Defending the South

Valencia - Alicante
Route:From Valencia (Valencia) to Orihuela (Alicante)
Journeys:3 days
227.22KM
Cabecera mapa Motor Defensa del Sur
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  • The Miquelet (Miguelete) is the bell tower of the cathedral of Valencia and one of the symbols of the city of Valencia.  It was mostly built in a Gothic style between 14th and 15th century. Its name comes from the great bell dedicated to St. Michael (aproximately 7500 kilos). A spiral stone staircase with 207 steps leads you to the top with great views of the city / ALC.
  • Apostles Gate  in the cathedral of Valencia / ALC.
  • King Jaime I, equaestrian statue in Valencia / ALC.
  • La Lonja de Valencia was a financial centre where the latest medieval merchants work out contracts. It is a wholly exceptional example of a secular building in late Gothic style. It was declared World Heritage Site in 1996 / Turismo Valencia.
  • Romanesque Puerta del Palau (Door of the Palace), in the Cathedral of Valencia / ALC.
  • Possibly in May 1099, El Cid died in Valencia of natural causes, at the age of less than fifty-five years. Monument to El Cid, in the city of Valencia, by sculptress Anna Hyatt Huntington / ALC.
  • La Gesta de Mío Cid, a representation on the beach of Las Arenas, in Valencia, where the siege of the muslim city by el Cid's troops is dramatized.
  • Every Thursday at noon, for centuries, the Water Tribunal (Tribunal de las Aguas), declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity UNESCO, has been meeting in the square in front of Valencia's Cathedral / Turismo Valencia.
  • Fallas de Valencia, bonfire festival in March designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2016 / Turismo Valencia.
  • The ancient relationship between men and animals is mirrowed in traditional festivals as Albal, Valencia /  José Beut Duato.
  • Alfafar rice paddies, Valencia / Vicente Alemany.
  • Islamic tower of Racef, in Almussafes (province of Valencia). ALC
  • Walls of Alzira, province of Valencia / València Terra i Mar.
  • Easter Week in Alzira, Valencia. Festivity of National Tourist Interest
  • Every September, In Algemesí, province of Valencia, takes place the Festival of the Mare de Deu de la Salut, a religious festival of medieval origin declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO / Museu Valencià de la Festa de Algemesí.
  • Castle of Xàtiva, Valencia / València Terra i Mar.
  • Xàtiva, Valencia / PAB.
  • Ontinyent, Valencia / Tourist Info Ontinyent,
  • Bocairent, province of Valencia / ALC
  • Ancient stone paths, hermitage in Bocairent, province of Valencia / ALC.
  • The castle of Banyeres de Mariola, in the province of Alicante / Tourist Office of Banyeres de Mariola.
  • Castle of Banyeres de Mariola (province of Alicante) during the traditional Festival of Moors and Christians / Tourist Info Banyeres de Mariola.
  • Moors and Christians. Banyeres de Mariola, Alicante. Festivity of National Tourist Interest
  • Correfocs 'fire runners' in Petrer, Alicante / José Antonio López Rico.
  • 'Carasses', festivity with masks in Petrer, Alicante. In October / José Antonio López Rico.
  • Festival in Petrer, province of Alicante / José Antonio López Rico.
  • Apart from in the province of Valencia, all road routes are signposted at strategic points and crossroads / ALC.
  • Biar castle, Alicante / ALC.
  • Castle of Biar, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Gothic aqueduct in Biar, province of Alicante / Asís G. Ayerbe.
  • Bell tower of La Ascensión church in Biar, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Gate os San Roque, also called of Xàtiva, in the gothic quarter of San Roque, in the village of Biar, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Castle of Biar, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Gate of Castilla, in the Gothic quarter of San Roque, in the village of Biar, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Villena, province of Alicante / Manuel López Francés.
  • Interior of the gothic church of Santiago Apóstol in Villena, province of Alicante / Municipality of Villena.
  • Castle of La Atalaya, Villena , in province of Alicante. ALC
  • Villena castle, Alicante / ALC.
  • Treasure of Villena, from the archaeological site of Cabezo Redondo, in Villena, province of Alicante / Municipality of Villena.
  • During the Medieval Festival of Villena (province of Alicante), the failed meeting between El Cid and king Alfonso VI is played.
  • Medieval market in Villena, province of Alicante / Stewart John Mur.
  • Moors and Christian Festival of Villena, Alicante. Festivity of National Tourist Interest
  • Castle of Sax, province of Alicante / Juan Miguel Martínez.
  • Castle of Sax, province of Alicante / Vicente Guill Fuster.
  • Castle of Petrer, Alicante / Town council of Petrer.
  • Castle of Novelda, province of Alicante / Provincial Council of Alicante.
  • Sanctuary of Santa María, in Novelda, province of Alicante / Provincial Council of Alicante.
  • Panoramic view of Elche, Alicante / Turisme Elche.
  • The palace castle of Altamira, where de ancient moorish citadel was constructed, in Elx - Elche, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Remains of the islamic walls of Elche, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Basilica of Santa María in Elche, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Interior of the basilica of Santa María in Elx - Elche, Alicante / ALC.
  • Tower of Calahorra, in Elche, Alicante / ALC.
  • The palm grove of Elche, of Arab origin, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO / Turisme Elx.
  • Palace castle of Altamira, ancient moorish citadel in Elche, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Remains of the islamic wall of Elche next to the facade of the Archaeological and History Museum of Elche, Alicante / ALC.
  • Archaeological and History Museum of Elche, Alicante / Asís G. Ayerbe.
  • El Misteri de Elche, religious drama of medieval origin declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO / Turisme Elx.
  • Palm Sunday Procession in Elche, Alicante. Festivity of International Tourist Interest
  • The Palm Sunday Procession, in Elche, Alicante / Turisme Elx.
  • Panoramic view from the islamic castle of Cox, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Way up to the islamic castle of Cox, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Cox castle, Alicante / ALC.
  • The gothic main front of the church of San Martín, in Callosa de Segura, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • City wall in Orihuela, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Gothic door of the Cathedral of El Salvador and Santa María, in Orihuela, province of Alicante / ALC.
  • Church of Santiago el Mayor, in the city of Orihuela, province of Alicante / Council of Orihuela.
  • Bell Tower of the church of Santas Justa y Rufina, in Orihuela, province of Alicante / Council of Orihuela.
  • Easter Week in Orihuela, Alicante. Festivity of International and National Tourist Interest.

