El Castell de Guadalest
Inland beyond Callossa is Guadalest one of the most visited places on the CostaBlanca with 2 million visitors a year. In Guadalest you will see the remains of a medieval castle and village precariously perched on top of a mountain overlooking a reservoir. Surrounded by the Aitana, Serella & Xorta Mountains the village was a strategic military stronghold with fortifications dating back to 715AD and the period of Moorish occupation of Spain. Guadalest has several ancient castles that have been damaged throughout history by battles during the War of Spanish Succession (early 18th Century) and by several earthquakes, but the remains are still there today. The old part of Guadelest, which is of Arabic origin, was declared a 'Monument of Historical and Artistic Value' in 1974 and is a major tourist attraction in Spain.
The streets of Guadalest are cobbled, there are little squares, a school and an old jailhouse. Make sure you look to the right of Guadlest and you will see beautiful views of the valley which contains a dam and reservoir – the Embalse de Guadalest, built between 1953 and 1963.
How to get there: The drive inland from Altea is fascinating as you follow the winding road ever higher past the picturesque village of Polop, before emerging finally high up over Guadalest. There are three options of routes to take if you are driving from Altea. The fastest is 31 min (21.6 km) via CV-760 and CV-70. Take a Train and Bus to get from Altea to Guadalest in 1 h 44 min for 3€ (includes 1 hour waiting to transfer from the Train to the Bus. Train L9 - goes hourly from Altea to Benidorm where you wait for one hour. From there you take Bus no. 16 from Av. Beniardá 16 which leaves at 10:28h.
There’s no shortage of interesting sites to be seen in Guadelest, but you certainly shouldn’t miss the Castle of L'Alcazaiba
or Sant Josep or El Castell de Guadalest
which actually dates back to the 11th century during Muslim rule. The castle can only be accessed by walking through a 15 foot long tunnel carved out of rock. This is known as the Portal de San Jose. After going through the tunnel you can see old village houses and it feels like you have walked into another era.
History of El Castell de Guadelest: After the Christian re conquest in the 13th century, Guadalest still had a very large muslim population and continued thus under the dominion of different Catalan-Aragonese noblemen. King Jaime II gave the castle of Guadalest to Bernardo de Sarrià in 1293 and for the next 42 years the castle and the surrounding country belonged to the Sarrià family.In 1335 the castle reverted to the Crown, who sold it to Prince Pedro of Aragon, and it was then inherited by his son the royal Duke of Gandía. After the last Duke of Gandia died, the castle was owned by the Cardona family. The Cardona family became Admirals of Aragón, and in 1543 the king and queen (Carlos and Juana) gave Don Sancho de Cardona and his descendants the permanent title of Marquis of Guadalest. The majority of his estates remained uninhabited following the expulsion of the Moors in 1609. The castle was destroyed by an earthquake in 1644 .The last Cardona, Marquis of Guadalest, died in 1699 without any descendants, and the title of marquis went to the Marquis of Ariza. The marquisate continued, but power declined in the 19th century.While the Cardona family owned Guadalest, the Orduña family gained in local prominence. The Orduñas were Mayors of Guadalest from 1669 and were ennobled in 1756 when Pedro Antonio Buenaventura de Orduña y García was elevated to The Santiago Order. During the War of the Spanish Succession in 1708 the Castle of San José was bombarded and destroyed along its western wall, and the Orduña house was burnt down. The house has since been restored and can be visited to get an idea of what it used to be like living in ancient times in Guadalest. In 1748 and 1752 more earthquakes hit the town although these two was smaller than the 1644 quake. The Orduña family steadily gained power and influence in La Marina county. In 1934 the last Orduña died without any heirs and his estates went to distant relatives. The town walls came under the protection law of the 22nd of April 1949 for Spanish castles.
Another famous building that you will often see photographed or on postcards because of it's striking apparace is the white bell tower perched on a rock pinnacle, which is now the icon for the Alicante province of Spain and the Costa Blanca.
On top of another rock pinnacle is a round watch tower, Penon de la Alcala, of which only the lower portion remains today. Access to the tower is extremely difficult. making it a good defensive position for the castle. From it they could watch over the valley from it's strategic place, and it protected the north flank of Guadalest Castle.
In Guadalest you will also find Baroque Catholic church of Mare de Déu de l'Assumpció (Our Lady of the Assumption Church), built between 1740 and 1753. The church is a Baroque style building ascribed to José Sierra. It is in the old walled part of the town, just beside the Orduña House. The church was burnt and looted during the Spanish Civil War. It was altered in 1962 - its length shortened, ground floor changed, the cupola and the transept removed. Between 1995 and 1996 renovation and interior decoration were carried out in order to preserve the building.
The village of Guadalest also has some interesting museums you may be interested in visiting.
The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum (Museo de Saleros y Pimenteros). It has more than 20.000 salt and pepper shakers from around the world. It is quite educational, entertaining and suitable for the whole family. The museum is located directly by the main parking area at Agenda de Alicante 2, El Castell de Guadalest, 03517 Alicante.
The Jail (Gaol), built in the 12th century. It conserves a dungeon. This 12th century prison is located on the lower floor of the Town Hall and is carved out of solid rock. You can look inside the original prison, which is no longer in use. The dungeon is a cave like room in which prisoners were held. It is a bit eerie inside. The Town Hall is located at the top of the town, in the main square.
The Ethnological Museum of Valle de Guadelest is open every day except Saturday and is located within an 18th century house. In this museum you can see what life was like in Guadelest over the centuries.
The Museo de Antonio Marco - this is a museum of toys collected over 30 years including a collection of dolls houses. It is located on C/La Virgen and is open every day from 10.00h.
Historical Motorcycle Museum Vall de Guadelest (The Museum of Historical Vehicles), a collection of over a 140 motorcycles and some small cars from 50 different countries, all in perfect condition. It took more than 30 years' work to collect all the vehicles, which dates from the 1920's to the 1970's. This unique museum has a shop that sells a wide range of local products including honey, local cheese and handicrafts. It also has a restaurant that offers a family menu at attractive prices. The museum is located on the main road into Guadalest and is open every day except Saturdays from 10.30h to 19.00h during Summer and 18.00h during Winter.
The Torture Museum which is located in Calle Honda in which you will find torture instruments from Medieval times to the 20th century.
The Town Museum is within Orduna House which was first built in 1644. Much of the original house was destroyed an earthquake but has been re-built. The house is an interesting walk-through with some impressive room. Located in Calle Iglesias.
Micro-Gigantic Museum is where you will find the smallest and the largest. The smallest so small you have to inspect it through a magnifying glass.
The Miniatures Museum - here you will see a unique range of miniatures that can only bee seen through a magnifying glass. It is located on Calle Iglesias.
The Ribera Gerona Museum is a contemporary museum that displays contemporary art of the 20th century. They opened in 1974.