The Albufera Natural Park and Lake in Valencia, a haven of peace 15 minutes from the city.
What is the Albufera of Valencia?
The Albufera of Valencia is a coastal lake or lagoon separated from the sea by a shoal or cord of sand communicated directly with the sea through a channel (gola de Pujol). It also has 4 other water channels or golas although none has a direct connection with the sea.
It is the largest coastal lagoon in Spain with an area of about 2,800 hectares.
It is located about 10 km from Valencia to the south.
All of this and much more makes it worthwhile to perform a guided visit to the Albufera of Valencia.
Why is it called Albufera?
The name Albufera comes from the Arabic al-buhayra which means small sea.
The word Albufera does not refer only to Valencia but is used to refer to similar geographical features in different parts of the world.
What is the origin of the Albufera?
The origin of the Albufera lake goes back more than 2.5 million years to the Pleistocene. A depression of the plain located in this area, between the mouth of the river Turia and the Júcar, turns it into a bay. From this moment on, and little by little, the soft tides allow sediments to settle on the coast. In this way, a cord of sand is formed that separates it from the sea.
In Roman times, the sand that separates the lagoon from the Mediterranean Sea had just been formed. In fact they know it as Nacarum Stagnum or Lake of Mother of Pearl. However, it is directly connected to the sea through several channels.
In Roman times the area of the Albufera was much larger than it is today. In fact, in its origin it had around 30,000 hectares as opposed to the current 2,800.This decrease is due to the fact that from the Arab period onwards, land was gained from the lake to cultivate rice.
Fresh water lake or salt water?
Although it was formed from a coastal bay and therefore its water was salty, it is not salty today. The water in Valencia’s Albufera is fresh.
After the contribution of fluvial and marine sediments that formed the littoral bar, these are later established in the soil of the lake itself. This gradually changes the origin of the water. Instead of penetrating the salt water of the sea it is the numerous natural springs or ullals which they do it. Also contributing to this is the fresh water that comes from the many ravine beds that surround it.
Declared a protected Natural Park
In 1986 the Albufera lake was declared a Natural Park with a surface of more than 21.000 hectares. It also has other recognitions such as “Wetland of International Importance” in 1971, “Special Protection Zone for Birds” in 1990 and “Micro Flora Reserve” and “Fauna Reserve”.
The reason why it has received so many recognitions is because it is a wetland of high environmental value, and in particular for waterfowl. In fact it is one of the three most important wetlands in Spain. In this Mediterranean marsh a series of elements come together that make it a unique and particular ecosystem.
The climatic and geographical conditions, such as its proximity and contact with the sea, make the temperature of the water warmer. This allows for a great variety of native flora and fauna.
The Albufera Natural Park is roughly made up of 3 large complexes:
· La Dehesa of el Saler
La Dehesa of el Saler is part of the Albufera Natural Park. of Valencia. This is a Mediterranean forest on dunes located in the restinga or coastal cordon. In the Dehesa there are about 800 species of different plants. There is an abundance of Aleppo pine and the undergrowth of palmettos, myrtle, rosemary, lentiscos and sarsaparilla, among others. Species that have acclimatized to the harsh conditions of wind and salinity. As for native fauna there are some species in danger of extinction due to human action. For example the jinetas, the badger or the fox. We can highlight the recently reintroduced Mediterranean turtle.
In the Dehesa of el Saler there are three beaches: the Saler, the Garrofera and the Devesa.
· The lagoon
It has a great value not only ecological and landscape but also ethnological and economic. Their bushes(marshy vegetation), shelter offspring and allow many birds to rest. Along the lagoon there is fishing for endemic species such as the “gambeta” or the eel. The all i pebre of eels is one of the most traditional dishes of the Albufera of Valencia. Some of the fishing techniques have more than 600 years of tradition, which provides that ethnological value. In addition, fishing brings economic benefits to fishermen in the area.
On the other hand we can not ignore the scenic beauty of the Albufera of Valencia. It is the only place in the Valencian Community where the sun sets over the water leaving us one of the most beautiful and spectacular sunsets.
· The rice field
It occupies most of the Natural Park with an area of about 14,000 hectares. As its name indicates, it is dedicated to the cultivation of rice. Let us not forget that Valencia is the cradle of rice cultivation in Spain.
