Vía Verde del Mar: Hiking along the Mediterranean Coast

The advent of rail transport has had a universal impact on economic development throughout the world. Spain missed the train when much of Western Europe was basking in the riches of the Industrial Revolution but we did eventually get full steam ahead. Around the world many of these lines have now been abandoned; in Spain there are a total of circa 7600 KM of disused railway lines. Thankfully, 2500 KM of these disused railway lines have been given a new breath of life by being converted into 120 greenways that span across the length and breadth of Spain.

The Vía Verde del Mar (Greenway of the Sea) straddles the Mediterranean coast between Benicàssim and Oropesa del Mar. Expect picturesque views, rock-cut passages, defensive watchtowers, tunnels and unspoilt rugged beaches and coves.

The best way to enjoy this trail is to take the train from Valencia to Benicassim and then getting the train back from Oropesa del Mar after completing the trail. If you’d prefer to go by car, bear in mind that as the trail is linear you’d need to go back on yourself which could be quite repetitive. The choice is yours.

The trail is very easy to follow but you can view and download the track from Wikiloc to make sure you are on the correct path. viaverdewikiloc

Let’s get started!

Take the train from Valencia (Estació del Nord) to Benicàssim. You can purchase the tickets online here, via the Renfe App or at the station (there’s no real need to purchase tickets in advance). I’d recommend purchasing the Regional Express train that departs at 8.05am (check times online as it may differ depending on the season) and typically costs 8.10€, otherwise you can get the later train called Talgo for around 18.70€. Once you have arrived at Benicàssim you’ll need to walk to the start of the trail. You have two options: 1) take the direct short route or 2) take the scenic route along the beach promenade. The start of the route is located next to Hotel Voramar on Calle Termalismo. viaverde1At the start of the trail you’ll be met with the first engineering marvel, a passage cut into the rock with a series of tunnels. Once you have passed under all these tunnels the trail becomes rather monotonous because you need to pass through an urban area where people have their villas by the sea.  But fear not, up ahead you’ll soon be rewarded with spectacular views of the rugged coastline of the Mediterranean Sea on the right and views of the mountains on the left. viaverde2In the distance you’ll spot an old coastal watchtower called Torre de la Colomera (Colomera Tower). This watchtower was built in 1553 to protect the coast from Barbary pirate invasions such as the infamous Ottoman pirate known as Barbarroja (Red Beard) who was feared across the Mediterranean. These pirates were known to take captives and sell them in the slave markets of Algiers.  The watchtower is located on Roca del Gigante (The Giant’s Rock) which is a micro-reserve designated as a Site of Community Importance. viaverde3There is another rock-cut passage between the Roca del Gigante and the hillside which leads to a viewpoint where you can contemplate the glistening sea and climb the rock to reach the tower. viaverde4Next, you’ll need to go through yet another rock-cut passage which will lead you to an area known as La Renegà where there are a series of unspoilt rocky beaches. viaverde5You can take one of the trails that run off from the main trail to reach these beaches. This is the perfect place to have a picnic (bring food, there are no restaurants or bars in the area) and have a dip in the sea.  The trail that I took down (see wikiloc map above) goes past an abandoned building with some unsavoury graffiti and lots of rubbish around (people really are pigs) but once you get to the coastline you’ll thank me later. viaverde6Once you have finished eating and/or bathing in the sea you need to return to the main trail. Up ahead, you’ll come across another coastal watchtower known as Torre de la Cordà (Tower of the Rope Ladder) which was also built in 1553 to protect the coast from pirates. The tower used to be accessed via a rope ladder to reach the door located 6 metres from the ground but nowadays there is a metal spiral staircase which you can use when the tower is open to the public. During the summer it is opened more often but if you really want to access it you can get into contact with the Oropesa Tourism Office to arrange a visit. Phone 964 31 23 20 or email oropesadelmar@touristinfo.net  On clear days you can sometimes see a set of uninhabited volcanic islands known as Islas Columbretes in the distance. viaverde7After visiting the tower you will be coming close to the end of his greenway but first you’ll need to go through the 600m long tunnel that cuts through the Bolavar Mountain. The tunnel is equipped with automated lights so you needn’t worry about bring a flashlight. If you’d rather not go through the tunnel there are two optional detours: 1) Ascend to the Mirador de Oropesa (Oropesa Viewpoint) with breathtaking views, 2) go around the tunnel straddling the coast instead of going through the tunnel. Both of these detours take time and require much more of an effort. It’s up to you; we just made things simple and went through the tunnel. viaverde8Once you emerge from the tunnel there are only a few more metres until you come to the end of the Vía Verde del Mar. This is the end of the official route. At this point, you can make your way to Oropesa del Mar and explore the area before making your way to the train station to come back to Valencia. viaverde9

Rating: 7/10

Difficulty level: Very easy.

Approximate time:  2 hours

Total Distance: 12.82 KM (The official route is only 5.7 KM)

Type of trail: Linear. The trail is also equipped with a cycle lane for those who are cyclist enthusiasts

Distance from Valencia: 88km. By car: 1 hour. By train: 1 hour 20 minutes


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