This route offers a nice bike ride on a completely flat road, which makes it especially suitable for a family day out.
The way the wine industry has developed over the last years, together with the fact that the province of Alicante is one of the most important regions when it comes to the production of wine, has made us choose a route which will help us understand this culture a bit better, while going through one of the most relevant towns in the Wine Route of Alicante. It's not for nothing that
Villena is the town with the highest number of wineries in the whole province.
The Wine Route of Alicante is gradually becoming a very appealing leisure alternative, both for wine lovers and for those wishing to take their first steps in this field. The Wine Route of Alicante is currently made up by the following wine-producing municipalities:
Novelda, Monóvar, Salinas, La Algueña, Hondón de los Frailes, Pinoso, the
Vall del Pop grouping of municipalities and, of course,
But let's go back to our route. We'll begin at the Nuestra Señora de las Virtudes Winemaking Cooperative. At the starting point of the route, there is an information board by "La Fundación de los Ferrocarriles de España – Vías Verdes" (Spain's Railway Foundation – Scenic Routes), which provides us with different data about the route and the surrounding areas.
At that point, we'll head southwest through the scenic route. This road is covered by young trees for the first two kilometres, providing us with some shade, which can be really helpful on a hot summer day. This way we'll soon reach the church of San Bartolomé. If we want to visit it, we'll have to leave the road we're on for a few metres, since it was recently modified and had an overpass added to it when they built the tracks for the new high speed train. This rural church, located at an area called "La Fuentecilla", dates back to the year 1780 and belongs to the Santiago parish. The day the patron saint is taken on a pilgrimage to
Villena as part of the local festivities, on the last Sunday of August, the pilgrims carrying the Virgen de las Virtudes stop at this church to take a rest and have a few snacks.
Once we've checked out the church, we'll continue our way and, after one kilometre and a half, we'll come across two more points of interest: the Acequia del Rey and the Saleros.
The Saleros are the remaining bits of an old lake to the North of
Villena, at the rural district of Las Chozas. In fact,
Villena's subsoil, despite having a lot of water, was drained through the Acequia del Rey in 1803, together with the lake in Villena, because the water in it contained too much salt and was damaging the public health. Currently, they're still being exploited to extract salt, which is quite remarkable if we take into account the distance to the sea.
Once we complete the first 4.5 kilometres of our route, we'll arrive at a small village called Las Virtudes. Instead of going straight into it, though, we'll take a small detour that follows the old Xixarra train tracks on their way to the Murcian town of
Yecla (this trail can actually be done all the way to the end, but some sections are not good to bike through). This detour will allow us to cycle amongst vineyards until we get to an old abandoned halt station (Apeadero de Las Virtudes), where we'll leave the scenic route to enter Las Virtudes.
We recommend visiting the Sanctuary's cloister and having a snack in the picnic area next to it, or at any of the bars and restaurants in the village, where we'll get to enjoy the traditional cuisine of the area.
Once we've regained our strength, we'll begin our way back. After just 1.5 kilometres, we'll return to the scenic route that will take us back to
Villena the same way we came.
Villajoyosa/Vila Joiosa (La)
Alfàs del Pi (L')
Alicante / Alacant
What to see
After finishing our day out, it's always nice to visit any of the wineries that are part of the Wine Route of Alicante, but it's advisable to get an appointment beforehand, since they are not open to the public all throughout the year. Villena has a great cultural heritage, the most prominent examples of this being the Atalaya Castle, the Treasure of Villena, the Chapí Theatre and the Museo Festero.
What to eat
The geographical location of Villena, belonging to Alicante but really close to two other regions, has had a big influence on its gastronomy. Traditionally, it's been associated to farmers, which has resulted in simple but delightful dishes, such as the Gachamiga or Villena's gazpacho, taken from the Manchegan cuisine. These dishes have a high calorie content that helps locals get through the cold winters in Villena. Other traditional dishes are the Pelotas de Relleno (stuffing balls), the Arroz y Pata (rice cooked with a veal leg), snails and beans, and the Triguico (wheat, meat and vegetable stew).
We recommend joining the activities about the wine culture and the local gastronomy that are organised by the town.
Did you know?
Villena actually holds the same historical category as a city, having been granted the following titles: «Muy Noble, Muy Leal y Fidelísima» (very noble, very loyal and very faithful).
In spite of the dry look of the land in Villena, the town is actually rich in water. As a proof of this, groundwater extraction wells can be seen all over the area. They are used to provide many of the municipalities along the Vinalopó river with drinking water.
The village of Las Virtudes was built around the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de las Virtudes when a part of Villena's population fled the town due to an outbreak of the plague.
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