Cullera. Among seas, mountains, rivers and history

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Author Alessandro 3 February 2022
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The Valencian Community is a land of traditions, gastronomy and incredible landscapes. One of the most representative places is Cullera: a splendid coastal town of twenty-one thousand souls of the Ribera Baixa , in the south of Valencia.

Bathed by the Mediterranean and the rio Júcar waters and topped by les Raboses mountain, Cullera offers an exceptional environment with amazing panoramic views and a wide cultural spots.

Cullera's lighthouse
Cullera's lighthouse

You can enjoy its 15 km of coastline, walk through the historic center or the Calvary that leads from the ancient market to the castle through the mountain, visit the castle, the towers, the old church, the ruins of the Carlist fort and the lighthouse, lit for the first time on 1 August 1858, go up to the meteorological center to admire the breathtaking viewpoint over the city and the rice fields. But the wonders of this jewel do not end there.

A characteristic chiringuito in Cullera
A characteristic chiringuito in Cullera

The map: Cullera and surroundings

In the map below we have marked the car parks where we stopped during the day (parking) without disturbance or warnings from the police, the historical points of interest (brown), the natural ones (green), the beaches (yellow) and we signposted where it is possible to stock up on water and throw away the rubbish.

All this information, as well as the fact that parking is tolerated, may vary in the future.

History of Cullera

The Cullera mountain, just 233 meters high, has been inhabited by man since immemorial times. You can see the remains in the largest archaeological site in the area, Cueva del Volcán del Faro, date back to 25,000 years, during the Upper Paleolithic era.

In ancient times Cullera fell under Muslim domination. The construction of the castle, on Iberian and Roman remains, dates back to it.

Il castello di Cullera
Il castello di Cullera

The current name of the city cames from these years, from the Latin Colla Aeria (high hill) first transposed in Gujera - for the Arabic or Mozarabic pronunciation - and then in Cullera.

And Still from Arab domination cames the traditional local economy of high quality rice and oranges, which still characterize the cuisine of Cullera today.

Rice fields of Cullera
Rice fields of Cullera

In 1235, during the Reconquista operated by the Aragon Crown under King Jaime, the Christians tried to seize Cullera, but the attempt failed and had to wait until 1247, when the Moors rebelled against the expanding Aragonese dominion by taking the fortress by force.

Jaime fought them, won and ordered their expulsion which culminated in the chase of the Muslims from the Castle of Cullera and the Ribera. In that days the reconstruction of the castle and the wall began. Today only a few sections and towers remain of the walls.

Christian repopulation began in 1248 and the new historic center was founded on the gentle slope that stretches between the mountain and the river.

During the Middle Ages, around 1350, several battles took place, including the taking of the Fortress by the Pedro I of Castile troops in the struggles against Pedro IV of Aragon.

At the beginning of the 14th century, Martín d’Aragona (el Humano) confers on Cullera the title of royal city of the Valencia court, which will last until the loss of the fueros (local rights).

In 1535, the Barbary corsairs attacked the city. The most important attack by pirates, however, took place on May 25, 1550 under the command of the feared Berber pirate Dragut, as part of his looting campaign in the Mediterranean.

Dragut stormed the city, seizing an important booty of goods and prisoners. The event caused terror and the flight of the population, who left the country depopulated for decades. In the cave where, according to legend, the exchange of prisoners took place - since that time called Grotta Dragut - there is now an interesting museum about the 16th century Mediterranean piracy, which recreates the invasions of the Barbary pirates in the city of Cullera.

Between 1553 and 1556 to put a stop to pirate attacks were built the walls. To strengthen the defenses, Felipe II erected a many defensive towers along the coast. Torre del Marenyet is the only which lasted. Built in 1577, with a circular plan, strategically located near the Júcar River, it is 15 meters high with two floors and a terrace that offers full visibility of the surroundings.

Marenyet Tower
Marenyet Tower

In Plaza de la Iglesia was erected in the seventeenth century, on the ruins of the ancient Gothic temple built between 1248 and 1253, a neoclassical temple, the Parroquia de los Santos Juanes, currently the only one in the city, recently restored. Of the ancient Gothic temple of which the sacristy and the interior of the bell tower still remain.

In the Plaza de España is the Town Hall (Ca la Vila) built by Charles III in 1781.

