Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Annabel, Mark and their son James. They had travelled from Poland to spend a week in Valencia as a surprise celebration of Mark´s birthday. I had previously communicated at length with Annabel, and together we´d designed a trip for them that was essentially a twin-centre holiday as a way of enjoying the diversity of the Valencian Community. I really enjoyed working with them as one of my key priorities is to help my clients to make the absolute best of their time, to discover virtually unknown corners of Spain and to provide something bespoke.
They spent their first few days in the beautiful Alqueria del Pilar in the village of Banyeres de Mariola, before making the easy drive to the city of Valencia where they spent the weekend. That way, they had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning rural location followed by a visit to this fascinating and enchanting city. This diversity coupled with our mild climate makes the Valencian Community an ideal destination in which to enjoy cycling for families in Spain.
They had requested two very distinct biking trips during their stay in the Sierra de Mariola. On day 1, they were looking for a trip for all the family, including 3 year old James who had brought along his own bike trailer! One day 2, they wanted a tougher mountain bike ride for Mark, but had requested a route that could also include some good opportunities for photography, particularly wildlife.
Our first day together dawned bright yet cool, so having ensured that we were all sufficiently prepared for the ride, we attached James´trailer to one of our bikes. I explained the plan for the day, which included a number of possibilities and alternative return routes, then we set out directly from L´Alqueria del Pilar, past the village of Banyeres de Mariola then along a disused railway line that´s now a great recreational trail.
After almost an hour´s cycling we made a stop at a playground beside the trail so that James could stretch his legs and we could rest ours! We then passed through another ancient village, Beneixama before taking to a quiet country lane that lead us to the historic fortified village of Biar.
Having enjoyed lunch in the village square, we ended the trip with a pleasant ride along another quiet country lane back to Banyeres de Mariola.
Day 2 was a little warmer with clear blue skies and very little wind. We made a slightly earlier start as we had quite a long route in mind. We had a number of key objectives to cover – to ride some great mountain biking trails, to see as much of the surroundings as possible, to have quite a physically challenging ride and the photograph some of the local wildlife.
Therefore, we began on one of the areas best cross country forested trails. It has a little of everything, descents, climbs, rocks, single track, and great views. After a couple of hours riding we stopped for lunch in a clearing and enjoyed the warm autumn sun. We then took to a stretch of country lanes that took us over into the next valley and gave us views over the town of Alcoy.
After a little more pedalling we entered a spectacular rocky gorge where we rested and waited, scanning the skies and high cliffs.
After just 5 minutes our patience and hopes were rewarded with some great views of Griffon Vultures. These magnificent creatures breed in this dramatic gorge and are always an absolute pleasure to see.
After a fascinating half hour watching and photographing these superb birds, we began the climb back up onto the Sierra de Mariola and headed for home. There´s something very beautiful about the afternoon autumn sunlight in the Sierra de Mariola, and this made our final few kilometres very memorable.
We arrived back at Alqueria del Pilar as the shadows were growing longer, having enjoyed a great day out in this very special area.
Annabel, Mark and James spent another day discovering some of the ancient villages of the area before making the short journey to the city of Valencia where they had a great weekend. They particularly enjoyed the historic quarter, the vibrant central market (one of the largest indoor markets in Europe), the River Turia Gardens and the beachfront.
It had been a pleasure to have met them. Hopefully they had discovered what makes this corner of Spain so very special. It´s a privilige to share it with my clients and friends and to call it home.
Written by David Warrington.
Mountain Bike Guide and Instructor at Mountain Biking Valencia.