walls and got our Maps.me route at the ready. In my research I found a great blog from the Algarve Tourist that acted like our own personal guide, giving us all Loulé’s POI and their relevant coordinates. What a find that was, as wandering aimlessly irritates the pants off me.

Yet our self guided walking tour was anything other than aimless or irritating. It was a joy to experience its cultural diversity, seeing Portuguese and North African residents live in harmony together. To feel the vibe of locals going about their daily lives without the intrusion of coach tours was a privilege. I’m sure tourists exist in the summer, although Loulé seems unrelentless in its desire to stay true to its authentic roots. With its cobbled streets that entice you to explore the local artisans, brightly coloured houses holding centuries of history and small bars and cafés tucked away in corners, Loulé is charm personified.

The arrival of Arabs in 8th century gave Al-‘Ulya’ its first real identity as a fortified city and many of its features still remain today such as the Islamic Baths, the bell tower of St Clemente church and the Muslim cemetery in the park across from the tower.  Although from mid 1200’s until 19th century Loulé’s character altered hugely as economic crises in the country impacted on its development and Christian dominance took hold of its architectural and cultural evolution.  Finally today’s finely tuned community fuses diverse inhabitants who are set on making Loulé home, irrespective of history’s struggles.  Click below for our interactive Walking Tour of Loulé.

 

 

Our Top 10 Sights

1. St. Francis Catholic Church

Set on the modern fringes of the town, this 17th century church looks plain and easily missable, although there will be crowds of people around its doors, so you’ll know you have found the right place. Although it is the inside that is meant to the main attraction. Unfortunately we couldn’t get in on our visit. 

 

2. Walk down the elegant shopping street Rua 5 de Outubro

As you head across from the Church, take the Outubro street which takes you down the tantalising shopping centre. Unlike so many other cities or towns, this is a short lane full of smart boutiques and shops selling a huge range of cork products. Cafés line the streets and with the artistry on the cobbled floor, you will experience shopping like never before – and guess what? So few tourists too. 

 

3. Take a peak at the Conceição Chapel

Whilst perhaps plain on the outside, it is inside the the view will amaze you. Sadly you’re not allowed to take pictures, although with an Alter full of gold and the walls of intricate blue images, this tiny space is quite incredible.  Conceição is a big lesson in never judging a book by its cover. 

 

4. See the excavation works at the Islamic Baths

We were lucky on our visit as the major excavations of these ancient Baths had an open door for us to peak through. It is a major project uncovering the remains of the walls and they are unearthing a significant piece of history. Hopefully you will be lucky too.

 

5. Bicas Velhas Fountain and Castle

Just behind the Islamic Baths, you will find a fountain that dates back to 1887 and that supplied the local population with their water. Look out for the four spouts one of which was made from smelting one of the bells from the Mother Church.  

And around the corner, you will find the Castle fortress and its museum. Its origin dates back to 2nd century when the Roman’s had a presence here, then the Moors more specifically took control until 1249 when the Portuguese gained control from the Muslims. You can visit from Tuesday to Friday from 10.00am – 1.30pm and 2.00pm – 6.00pm and on a Saturday from 10.00am – 1.30pm and 2.00 – 4.30pm. There is an entry fee of €1.62.

 

6. “Espirito Santo” Convent

This 17th century building is iconic, if not for its history than for its 45ft Pine tree, which rises from the centrepiece of the building. Initially occupied by Franciscan Friars, the convent evolved into a shelter for unprotected women and yet it was only in 1711 that the Pope recognised it as a religious sanctuary. The earthquake of 1755 had a devastating effect on the convent and had to be rebuilt and today it is now the home of the Art Gallery. You can walk into the inner court and crane your neck skywards to see the enormous Pine tree even if the Art Museum is not your cup of tea. 

 

7. Câmara and Municipal indoor market

After walking through the alleyway to see the back of the Convent (take note of the best public toilets in the square here that I have even had to visit) you will come out to the main N270 road through the town. And you won’t miss it – the elegance of the Town Hall and the unmistakable pink facade of the indoor market. The market is on every day and offers you a range of fish stalls, at least 20 butchers around the outside and an array of other yummy goodies to tempt you. Although if you want a bigger market experience, then come to Loulé on a Saturday when the Farmers’ and Gypsy market become the places to hang out. Check out our gallery by clicking below.

