Glorious Guadalest in mountainous Alicante

The Moors, rulers of much of Spain for 700 years until the end of the 13th century, knew a thing or two about strategy and chose to build their castles in the most inaccessible places. 

The picturesque village Guadalest was no exception.Rated one of the top tourist attractions in Spain, the village lies at the head of the Guadalest Valley, some 35 kilometres inland from the popular tourist resort of Benidorm and 25 kilometres from that artists’ paradise, Altea. The winding road from the coast to Guadalest is almost worth the trip on its own, passing as it does through stunning scenery. The valley is covered with woods of pine, holm oak, maple and ash and in the cultivated areas are orchards of apples, cherries, and pears,groves of olives, oranges, figs and lemons, and the local fruit, nísperos. 

Mountainous Guadalest in the heart of Alicante province

Moors built the castle 

The village economy relies almost entirely on tourism these days but from Moorish times its position at the top of a granite mountain where the Moors built their castle, rendered it almost unconquerable.Surrounded by the Aitana, Serella and Xorta mountains, it appears it was first settled by the Moors in around 715AD and the town grew up around the fortress. 

Although little remains of the castles that were built there over the centuries inside the walls of the old fortress of San Jose can be found an ancient dungeon and the bell tower. 

The village is split into two parts by a tunnel that was cut through solid rock. This is known as the Puerta de San Jose, taking its name from the Castle of San Jose which makes up the upper half of the village.The Moors lived outside the San Jose gate in an area known as El Arrabal and this is still the part around which the life of the village revolves. The upper part originally comprised of the castle and was where the Christian population lived and now also houses the palace of the Orduña family. 

The castle was, after the reconquest, given to Berando de Sarria by James II but in 1335 the Crown took it back and eventually it became the property of the Dukes of Gandia, the notorious Borgia family.It finally come in to the hands of the Orduñas who were the wealthiest and most influential family in the village from the 18th to 20th centuries.The Orduñas eventually died out and the palace was finally bought  and turned into the municipal museum. 

Gorgeous turquoise Guadalest reservoir

Med, mountain and valley views 

From the upper part the visitors can look over the walls and down into the valley where there are spectacular views of the Guadalest lake, now a reservoir that is fed by the Guadalest river. Looking eastward down the valley there are fabulous views all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. 

But Guadalest has far more to offer than just views.Practically every family in the village makes its living in some shape or form from tourism.Aside from the quality restaurants that specialise in the local cuisine, with rabbit, found in abundance in the valley,playing a leading role in the dishes.

Glorious Guadalest in Alicante province

Top spot for museums 

Guadalest has founded a reputation as the museum capital of the Costa Blanca. This tiny village houses no less than nine highly specialised museums.Perhaps the most incredible, as it bills itself, is the Micro-Gigantic Museum in Calle Iglesia. It houses the smallest exhibits in the world and also some giant sculptures.The collection includes a bullring built on a pinhead, the Bible on a section of hair, “The Three Graces” by Peter Paul Rubens, the Flemish Baroque painter, carved on the point of a pencil, a painting by the renowned court artist, El Greco, on a grain of sand and a flea riding a bicycle. 

Not far away in the Avenida de Alicante, is the remarkable salt and pepper pot museum. This has more than 20,000 items collected over decades and the pots include figures of birds, cats, dog, chickens and even astronauts and washing machines. 

For the ghoulish or those merely interested in the macabre, there is a museum in the Calle Honda that is dedicated to the tortures of medieval times.Its collection of instruments of torture reflect the hideous methods used by the Spanish Inquisition founded by Tomas de Torquemada in the 15th to extract confessions from those accused of crimes such as witchcraft, heresy and adultery.The implements include the Axe, the Wheel,the Bat, Guillotine and the Iron Mask. It also includes a variety of chastity belts!  

For those of a more modern and mechanical bent, there is the Motorcycle Museum, with its collection of bikes from the 1920s to the 1970s. 

Restaurants and shops in Guadalest

Taking a river trip 

Gift shops abound, many of them with high quality souvenirs, and there is a large Lladro pottery shop selling the world famous Valencia Communidad, of which Alicante is a province. Also on sale are leather goods, local olive oil and hierbas, the local herbal liqueurs of which each restaurant has its own recipe. The herbs to make the drinks are collected in the valley.And there are good walks to be had in the surrounding hills and valleys 

There are a number of hotels for those who wish to spend more than a day trip in this peaceful beautiful part of mountainous Alicante.The hotels organise boat trips on the spectacular Guadalest reservoir and this is no ordinary trip for the boat is solar powered. The trip includes pickups and returns to the hotels during the summer season.The value the Spanish place on their heritage is recognised in Guadalest and the village has been named a Monument of Historical and Artistic Value. 

Guadalest has survived earthquakes, fires,bombardments  both in the War of Spanish Succession from 1701 to 1714 and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, but the village still retains its picturesqueness and its old world charm, a tribute to the resilience of those who live there now and the generations before them.