El Palmar de Valencia: heart of l’Albufera
El Palmar isn't just a small hamlet of 800 inhabitants a few kilometers from Valencia. Culturally and environmentally, El Palmar is the heart and soul of l'Albufera, a natural paradise located on the shores of the L’Albufera Natural Park, surrounded by extensive rice paddies and the farmland that supply the city's pantry.
El Palmar de Valencia: some history
To understand the character of El Palmar, it's worth getting to know its origins, which date back to the Muslim occupation in 711 AD.
Around the year 1238, King Jaume I conquered the Kingdom of Valencia and distributed it among the Christian repopulators, except L’Albufera and Devesa, which he kept for himself and granted the fishing rights, an activity that was already practiced there, as is to be expected.
As a result, El Palmar became a hub of fishing activity and also a settlement where inhabitants of nearby towns like Catarroja and Silla built the first shacks. These shacks, called barracas, are a typical type of structure in the area, with gabled thatched roofs, some of which are still standing.
What about the famous rice?
Although it was already grown, rice harvest wasn't important until the 19th century, when it became more profitable than fishing. From here, road connections between the municipalities in the area and Valencia were improved, and it ended up as a beautiful and valuable site that is internationally recognized for its wonderful nature and cuisine..
El Palmar de València: how to get there
El Palmar is 20 kilometers from Valencia. The environmentally-friendly way to get there is by public transportation on EMT line 25, which is free if you have the Valencia Tourist Card. There is a bike lane to Devesa, but not to El Palmar, and cycling is also not recommended because the road is narrow and, in some sections, there is only room for one vehicle, so our advice is to always take the bus.
What to see in El Palmar
Let's start by saying that the setting in itself is already a feast for the eyes.
But to make things better and really give yourself a feel for the place, there are two main elements to pay attention to: the barracas and the boats.
The Valencian barracas in El Palmar
The barracas are in Valencia's DNA, which is why they are so recognized and one of the unique features to see in El Palmar. Plus, seeing them reflected on a surface like water is a sight to behold.
While it is true that the fire of 1883 took care of lowering their numbers, given their construction using highly flammable materials like straw, some still remain for you to see, and they have all been declared an asset of local relevance.
The oldest is the barraca of Tío Aranda (Calle Francisco Monléon, 26), which has also been recently restored. In addition to this grand ole barraca, there are others that you can see in the landscape when traveling around the area. In many cases, you won't be able to see them up close, since they are private property, but it is a treat to go for a stroll around here.
The one that you can enjoy first-hand is La Barraca del Palmar, also known as Barraca Amparo. There are events and showcookings and you can sign up for a boat ride and other group activities.
And speaking of boats...
Lateen sailing exhibitions
If there is one aspect of the silhouette of El Palmar and L’Albufera that complements the barracks, it's the iconic boats that sail the waters of the lagoon, propelled by their white sails, called lateen sails. You will see many other boats without a sail, but thanks to the Valencian Federation of Lateen Sailing, you can see the traditional ones in full action in the exhibitions they hold in the spring and summer. It is undoubtedly one of the most unique shows to see in El Palmar.
What to do in El Palmar
If, in addition to taking in and admiring the wonders that surround El Palmar, you want some action, here are some activities for everyone
El Palmar de València: a boat ride from its pier
One of the best things to do in El Palmar is to see the sunset from its pier or, better yet, from a boat in the middle of the lake.
Spending some time at the pier of El Palmar in Valencia will let you experience the feeling that time is standing still in this little piece of the planet, because it's barely changed in decades, and that's quite difficult to find these days.
It's not surprising that its unique aesthetics, especially at sunset, has provided the setting for series and movies such as, for example, El Embarcadero.
Be sure to take a good camera and if you have binoculars, so much the better.
Hiking in El Palmar de Valencia: El Palmar – L’Estell route
Walking through the municipality of El Palmar is always a good idea. Route 5 El Palmar – L’Estell is a very good option because, in addition to touring the town, it takes you through rice paddies and its length is suitable for everyone. It's a 6-kilometer round trip, the perfect distance to walk or ride, it’s totally flat and the landscape is breathtaking.
In short, it's a VIP box to observe the world of rice and birdlife of l'Albufera.
Where to eat in El Palmar
Unsurprisingly, one of the greatest charms of El Palmar and its surroundings is the great cuisine on offer.
You see, it's not just that l’Albufera is the cradle of the award-winning Valencian paella, which is quite a lot, but that the variety of local fish and vegetables, together with rice with the Designation of Origin, make for some delicious recipes.
Typical El Palmar dishes that you can have to try include all i pebre and llisa adobada, both based on fish: the first with eel - relax, if it's not your thing, it's made with other fish, but we recommend you try it - and the second with the local gray mullet.
If you like to cook, you can also drop by the El Palmar fish market (Caudete, 13) in the morning and buy fresh fish caught traditionally and sustainably in l’Albufera.
You can also have a paella made using the classic recipe, or one of the meat or fish variants that is cooked in any of the establishments in El Palmar, of which there are many.
Here is a selection of restaurants in El Palmar in the middle of ‘lAlbufera where you can't go wrong, because they're all traditional and they're renowned for working with typical recipes. They are El Palmar, L’Albufera, Nou Racó and Bon Aire.
RESTAURANTS IN EL PALMAR
Where to stay in El Palmar
As you can imagine, sleeping in El Palmar isn't easy because it's a small town in a protected environment. Because of this, the number of hotels in El Palmar is rather on the low side.
Staying in L’Albufera boils down to apartments or cottages in some town or coastal beach, or at the state-run Parador de El Saler. But don't let that stop you, because Valencia is nearby and has an extensive range of accommodations.
When is the best time to go to El Palmar?
If you want to see the nature of l’Albufera in all its splendor, the best time to visit El Palmar is in the months of May, June and July, and November, December and January. Although conditions are good year-round and the views are always impressive, keep in mind that in March and April the rice fields are dry.
And if you usually go on vacation in August, you can't miss the Fiestas del Cristo de la Salud, and especially August 4, when all the boats set out on the l’Albufera and a mass is celebrated in the middle of the lagoon.