 

8. Medieval cobbled streets 

As you meander your way from the market towards the Igreja de São Clemente, towards the south side of the town, take some time to wander your way through the narrow, cobbled streets where artisans have small shops and café bars sell their tapas the locals. Here atmosphere is intimate and warm as daily life just toodles on by without a care for the visitors passing by. 

 

 

9. Igreja de São Clemente

As you walk away from the market, the Bell Tower of the Church of San Clemente is your call, visible way above the reaches of the medieval houses. The square that the church calls home is full of interesting points and it is worth glancing upwards as you marvel at the bells that toll around Loulé’s rooflines. The church was built on a mosque and has survived three earthquakes so has many tales of survival and perseverance to tell. 

 

10. ‘Martim Farto’ Townhouse and Muslim Cemetery 

Opposite the church notice a very different style of house, which is thought to have been a noble-man’s dwelling constructed in 18th century. With Baroque style architecture the house holds an interesting story; Martim Farto a counsellor and representative from the King’s Court was said to be godfather to most of the children christened at the time. To the left of the building also check out the unique chimney, which is so different to those seen around the country.  Also you will see the cemetery that is now a public garden and that can be enjoyed by all in the town.

 

More to see…

Whilst Loulé as a town is worth seeing in its own right, there are some special times to come visit and experience a cultural uniqueness.

 

Carnival time

If you can time your visit around 3-5 March you will experience the flamboyant carnival that grips Portugal at this time of year. Loulé has a reputation for being one of the best in the Algarve. Just check before you go as the annual carnival dates do change according to Easter calendar.

 

Market day

If you want to explore Loulé in the relative privacy of your own company then go Monday to Friday, as Saturday the place changes personality – it’s market day. Not only do you have a Farmers’ Market there’s also a Gypsy Market too and people come far and wide to visit. So expect more crowds, although what an interesting experience that would be.

 

So Loulé? What’s our verdict?

A delightful and historic place to visit way from the coastal crowds, that hums to the sound of Islamic and Christian war-dances that have scarred the ancient landscape. And yet paradoxically, peace and harmony now reign through the quiet, cobbled streets. For such a small town it has a big personality which will charm you and we highly recommend a visit.

 

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A Guide to Exploring Denia, Spain

A Guide to Exploring Denia, Spain

 

Delightful Denia, sat in the south east corner of Spain teeters on the edge of the Costa Blanca magnet. And yet Dénia could not be further from the Costa image that has been generated by decades of tourism to this sunny, southern fringe of Europe.  Authentic, vibrant and offering a wide variety of things to see and do, Dénia draws us back year after year. 

We are not great ‘returners’ to places because there is so much of the world to see, why would you want to have a return visit to somewhere? And yet, we all have our favourite ‘go to’ places where we feel instantly comfortable and pretty much ‘at home’. Dénia is that place for us. After five visits over the last three years, we strangely find ourselves magnetised to this corner of Spain and especially during the winter months, provides just a little sanctuary for our travel weary tyres.

And each visit opens up something new to us drawing us further in to Dénia’s irresistible charm. So much so that we feel we have now compiled a super list of things to entertain and delight you as you make your way to Spain’s southern beach belles. Why not swap the tourism of the coast for a little bit of authentic Spain wrapped up into a dynamic ball of culture, gastronomy and entertainment. 

 

Here is our Guide to this fabulous destination that could offer you a winter get away or a summer vacation with relaxation and activity blended together like a perfect cocktail. 

 

1. A peak into Dénia’s history

Dénia’s story begins way back when it was the capital of the Muslim Kingdom – if you are a historical purist then you would have to acknowledge evidence of Dénia’s prehistoric existence going further back than the history books can reveal. May be back then there was little interest in the town’s southerly location and oceanic position, although certainly as we crawl along the historical timeline we can see why Dénia was so widely admired by outsiders. 

The Greeks, Muslims, Christians and French have all placed their mark on Dénia in some form or another; whether it’s been to trade the raisins that were a strategic export from the town for over 100 years or using the 11th Century castle to protect their kingdom, Dénia’s place in history is firmly set.