  

‘La Defensa del Sur’ (Defending the South) by car or motorbike. A historical and literary route along the inland defence line near the Mediterranean

  • Route: From Valencia to Orihuela
  • Provinces: Valencia, Alicante
  • Kilometres: Approx. 230 km.
  • Days Recommended: 3 days to enjoy the most emblematic sites at your leisure. If you still have not made up your mind which places to visit, we strongly recommend exploring La Albufera, an area offering a host of surprises. Alternatively, explore the roads that twist and turn through the Mariola Mountain Range.

 

Information you can download on this page

Remember that you can obtain more information about each route at the tourist information offices on the Way of El Cid, including brochures and the Letter of safe conduct.

 

The Plot: a historical and literary route along the inland defence line

Unlike the previous routes, along the southern defence line – La Defensa del Sur – history takes precedence over literature. The author of The Song of El Cid was unable to come up with arguments strong enough to merge into a single plot the two periods of exile to which, according to history, El Cid was condemned by Alphonse VI. The first was in Castile, in 1081, and the second, far harsher and more significant, in 1088, during the time El Cid spent in Alicante. This route retraces this historic episode, together with a number of others related to the threat from the south of the Almoravid dynasty.

Great is the rejoicing there/ when mio Cid took Valencia and entered the city / Men who had been on foot made it into the city on horseback / and as for the gold and silver, who could count it? The conquest of Valencia by El Cid was the culmination of a dream yet also the origin of serious concerns surrounding the need to defend the city, which would withstand the Almoravid onslaught until 1102, the year when Jimena – El Cid had died three years previously – left the city.

