Atalaya Castle. Villena
Between vegetable gardens and castles
This route is a visit to the castles and fortresses in the district of Vinalopó, in the province of Alicante. They speak of the old battles that took place in this area. Buildings whose history goes back to the time of El Cid Campeador, the famous medieval knight, and the battles on the border between Moors and Christians during the Reconquest.
We suggest starting the trip right in the heart of the Vinalopó valley, specifically in the towns of Elda and Petrer. They are very close together and are also the main place for the shoe-making industry in Alicante.
We'll start off in the Elda Castle: erected in 1172, it belonged to the Almohads, until the Christian conquest halfway through the 13th century. The Petrer Castle is from the same era. The crenelated walls stand out, as well as the keep, which is usually used to house different exhibitions.
Then we'll head towards the town of Sax just 12 kilometres away. Its castle, situated on top of a steep crag, dominates the valley strategically. Its profile is that of two large towers joined by crenelated walls.
The next stop, less than 7 kilometres away, is the town of Ávila. It is situated next to the lake of the same name, from which salt was extracted, and today it is a nature area where many birds make their nests. Then we'll head towards Monóvar, which is 11 kilometres away. It is the birth town of the writer José Martínez Ruiz, Azorín, belonging of the Generation of '27.
About four kilometres in Novelda we'll see La Mola castle with its peculiar triangular tower. The route continues towards Castillo del Río, 8 kilometres away, where the first settlement (12th century) of the village of Aspe, was. It is currently half ruined. Then, after another 4 kilometres will appear amongst the vineyards of the town of Monforte del Cid.
Just over 10 kilometres away we'll go past the town of Agost, known for its pottery. By then we'll be right in the sierra del Maigmó mountains. On the way we'll find the district of Tibi, where there is a 16th century dam, considered one of the oldest in Europe that is still in use.
From Tibi we continue towards Ibi, 12 kilometres away, famous for its toy industry. After 10 kilometres we'll get to a crossroads that takes us to the nearby towns of Castalla and Onil. In the first we'll see the impressive 11th century Moorish castle on top of a steep peak. A brilliant construction made up of walls, keep and Gothic palace. In Onil the site made up of the castle-palace of the Marqués de Dos Aguas (Gothic, 16th century) and the parish church (18th century) are not to be missed.
Just 10 kilometres away we have a place not to be missed: Biar. It has one of the best castles in the area, with a double walled site and keep. It is also situated in an area of great natural interest.
Later on, 9 kilometres away we get to the end of the route in the town of Villena. It spreads out at the foot of the hill on which the Atalaya Castle stands. It also has other interesting buildings such as, for example, the Gothic Church of Santiago, the shrine of Nuestra Señora de las Virtudes and the Municipal Palace, built in the 16th century. The latter houses the Municipal Archaeological Museum, where we can see pieces of goldsmithing that make up the famous Iberian treasure of Villena.