In front of the ancient Puente de barcas (which has this name because it was built resting on real boats) dating back to 1924 and now disappeared, there is the House of Teaching from the year 1793, a classic monument which today houses the Museum and the archaeological-historical civic service, an assembly hall, a specialized library and the tourist offices.

Other historical places in the city are the historic Cullera Market, in Valencian modernist style dating back to 1903, which is repopulated every Thursday and the Barrio del Pozo - the old Jewish quarter - with its steep streets and houses with typical architecture.

In September 1911 occurred the Sucesos de Cullera, tragic events still alive in the memory of the country. A judge from Sueca (a neighboring country) and two public officials who acted with arrogance and despotism are brutally murdered by the local people.

During the Spanish Civil War were formed in Cullera a ugetista community(the general union of workers, one of the most important Spanish trade unions close to the Socialist Workers’ Party), made up of small owners, and an anarchist community.

On the other hand was created the Union Confraternity, to neutralize the peasant movement bringing together bosses, peasants and laborers. But the objectives of it were also tackling problems related to plagues, infrastructure and to promote the development of cooperative societies.

Since the 1960s, Cullera has experienced an economic boom, for its beaches, its sea and climate, becoming a mass tourist resort. With the boom, urban speculation also takes hold, but fortunately does not have a long life. The lack of foresight of the administrations of the time diverted tourism to other areas.

Urbanization of Cullera
Urbanization of Cullera

Cullera cultural heritage

1. Cullera castle

Cullera Castle
Cullera Castle

The first thing that catches the eye of the traveler who arrives in Cullera is its fantastic castle that stands imposingly almost on top of the mountain as a sentinel of the entire valley, dominating the city and the sea.

From the viewpoint of the castle it is possible to admire the city as far as the mouth of the Rio Júcar and the entire bay of Cullera.

Do not miss the walk inside and outside its walls and the visit to its rooms that will take you back 1000 years.

Inside the castle there is the Sacre, a long-range cannon known to be the defense mechanism of the castle.

To this day the price for the visit is 3 euros per person.

2. The Camino del Calvario

Starting from Calle Calvario, behind the historic municipal market, it is possible to go up to the Castle along Camino del Calvario, a Via Crucis with the 14 Calvary stations. The street, as well as the castle, is illuminated also at night and visible from miles away.

3. Sierra de los Zorros

Sierra de los Zorros
Sierra de los Zorros

The more adventurous traverlers should not miss Senda de la Lloma: this path leads to the castle through the west side of Sierra de los Zorros (the mountain of Cullera), in a succession of incredible views.

Here is the cave Abric Lambert, an archaeological area of high interest with shelters containing cave paintings of schematic art that can be dated between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. The figures are painted in a dark red hue and represent animals and human figures. The site owes its name to the name of its discoverer Lambert Olivert.

4. Sanctuary of the Virgen del Castillo

Also known as the Castle Sanctuary, due to its position close to the castle, the Virgen del Castillo sanctuary is a late 19th century Christian temple in Neo-Byzantine style.

Virgen del Castillo Sanctuary
Virgen del Castillo Sanctuary

5. Reina Mora Tower

Reina Mora Tower
Reina Mora Tower

The Reina Mora Tower or Santa Ana Tower just below the castle, is part of the original Muslim fortified complex. Located on the Calvary road was built in the 13th century. In 1631 a hermitage dedicated to Santa Ana was installed on the ruins of the tower.

6. The Carlist fort ruins

Carlist-fort ruins
Carlist-fort ruins

Much more recent is the Carlist fort, now in total ruin, on the top of the mountain. Dating back to the Carlist Wars, the fort was built by the Elizabethans to protect Cullera.

Ruins of the Carlist fort
Ruins of the Carlist fort

The Carlist fort, together with the walls, was part of the defensive network of the city of Cullera: it protected the city from the northern entrance, closing the passage with a perpendicular line from the mountain to the river.

Carlist fort ruins
Carlist fort ruins

The sea and the beaches of Cullera

The beaches of Cullera
The beaches of Cullera

The sea of ​​Cullera is calm for most of the year. The quality of its waters, the wide range of services and the privileged temperature are among the reasons that made the city one of the main tourist destinations on the Valencian coast.

Its coastline extends for 15 km with 11 magnificent beaches, most of which are internationally awarded with the EU Blue Flag for cleanliness and services and Q rate for Tourist Quality. Ideal for those who like to relax in the sun or practice water sports.