According to the Poem, El Cid finally managed to enter Valencia after a long and drawn-out siege. The King of Seville attempted to regain the city but was defeated in a battle fought out in the Huerta de Valencia region. It is then that El Cid was pardoned by Alphonse VI; his wife and daughters travelled to Valencia and El Cid would show them the extent of his domains from the fortress tower. The Almoravid King Yusuf would later march on the city with 50,000, but they were also repelled. Following this victory, El Cid married his daughters to the Infantes of Carrión. Two years later, King Bucar laid siege to Valencia, setting up a camp with 50,000 tents. He was defeated and slain by El Cid, who seized his sword, known as Tizona, worth a thousand gold coins. Finally, after recovering his honour and being proclaimed a great lord and warrior, El Cid died in Valencia.

Although this is the story narrated in the Poem, history has a very different tale to tell. Generally-speaking, most of the towns in the south of Valencia sided with the powerful Almoravids, who had set up their military base in Murcia. There is historical evidence that during the siege of Valencia, an Almoravid army camped in Almussafes but were forced to retreat following torrential flooding. In 1093 El Cid attacked the city of Alzira, which had refused to support him. He ordered the harvesting of the local crops which were then taken to his general headquarters in El Puig and in 1097 a contingent of his men were defeated in Alzira by an Almoravid expedition.

 During the later years of Rodrigo’s life, even Xàtiva, which had initially yielded to the might and power of El Cid, became the spearhead for the Almoravid offensive against Valencia. Indeed, the Poem of El Cid relates that it was there that the Moorish King of Seville sought shelter there whilst fleeing from Rodrigo.

The second reason for this route is historical, and starts some 25 km from Xàtiva, in Ontinyent. In November 1088 El Cid travelled from Xàtiva to Ontinyent to await the arrival of King Alphonse VI, who was on his way to assist Aledo. The king asked Rodrigo to wait for him in Villena, but he chose Ontinyent instead because there he could be sure of sufficient provisions for his men. The meeting between the two forces never took place, and El Cid set up camp in Elche where he spent the Christmas period. It was there that he heard the news that Alphonse VI had declared him a traitor, once again casting him into exile. In the midst of enemy territory he vowed never again to serve any master, and to act only in accordance with his own free will.

The route ends in Orihuela. The connection with Orihuela dates back to 1090. After defeating the Catalonian Count Berenguer Ramón II at the Battle of Tévar, El Cid set up a vast protectorate of the Moorish kingdom of Al Hayib, which included the territories of Lerida, Tortosa and Denia. According to Ben Alcamo, by 1091 this protectorate extended from Tortosa to Orihuela.

 

The journey

La Defensa del Sur is a route of sharp contrasts: from well-developed stretches made up mainly of farm tracks and vías verdes – reconditioned railway tracks – to trails leading through the more mountainous areas. On leaving Valencia and its surroundings, travellers will come across two of this region’s greatest landmarks: La Albufera and the Huerta de Valencia.

La Albufera is a coastal lagoon of shallow waters – with an average depth of just one metre, set amidst rice fields and enclosed from the sea by a sand bank created by the sea currents. It has been exploited by Man since ancient times and today is home to a considerable number of animal and plant species: from water birds to fish in danger of extinction, such as the Spanish and Valencia toothcarp.

The second of the most striking features of this area is the Huerta de Valencia – literally ‘the Orchard of Valencia’-: a unique natural, social and economic space that is deeply rooted in the region’s history. Back in the 11th century, the virtues of Valencia’s vegetable and fruit orchards, so highly prized by the Moors, were sung by the poet Ibn Jafaya, who was born in Alzira. Indeed, the Moorish defence walls of this town, remind us of its origins. Alzira is one of the eight towns along the route that have been declared historic and/or artistic sites.

The next is Xàtiva, which boasts a magnificent historic and artistic heritage, the highlight of which is its castle. Together with Sax Castle, it is one of the most magnificent sights to be admired on this route.

