La Vall de Gallinera Hiking Trails: Route of the 8 Villages

Discovering the beauty of La Vall de Gallinera

by Ros Woodham
Words and photos Ros Woodham

La Vall de Gallinera lies in an enchanting valley nestling in the mountains of the Marina Alta region of Alicante, a world full of hiking trails away from the bustling tourist resorts of coastal Spain. Renowned for its cherry orchards, this rugged yet fertile landscape bursts into a stunning display of blossoms that blanket the slopes of the mountains from February to March. Each year in June, the valley’s culinary delights are celebrated during a cherry-themed festival, offering visitors a chance to savour innovative dishes crafted by local eateries.

Cherry tree in bloom along Ruta dels 8 Pobles, la Vall de Gallinera
Cherry trees bloom during the month of March

With a population of 600 spread across the eight main villages in the valley, there is a remarkably slow pace of life. Despite being near cities and busy shoreline destinations, there is a sense of remoteness. Abundant rainfall gives rise to numerous springs, known as fonts, which flow fresh and clear from the steep rocks of the Serra Foradà. Amongst the greatest attractions along the route are the many old public washing and laundry points and fountains, where you can rest and drink refreshing water.

Hiking trails around La Vall de Gallinera is the best way to experience the landscape, which offers a view into centuries of diverse influences. Scattered throughout are remnants of a storied past, including Moorish watchtowers, medieval castles and Romanesque churches. With numerous trails to choose from, I suggest trying out ‘The Route of the 8 Villages’, known as ‘Ruta dels 8 Pobles’. It’s a straightforward trail that mainly follows agricultural roads, linking the eight villages seamlessly. It’s approximately 14 km long and connects two springs, Font de la Mata de Benissili at one end of the valley and Font de la Mata de Benirrama at the other end. 

Benissili

The route to the first village of Benissili passes the deserted Moorish settlement of Solaneta. It traverses ancient threshing grounds along a cliff edge, where cereals and legumes were traditionally harvested and cleaned. The village has an old threshing square where there is now a fountain.

Llombai

This is a tiny unpopulated village, but it’s full of mysteries and legends. Among the ruins is the house of its last resident, a former Nazi, who sought refuge here during Franco’s dictatorship until he died in 1977. It’s said that he brought with him substantial riches, and found peace and tranquillity in the Vall. Some of his assets were used to build a residence while others were given away, perhaps to buy silence. He was known as ‘l’alemà de la Vall’ (the German of the Valley).

A man and child enjoying the Font de Baix in La Carroja in Ruta dels 8 Pobles, la Vall de Gallinera.
The Font de Baix pool and laundry point, La Carroja.

Alpatró

This is the oldest and largest of the eight villages and was founded during the early days of Muslim rule. The village church, Mare de Déu de l’Assumpció, was built on top of an old mosque. Adjacent to the church stands the village fountain, constructed in 1928. Its surplus water feeds into the town’s public wash house. 

La Carroja

Featuring a remarkably picturesque setting, the village is composed of a collection of houses lining a single street, overseen by the church of Sant Francesc de Borja.

Female trekking through mountainous terrain on rough path, ruta dels 8 pobles
The track winds through almond and cherry groves.

Benitaia and Benissivà 

From La Carroja the trail follows the paved ‘camino de la piscina’ that passes by the municipal swimming pool to the twin villages of Benitaia (above) and Benissivà (below), which are separated only by the road and a few steps.

For seasoned hikers who want an additional challenge, this marks the starting point for the ascent to La Penya Foradà, also known as ‘the holed rock’. However, there are opportunities to catch glimpses of it along the main route. La Penya Foradà is a spectacular natural stone arch that has formed on the mountain peak; it has become a traditional place of pilgrimage. Twice a year, in March and October, the Penya Foradà solar alignment takes place. On specific dates in those months, rays of light penetrate the arch, illuminating the Calvary of Benitaia, once the Franciscan convent of San Andrés. 

A picturesque mountain village in La Vall de Gallinera, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty
Beneath the Foradà mountains, the eight villages of La Vall de Gallinera are home to a combined population of 600 inhabitants.
Scenic street in the village of Benitaia in ruta dels 8 pobles, la vall de gallinera
The village of Benitaia has 45 registered inhabitants.

Benialí

Continue along the paved road, well-shaded by big carob trees, to Benialí where La Vall Town Hall is located. Another slight detour worth considering is a visit to the caves of Benirrama and Benialí, where prehistoric cave paintings can be seen, which feature Levantine, Schematic and Macro-Schematic styles.

Benirrama

When you reach the final village of Benirrama, I recommend exploring the quiet streets and the Church of Sant Cristòfol. To the east, the Castle of Gallinera remains a prominent landmark visible to hikers. Continue on to the Font de la Mata de Benirrama where the route ends.

A cozy hotel room at Hotel El Capricho, featuring a comfortable bed, a stylish couch, ethnic rug

Hotel El Capricho 

Along the trail, you’ll find plenty of casas rurales (rural houses) to spend the night, but if you’re looking for that special experience, I highly recommend Hotel El Capricho, tucked away in the charming village of Benialí.

This luxurious adult-only hotel has been designed specifically for rest and relaxation. It has been sensitively restored, retaining original elements such as the ancient street cobbles that are now part of the interior walkway leading to a pretty courtyard garden. 

Each room, with its own lavish bathroom, is unique and styled to suit the characteristics of this ancient townhouse. Communal areas are inviting and intimate, but most enticing is the exclusive spa, tucked away in the building’s tunnel-like underbuild. Once at street level, a stone trough has been transformed into a private, sensual jacuzzi. The contrasting plunge pool is accessed via a narrow staircase leading down to a circular domed chamber that once held the water supply for the whole village. The full candlelit experience is utterly charming and completely relaxing. 

Whether you’ve spent a long day on the local walking trails or you simply need an escape from the grind of daily life, one of the tailored seasonal packages will perfectly suit your needs.  

  • ‘La Vall de Gallinera Hiking Trails: Route of the 8 Villages’ is published in Anthology Volume 21. Read more features from this volume or buy it now.
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