The Orange Blossom Coast
The touristic term "Costa Azahar" [Orange Blossom Coast] takes in the whole province of Castellón, which is the most northern of the provinces making up the ancient Kingdom of Valencia. A hundred and twenty kilometres in length, it is endowed with fine warm beaches and beautiful wild coves, all bathed by the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Inland, it is complemented by pine woods and immense orange groves. It is bounded by Catalonia in the north, Aragon in the west and in the south by the province of Valencia, in the unique stretch of land formed by the end of the "Alto Palancia" and "La Plana" regions.
On the "Costa Azahar" we guarantee almost three hundred days of sunshine a year and an average temperature of 18º C, which make it a magnificent area to be enjoyed all year round. The climate is therefore a Mediterranean one of long, dry, hot summers and mild winters, in which to stay and enjoy the extraordinary attractions which this Spanish province has to offer to the visitor.
The province of Castellón is also the second most mountainous in Spain, and thus within very few kilometres, the clean beaches of the coast blend in with an aggressive mountain- scape inland which gradually declines as it nears the coast.
The tourist coastline of Castellón is very well connected. The A7 motorway crosses it from north to south, with wide roads giving access to the different towns, and we also have a complete railway service, and even a maritime and air service, due to the short distance from Valencia, capital of the Community. Soon "Costa Azahar" will have an airport that will facilitate, even more, the access to our lands.
Castellón is an eminently industrial province with strong agricultural roots. Eighty per cent of the Spanish tiles and ceramics industry is based here, living happily alongside the cultivation and commercialization of citric fruits; the orange tree is the most distinctive tree on the "Costa Azahar" and its blossom "el Azahar" gives the coast its name.
Traditionally, another of the most important resources of this province is the fishing industry, since this part of the Mediterranean is very rich in fish and shellfish. Tourism has gradually become as important as industry in the area. The professionals of the tourist sector have managed to make the most of the magnificent natural resources and beauty of the "Costa Azahar" and complement them with a modern offer of hotels, campsites and restaurants, as well as golf courses and marinas.
Travelling from north to south,Vinaros is the first city to greet visitors to the " Costa Azahar"; this town has undergone a big transformation in recent years, with new suburbs and totally residentialized streets, dotted with attractive Gothic and Baroque buildings. Vinarós has a modern bull ring, a commercial and fishing port, a wide, clean beach with full services and a rich gastronomy, of which the langoustine is the most traditional and esteemed shellfish speciality.
Benicarló is a city of Arabic origin, with nearby preIberian settlements. It has a medieval urban nucleus with noteworthy houses on whose façades you can still see noble coats of arms. The town is connected to the sea by a long avenue and its fishing port is notable as well as the long, wide beach which stretches to the outstanding town of Peñiscola, the touristic "nerve centre" of this part of the "Costa Azahar".
Peñiscola is not only remarkable because of its situation on top of a rocky promontory surrounded by the sea and joined to the mainland by a sandy tongue of land, but also for its exceptional monuments, for being the scene of historical events and for the beauty of its beaches and its enormous cliffs.
The majestic castle of Peñiscola was built by the Templar Knights in the thirteenth century. It is a unique building, constructed in the austere style of Aragon and bare of adornment. This outstanding work was then extended by the Order of Montesa and by Pope Benedict XIII, better known as the "Papa Luna" [ Moon Pope ], who retired there after the schism from the West. Peñiscola has played a very important role in the most important events of Spanish history for many years. The town is nowadays the most visited tourist centre in the whole of the Valencian Community.
A little further south we reach Alcossebre, an eminently touristic resort of Arab origin, which was subsequently inhabited by fishermen. It is joined to Alcala de Xivet, and has a modern marina, beaches and magnificent residential areas of villas and holiday apartments.
In Torreblanca we find the seaside resort of Torrenostra, with an excellent beach, campsites and restaurants surrounding a former fishing town which is now being continuously developed as a summer tourist resort.
Between this town and Oropesa del Mar, occupying part of the municipal term of Cabanes, we can find the Natural Park "Parque Natural del Prat de Cabanes- Torreblanca", an important humid area that conserves valuable fauna species and flora.
In Oropesa del Mar lie the fine sanded beaches of "La Concha" and "Morro de Gos". Beside them there is a modern leisure harbour, which is opening up excellent prospects for tourism in the town. Oropesa del Mar has also many beautiful unspoilt inlets surrounded by pines, with open views of the Mediterranean, among these the exceptional "playetas" zone.
