Albufera Natural Park
This is where the paella was invented
Just 10 km from the city. Nature in its purest form, magical sunsets, boat rides and the chance to disconnect like nowhere else. An urban oasis surrounded by paddy fields and woods: that is what L’Albufera Natural Park means to anyone who is familiar with it. You will definitely want to pay a visit if you’d like to discover the origins of Valencian cuisine. Because what better reason to come than the fact that paella was invented right here?
Head over to the town of El Palmar and try their traditional dishes. Sample some all-i-pebre (eel stew flavoured with garlic and pepper) and marinated striped mullet. You’ll experience a new way of understanding food: enjoying it while also learning its origins. Take a walk along one of the six signposted routes through the nature reserve. Discover all the waterfowl and vegetation, live like an authentic local fisherman on Spain’s largest lagoon. You are sure to return.
HOW TO GET TO L'ALBUFERA
You can get to the park on EMT city bus numbers 24 and 25. From the centre of Valencia, the number 24 will take you to El Palmar and the number 25 to El Perellonet, in less than an hour and for just €1.50 each way. Both buses are free with the València Tourist Card.
You can get off at the Embarcadero or El Palmar stops and enjoy a ride in a traditional boat on L’Albufera Lagoon.
TOUR L’ALBUFERA BY BIKE
If you want to keep fit, you can also ride to the park from Valencia by bicycle. There is a bike lane parallel to the V-15 road that will take you all the way there. You active types might even want to tackle the Vuelta a l’Albufera by bicycle. This 78-kilometre circular route from Valencia runs through the paddy fields in the marshes and the Mediterranean coastal forest, exploring the ports and fishing villages around the lagoon.
Another way to enjoy L’Albufera Natural Park is the Albufera Bus Turístic. This sightseeing bus offers the most comprehensive tour of L’Albufera Natural Park, exploring the ecosystems of the paddy fields. The tour also includes a boat ride.
The highlight: a boat ride
A boat ride is the best way to see the bird life close up and relax in this fantastic natural environment. At dusk, the reddish golden hues of the sunset create a truly magical atmosphere.
There are docks at Gola de Pujol and in the ports in Catarroja, Silla, Sollana and El Palmar. You will travel in a type of handcrafted boat known as an albuferenc, and the ride lasts around 40 minutes. You can also book outings that combine a boat ride with a tour of a traditional barraca (cottage), or an authentic paella, of course.
Exploring the local ecosystems
The main attraction is the large freshwater lagoon spanning more than 2,800 hectares, the largest in Spain, to which the park owes its name: L’Albufera. It provides shelter for up to 300 different species of birds throughout the year, especially the waterfowl that winter there, including flamingos. In fact, L’Albufera has been designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, and since 1994, as a Special Protection Area (ZEPA).
If you're interested in ornithology, at the Racó de l’Olla Interpretation Centre, you can learn more about the park's bird life and do some birdwatching from its observatories and the observation tower, which offers a panoramic view.
The lagoon is surrounded by a landscape of marshes and paddy fields, which are completely transformed with each phase of the agricultural cycle: green in summer, blue in winter when water floods the fields, and brown when the ground is left bare. And on the strip that separates it from the sea, you will find a unique ecosystem: the natural dunes and pine woods of La Devesa. Visit in summer to relax in the sun between the rugged vegetation and the sea, on wild beaches like L’Arbre de Gos, Devesa, El Saler and La Garrofera.
At any of the docks, you can get a boat to Tancat de la Pipa, a biodiversity reserve inside the park that is open to visitors with advance reservations. It is made up of 40 hectares of paddy field that in 2007 were turned into a group of aquatic habitats thanks to dense vegetation that functions as a powerful filter, boosting the water quality. Additionally, the former La Pipa turbine house now serves as a small visitor centre with a spectacular view of the park from the viewpoint.
How to see L'Albufera
At La Devesa, you can choose from six trails to investigate the local flora, landscapes and history. There are also various trails to explore the entire park whichever way you like: on foot or by bicycle. And if you download one of the different audio guides (available in Spanish and English) to your mobile, you will find valuable information to enhance your visit and allow you to appreciate this incredible natural environment even more.
For your convenience, Visit Albufera offers bike hire so you can tour the park on your own, organizes guided walking and bike tours, and has combination tours with a boat ride. There are even lunches or dinners while you're aboard. What more could you ask for!
Blasco Ibáñez, chronicler of L'Albufera
No one was better able to portray life in L'Albufera than Valencian author Vicente Blasco Ibáñez.
Some of his novels, including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Blood and Sand, were made into films starring such actors as Glenn Ford, Tyrone Power, Rita Hayworth and Rudolph Valentino.
Fishing in L’Albufera
During fishing season, October to April, the delightful fish market (Caudete, 13; El Palmar) offers local wild eel, as well as sea bass, striped mullet and carp. Legally recognized by King Jaume I in 1250, the Fishermen’s Association is made up of 400 members, of which 100 are still active. There are 56 established fishing areas, which are assigned by drawing lots each season in what is known as the redolin draw. The name comes from the small wooden balls into which the fishermen insert a piece of paper with their name. These are then placed in the raffle drum. As each ball emerges, the fishermen choose their fishing spots. The last one to be picked will be the pesador for the fish market, responsible for weighing all the day's catches at the market, in exchange for a percentage of sales.
Their catch is offered for direct sale year-round at the market: striped mullet, eel and blue crab, in season.
If you're planning on making a purchase, it is best to call the market (+34 961 620 347), ask what they have that day, place your order and then go pick it up. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 8.00am–2.30pm, and Saturday until 1.00 pm.