Most travel guides and tourist handbooks introduce you to the main attractions of Spain. Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada are covered in depth. They are fascinating places to visit and you could spend weeks exploring them. However, it would be unfair to neglect some of the lesser known but no less interesting towns and villages. One of these is Guadalest.
Perhaps what is particularly intriguing about Guadalest is that it is so close to another, very well known holiday destination, Benidorm. However, the two places could not be more different. The delights of Benidorm are well documented. Beaches, bars, nightlife and entertainment, Benidorm is not generally for those wanting to savour the real Spain.
In contrast, Guadalest is a picturesque fortress village that still has its share of venues, mostly catering to the tourist, but without the clubs and chaos of its better-known neighbour. If you are looking for a few nights away with time to reflect, some walking, climbing and unusual museums thrown in, then Guadalest might be for you.
Guadalest is surrounded by the Aitana, Serella and Xorta Mountains. It was a strategic military stronghold that dates back to 715AD. Now it relies on tourism as its main source of income. However, in spite of the odd earthquake the ruins and original features have been preserved and there is plenty here for the visitor on a weekend trip.
The town grew up in and around the fortress of El Castell de Guadalest and is just 25 km inland from Benidorm. As a fitting introduction, you enter through a gateway tunnelled into the mountain.
El Castell de Guadalest
During the Middle Ages and until 1609 El Castell de Guadalest was the name of the town inhabited by the Spanish Moors. The history of Moors in Spain and their fluctuating fortunes is worth studying in itself. Wherever they inhabited you can guarantee that there is a wealth of interesting architecture and stories to match.
There are several museums based here. Orduña House is a ‘grand house’ furnished in the style you would expect of a building populated by nobility. You’ll find a library, state rooms and an exhibition gallery. The surrounding streets are worth exploring but you will need your best walking shoes to take full advantage.
From the Museum you can climb to the highest part of the fortress, San José Castle. It’s a steep climb but with the reward of some fantastic views of the surrounding countryside once you get there.
Two rather unusual art collections can be seen in the museum of microminiatures. On the one hand there are paintings and other works of art that are so tiny they use parts of insects, strands of hair and grains of corn as their canvas. These miniature creations are unlikely to be replicated at home! Alongside these are set the giant sculptures that the museum houses.
Perhaps not to everyone’s taste is the museum of medieval torture. It contains, as you would expect, a selection of torture instruments, not all of them confined to the middle ages. It is a reminder of how creative humans can be when it comes to inflicting punishment on one another.
Les fonts de l’algar
If you prefer nature to architecture and museums, you might visit the Algar waterfalls. These are situated very close to Guadalest and are a particular attraction, especially during the summer season when you can cool yourself down in the crystal clear water of the swimming area. There are natural pools as well as the water falls themselves and flora and fauna to look at.
On the hill there is a botanical garden with more than 500 species of cactus. There are several restaurants on the way there if you decide to replenish your energy levels on the way up.
Somewhere to stay
If we have convinced you to visit Guadalest and you don’t want to combine it with a trip to Benidorm, then you might want to stay at Cases Noves. This is a small ‘boutique’ hotel that comes with glowing recommendations from the people who have stayed there.
It is set within the Castell de Guadalest, so comes with spectacular views. Inside looks pretty good too and the attention you’ll receive from the hosts, Sofia and Toni, is hard to beat.
Guadalest information guide: