Guadalest, the most beautiful village in Alicante
To look out over this municipality in the region of La Marina Baja, 21 km from the famous Benidorm, is to enter a vertical micro-world where the memories of history float among palm trees, orange trees and its fascinating reservoir.
It is impossible not to succumb to the charm of the Guadalest bell tower.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN ALICANTE
Of all the cultures that have populated our country, the Muslims developed a special interest in the heights, from the minarets of their mosques to palace cities such as Medina Azahara in Cordoba. In the case of inland Alicante, it was the Arab warlord Al-Azraq who was responsible for deploying the different surveillance systems taking advantage of the sharp rocks to control the entire Guadalest Valley in the 13th century.
After the reconquest, the site was donated as a fief to the Sarriá family and, in 1335, it was annexed to the crown. By 1609, the expulsion of the Moors marked the end of a tense coexistence and the subsequent abandonment of the town for decades. In 1953, the construction of the Guadalest reservoir began, and in 1974, the village was declared a Historic-Artistic Site. A chronology of a story that today encourages us to let ourselves be carried away by its peaks and serendipities.
Surrounded by the Xortà and Serrella mountain ranges to the north and the Aitana mountain range to the south, Guadalest is divided into two areas: the medieval quarter, at an altitude of 595 metres; and the more modern El Arrabal neighbourhood, built at the foot of the hill. Both areas are connected by a tunnel that represents a dance between the present and the past, the real and the magical.
As we ascend the stone stairs, the souvenir shops are revealed - let's not forget that Guadalest is one of the great tourist totems of the Costa Blanca - until we ascend little by little through the different vestiges that play with the clouds. There we have the old prison kissing the foundations of the current town hall, or the remains of the original wall around the Arab tower of La Alcozaiba.
A few more steps and you discover the bell tower of the parish church, almost suspended on the cliff; or the highest point: the castle of San José (or Sant Josep), conquered by James I and fortified during the reign of Peter IV. Highlights surrounded by whitewashed houses, tangles of pine trees and the blue of the reservoir that watches from every corner, like an ancient lookout that has always been there.
Some of the most important museums in the village can also be found in the houses in the old quarter, including the Casa Orduña Municipal Museum, a house that belonged to the Orduña family, of Basque origin, who settled in Guadalest thanks to their links with the Cardona family, Admirals of Aragon. From this museum you can access the Tower of Sant Josep, or continue your visit to other must-sees such as the Ethnological Museum, located in the rock itself, or the curious museums of Microminiatures and Historic Vehicles, a rarity.
In Guadalest there are numerous options for eating, although my personal recommendation is just outside the neighbourhood of El Arrabal, in the Xorta Restaurant, with specialities such as osso buco or its delicious olleta de blat - a typical dish that combines different legumes, ideal for colder days. All this in an establishment of rustic charm with views of citrus groves and palm trees that evoke the old Moorish agriculture and the desire to continue discovering an area full of possibilities.