The best beaches in Cullera

The urban beaches of Racó and San Antonio offer all kinds of services. La Escollera and Marenyet large and less crowded are suitable for those seeking tranquility, and Marenyet, and Brosquil are characterized by fine golden sand.

Those who love adventure and those who practice water sports can not miss Playa di Cap Blanc, Playa del Faro and Playa del Dosel, with the wildest landscape characterized by dunes, like the naturist beach of Mareny de Sant Llorenç.

Playa del Dosel
Playa del Dosel

Smokeless beaches

Beaches in Cullera
Beaches in Cullera

All the Cullera’s beaches have recently been declared smoke-free beaches, promoting healthier lifestyle with smoke free spaces and environmental protection with no cigarette waste.

Inland waters by Kayak

Those who - like us - love kayaking will not miss an excursion on Rio Júcar - among the longest, most visited and beautiful rivers in Spain - and another in the Laguna del Estany, a brackish transition lagoon between the swamp and the coast, south of the mouth of the Rio Júcar, rich in plant and animal species.

Estany Beach on the lagoon side
Estany Beach on the lagoon side

Inland waters for bird watching

Assut de la Marquesa in the evening
Assut de la Marquesa in the evening

The whole southern Valencia area is full of ponds and marshes, perfect for those who enjoy bird watching and bird photography. In addition to the aforementioned rio Júcar and laguna dell Estany, next to the Montaña de los Zorros there is the San Lorenzo lagoon, a large pond surrounded by reeds, with the native fauna of the Albufera natural park.

On the Júcar, the Assut de la Marquesa (the assuts are dams that divert the natural course of rivers) deserves particular attention, a natural place with a magical aspect frequented by lovers of nature, picnics and birdwatching.

Also typical of these areas are the numerous Ullal, coastal freshwater marshes, very suitable for observing birdlife. Small but beautiful, to the south, just outside the city perimeter of Cullera, is the Ullal Gran, a tiny oasis of peace and relaxation.

The inland waters of Cullera
The inland waters of Cullera

The islet of Cullera: Peñeta del Moro

Just over 400 meters off the beach of Sant Antonio, Cullera also has a small islet called Peñeta del Moro. consisting of two rocks with a signaling structure in the middle is perhaps the smallest island in the world.

Easily accessible by kayak, paying particular attention or not being pushed on the rocks by the current, which at this point is quite intense.

What else to visit

Among the other noteworthy structures of Cullera were Torre del Cabo de Cullera, an ancient tower from the 16th century, part of the coastal defense system against pirate attacks.

Currently the tower has disappeared and in its place there is a lookout with a monument commemorating the pain caused by the civil war and the Casa de la Enseñanza, an ancient pedagogical center built by Carlos IV in 1793: one of the first public schools in Spain.

Memorial La Defensa de Cullera
Memorial La Defensa de Cullera

WiFi zone on San Antonio beach

On the San Antonio beach, in via Caminàs dels Homens and in via Amparo Belda you can use the city free Wi-Fi, a real plus for those like us who need a large amount of internet data to work, as the Spanish sims that can be purchased as non-residents are very limited.

The Albufera Natural Park

The Albufera Natural Park extends over 21,000 hectares between Valencia and Cullera, one of the most important wetlands of the Iberian Peninsula. Thousands of species and birds live in its rich waters.

The various eco-tourist routes are well signposted and can be easily traveled with the whole family, on foot or by bicycle. The Estany and Lloma trails are among the most popular.

From our journal

09/11/2021

Ale woke up at 7 and we slept another hour, it was quite cold.

We left Lourmarin for Valencia because it is the first place on the Spanish coast where it won’t rain tomorrow. We passed over the Camargue then we got fuel in Montpelier.

The oil warning light continues to come on when the engine is hot and remains almost fixed. We were afraid it was the oil pump but then for various reasons we thought it was the bulb so let’s continue.

We stopped to eat at around 1.30 pm at the Aire de Paulhan motorway area.

We continued and crossed the Spanish border, headed beyond Valencia because it was the only place where it would not rain the next day.

When we were passing over Barcelona the battery light came on, we stopped at the rest area on the AP-7 motorway (Galp, Estacion de servicio, Castellbisbal).

We did not understand if it was the battery or the alternator but then we remembered hearing a whistle as we entered the motorway and, when accelerating, the battery light did not go out so we were pretty sure it was the alternator.