In 18th century the Spanish regained control of this important region and it has been firmly in charge ever since. Now a modern grip has been placed on the town offering respite to tourists albeit not in the same way as its Costa cousins around the corner.  Dénia manages to maintain its authentic roots, charm and unobtrusive personality – that is until festival time. More on that in a moment.

With its busy fishing port and ferry hub for the Balearic Islands, Dénia refuses to remain passive in Spain’s economy. With its discrete hotels and restaurants positioned along the pedestrian promenade that stretches from sandy beaches, marinas to craggy coves, Dénia demands attention from those intent on passing by on the nearby AP7. Will you be one of them?

 

2. Our 3 favourite things to do in Dénia

 

Walking around the harbour, marina and promenade

The enormous marina oozes opulence as you weave your way through the Nautical Club and observe the gin palaces on display alongside the town’s promenade. For a moment you can gaze at their lavish lifestyle and dream. In stark contrast next door the fisherman moor up their rigs ready to off-load their daily catch in preparation for the fish market. Between 5-5.30pm every night, it’s worth heading into town to watch their antics and get a real cultural feel for Dénia’s working personality. Serenaded by parakeets that fly between the palm trees that lines the coastal road you can also admire the mastering of the Balearic ferry coming into to dock at 3.30 each day.  If you fancy the walk around to the breakwater behind the ferry terminal, you are rewarded with gorgeous views as you look back to the town’s skyline – particularly beautiful as the sun sets. A solar powered boat will happily escort you from just behind the ferry terminal back across the harbour to the main town promenade – all for free. 

 

Dénia’s markets

There’s nothing more authentic than a local market, where you rub shoulders with residents going about their daily lives. I love the feel, smell and look of markets with their vibrant colours and regional fare on display to tempt your taste buds. Dénia has two weekly markets; Monday morning’s market is all about clothes, shoes and accessories located at the western edge of the town at Mercadillo. And Friday morning is all about the fruit and veg stalls which is just two blocks away from Dénia’s shopping area – Marcos de Campo. Two streets of stalls draw you in with their calls of ‘Todo Euro’ – all for a £ – and there are certainly some bargains to be had. Although they don’t do much for the reduction of plastics sadly. 

At the top end of the Friday market area, there is also an indoor market, which is well worth a butchers, as they say! With meats, fish and bizarrely some vegetables too, this is a permanent market area and is great to wander around. So treat yourself to a coffee or chocolate and churros and just watch the market world unfold before your eyes.

 

Come in March and experience Las Fallas

Dénia may be a working port and a hub for authentic Spanish life, although you come mid March and the whole town takes on a completely different vibe. Firecrackers pop, bands play through the streets, traditional Valenciana customs come out of the wardrobe and 50ft statues appear through the streets. Las Fallas, the most bizarre experience that has to be entertained if you are in Spain in March. Throughout the whole Valencian region, this ancient tradition that stems from carpenters brings towns along this eastern coastline to life. For a whole week, these incredible works of art that have been crafted during the year are presented to the town. A competition for the best in their category, are vied for and money awarded for the most original art form. Papier maché, steel and wooden structures loom above you with intricate detail, which at the end of the week are burnt! It is just something you need to experience, just once in your life. Check out more about the festival by clicking here. 

 

2. Rides for cyclists

Dénia is positioned beautifully in a basin nestled between the Montgó Massif and Mount Pego creating a landscape of orange groves and almond trees. With these comes a lot of gorgeous flat cycling routes. For those looking for something more challenging, then just a few miles inland you will find plenty of mountains to test your skills, like the Col de Rates.  Cycling teams from all over Europe come here to train in the winter, so serious cyclists are well catered for.

 

gentle cycle through the orange groves

The route from the northern side of the town on the Via Verde to Els Poblets is fabulous. With the heady aroma of orange blossom from the acres of fruit laden trees, this car-free ride is wonderful. With the site of Mont Pego to entice you, this is a super leisurely ride. A quick refreshment at Els Poblets and then take the same route back, or along the coast if you are a looking for an alternative. From Camping Los Pinos, it’s a 18 mile round trip. From Dénia centre it’s about 11 miles. 