The rice field feeds the fauna of the area thanks to its cultivation cycles that coincide with the different seasons of the year. These cycles create a pattern of different colors that mark the passage of the seasons. In spring the sowing is done and we find the plots flooded by water. The cereal is growing and in summer the green floods all the rice field of the Natural Park of the Albufera of Valencia. Little by little the green gives way to the yellow and red color of the autumn that corresponds with the rice harvest. With the winter, the fields that serve as food and shelter for birds are flooded. Many of them are migratory birds that find here an ideal place to feed and shelter before continuing their journey to warm areas. At the end of the winter the fields are taken by tractors that work the land to prepare it again for cultivation in spring. It is then when the brown is the predominant color of the picture of the Albufera.
What can we visit of the Albufera of Valencia?
In the Albufera Natural Park and Lake in Valencia you can see many interesting places to make the most of your visit.
There are many points to stop at, such as the Mirador de la Gola del Pujol, el Palmar, the port of El Saler or Catarroja, la Muntanyeta dels Sants, the Torre Mirador de Mília or some of its Ullals or underground water springs.
Either on foot (there are hiking routes of between 500 meters and 4 kilometers) or by bike, choose how you want to enjoy the Albufera of Valencia.
Guided walking tour of the Albufera of Valencia
If you travel by car and then on foot we recommend the following guided tour of the Albufera by our official guides. Establishing as a meeting point the entrance to the town of El Palmar. First we visit a traditional barraca to see the way of life of the old farmers and fishermen of the area. In this way it is possible to understand much better how they lived and what their customs and traditions were.
Then we embarked from the own pier of the barraca. A boat trip is made along some of the hundreds of canals in the Albufera. You can appreciate the natural richness of this protected Park as well as learn about the traditional fishing techniques (declared of Cultural Interest along with the Latin sailing boats). In the months of October to March there is a great quantity of birds due to the redolins or fixed fishing posts. Thousands of birds come from colder areas to spend the winter in this wetland of high ecological value.
And if the visit is to the sunset you can see from the boat one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. The only place in the Valencian Community where the sun sets over the water.
Guided bike tour of the Albufera of Valencia
If what you like is to pedal there are many options for cycling within the Albufera Natural Park. You can even get there from Valencia by bike parallel to the Mediterranean Sea. However, we recommend that you bring sun protection, a hat and water, especially in the hottest months, from June to September. In addition, in those months, this activity should be avoided during the central hours of the day.
Interpretation Centre of Racó de l´Olla
On the other hand, and if you want to learn more about the natural heritage of the Albufera Natural Park, you can visit the Natural Park Interpretation Centre. The Racó de l´Olla is a Natural Reserve with high botanical and ornithological interest. It is also located between La Devesa and La Albufera, making it a very interesting place to get to know these two environments. Please note that the visit to this Reserve is made entirely on foot and can not be accessed with pets. The visit lasts about an hour and it is not necessary to make a previous reservation if you are not a group.
El Palmar: the perfect place to eat the best paella in Valencia
This district of Valencia is located next to the Albufera of Valencia. With less than 1,000 inhabitants,its economy is based on agriculture (rice and orchards), fishing, ecotourism and restaurants.
In the visit to the Palmar you can contemplate some barracas, the traditional home of the fishermen of the area. These constructions, made of mud, cane and straw, began to rise in the 18th century. But at the end of the nineteenth century and after a great fire that punished the population, the barracas were replaced by more modern buildings.
Gastronomy with a taste of tradition
In El Palmar there are many restaurants where you can taste the traditional gastronomy of the area. Let us not forget that it is considered the place of origin of the Valencian paella, which already has a Denomination of Origin. The aim is to taste the authentic Valencian paella, cooked to firewood with zero-kilometer products and with the traditional way of cooking.
In addition to Valencian paella, There are other traditional dishes made with rice in paella such as arroz negre or arroz a banda. Also typical is the all i pebre of eels(with eel, potatoes, garlic and paprika), the esgarraet (with red pepper and cod) or the clóxinas (Valencian mussels), among others.
The most literary Palmar
It is worth highlighting here the figure of one of the most important writers that Valencia has had: Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. He knew how to reflect the life of the inhabitants of this area like nobody else in some of his novels. In one of the best known which is “Cañas y barro” (1902), narrates how the mail boat between El Palmar and the Port of El Saler was the only means connecting Valencia with the Albufera: “like every evening, the mail boat announced its arrival at the Palmar with several honks.”
Experiences not to be missed in the Albufera of Valencia
Live a unique and complete experience in the Albufera of Valencia. Experiences not to be a mere spectator, but the protagonist.
Hold a paella workshop to learn how to cook the most international dish not only in Valencia but also in Spain. Get to know what the ingredients are and how to select the best ones. In addition, the best cooks with years of experience in the area teach the keys and tricks to get the authentic and best Valencian paella.
The Albufera Natural Park is also an ideal place for bird watching. Another unique experience that we recommend you in this natural oasis.