This is a guest post by Trippy community member Tiffany Weber.
Between Barcelona and Valencia, lies a stretch of turquoise coastline that is better not forgotten. Along that stretch, just a 90-minute drive north of Valencia, Peñíscola is an easy day trip that is well worth the time in the car whether you have a few hours or all day. It lies in the northern part of the Comunidad Valenciana in the province of Castellón.
When the weather is nice, the super-fine sand will squeak beneath your feet. The beach is deep with a boardwalk running along it full or cafés and shops. You can walk this extensive beach all the way from Peñíscola to Benicarló.
Just before you reach the castle, you’ll come upon the old church. It’s small, but beautiful and free to enter.
The town is most known for the small island-like peninsula which sits at one end of the beach with palm trees, a bird garden, and a castle at one end. The castle is well worth the self-guided tour if you have time. Children up to age 12 are free. Adults cost 3.50 which includes a souvenir post card.
The view to the south from the top of the castle
Most of the castle rooms are sparsely furnished if at all, but they are good about putting up informative plaques on the walls in Spanish, Valenciano, German, and English so that you know a bit about where you’re standing. It’s quite impressive actually.
It’s hard to know when the original castle was built or what it must of looked like because of so many changes that have happened over the centuries. King James the First rebuilt it after the conquest in 1234. Since then, it’s been the witness and catalyst of an incredible history here in this little town. Declared the third papal see by Pope Pedro Luna who ended his life there, it was also the headquarters of King James himself, and the Order of the Templars from 1294.
This is one of two doorways built as part of the new facade between 1294 and 1307. The other was destroyed during the Independence War.
The self-guided tour allows you to relax and even picnic in the many open spaces within the castle walls. The roof itself is even spectacular with stairs leading all the way to the top. So spectacular that my 9-year old reached the top first and exclaimed, “Holy Cow!”
A rainbow in the distance over Benicarló.
Behind the castle on your way to tourist-restaurant-row and the ship museum, you’ll walk by this pretty old lighthouse.
The tiny streets and white homes that surround the castle on the hill are picturesque on their own, but particularly striking against the aqua waters of the Mediterranean. It’s easy to find a spot to sit and soak up the setting or stroll through narrow alleys and explore every nook.
To the right of the castle is a row of tourist shops. They’re easy to spot and fairly tacky with most of the items made in China. You can even find a Boomerang there which, I find, odd. If you follow this road to the end before it curves, you’ll find two wonderful things. One is a bakery and the other is a wonderful shop that carries items only made by local artists. It has some beautiful pottery and jewelry.
There’s a lot here to see if you take the time to explore and read the information plaques. Near the water behind the church is a small ship museum and then a string of restaurants that are geared towards tourists.
This is one of those seasonally touristy towns that serves up the most horrid food on earth for abominable prices and people smile though it because either the view is nice or they really think paella should taste that way. It’s pretty sad. There are a couple good restaurants, but this is definitely a place to ask a local. I’ve eaten average here twice (the second time was the decision of a travel companion).
The one exception is, of course, a bakery. If you look down the row of tourist shops to the right of the castle, the road slopes downward and at the very end before it veers right, there’s a bakery that’s been there since about forever. The woman who works there will tell you about her father who ran it before her. He was an extra in the Charleston Heston movie “El Cid” with Sophia Loren. There’s a picture on the wall. It’s a tiny storefront with no seating, but do try one of their pastries. The people are friendly and the treats they create are authentic and delicious. In fact, she’s be the perfect person to ask when seeking a good restaurant.
When to go? Off season. From late June through August, the town and beaches are completely packed. It’s hot and crowded. Go in the spring or fall if you can. The crowds are gone the beaches will feel like your own private paradise.
Kids: Very kid friendly, the beaches are huge, the water is shallow and clear, there’s a playground on the beach, and they will even enjoy biking on the boardwalk. Bring sunblock and lots of water and plan to spend the day. The castle is free for children under 12.
A full moon lingers briefly above the edge of the castle wall
that Jaime built long ago after the Moorish fall.
Where Papa Luna spent his days and nights,
where the Templars staged their fights.
The wars called just and holy though by means hardly so.
It was long ago.
And now I must leave too soon.
A walk along the beach shooting the moon.
Digging my toes into the sand that’s seen it all.
My first visit with photos: http://verbosevagabond.com/peniscola-spain/
Photos here are from my second visit: http://verbosevagabond.com/peniscola-spain-full-moon/
On top of being an awesome Trippy community member, Tiffany is also a mother of four, travel blogger, photographer, and foodie. This is resposted from her blog Verbose Vagabond. Follow her on Twitter to see where she’s trotting to next!
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