Montanejos: The historic paradise steeped in legends of old

Montanejos offers the perfect destination for a short trip away from the metropolis of Valencia with beautiful hiking routes and natural pools. Isobel Heal reports…

The vibrant and charismatic energy of city life in Valencia is undeniable. But for those who want a brief stint away from the excitement of urban living, the mountainous municipality of Montanejos offers the perfect short break. Such a shift in scenery seems almost impossible as the haven of tranquility that is Montanejos is only 90km from the bustling city. This quaint rural town offers hiking routes with unparalleled views of the Castellón forest, and picturesque wild swimming spots reminiscent of film scenes.

Hiking Trips Through the Mountains

With routes for hikers of all abilities which stem from the town itself, the forest trails have to be a main attraction of Montanejos as they vary on length and difficulty, but never compromise on beauty.

The nine most popular routes feature the highlights of the surrounding area, including la Cueva Negra (the Black Cave), la Fuente de los Baños (the Spring Baths) and el Chorro Dam. With many paths following stretches of the Mijares river, you can expect to pass by rafting, free swimming, and even the occasional fishing spot along your walk. The rugged terrain can be unsteady underfoot as loose rocks from the mountainside fall along the path so boots or trainers are ideal footwear. Unless your sandals are designed for hiking, it is probably a good idea to reconsider wearing them. We tried and tested them on a three-hour route and definitely did not enjoy the resulting blisters…

Views of the Castellón Forest, Montanejos; photo by Juanjo Mogollón

Fuente de los Baños

Of course, no good trek is complete without some kind of historical monument or ancient ruins, and Montanejos provides these in abundance. The most well-known of the Montanejos landmarks has to be the Fuente de los Baños: a picturesque series of lakes hidden in a valley between two mountains. Since the hyperthermal water maintains a constant temperature of 25ºC year-round, it’s a great bathing spot whatever the season. If you have taken a dip in fresh water before, you’ll know that not being frozen solid wild swimming is practically a miracle. Though, with the human body temperature being 37ºC, don’t expect the water to feel ’warm’!

If the idea of natural bathing hasn’t enticed you to travel to this miniature paradise, the rural legend might. According to locals, the Arabic King Abu-Zayd brought the women of his harem to bathe in the waters of Fuente de los Baños to give them eternal youth. Given the well-recognised healing properties of hyperthermal water treatments these days, Abu-Zayd might have accidentally been ahead of his time… Whether the story is true or not, the remains of Arabic baths dating back to the 13th century are still along the right side of the pools. It’s the perfect opportunity to feel like royalty.

With water so clear you can see the fish swimming past your shins, and a small café overlooking the lakes, Fuente de los Baños is the ideal relaxation spot for everyone, whether you are ordering a cerveza or a batido de chocolate.

Swimming in Fuente de los Baños
A dip in Fuente de los Baños, Montanejos; photo by Adrián Herreros Fos

El Chorro Dam

Though it is the most famous aquatic marvel of Montanejos, Fuente de los Baños is by no means the most explosive. If having 6,000 litres of water shooting at you from the side of a mountain is your cup of tea, El Chorro is definitely for you. The experience probably isn’t dissimilar to what it feels like to walk into a hurricane on purpose. Maybe some soap and shampoo wouldn’t go amiss…

Even if being pelted with water is something of an extreme experience, the beauty of the horizontal waterfall is evident. The stunning result of so much airborne water is some of the most incredible rainbows within arm’s reach. Although your hair may be plastered to your head, it truly is an incredible photo opportunity.

The waterfall at El Chorro Dam from the bridge, Montanejos; photo by Vanesa of Retales de Mi Vida

La Cueva Negra

An infinitely drier feature of Montanejos has to be the Cueva Negra or Black Cave. So called as a result of the soot from ancient homes coating the ceiling, the 2,300 metre cave boasts evidence of life from Neolithic times, and potentially even older civilisations. One of thirty catalogued caves in Montanejos, the Cueva Negra offers a great exploration for kids and alike as the 40,000m3 echo is definitely something to shout about!

Arenós Reservoir

Slightly further from the start point of Montanejos is a sight which is in equal parts awe-inspiring and terrifying. The Arenós reservoir about 2.5 hours walk from the village, but it has a very unique appeal. Beneath the enormous body of water is an unexpected surprise: an old Castilian town sunk beneath the water in the 1970s. With various landmarks of pools and glimpses of the Mijares river along the route, the trek to Arenós reservoir is worth the hike to view the site where Campos de Arenoso once stood.

Lookout over the Arenós Reservoir; photo by AllTrails

An Excursion to Montanejos

If a short excursion from city life is what you’re after, Montanejos promises incredible panoramic views, secluded natural pools, and jungle-like valleys to relax in. In high season, a ticket office runs to prevent overcrowding at the Fuente de los Baños with the price of €3 per person, and changing rooms and toilets are on offer. To stay overnight in the mountain town there is a variety of hotels to choose between. They are all around 4 stars, and parking is only €5 each day. Unfortunately, dogs can’t go in the hot springs, but there is plenty they can explore on the trails. Montanejos is one of many day trips you can take from Valencia, but it has to be one of the best.

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