If you look into the mountains behind Villajoyosa, one peak dominates the skyline; the one with the square gap in the summit, like a missing tooth. The Puig Campana.
Puig doesn’t sound anything like the way it’s written; it’s pronounced “pooge” or perhaps “puch” and is the Catalan or Valenciano word for ‘hill’ or ‘peak’. So Puig Campana might translate as ‘Bell Peak’.
At 1,410 metres (4,500 feet), it’s one of the highest coastal mountains in Spain; it’s comfortably higher than any mountain in the UK.
How that gap at the top came to be there is the stuff of legend (well, various legends actually).
One tells how Roldán (aka Roland) a warrior in the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, got into a fight on the summit with a Moorish chieftain.
Roldán was getting the better of the encounter, and with the Moor at his mercy, Roldán struck a hefty blow with his sword Durandarte. But his victim managed to dodge just in time, and the sword struck the rock with such force that the square gash we see today was slashed into the peak.
The rock cut from the mountain then rolled down into the sea, where it became the island of Benidorm that you can see out in the bay. The gap left on the mountain became known as el Tajo de Roldán (Roldán’s cut), or El Portell (the gate).
Another myth tells of a giant who fell in love with a young woman from a nearby village. They married and lived together in a cabin on the Puig Campana. One day, a stranger appeared and told the giant that his wife was seriously ill and would die at sunset that day, as the last rays of the sun disappeared behind the peak.
The giant naturally rushed back to the cabin to discover his lover was indeed dying, just as the stranger had said. So the giant took his sword and cut the gap in the summit to delay the moment when the sun finally set, to give his love a few extra moments of life. History does not record what happened to the stranger, but I’m guessing it didn’t end well.
Sadly for the the mythmakers, these stories are scientifically impossible. The rocks of the Puig Campana are apparently from a different era than the Isla de Benidorm (Late Jurassic v Early Cretaceous respectively, geologically speaking).
You can climb the mountain from the pretty village of Finestrat (well worth a visit in its own right) or hike around the base. For more information, take a look at the routes at the specialist walkers’ websites here and here.
You can drive some of the way up; follow the signposts for Font de Molí from Finestrat. The car park next to Font del Molí spring (see below) is a starting point for many of the walks on the mountain.
If you don’t have the energy or the inclination to tackle the mountain, there’s a barbecue area next to the car park. Just bring charcoal, food and a firelighter and eat at the stone picnic tables set among the pine trees. There’s also a handily-placed restaurant (there generally is in Spain!) Link here.
The Puig Campana attracts serious rock climbers as well as ramblers. More info here. Believe it or not, some crazy people even run up the mountain for fun in the Puig Campana Vertical Kilometre race. See link here for more information.
If you do decide to tackle Puig Campana, take plenty of water, especially in summer, and a mobile. It also gets cold up there in winter; the peak was snow-capped in January 2017 and 2018, and it’s often shrouded in cloud at that time of year.
If you’re not the climbing type, you can still take in some spectacular views of the mountain by driving up the narrow road past Font de Molí car park. There’s only just room for two cars to pass each other and there are some interesting hairpin bends en route, but it’s a beautiful drive around the west and southern flanks of Puig Campana back to Finestrat.
© Guy Pelham 2017