Its turquoise reservoir and belltower glinting in the sun, Guadalest is the most visited village in Spain
As you journey inland to tiny Guadalest (population: 250 inhabitants) the busy city scenes quickly fade away and you are faced instead with mountain and sea views, orange and lemon trees and a sense of pure nature, interrupted only by the road you’re driving on and the odd café. As you continue to wind your way through the mountains you will soon be able to make out Guadalest’s iconic bell tower sitting politely on the top of the frequently photographed rock face. As a child this moment would always excite me as I knew that seeing the cube-like structure meant that we were near our destination.
As you walk into the village you are greeted with small shops selling local produce and souvenirs. You will also pass a small restaurant and the Belén Museum (which no doubt you will have already seen signposts for). This museum is full of intricate doll’s houses and, on the top floor, a whole village scene in miniature. Despite the price tag it is well worth a visit because the craftsmanship is truly beautiful. To the right you will see a small children’s playground with a few picnic benches, if you have come with children it might be an idea to relax here for a while and take in the picturesque scenery while they play on the swings and climbing frame.
After your relaxing break, return to the path and begin your walk to the main part of the village. This part of the journey involves walking up through a cave-like archway where, at some point, you will have a determined cameraman jump out at you – he won’t go away unless he gets the chance to snap you so just smile and walk on (if you wish, you can purchase the pictures on your way out, either printed or on a keyring.)
On this level are more shops, cafés and museums as well as the new church. The locals don’t mind you looking around the beautiful church but they don’t appreciate people loudly interrupting the ambiance and being disrespectful in their place of worship.
Moving on you will find more shops and cafés and (if they are open) the old dungeons! The dungeons are still dark and spooky but at the same time very interesting for both adults and children.
While you’re here, don’t forget to look over the wall at the marvelous turquoise reservoir, this reservoir provides water for all the towns in the area but the thing that impresses onlookers the most is it’s unusual colour and the way it actually glistens in the light – like it has been digitally enhanced or animated.
Also on this level of the town is an old house that one can explore (for a small fee of course). The house belonged to the wealthy Orduña family and has been made to look almost exactly how it did when it was inhabited years and years ago. After touring this house you can proceed up some metal steps to higher ground. This is the closest you will get to the white bell tower, believe it or not, although you pass it on the way up! It is difficult to believe that you are now higher than the bell tower you saw earlier from the car but it’s true and the views are fantastic. You will reach a cemetery where some of the graves are in bad repair and it can be sad to see the forgotten headstones but it is refreshing to see that there is no litter or disrespectful graffiti, despite the number of tourists that visit the place daily.
Returning from here you will walk down cobbled steps and go through a large metal turnstile – this is to stop those who have not paid the entrance fee from visiting the cemetery. This system is relatively new (as is the charge) but I don’t begrudge paying it as the views are worth it and the money goes towards the upkeep of the old house and cemetery. You will now find yourself back in the square and, after the long walk, probably ready for lunch in one of the lovely cafés or restaurants.
When you leave the upper level of the town and pass back through the archway you will see that you can head right to more shops, cafés and museums. Amongst these museums is the old torture museum – those of you that enjoyed the dungeons will love this place, it’s full of old torture devices and explanations of how they were once used. I recommend that you visit here because it truly is interesting.
Another place to visit while you are in Guadalest is the beautiful swimming pool. It is cheap to visit and could be a day out all of its own. The pool is wonderfully clean and there is also a children’s pool with a slide. The water is surrounded by grass and fat palm trees which provide perfect shade (and look a lot nicer than umbrellas). As you lie back on a sun lounger or float in the water you will see the spectacular mountain face rising above you and eagles and other birds flying overhead.
This is a truly magnificent sight and one of the most relaxing activities I have ever indulged in. Despite the hordes that visit Guadalest every year, it retains a unique ambience and is not to be missed.