Bathed in Mediterranean sunlight, the wooded undergrowth of the Sierra Corbera mountain range embraces the ruins of the Santa María Monastery, an ancient monastery founded in the 8th century by a hermit whose good name soon attracted others who came to form, over time, a community of Hieronymites. Dotted with several signposted trails, the La Murta Valley is one of the most emblematic enclaves of the Valencian landscape, particularly in terms of its flora.
La Murta enjoys its own microclimate of mild temperatures and high levels of humidity, encouraging numerous species to flourish, including the flowering ash, holm oaks, hawthorn, laurel groves, strawberry trees, viburnum tinus and myrtle from which the valley of La Murta gets its name.
Covering over 765 hectares, the La Murta valley is home to numerous indigenous plant and animal species, including Bonelli’s eagle and the Eurasian eagle owl. The attraction of its dramatic landscape is evident in the abrupt mountains that cradle the fertile valley and in its intense carstification, which has given rise to numerous potholes and caves, making for a mountainous landscape of great beauty in striking contrast to the coastal plain and the valley of the river Xúquer.
The La Murta Valley is also known as El Vall dels Miracles Miracle Valley — thanks to the medicinal properties of the plants that grow there, and these provided a source of income for the Hieronymite monks who dwelt in the monastery. Mother Nature has had a profound influence on the monastery, protected as it is by imposing landscapes and huge rocky crags such as La Creu del Cardenal and Cavall Bernat.
The Santa Maria de la Murta Monastery is identical to the nearby Sant Jeroni de Cotalba Monastery, which was also run by Hieronymites in its day, and comprises a church, a cloister, monks’cells, a facade, a refectory, a women‘s hospital, a guesthouse, a pool for collecting water, a clock tower and a bridge that was inaugurated by King Felipe II in 1586.
Once the focus for pilgrimages in the Middle Ages, the Santa Maria de la Murta Monastery and its surroundings still enjoy the serenity of the monastic worlds of old, thanks largely to their secluded location.
The winding course of the Xúquer flows past the towns of La Ribera, through a spectacular natural area touched by the hand of man, as if it were an animal set free. The bends in the river encircle mountain towns, some new and others conserved with care, and also the large, cosmopolitan towns of the valley. The Xúquer reigns imposingly over a district surrounded by pines, rice fields, orange groves, town walls, palaces and castles. Because the Xúquer in La Ribera is not just water, it is also history, culture and life.