Peaceful sands, rocky coves and sweeping, boulder-strewn beaches make for the harmonious combination of stone and sea in the south of the Province of Castellon between Almenara and Burriana. Here the asphalt comes to an end, giving way to the lingering dark green of the orange groves that softly sway in the evening breeze, to the life of wetlands and water sources, to the chalky rocks that change their hue with the passing of the hours and to an oasis of palm trees scattered on the very seashore. Nearby the spectacular modernist architecture of Burriana, the mediaeval walled town of Mascarell near Nules and the beaches and wetlands of Almenara Xilxes and Moncofa — the remnants of an ancient marshland which survive thanks to their streams of crystal-clear waters — wili make a deep impression on any visitor.
The Alrnenara Iandscape sweeps harrnoniously down from the Sierra de Espadán mountains to the still, emerald – green waters of its wetlands.
The word natural perfectly encapsulates Almenara, the first coastal town in southern Castellón. Its landscape sweeps harmoniously down from the rolling beauty of the Sierra de Espadán foothills to the still, emerald-green waters of its wetlands: three lagoons that are the remnants of an ancient marshland and survive thanks to their freshwater springs — ullals in Valencian — which flow almost as far as the Mediterranean.
The beach at Almenara, which is called Casablanca beach, stretches for over three kilometres and still retains the flavour and tranquillity of the summers of yesteryear. Composed of stone, pebbles and boulders, it is bordered at one end by a freshwater channel called Gola and a hundred-year-old eucalyptus tree that stands over 17 metres tall. Along the wilder stretches of the beach, the silence of the surfers and sailors is broken only by the sound of the waves and the seagulls, while its more urban stretches, which are overlooked by small fishermen‘s houses, habitually ring to the sound of summer fun.
A stroll amongst the wetlands or estanys reveals the area’s flora and fauna, its agriculture and also its history. The trail begins at the old quarry, which has since been made into a recreational area, and then rises to an outcrop known as La Penya dels Estanys. It was here, with the breathtaking views, that the Romans built a temple — in honour of the goddess Venus, no less — and where they pitched camp while they were building the dam at Sagunto.
The next stop is the wetland with its three lakes separated by reed beds and filled with water from aquifers on the Sierra de Espadan range, which springs naturally forth from the ullals. The trail then continues on to the forest of white mulberries, an unusual wooded area that provides the local ecosystem with great riches. From the white mulberries, the trail takes us to the rice fields, one of the most characteristic sights in the Region of Valencia’s wetlands. Along the way, walkers may spot some of the local plants and animals, such as reeds, cat’s tail, tamarinds and, until recently, water lilies, or the common toad, water snakes, tortoises and birds, including the blue duck and the heron.
Xilxes, two beaches and a lookout.
Next stop along the trail is a stretch of coastline with just over one kilometre of perfectly unspoilt beach that belongs to the town of La Llosa, between Almenara and Xilxes. La Llosa is blessed with a great number of fountains, such as La Fonteta, La Font Redona and La Font del Carcau, and it also shares marshlands with Almenara and Xilxes.
Of Moorish origin, La Llosa sits on the flattest area of the Plana Baixa district among orange groves and rice paddies. A peaceful esplanade one and a half kilometres long begins just outside of La Llosa. Taking in both paved and landscaped areas, it runs the length of the two beaches at Xilxes: El Cerezo beach and Les Cases beach. El Cerezo, which literally means Cherry Tree Beach, is noted for its gently sloping golden sands, while Les Cases beach is much more urban and in summer is home to many cultural activities and youth competitions.
Worthy of special mention along this stretch of the Castellon coastline is the walkway that extends 100 metres out to sea and offers visitors the unusual sensation of floating over the Mediterranean waters. There are also severa! breakwaters set along the shore at Xilxes, making it a great place to enjoy a spot of fishing. To the east of Xilxes and bordering the coastal towrn stands a wetland area of major ecological importance, teeming with hidden life.
The old quarter of Xilxes is three kilometres from the sea. Despite its lack of major architectonic constructions, it is well worth visiting thanks to its parish church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Built in a neo-classical style over the remains of a previous temple dating back to Roman times, it is one of the few churches that still has its primitive façade in good condition. The church stands on Plaza de España square, alongside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), the Casa Abadia (Abbot’s House) and the Fuente de la Unión fountain.
Moncofa is a town of Moorish ongin. After its fall to King Jaume I in 1254, the Aragonese nobleman Guillem de Montcada granted the Carta Puebla charter to Bernat Mestres and 37 other inhabitants. Moncofa was traditionally a fishing village, and nowadays the Moncofa coastline stretches for over six kilometres and includes a wetland known as l’estanyol plus six beaches.
The geological make-up of Moncofa is due to a large extent to the Belcaire River, which was previously known as the Rio d’Uixó and which forms a delta at Moncofa, sloping down into the sea. The Belcaire was a major commercial route, and the archaeological remains of lberians, Romans and Carthaginians have been found in its vicinity. Moncofa offers a huge variety of walks, from hikes through the rugged landscape of l’estanyol, with spectacular views over the estuary, the beaches and the Torre Forçada de Beniesma tower, to other more cultural and historical strolls taking in sights such as the Santa Maria Magdalena church, the modernist fountain in the square, the Santa Maria hermitage and the remnants of the fortified walls that used to defend the city of yore against Berber incursions. As well as the City walks and the nature trail through l’estanyol, there is also a signposted path to the Roman villa of La Alqueria (The Farmstead).
Dating from the 3 century AD, these remains reveal an agricultural villa from the imperial age, which stood at the crossroads between the Via Augusta and the cami Cabras, a road that used to run from Vall d’Uixo to the La Torre jetty whence cereals, wines and oils would be exportad to Roma. Along this path, visitors can also see the reed beds of the River belcaire, which are of great natural interest.
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