Located on the east coast of Spain, Benicarlo has a distinct Mediterranean character about it, and is a town that benefits from a wide variety of entertainment as well as history and culture. It also has an outstanding reputation for its seafood cuisine.
The ruins of the oldest settlement in Benicarlo date back to 8AD and can be found on one of the hilltops overlooking the town. Most of what you see today only goes back as far as the early 13th century, and much of the original city walls were destroyed in 1707. However, parts of its medieval heritage can still be seen in the old quarter.
If you begin your tour in the old quarter this is where you will some of the original winding medieval streets and beautiful buildings such as the Bosch House, the House of the Baroness which is now the Town Council, and the House of the Marquis of Benicarlo. The old prison which still has some remains of the original dungeons is now an archaeological museum and is located on the High Street.
Inside the 18th century Church of St Bartholomew is an outstanding panel of the La Mare de Deu del Remei by the artist Vicente Juan Masip, and near the fishing port is the Cristo del Mar Chapel to which an intriguing legend is attached. The story goes that the image of Christ was brought over by sea from Tunisia, and saved the town from the plague. Consequently it has been honoured ever since by the people of Benicarlo.
The coast in this area is divided into three zones. The northern beach, Mar Xica, is 1,000m long and is a great place to go for some sun and a swim with lots of snack bars during the summer selling seafood. Next to the promenade near the fishing port is the Morrongo beach which is ideal for families having been awarded a Blue Flag for cleanliness and services. Farther south is Gurugu beach which is another long stretch of sand, and where you can enjoy a range of water sports.
The Benicarlo-Peniscola Marine Resort is actually the number one resort on the Costa Azahar. The water sports there include everything from windsurfing to sailing, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking and cruises. It also has land activities such as golf, hiking, horseback riding and a marvellous spa to relax those aching muscles. Another place to explore beyond town, and suitable for all ages, is the Parrot garden called El Jardin de Papagayo.
Like most of Spain, Benicarlo holds a number of festivals and celebrations throughout the year. St Anthony Day is held in January and is an ancient pagan festival that includes a huge bonfire and processions on horseback. Also in January is the Artichoke Festival with food tastings and various events honouring the farming community. The Fallas is celebrated in March and is a uniquely spectacular event of fireworks and parties until the early hours of the morning.
St Gregory Day is celebrated in May at the Hermitage of St Gregory which is 2km from Benicarlo. It has always been the traditional meeting place for those who made the pilgrimage to honour Saint Gregory, and includes an outdoor feast consisting of barbeques and paella.
However the most dramatic festival is St Bartholomew which takes place over two weeks in August. There are concerts, exhibitions, fireworks, and a rather daring spectacle which involves dodging bulls on the seashore!
If you enjoy Spanish markets, every Wednesday morning there are stalls selling everything from local produce to textiles and clothing. There is also a fish auction late afternoon where the finest fish is bought and then sold at different markets all around the country.
For a rather special place to stay while you visit Benicarlo, try the Parador Hotel Benicarlo which is a four star hotel only metres from the ocean. With marvellous views of the coast, it also has a large garden with exotic palm trees and an outdoor swimming pool. The hotel's restaurant specialises in seafood cuisine, but during the summer months they hold barbeques in the garden which are always very popular with the guests. It is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.
About the Author: This article was written by Susan Bartle who is a seasoned traveller and freelance travel writer.
Originally from Canada she currently resides in the UK and recent research has resulted in expert knowledge of the Pousadas and Paradores. Click here to read about other destinations where these luxury hotels can be found.