 

 

A challenging cycle around Montgó

If you are looking for something more testing or you have an electric bike like we do, then why not give the Montgó circuit a go. The ride will take you up the challenging mountain route from Dénia to Javea and then hugging the lower edges of the mountain you head back into Dénia on a good 19 mile round trip. And the views at the top are spectacular.  

 

A cycle to Jésus Pobre Sunday market

Another nice stretching cycle takes you out of Dénia out to a little mountain top village that each Sunday has a gorgeous  artisan market. So armed with strong legs for the ascent to the village and some pennies for a bit of lunch and a beer, you will be in for a treat on this fabulous cycle.  

 

3. Our 3 favourite Hikes for walkers

Dénia offers some wonderful walking, with gentle strolls along the coastline to more stretching hikes up through the Montgó Natural Park. Take your camera, your binoculars and of course water and layers as the afternoon winds can brew up suddenly in this area. Whilst we’ve not scaled the heady heights of Montgó as yet, we do have three favourite walks that we recommend. 

 

A saunter up to the Pepperpot

You can either join this walk from Dénia, if this is where you are staying and walk along the coastal promenade, or from Camping Los Pinos at Les Rotas. As you wind your way along the Mediterranean Sea, the crashing waves are mesmerising. This south easterly edge can be a bit breezy in the winter and early spring, especially whipping up in the afternoon so you will often see surfers trying their luck on the waves. Just past restaurant Mena, you follow the signs for Torre del Gerro and wind steeply up the hill to what is lovingly called the Pepperpot. This building that purveys the coast below it is actually the remnants of a 16th century fortification built to protect against pirates. The views from up here are magnificent. For instructions, you can use this link. If you’re feeling energetic, you can carry on up across the hill over towards San Antonio Lighthouse, although this is a big stretch and will take you another 2 hours round trip. 

 

A hike up to Javea’s windmills

This is a great climb up into the hills overlooking Montgó. Not only are you treated to superb views that can on a clear day take your eye up towards Valencia, your nature-loving personas will adore the wild rosemary, lavender and 650 other species of flora that call this landscape home. En route you will come across a run down and abandoned village that is now home to some amazing graffiti artwork. Perhaps locals see this as a blot on the landscape, although it is certainly a unique vantage point. As you continue to climb, you cross Las Planes and towards the ancient windmills that were built to maximise the winds that blow here to farm their wheat. Now mostly restored these windmills, some of which have been converted into homes, have incredible views over the Javea shoreline. It’s a walk that requires at least 3 hours and some sturdy boots, although a great hike of about 6 miles. For routes check this link out

 

A Walking Tour of Dénia

Every town seems to have their own free walking tour and Dénia is no different. If you head to the main Tourist Information Office you will be able to pick up information about their Walking Tours. We took ours during their LAS FALLAS festival in March 2017 and the tour takes in the Old Town as well as all the festival statues that are created specifically for this event. It is well worth visiting in mid-March to experience this extravaganza. 

Check out our gallery here….

 

4. Our 3 favourite places to eat

Dénia is a Mecca for food, as you might expect being both in Spain and on the coast. If you love seafood, then you. are going to love Dénia’s eating experiences. We have found three amazing places to eat that are our go-tos when we are here.

La Republic – Denia Marina

This is a place to come for a special event. It’s a five course meal for €21 and with views over the Marina and out to sea, it is a stunning location, with great prices. We adore it here. Read more about this special place here.

 

Fuegos – Bar and Grill

If you are looking for something more earthy, then you will never go wrong with this local restaurant. Always busy and in the four visits we’ve had here, we’ve not been disappointed. With a Menu del Dia for €14 and their house speciality half a chicken, this place is excellent value. 

 

Llaollao

Not a restaurant, although a must when you visit Denia – the frozen yoghurt shop. This is a great treat and if you can imagine your naughtiest ice-cream fantasy with toppings galore then you will have come to the right place. Located in the lower end of the buzzy Marco de Campo shopping street, Llaollao can’t be missed. It’s fluorescent green – and for between €3-4 you can have a tub of frozen deliciousness with toppings that take you back to childhood. We highly recommend it. 

