Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mediterranean Walks....Benidorm

No, this is not a spoof post. Despite the reputation that Benidorm has for other kinds of holidays, it does make an excellent base for doing some walking in the surrounding region. Which is not to say that you can't also stay in a small, quiet village in the hills if that's what you prefer, but both of the routes described here are very easily accessed from the resort.

Objective number one was the peak of Puig Campana, close to the coast but still reaching over 1400 metres at the top. Easily visible from Benidorm itself, where you can clearly see the distinctive cleft in one of the two summits, the route began by taking a bus from the stop near the Hotel Bali to the village of Finestrat. In the village itself you walk up towards the mountain until you reach the fountain called Font del Molí. From this point the path to the summit begins.

The first part of the climb is relatively easy, and helps to stretch your muscles a bit for what comes later. I had done Puig Campana before, several years ago, and remember it being a very tough climb. The most direct route to the top follows the gully between the two summits, but this is full of loose rocks and stones. The trick is to try and find the path, such as it is, that runs up the side of the gully.

Always staying within a range of 40 metres or so from the stones, there are various narrow paths to the right going up which help you to avoid walking on the rocks. It's a steep climb, but then that  gives you a good excuse to rest occasionally and enjoy the views.

Faced with the last, narrower part of the gully we decided to do a bit of a shortcut which after a little bit of scrambling worked quite well and connected us with the much gentler path that takes you the rest of the way to the summit. The views from the top of Puig Campana are spectacular. You see the towers of Benidorm very clearly, as well as the line of the coast all the way up to Calpe.

To come down the mountain we opted for descending on the other side, facing inland. We met plenty of people coming up that way and it's also a steep path; although a bit more recognisable than than the gully route we took to ascend. On the other side of Puig Campana it's no longer so evident that you are in a major tourist area. The walk back to Finestrat is considerably longer as you have to do a circuit around the base of the mountain, but it's mostly easy walking as well as being quiet and beautiful.

For day two of the Benidorm weekend we didn't even need to get a bus out of the town. The Serra Gelada is the range of hills (and cliffs) that runs along the coast between Benidorm and Alfás del Pi. To start the route from Benidorm's Rincon de Loix you just need to find the road that takes you up to the cross overlooking the beaches and the town below. Here the road ends and you take a footpath through what is still thankfully a protected area. The weather and visibility were perfect for walking on the day we did this route (in May), this is Puig Campana seen from the Serra Gelada.

Behind us was Benidorm.

This was the way ahead. The route itself is not difficult, but it is not flat either. Several times you have to descend only to climb back up on the other side of the dip. The path always sticks fairly close to the coast, a bit too close in some places if you are a vertigo sufferer. I prefer to look down at the sea from a safe angle rather than go right up to the edge of the cliff and look down.

For a while you have to look inland for signs of development, but eventually the coast of Alfás, Altea and Calpe comes into view. As you get nearer to the end of the track it starts to descend quite sharply. We went down to the beach to have a drink and a rest, but then we returned back to Benidorm via the same route. This makes for quite a long walk, but not a particularly exhausting one; the alternative is just to get a bus back from Alfás del Pi or the train from nearby Altea.  As long as the days are not too short the return walk can be taken at a very gentle pace. So who said Benidorm is just a place for beach holidays?

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Rob Innis said...

Great blog and totally correct - I have walked many Kms up in the mountains behind Benidorm. But if I am walking I prefer to stay up there but I have also had some great times in Benidorm.

jonesey said...

Just found your blog on expats and we are contemplating coming back to Europe and settling back in the Costa's, we re-built a Finca back in the late 90's in SAX. Looking at Benidorm brings back so many good memories and to be honest have had some great views and tramping as they call them in New Zealand. But it just goes to show you can even find some spectacular scenery that used to be my doorstep and never even knew existed. Just a quick question before I go...Is Spain out of the recession and will it ever go out of the Euro and back to the old currency do you think. ??

Graeme said...

@Rob Innis

Thanks Rob, we have use of an apartment in Benidorm so that makes the decision on where to stay an easier one to take. I did spend an enjoyable weekend in a village in the hills last summer but there's something extra in a day's mountain walking when you can finish it by the beach.


No, Spain isn't definitively out of recession and even when that is confirmed recovery could be slow. As for the euro, place your bets. I wouldn't say at the moment that the peseta is not going to return - if it could be done in an orderly way it might not even be such a bad thing. But if it happens it's very unlikely to happen that way.

Alex said...

My comments may not be too popular with most of your readers, but I can't help but cringe in seeing the massive high-rise buildings on a coast that used to have charming Mediterranean communities. Everything is geared to attracting the tourist and their money, at the expense of the culture and environment of the location. Of course I must concede that they've done it to themselves by voting in corrupt governments year after year, but I can't help but cringe nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Instead of walking back over the Sierra de Helada, we walked back to Benidorm inland, on the flat, along quiet, pleasant roads and tracks.

Our attempt on Puig Campana was where I learned that 2 litres of water per person is not nearly enough (in June). Twenty years later I can still remember my first drink afterwards (orange juice).