Benicasim, a town of Arabic origin, is the home of tourism on the "Costa Azahar". It is a town dedicated to tourism, not only because of its fantastic beaches but also because of its wild mountains, which are very close to the coast and form the exceptional "Desierto de las Palmas". The sea and the mountains are so close to each other that they even seem to merge at some points on the coast. With the spectacular development of villas and holiday apartments by the seaside, Benicássim has become one of the most important summer tourist resorts on the Spanish Mediterranean coast and visiting it is a must.
The beaches of Benicássim stretch out southwards in a continuous line and join those of Castellon de la Plana, the capital, thus forming an almost unprecedented offer, in Spain, of 14 kilometres of uninterrupted beaches of soft sand, which are wide, clean and provided with an important number of hotels, campsites, typical restaurants, golf courses, an aerodrome, tennis courts, a planetarium, discotheques, pubs and in the centre of these, the majestic "Parque del Pinar" [Pine Grove Park ], a natural spot only metres from the sea, and pride of the Castellón people for its uniqueness.
The Pinar beach ends in the "Grau", the maritime district of the Capital, very well known among tourists for its extraordinary wealth of restaurants, where one can sample the most typical dishes of the area, especially all kinds of rice dishes and freshly caught fish and shellfish, of which some varieties are unique in the world.
Castellón has one of the most modern and influential ports of the Mediterranean, the commercial and fishing harbours standing alongside the Nautical Club, where there are presently over three hundred sports craft, and where one can practise an important number of nautical activities, and thus water sports are especially popular amongst the young. Thirty nautical miles out of the sea from the Grao lies the archipelago of the "Islas Columbretes", four groups of islets of volcanic origin which to visitors´eyes look like boats stranded in the sea. The biggest, "L´illa Grossa", covers an area of 14 hectares. The islands are of incomparable beauty and form a protected Natural Park.
Our route along the "Costa Azahar" brings us to Almassora, close to the mouth of the River Mijares, of great ecological interest. The township is dotted with hermitages of medieval origin and consists of a huge orange orchard where old "masets" [ traditional country farm houses ] and farmsteads are preserved. The beach, which is situated a few kilometres from the town centre, has numerous villas and blocks of apartments. It is a tranquil place and still removed from the hubbub typical of other areas, ideal for enjoying the sun and the exceptional temperature to be had nearly the whole year round.
A few kilometres from Almassora, on the route towards the south of the province, is Burriana, a city of time-honoured ancestry. It is the foremost town in the region of La Plana and dates back to the ninth century. The old city centre is of interest, and within this, several buildings dating from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century. It is also known as the "Home of the Orange", in honour of which a museum has recently been erected. The port, which was built at the beginning of this century to be used by orange exporters, is now also used widely by fishermen and sportsmen. Next to the harbour is the beach and around it there is an important nucleus of villas and apartments which promise an exceptional touristic future.
Five kilometres away we find Nules, the former "Noulas", which figured in Roman itineraries. In this town there are also countless remains from Roman times. Next to Nules is Mascarell, which is still surrounded by a quadrangular adobe town wall built of mortar, mud and brick. Its beach is very nearby, with a well developed ensemble of apartments and summer houses. Here there is the remarkable oddity of the "L´Estany" Park, a wide fresh water lagoon right next to the Mediterranean.
Etymologically speaking, the name Moncofa means "place of pools". It is a town situated by the north of the River Belcaire which still preserves relics of its ancient town walls; it is a typical country town whose maritime district has recently been developed as a summer resort with numerous villas and houses.
Chilches and its beaches, with a wide modern promenade by the sea next to villas and apartments takes us to the end of our route along the "Costa Azahar". Almenara, which still preserves its castle of Arabic construction, and has played an important role throughout history, from the time of El Cid, up to the Carlist Wars, including Jaime I´s conquest and the war of Independence. Its beach is known as the "White House". Formerly it was inhabited by a group of fishermen and farmers who lived together in " barracas " [typical Valencian thatched farmhouses], and in time has become a modern tourist square.
The "Costa Azahar" brings together, as a whole, all the attractions you need to spend a memorable time here, due to its beauty, its quiet places where you can enjoy the days in direct contact with nature, under a brilliant sun and with an exceptional temperature; and once you know it you will make it your favourite place to spend unforgettable holidays.