In the service area no one could help us and a Latin American cashier warned us to be careful because there were many bandidos in the area.

We thought about what to do and even though we had already called the insurance roadside assistance, we told them to come the next morning and we spent the night in the area. Ale spent the night in the front seats with Ari.

10/11/2021

We woke up around 7.30. We made an appointment with the tow truck and called a spare parts dealer to find out the price of the new alternator replacement (160 €).

When the tow truck arrived, he told us that it was definitely the alternator and told us to go to a used parts dealer. We bought the used alternator for € 70, waiting for more than an hour for them to be removed from a Ducato RV.

We asked if there was a mechanic in the area who could do the replacement quickly but they were busy and one of the workers advised us to go to the cemetery of Vilafranca del Pendes, telling us that we would find the workshop of a Moroccan mechanic there.

We went but could not find it, we stopped at a body shop and one of the workers, a very kind boy from Southeast Asia or perhaps South American, drove our van to the MotorRecanvi workshop. We tried to offer him something for the kindness but he refused and walked back.

The workshop owner and a young mechanic replaced the alternator and the bulb (oil sensor) for € 60. We gave him 80 € for the time spent, the kindness and professionalism in carrying out the work. We left around 13.

We stopped to eat at the Sant Carles de la Rapita gas station. We continued up beyond Valencia because it was marked there that it would not rain. We stopped in Cullera. We ate something quick, took a stroll along the boardwalk and went to bed.

11/11/2021

We woke up around 7.30 and went for a walk along the promenade to the left of the parking lot, in the direction of the Cullera lighthouse.

We went out for the shopping and then ate in the van. After eating, we cycle along the promenade to the end of the village, on the opposite side. In the evening it was raining, I worked on the pc and Ale created the itinerary with the places to visit in the Valencian region.

12/11/2021

We woke up around 7.30 and had breakfast. In the morning it was raining ☔️.

At about 2 pm we got into the van on the top of the Cullera mountain. The road was really narrow and unprotected, overhanging a ravine.

We almost reached the weather radar on the highest point of the mountain, but at some point the road became narrower than the van and going further would put our lives at serious risk.

I convinced Ale to reverse. Then we parked on the road between the Carlist castle and the weather center and walked first up to the weather radar, then in the opposite direction of the ruins of the Carlist fort.

We continued in the van going down from the opposite side of the mountain, towards the castle of Cullera. There the road is much better maintained and has protections.

We went for a Movistar sim in a Cullera tienda and then in a bird watching area, L’Assut de la Marquesa Azud to photograph the birds at night. We went back to the Cullera car park to spend the night.

13/11/2021

We woke up around 7.40 and had breakfast. Around 10 we left and went to the Torre del Marenyet. Later we headed to Playa de l’Estany, natural and quiet, frequented only by fishermen. Here is the mouth of the river and it is possible to go kayaking, but since there are not many people we preferred to postpone the kayak tour so as not to leave the van unattended.

We stopped in a beautiful area for bird watching, the Ullal gran. We parked the van under the olive trees and strolled around the natural area observing the fish and birds in the ponds. We spent the afternoon working on the computer at the tables.

As we were about to leave Ullal Gran we met a guy from the Czech Republic who was returning home on a motorbike from Portugal and we agreed with him to meet up to sleep together in a camper area in Tavernes de la Valldigna. He left on his motorbike and we joined him shortly after in the van.

A camping car and an old caravan were already there and he had already set up the tent. The area, however, was too dark, so we decided to go back to Cullera and sleep in a street parallel to the one where we had slept the last few nights, to avoid bothering the premises with the too long presence of our van in the same place.

Hilary's signature

When to visit Cullera

With an average temperature of 17ºC, it has mild winters and summer temperatures that *rarely exceed 28ºC *.

The privileged climate makes it ideal to visit in any season, but we recommend a visit from September to November, to enjoy the coolness and avoid the summer crowds.

How to get to Cullera

Cullera is only 45 kilometers from Valencia International Airport. Is connected to Valencia, Alicante, Barcelona and France by the AP-7 highway and to the other coastal towns by the N- 332, which is the path we have chosen to take.

In summer it has train connections with Valencia and Madrid and several bus lines that lead to the city starting from the center of Spain.

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Alessandro Lussi
Di origine friulana e calabrese, risiedo a Torino.
Copywriter professionista, ho smesso di lavorare come programmatore per dedicarmi full-time alla mia passione: la scrittura.