Top walks around Villajoyosa: the harbour to Malladeta

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.

Playa Centro, Villajoyosa. A beautiful kilometre of sandy beach.

Until a little over 20 years ago, 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 locally) 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.

An old black & white picture of the main beach in Villajoyosa from the old town
The original shingle beach
Los Baños de Neptuno
A marine spa from the early 20th century about half way along the main beach. It closed in the 1970s and no trace of it remains today.

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.

Look to your right between the blocks of flats to spot two of the rather scruffy stairways leading up from the beach, both given a really creative facelift in the spring of 2019. One was decorated with a chocolate theme (La Vila boasts three chocolate factories) and the other became a giant wave, accompanied by verses from singer Joan Manuel Serrat.

This stairway to the beach near the port is decorated on a chocolate theme. Sadly, the artwork is looking a little tatty now, two years later.

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. 

Escalators up to the main street – there’s chocolate 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.

Once an elegant seafront villa, nobody knows quite what to do with the Senyoreta de l’Hort

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.

The brightly painted houses on the beach front in Villajoyosa old town

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.

Amadorio bridge, Villajoyosa
The bridge over the River Amadorio. Most rivers here run dry in summer, but water levels in the Amadorio are controlled by a dam upstream in the hills above La Vila, so it runs all year.

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

Casas pintadas on the town wall overlooking the river Amadorio valley
Sunlight playing on the breakwater at the river end of the main beach, Villajoyosa

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 construction of a linear park; housing and a hotel are under construction.

Poble Nou Villajoyosa
New seafront development in Poble Nou. There’s now a good cycle and walking path by the sea

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. 

PADDY OCT 2017 (215)
Villa Giacomina, Malladeta

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.

Villa Giacomina Villajoyosa
Most of the tower of Villa Giacomina collapsed in the storms at Easter 2019.
PADDY OCT 2017 (206)
Villa Giacomina with the Puig Campana mountain in the distance. Notice the Moorish window arches.

Walk towards the 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.

Ruined tower on the headland at Malladeta

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.

View from Malladeta tower
Looking down the coast towards Alicante. The beach is Playa Paraiso.
The rooms of the shrine are clearly visible after the excavation.

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 road through the town centre.

Try other top walks around Villajoyosa here:

© Guy Pelham 2017

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