La Defensa del Sur is a route of sharp contrasts: from well-developed stretches made up mainly of farm tracks and vías verdes – reconditioned railway tracks – to trails leading through the more mountainous areas. On leaving Valencia and its surroundings, travellers will come across two of this region’s greatest landmarks: La Albufera and the Huerta de Valencia.
La Albufera is a coastal lagoon of shallow waters – with an average depth of just one metre, set amidst rice fields and enclosed from the sea by a sand bank created by the sea currents. It has been exploited by Man since ancient times and today is home to a considerable number of animal and plant species: from water birds to fish in danger of extinction, such as the Spanish and Valencia toothcarp.
The second of the most striking features of this area is the ‘Huerta de Valencia’ – literally ‘the Orchard of Valencia’-: a unique natural, social and economic space that is deeply rooted in the region’s history. Back in the 11th century, the virtues of Valencia’s vegetable and fruit orchards, so highly prized by the Moors, were sung by the poet Ibn Jafaya, who was born in Alzira. Indeed, the Moorish defence walls of this town, remind us of its origins. Alzira is one of the eight towns along the route that have been declared historic and/or artistic sites. The next is Xàtiva, which boasts a magnificent historic and artistic heritage, the highlight of which is its castle. Together with Sax Castle, it is one of the most magnificent sights to be admired on this route.
From Ontinyent we start the climb up to Bocairent amidst a Mediterranean mountain landscape lined by sheer precipices and the Pou Clar well, where we recommend a refreshing dip – and the Mariola Mountain Range. The climb passes through spectacular scenery but includes a number of challenging stretches that will force cyclists off their bicycles. However, their efforts will be amply rewarded on reaching Bocairent, a city carved out of stone and one of the greatest surprises this route conceals.
The Way of El Cid enters the province of Alicante via Banyeres de Mariola. Its castle is the first on a defence line dating back to the days of the Almohads and which passes through Biar, Villena, Sax, and Petrer before finally reaching Elche. The line boasts a wealth of medieval heritage including the Palmeral or Palm Grove, a World Heritage Site. From Elche we make our way down to Bajo Vinalopó. The arid landscape forms a stark backdrop for the fertile farming lands and palm groves dotted along the way. This is a densely populated area that ends in what has come to symbolise the southern extreme of El Cid’s domains: the monumental town of Orihuela.
Get the most current information: en.caminodelcid.org
This is the official track of The Way of El Cid managed and maintained by The way of El Cid Consortium.
You can dowload the lastest guides, tracks, maps and info in the web: www.caminodelcid.org
The stretch in the province of Valencia is signposted as GR 160 (white and red lines) and is currently in the pre-authorisation phase. In the province of Alicante, and until the GR signs are installed, plaques have been installed and markings painted along the length of the route (two red lines). These markings are not a replacement for the official signs, and therefore we recommend travelling with the route guide. At all events, much of the route in Alicante follows existing trails (The Way of Saint James in Levante, Via Augusta, the Poet’s Route and short-distance local tracks, etc.) and therefore travellers should not experience any difficulties in finding their way with the route guide.
BTT - MTB signposting: BTT detours (leading off the hiking route) are signposted in accordance with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) regulations. At the start of BTT stage there is a panel indicating the detours available for each day (if practicable) and also, at the start of each detour, a second explanatory panel.
It is important to remember that in comparison with other routes included on the Way of El Cid, much of La Defensa del Sur runs along tarmac country roads, many winding their way between the vegetable and fruit orchards. The stretch between Ontinyent and Bocairent includes mountains paths where cyclists will have to get off their bicycles. We trust they will find the magnificent views a worthy reward for their efforts!