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Hiking around Monduver

cavelocalLa Safor, an area around the mountain of Monduver (the highest peak at 847m), has the most incredible hiking and biking routes with blinding views, unspoilt beauty and barely another walker to be seen. You can find this treasure inland from Gandia, in the Valencia region, by joining the CV-675 from the N332 in Gandia heading for Barx. We have had the great priviledge to live in this area for the last 2 years and have enjoyed being able to walk from the house to many of the routes I will mention.

It is a popular place for local cyclists too who trawl up the bendy mountain road from Gandia to make the most of a wide network of inland routes - on and off road. Our local biking groups are really hardcore - often doing 200 km rides on a Sunday morning.

But as a hiker you can be left to your own devices. There is a visitors centre as you reach the high valley floor, about 10km from Gandia, as you arrive in La Drova (a residential urbanisation surrounded by trees and towering cliffs). Named Parpalló-Borrell after the nearby natural park, and the Parpalló Cave where pre-historic man lived close by, the centre has a large aerial map to help you get your bearings and they offer route suggestions. I'll give you some loose ideas here too, most of which would take you 2-3 hours.

From the Visitors Centre take the obvious path past it which immediately gives you far-reaching views over the orange groves and peaks to the coast. You can do a circular hike by branching off to the right here.

Or continue up (past a no-entry chain for cars) the path bends to the left, and then to the right. From here there are 3 options - 1) up and over the residential urbanisation of La Drova with views of the length of the green valley and then along the valley floor past La Font back to the centre. 2) up past prehistoric man's cave, to the stone seat that looks out towards the coast at Xeraco and beyond to Valencia or 3) continue higher to the peak of Monduver, if you are feeling energetic, with its aerials spiking the sky, taking in the panoramic views for many miles. Rice paddies, mountain peaks, orange groves, greenery and coast. All this is almost always topped with blue sky too.You can get back via La Drova and the valley floor to the visitors centre in a circular loop.

There is a road leaving from Barx (left at Toni's bar and up, hugging the cliff edge, which opens a beautiful can of worms. You could park half way up and join the woodland walking trail to reach the mud roads at the top or drive up and be on the top table and explore from there. There's nothing up there but nature and sky and you - and occasionally a farmer and his beasts. This area is great for cyclists too.

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Alternatively take a track behind La Font in La Drova, to the left and then right by a small house, and head up the cliffside. It's fairly steep - you will see the rock face towering above you, but its worth it. Keep angled to your left and the path will lead you around the side of the ridge giving gorgeous views between peaks to the coast and Montgo (Javea). There are 2 or more options from here - 1) Once you reach a trail sign take the direction of Pinet. This is a longer, possibly all day outing with a leisurely lunch stop in the village before making your way back. or 2) branch right and continue your climb upwards until you reach a dirt road at the top. If you go right here you will join the top table road so can walk back down to Barx that way. There is a path behind the houses, to the right and parallel to the road that leads you back to La Font in La Drova.

If you drive through Barx and exit the other side to the left heading for the hamlet of Puig Mola, continue on the road behind the paella restaurant there. Sorry to sidetrack but Puig Mola Restaurant is worth including in this outing as the delicious paellas are cooked traditionally over wood which adds to the flavour. They may even invite you in to the kitchen to have a look at how they do it. Reservation recommended on 962 807 008. (Paella's are for lunchtime only and lunch is around 2-3pm.)

Once your appetite is satisfied get back on the road. Within a moment you will be amidst a national park where the scenery is shockingly beautiful. It would be great to cycle this road if you have the stamina for the ups and downs but driving it will also blow your mind. There are no tourist attractions here, and like all routes I have mentioned, you'll barely pass another soul. Further on in this direction is the lovely town of Xativa (about 45 mins from Barx) with a castle overlooking the large old town, but that's another story...

I'm sharing with you a few secrets. This is a side of Spain that most people will not stumble across. Enjoy!

If you want some help exploring this region talk to Dave Warrington of Nature Trail Spain. He is into cycling, bird watching, hiking, climbing and is very experienced, enthusiastic and expert about making the most of the outdoors in this region.

La Casona de Ferrando is a rural guesthouse in La Drova if you want to stay locally. Call them on 962807343.