Chelva: Route is laid out in a circular itinerary, combining nature and culture in a pleasant, two-hour walk. The Plaza Mayor in Chelva, picturesquely beautiful, framed between the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles and the Town Council building, is the starting-point. From there, information panels show the way all round the route. Throughout history, the waters of River Chelva have been very useful to mankind and water was used for everything: human consumption, irrigation, producing energy or milling.
Archaeological remains of human activities can still be seen, such as the Peña Cortada aqueduct, some ancient mills and the abandoned electric power station, suggestively named “Luz y Fuerza de Chelva”.
The path leads from the Plaza Mayor to the Arabic quarter of Benacacira, a small Muslim neighbourhood built in the 11th century on a promontory. This neighbourhood still shows its original layout. Exploring its alleys, enveloped by the tinkling of water and the whitewashed walls, takes visitors back to a distant past. A recommended visit is Plaza de Benacacira, where the neighbourhood’s early inhabitants held their traditional market and where the hermitage of La Soledad can be seen, built on the site of the original Arab mosque.
The path, through market gardens and irrigation channels, comes to the Fountain of Las Ventanitas, with two spouts, dating from 1828. From that point, the path goes downhill to the Molino Puerto recreation area, the next stop along the route, where the River Chelva arrives from the Tuéjar direction, later flowing into the Turia next to the now-disappeared Domeño. Along this section, walkers are accompanied by poplars, oleander, reeds and other typical riverbank vegetation.
AFTER THE ROUTE
Chelva is not just water and nobody should come to the district capital without paying a visit to the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, the Gitana Fountain, the Sanctuary of El Remedio or the village of Ahillas. The Baroque facade on the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, in four sections, was started in 1626. The church stands on a Latin-cross ground plan and has a barrel vault, a large dome over the transept and a sturdy bell-tower displaying a peculiar historical clock, which shows the time, the days of the week and the month. Opposite it stands the Town Council building, housed in the old palace of the Counts of Chelva. A visit to the Gitana Fountain is also a must. This is a picturesque spot overlooked by a fountain with 20 spouts of fresh water. Near the fountain stands the bull-ring with capacity to seat 5,000 people.
The outing could finish with a visit to the Sanctuary of La Virgen del Remedio, consecrated to Chelva’s patron saint. This is a privileged spot overlooking the whole district and which takes us to the village of Ahillas, through lush Medterranean forests.
From the centre of the Moorish quarter, we continue along the path to the small Jewish quarter lying on one sloping side of the town, surrounded by Calles Azoque and Caballeros. This neighbourhood maintains its original enclosed layout intact, with arcaded streets and an access gateway, with its prominent Azoque Arch. The Arrabal has an old synagogue, whose remains still exist in the interior of some of the neighbourhood’s houses. The route concludes when, via Calle de Caballeros, we come back to Chelva’s Plaza Mayor.
The path continues to the playeta, the next stop along the route. The playeta is a beautiful spot carved out by the River Chelva, where its waterfalls and pools have made it a traditional bathing-site. The sand accumulated on the bank is what gives it its name: playeta (little beach). The narrowing of the river and the lush vegetation create some spectacular sights. The place-name reveals its Arab origin: Olinches, La Mozaira or Orán.
Very nearby, close to the playeta, we can see the remains of an old mill from medieval times, which remained in operation up to the mid-20th century, and a new fountain: the Cuco.
After visiting the playeta and retracing our steps, the route heads up-river, past the medieval bridge of Reatillo, to the Montecico Caves, a spot where you have a spectacular panoramic view of Pico del Remedio, over a thousand metres in height, and La Torrecilla, a watch-tower of Iberian origin. On this section of the route, there are curious limestone formations in the river’s fluvial terraces, together with caves gouged out in the rock walls. There are also similar caves to be seen down-river, in the area of the power plant. There is some evidence that the caves were inhabited in Arab times, and between the 12th and 13th centuries were used for storing grain and as a refuge for soldiers in wartime.
Back on the path, we enter the town via Plaza del Arrabal, the gateway from Valencia direction. This square was historically the town’s neuralgic centre, the plaza where the market was held and the meeting point between the Moorish quarter and the Jewish and Christian quarters. It was also where the first Town Council was located, the body that represented civil authority and governed the community in the 16th century. On the building’s facade, sculpted in bas-relief, is the original arms of Chelva. After crossing the square, a short distance away from it, we can freshen up at the fountain of the Hermitage of Los Desamparados, built in the 17th century. Right in the centre of the Moorish quarter of Arrabal stands the Hermitage of Santa Cruz, previously the Mosque of Benaeça, built in the 14th century. At the beginning of the 16th century, the mosque ceased to be used for Islamic worship and was consecrated to the Christian faith, though without losing its original structure. The most significant change consisted of eliminating the minaret and adding a bell-tower. The building’s main body has conserved its original layout: rectangular ground plan with three aisles separated by arches perpendicular to the facade, following the model of Hispano-Muslim mosques.
How to get there?
The CV-35, which joins Valencia to Ademuz, leads to Chelva, going in the Llíria-Casinos direction. Travellers coming from the centre and south of Valencia province have the option to use the A-3 (Valencia-Madrid), up to the Utiel turn-off along the CV-390 highway. From Chelva you can arrive to the Peña Cortada Aqueduct by the CV-346 highway to Ahillas, and then the first turn-off to the right after passing the bull-ring. The road comes to an esplanade that leads onto the aqueduct, four kilometres ahead. The route is sign-posted.