 

5. Things to see beyond Dénia

You could easily while away your time in Dénia alone with buses, bikes and your own feet to guide you. Although beyond this magical town is a plethora of other sites that are worth exploring. For many of these we have hired a car, or had friends take us to these spots, so if you have additional transport, these are definitely worth looking at.  

 

The caves at Benidoleig

Not more than 15 minutes by car, or if you are feeling fit, you can cycle to (especially if you are electric assisted). The mountainous region surrounding Dénia is a jigsaw of natural and historical pieces that need to pulled together to complete your visit here. Whilst not the longest caves we’ve been in, they are of great archeological and scientific value. For a mere €3.90 per adult, €2 for children, this is definitely worth visiting. For more information check here.

 

Jalón Valley –  Almond Tree Blossom

Just 20 minutes by car inland, you weave your way through the Gata de Gorgos and reach the small town of Jalón, which if you are in the area in February is a must visit destination. With orchards of Almond trees, which are the first to blossom, this is a magical site. With the frame bordered by mountains, the pink and white flowers are worthy of photographing and walking through. The scent is heavenly.

 

Javea/Xavia

Javea is a popular tourist destination with its protected bay and shelter from the magnificent Montgó Massif. From Denia it is only a 15 minute drive away and buses will also take you there. It’s worth exploring for its harbour, coastline and old town. There is also a ferry that runs to and from Denia to Javea for €18 pp if you want to top off your experience. It runs from April to October – for more information and timetables, click here

 

Stand on the Greenwich Meridian point at Beniarbeig

Only 15 minutes away by car, or slightly longer if you cycle, you will reach the lovely little town of Beniarbeig. Famed for its old bridge monument and its Greenwich Meridian Point. Standing at this spot seems strange when you think you are directly in line with London a mere 1200 miles away.

 

Guadalest

If you have your own transport or can hire a car, then slightly further afield it is really worth visiting this gorgeous region. Just 15 minutes from Benidorm, Guadalest is steeped in history and is known to be one of the most highly visited sites in Spain. With its a reservoir surrounded by mountains and the castle and old town perched precariously on a precipice, Guadalest is full of charm. For a mere €4 you can enter the castle house and indulge in its history and bask in the views that, on a good day will take your gaze to the Benidorm coast. 

 

 

6. 3 Recommendations for sleeping

Dénia feels like home to us and each winter it draws us back. If you love the relative safety of a campsite then you’ll love  Camping Los Pinos.  At the southern end of the town, away from the buzz of port life and nestled in amongst the pines, you will feel a warm welcome from this family run site. Just a minute’s walk from craggy coastline, this site is perfect for watching sunrises, walking and cycling. The longer you stay the cheaper the site. For stays over 7 nights you pay only €15 and over 21 nights just a mere €12.50. It’s a multi-cultural site with a lovely mix of Dutch, German, British and French all connecting and social events at night, if that is your thing. Although this site is getting so popular that you will need to book.

 

Wild camping isn’t officially permitted in Dénia, like many places in Spain, although we do see vans down at Fernando’s restaurant at the northern end of town. Interestingly on Google Maps, it’s listed as an RV Park!  (38.847934, 0.102204). Although it’s a bit too busy down there for us with vans side-by-side. A night or two seems to be tolerated alongside the marina (38.837167, 0.120973).

 

If you ever need camping accessories or van supplies, then there is an excellent store up in the near-by El Verger. Just a 15 minute drive north, you will find an extensive offering of everything to do with camping, motor homing and caravanning. There’s even an Aire here if you need an overnight stop or services. (38.861775, -0.007745).

 

And if you prefer hotels or apartments, then why not check out Hotel Port Dénia by the Marina or the Bravasol Apartments in Las Rotas, right by the campsite. The apartments overlooking the coast can be rented for €29 per night if you are staying for 21 days or more. 

 

 

Final thoughts

Dénia has so much to offer and after three years and five visits, we still find new places to explore, by foot, by bike and further afield by car. Rich in gastronomy, festivals and day to day life, Dénia is ready to welcoming you with open arms and a warm heart. Each time we leave, it gets just a little harder – and that is coming from two free nomads roaming the world.  So next time you are heading for the Costas on the south coast, just make a short diversion off the motorway and check out the delights of Dénia – you’ll not be disappointed. 

 

 

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