The East Coast of Spain: Valencia and Murcia

The East Coast of Spain: Valencia and Murcia

Here at Just Explore, our days are filled with all things Spain, Portugal and France. Discussing these magical countries, writing about them, and planning and booking extraordinary trips around them for our clients.

But there’s little better than getting out there in person. Experiencing, testing, hearing, tasting, feeling and seeing for ourselves the many wonderful things that make each and every destination so appealing.

Our latest research trip took CEO and founder Rosa Lara, along with head of product development Steve Croasdale and the rest of the team, Dalia, Miriam and Lourdes, to the enticing east coast of Spain to explore the regions of Valencia and Murcia.

Rosa, Steve and the Just Explore team exploring the East Coast of Spain
Steve, Rosa and the Just Explore team exploring the east coast of Spain

Exploring the East Coast of Spain

This research trip took us from the castle-topped beach town of Peñiscola down to the historic port city of Cartagena. Along the way, we reignited our love for the cool coastal city of Valencia and explored quaint towns and beachside villages in the Alicante region.   

The task at hand? To revisit favourite destinations and scope out new ones, putting experiences, properties and restaurants to the test. And we certainly managed that, coming home with a notebook bursting with new discoveries, favourite moments and top tips, so we can create picture-perfect itineraries through this orange-scented region.

Here’s an overview of our adventures on the east coast of Spain.

Malvarrosa beach, Valencia
The famous, sweeping beach of La Malvarrosa in Valencia

Vibrant Valencia

Blending the charm of a small town with the glamour and ambiance of a big city, Valencia is a destination on the rise. Long overlooked by the bigger, brighter lights of Madrid and Barcelona, the Moorish treasures of Andalucía, and the gastronomical delights of San Sebastián, this underrated city is staking its rightful claim on the tourism radar.

We’ve long extolled the charms of Spain’s third-largest city, but this ever-changing and highly innovative place always has more to discover.

Our Valencia Highlights

City tour: A city of contrasts, Valencia straddles history and modernity with ease and grace. Get your bearings on a city tour that combines the atmospheric old quarter with the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. From intricate Gothic and Medieval structures to daring contemporary architecture sheltering a range of attractions including a science museum, opera house and aquarium, discover the different sides to Valencia on a local-led city tour. 

Paella workshop: Birthplace of the iconic paella, Valencia is where you come to taste the real deal. If you want to try and recreate this delicious dish at home, head to Villa Indiano for an immersive, hands-on paella workshop before settling down to taste your creation in their picturesque gardens.

Lladró factory and museum: Lladró porcelain figurines are famous worldwide. A visionary leader in handmade Valencian ceramics, they’re renowned for their complexity and incredible attention to detail. Our visit to the Lladró factory in Tavernes Blanques, a small town on the outskirts of Valencia, was one of our highlights, as we witnessed the handcrafted process that brings these figurines to life.

Day trip to Peñiscola: Located around 140 km north of Valencia, Peñiscola is a delightful coastal town in the province of Castellón. Surrounded by golden beaches and backed by mountains, it’s perhaps best known for its iconic castle set on a rocky outcrop. It offers a wonderful opportunity to escape the city and take a step back in time, as you wander its historic centre.

Albufera National Park: Although not part of this research trip, it’s impossible to discuss the highlights of Valencia without mentioning Albufera National Park. This natural park just 10km from Valencia couldn’t be further from city life. Surrounded by rice fields and woods, this coastal wetland offers dreamy boat rides, incredible birdlife, nature walks, and truly authentic cuisine.

Gastronomy: With a food scene that belies its modest size, there’s so much more to Valencia than paella. The city has established itself as a place of culinary innovation with an impressive number of Michelin-starred restaurants. Among our food highlights on this trip was a visit to Bar X, a tapas-style restaurant run by two-Michelin-starred Ricard Camarena, and Llisa Negra, a kitchen focused on simple, product-based cuisine made in an open kitchen, the brainchild of three-Michelin-starred Quique Dacosta. We also loved wandering around the Mercado de la Imprenta, a gourmet food market located in an old printing press, which hosts top-quality food and wine from across Spain.

Delicious paella in Valencia, the home of paella
Valencia’s most famous dish: paella

Alluring Alicante

Set in the heart of the Costa Blanca, the Alicante region is characterised by its stunning coastline and scattering of enchanting inland and coastal villages. Despite its popularity, we’re only just branching out into this region, so we loved getting to know some of its lesser-known towns and villages.

Alicante Highlights

Guadalest: Perched on a steep, rocky crag around 24km inland from Benidorm, this small mountaintop village is a stunner. Founded by the Moors, it’s home to an imposing castle accessed via a natural tunnel in the rock, and has sublime views over the valley, mountains and reservoir.

Les Fonts de L’Algar: Nestled in the mountains, this natural reserve is bursting with waterfalls, springs and natural pools. We stopped en route to Guadalest to wander its picturesque trails and take a refreshing dip.

Dénia: With its gorgeous beaches, walled old town and ancient fortress, Dénia is a great base in the Alicante region. We were especially excited to learn about its status as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, and we merrily ate and drank our way around Els Magazinos, an artisanal food market that bursting with an array of food and drink from across Spain and around the world.

Altea: With whitewashed houses and steep, cobbled streets, wandering through Altea’s historic quarter was like stepping back in time. It’s easy to see why this charming town is a magnet for artists, and we enjoyed browsing artisans’ workshops along the flower-strewn, winding lanes, along with evening strolls along the beach promenade.

The stunning mountaintop village of Guadalest in Alicante

Mesmerising Murcia

Sandwiched between Andalucía and Valencia on the east coast of Spain, Murcia is known as the Costa Cálida (the Balmy Coast). This little-known region remains relatively unspoilt but is poised to grow as a tourist destination thanks to its superb golf resorts, the wine region of Jumilla, dolphin-watching opportunities in its pristine waters, and those endless beaches. We recommend visiting before the crowds arrive…

There’s plenty of culture and heritage to explore here, but two experiences really stood out for us.

Cartagena: To us, the port city of Cartagena has the feel of Cadiz or Malaga before they exploded in popularity. There are ample Roman ruins to explore, a hidden fortress, multiple museums, a colourful old town, and a rich maritime history dating back to the Carthaginians. Surrounded by spectacular natural landscapes and near to some of Murcia’s best beaches, it offers the perfect balance between relaxation and exploration.

Baterías de Castillitos: Perched on a ridge overlooking Cartagena and the sea, this military stronghold was built in the 1930s to resemble a medieval fortress with rocky turrets and huge cannons. Its fairy-tale appearance appears to be straight out of a Disney film, while the site offers some of Spain’s finest coastal views.

Roman ruins at Cartagena, Murcia
Roman ruins in the city of Cartagena, Murcia

This review merely scratches the surface of the wonderful things to see and do in the regions of Valencia and Murcia. If this has whet your appetite for a visit to the enchanting east coast of Spain, contact Just Explore and we’ll help create the trip of your dreams.