Duration: 45 mins each way. Easy walk along the paved sea front, uneven stone paths towards the end.
Start by the port, opposite the breakwater with the red lighthouse and head along the paseo maritimo (seafront walk) towards the old town. Villajoyosa’s magnificent sandy beach curves ahead of you to the breakwater at the southern end. But it wasn’t always this way.
Until 1991, the beach was shingle. But then someone with an eye on the tourist trade realised that stones and pebbles weren’t great for holidaymakers. Many tons of imported sand later, La Vila (as Villajoyosa is known in Valenciano) had one of the nicest beaches on the Costa Blanca. The town of El Campello, a few kilometres down the coast, clearly thought it was a smart idea and did the same thing a few years later.
La Vila had actually been attracting tourists years before that; about half way along the beach stood the “Baños de Neptuno” (Neptune’s Baths), a kind of seaside spa on a short, stumpy pier with bathing facilities and (of course) a restaurant. It opened in 1915 and lasted until 1970. There’s no sign of it now; just a plaque on the seafront walk.
A little further on stood a lighthouse; again, nothing remains of this either, as it was destroyed in a storm in 1949. But it is evidence of La Vila’s history as a port. For hundreds of years, ships used to moor out in the bay and their cargoes were ferried to the beach in small boats, until the modern port was built in the 1920s.
Just before you reach the old town, you’ll notice a series of escalators on your right heading up the hill through a park to the main street, a handy way of riding up to the town centre after a day on the beach. If you need any further incentive, there’s a Valor chocolatería right at the top.
A few metres further on are the imposing gates of the abandoned Villa Isabel, also known as Senyoreta de l’Hort. Once an elegant villa set in its own grounds, it became a disco run by the (then) deeply cool Pacha chain back in the 80s.
Since the disco shut, the building has been gradually crumbling away while the town works out – very slowly – what to do next. The old villa gets a brief chance to shine every July during the town’s fiesta, when marquees garlanded with lights are set up in the grounds and you get a real sense of what the place could look like with a little TLC.
But Covid-19 meant the fiesta was cancelled two years in a row – so in summer 2021, the place hosted Fira d’Artesania – arts and crafts stalls and demonstrations, plus a public art installation. Let’s see what happens next.
Keep walking past the “casas pintadas”, the strikingly colourful houses that are the symbol of La Vila (see my blog here for more detail on the old town). According to tradition, they were painted brightly so the town’s fishermen could see their home port from out at sea.
Cross the little bridge over the river Amadorio; the royal shipyards of La Vila were here next to the river mouth for hundreds of years, until they moved to the other end of the beach in the early 20th century when ships got too big to launch safely here.
If the weather is a bit rough, you may even see a surfer or two here riding the waves.
Look to your right up the river valley to see the hanging houses perched on the old city walls. The fortifications were originally there to protect against Berber pirate attacks from North Africa, but by the 18th century, the danger had pretty much disappeared. So the resourceful locals began to build their houses on top of the walls. Stroll up the landscaped park by the river for a closer view
Cross the river and you’re in Poble Nou (literally “new village” in Valenciano). Poble Nou isn’t exactly new though: it’s been settled for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The unloved seafront here has had a much-needed facelift with the creation of a linear park; housing and a hotel are under construction.
A few hundred metres further on you reach the rather scruffy Playa de los Puntos de Moro; the coast path comes to an end here, so head inland up the paved road for around 100m, and then strike out to your left up the rough path that takes you to the cliff top for a beautiful view.
Follow the curve of the little bay round to the ruined Villa Giacomina. Built in 1910 by Dr Alfonso Esquerdo (the Esquerdo family were big benefactors to the town) and named after his Argentinian wife Giacomina, it’s a real jumble of influences. There are pointed Muslim arches and faintly-visible stars of David alongside Christian and masonic symbols.
The villa was occupied by the Italian Army at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and never really recovered from the experience; it is now a rather sad, graffiti-daubed, fenced-off ruin. It’s owned by the Ayuntamiento (town council) of La Vila, who’d like to restore it.
At Easter 2019, part of the villa collapsed in heavy rains, to the surprise of absolutely no-one; much of the tower at the corner of the building sheared away and is now a heap of rubble. The Ayuntamiento says it will rebuild. I won’t be holding my breath.
Walk towards the ruined tower on the Malladeta clifftop. This is not one of the 16th century watchtowers that punctuate the coastline hereabouts. Instead it was built in the 19th century as a private study by Dr Alfonso’s uncle. With a view like this, it’s a wonder he got much studying done.
Look along the coast southwards towards Alicante. Below you stretches the long shingle beach of Playa Paraiso. In the distance, you can see the genuine 16th century watchtowers of El Xarco and beyond that, the Torre del Barranco d’Aigües, both built to give warning of pirate attack.
Here on the clifftop, next to the path, you can see the excavations of the religious shrine that existed here 400 years before Christ, probably dedicated to Tanit, goddess of the Carthaginians who were here before the Romans came. Ancient Iberian people gathered here at the spring and autumn equinoxes to watch the sun rise behind the Isla de Benidorm that you can see in the distance to your left, out in the bay.
That’s the end of the walk: stroll back to La Vila the way you came, or go the quicker (but less scenic) route along the main N-332 road through the town centre.
Try other top walks around Villajoyosa here:
- Malladeta to Xarco watchtower
- Exploring the old town of Villajoyosa
- Villajoyosa to Playa de Torres
- Playa de Torres to (almost) Benidorm
- The miraculous dam at Relleu
- La Ermita to the Amadorio dam
- The Faro de L’Albir lighthouse walk
- Torre del Barranc d’Aigües watchtower
- Torre de Les Casetes
© Guy Pelham