From Ontinyent the route heads up towards Bocairent, one of the most spectacular towns on the Way of El Cid, along a winding road with only small stretches of hard shoulder that is popular with cyclists. Please take great care and keep a distance of 1.5 metres.

The Way of El Cid enters the province of Alicante via Banyeres de Mariola. Its castle is the first on a defence line dating back to the days of the Almohads and which passes through Biar, Villena, Sax, and Petrer before finally reaching Elche. The line boasts a wealth of medieval heritage including the Palmeral or Palm Grove, a World Heritage Site. From Elche we make our way down to Bajo Vinalopó. The arid landscape forms a stark backdrop for the fertile farming lands and palm groves dotted along the way. This is a densely populated area that ends in what has come to symbolise the southern extreme of El Cid’s domains: the monumental town of Orihuela.

 

Singular roads

The term Carreteras Singulares or ‘Singular Roads’ is used to refer to those stretches of the Way of El Cid of particular importance for cycle tourism or of environmental, historical or artistic value. This route includes the following Singular Roads.

  • CV 81 between Ontinyent and Bocairent (7 km). Valencia

This road runs between two exceptional towns on the Way of El Cid in the province of Valencia noted for their outstanding historical and artistic heritage: Ontinyent and Bocairent. After leaving a natural bathing area, the road makes its way uphill through the Mariola Mountain Range, a valuable ecosystem rich in mixed gall oak woods. It is a very popular route for cycling tourists, so please respect them and take great care, specially when overtaking: keep a safety distance of 1.5 m.

 

Culinary delights

Although rice is the hallmark of Valencia’s cuisine, with a wide range of varieties and a host of different dishes prepared in multiple ways (paella, a banda - cooked in stock -, creamed, in squid ink, in desserts, etc.), this is also a land characterised by its gastronomic intensity and diversity. For instance, Valencia’s vegetable and fruit orchards have been renowned since the days of the Moors, resulting in a long list of mouth-watering dishes, such as pericana – an intensely flavoured sauce made from poor cod, olive oil and sun-dried peppers – and fish, freshly caught off the coast. After all, this is the Mediterranean. 

Travellers will also have the chance to taste a different kind of cuisine, characteristic of this land, such as the guisos de los marjales or eel stews, or the puchero valenciano which, unlike the stews and casseroles of Castile, is lighter and contains less fat. The inland and mountain areas of Alicante are the perfect choice for enjoying a dish traditionally eaten by shepherds and that when properly prepared is absolutely delicious: Alicante gazpacho, made with meat, normally hare or partridge seasoned with local herbs and served with flour flat bread.

When it comes to sweets and desserts, and without forgetting the famous citrus fruits and horchatas – tiger nut milk drinks – it must be remembered that these lands are home to turrón nougat. Alicante’s nougat is famed throughout the world, but both Valencia and Alicante produce delicious almond nougats made from traditional recipes.

 

Signposting

Roads in the province of Alicante are signposted at crossroads and other strategic points.

 

Tips and recommendations

  • Remember that the road you are on is also used by cyclists and you might come across a few of them on your journey. Respect them and take great care. Especially when overtaking: keep a safety distance of 1.5 m.
  • Book your accommodation in advance. You are about to travel through one of the areas with the lowest population density in Europe. Some villages are very small and have limited infrastructures. Book your accommodation at the end of the stage in advance and if you change where you plan to finish the route, check that there is accommodation available there.
  • Get your Letter of safe conduct. The Letter of Safe Conduct is a personalised 'passport' you can have stamped at many towns and villages on the Way of El Cid. You can use it to get discounts of at least 10% in more than 200 places of accommodation and benefit from special offers. It is free and you can apply for it at any of the more than 70 tourist information offices on the route or at the Way of El Cid Consortium.
  • Your literary guide. You might think it's unnecessary weight, but for many it is essential: don't forget to take with you a copy of the Poem of The Cid; you will be able to recreate some of its passages on site. If your Old Spanish is not so good, take a modern version!

Rev. ALC- 04.10.18

Routes of Motor related