‘Valencia Life’ photographer Paul Knowles got on his bike and headed south to Mirador del Pujol to capture Albufera’s famous sunset…
Cycling down to sunset in Albufera, Valencia, is one of the simplest and greatest existential rewards for living in our wonderful, adopted city. A quick Google search informed me that sunset on 5 January would be at 17.54. Consequently, at 15.30 I set off for a slow cycle down the coast to the lagoon in Albufera. The Albufera, meaning “lagoon” in Valencian, from the Arabic al-buhayra, lies just 11kms south of Valencia making it easily reachable even for casual cyclists.
An easy but ineffably rewarding cycle
From Ruzafa I exited right at the bottom of the Jardines del Turia. And just before the Oceanographic, I rolled onto the Cami del Salinar cycle path and headed south. After a steady five minutes peddling, I crossed over a flyover and the impressive Parròquia de la Puríssima Concepció, a Catholic church dating back to the 13th century loomed into view.
After stopping for a few snaps of the church I carried on down the cycle path. I crossed the Turia river and dropping down to Playa Pinedo (”the dog beach”, as everyone knows it locally). I peddled down the path towards the beach, drawn by the punchy scent of fried fish, paella and calamari. The beachfront restaurants were packed with locals basking in the warm January sun. Pinedo is an antidote to the more touristy Playa de las Arenas, with panoramic sea views and lower prices. These lesser-known spots are always well worth a visit.
The food smelet so tempting, but I had a sunset to get to. After all, the theme of this essay is cycling down to sunset in Albufera so I had better deliver. The cycle path continues hugging the beach as Playa Pinedo blends seamlessly into Playa de l’Arbre del Gos. This is a quieter and emptier stretch of sand. Eventually the path bears right onto Carrera de Riu and leads me past two large camping sites. These are Camping Valencia El Saler and Camping Jardines del Ocio. After that, the route took me down to the small town of El Saler.
There is a supermarket, a bakery and a couple of restaurants along the main strip in El Saler. Ca Pepe has a large terrace and is popular with cyclists fueling up on coffee and bocadillos. As I left El Saler behind, I continued along the Avinguda dels Pinars for a few minutes. Then I turned left onto Antic Tallafoc de la Rambla back towards the sea. It’s a pleasantly peaceful stretch of road through scented pine trees to Playa del Saler and the Arroceria Duna. The latter is famed for its excellent paella and rice specials.
Next, I took Avinguda Gola del Puchol and eventually crossed over the Gola del Pujol. It’s a channel of water connecting the Albufera lagoon to the sea. I stopped for a short break at Lake Estany del Pujol, a saltwater lake and popular bird-watching spot. More than 300 different species of birds including flamingos have been recorded in the area. I then took a sharp right and carried on up towards the main road and the Mirador del Pujol.
Best viewing point in Valencia?
The Mirador del Pujol is a small viewing platform that looks out onto the Albufera. As already noted, this is a large freshwater lagoon spanning more than 2,800 hectares. This makes it the largest such in Spain. The platform is bustling with tourists and locals alike. I took my place on the wooden harbour. I watched as two young couples settled down beside me. They came with takeaway pizzas, a bottle of rum, cans of cola and glasses with ice. Clearly, when it comes to food and sustenance, the Spanish are always prepared.
The sunset is spectacular. I leave the Mirador bathed in an orange glow and make my way back to Valencia back along the cycle paths with the Mediterranean growing ever darker beside me. Cycling down to sunset in Albufera is the gift that keeps on giving.
• Paul Knowles runs the number one, five-star rated AirBnb experience, Streets of Valencia Tours