Trekking holidays are a great way to get away from the routine, get some exercise, fresh air and get back in touch with Nature. However, in northern Europe there exist a couple of drawbacks for a really good trekking holiday. First, the summer the climate is unreliable; a trekking holiday in the Scottish Highlands or Wales almost certainly means getting wet at some point. Also, finding some solitude and peace and quiet almost anywhere in the UK is not easy; during school holidays National Parks can be busier than city centres.
So many look for trekking holidays in southern Europe, particularly those planning to get away during the autumn, winter or spring. Europe offers a wide variety of destinations, some more esoteric than others, but Spain is still the most popular for three reasons: climate, price and quality. With over 60 million annual visitors tourism is Spain’s main industry, although the climate is the principal attraction the Spanish now have an expertise in tourism that is hard to match.
Spain has a lot more to offer to offer than just sea and sun, and in particular its pristine mountainous interior that has been almost completely ignored by both visitors and tourist authorities alike. To a large extent the focus of mass tourism on the coast has shielded the interior from badly planned development and the current economic crisis has continued the trend. This provides a unique opportunity for trekking holidays in tranquil and unspoilt countryside plus chance of seeing a Golden Eagle soaring or a carpet of Bee Orchids fringing the footpath.
So if you are considering a trekking holiday in Spain where do you start? In 1995 Bob Stansfield prefaced his guide Mountain Walks on the Costa Blanca (Cicerone Press) with the observation that “Las Marinas has the potential to rival Mallorca as a winter walking venue”. Walking and trekking holidays in Mallorca have become a well-established business but the mountainous area behind the Costa Blanca has been almost completely ignored. The only time you will see anybody is on the weekends when a few local residents take to the mountains.
So where is this area? The hinterland of the Costa Blanca, known as Las Marinas, includes the Sierras, valleys and small farming villages of the Marina Alta and the Marina Baja districts. Occupying the northern third of Alicante Province, it is defined by the triangle of towns with Oliva to the north, Javea to the east and La Villajoyosa to the south. It is made up of a series of six valleys, Vall de Laguard, Vall d’Ebo, Vall de Pop, Vall de Seto, Vall de Tárbena and the Vall de Guadalest that are separated by the Sierras of Aitana, Serrella, Aixortá, Alfofra.
What local residents know is that Las Marinas has spectacular trekking trails, a combination of mountain tracks, farm lanes and old Mozarabic paths that have linked the small villages of the interior for over a thousand years. They pass between rugged peaks whose lower slopes are covered with almond and olive trees, through high valleys with cherry and apricot down to the orange, tangerine and nispero (loquat) orchards of the coastal plain. From September to May this almost deserted part of the Costa Blanca offers some of the best winter trekking in Europe. Sunshine predominates and comfortable temperatures that typically range from 12º C to 22º C provide ideal conditions for trekking holidays. The beauty of the landscape and variety of the walks has impressed those who have visited the area and have found it to be an alternative to better-known winter trekking areas like Mallorca, the Canaries or Andalusia. Rainfall does occur, but as intense downpours that usually last from one to three days. Extended periods of continuous rainfall are almost completely unknown so the probability of your trekking holiday being a washout is negligible.