If you want to sample a typical Spanish town brimming with local character, fine foods, award-winning wines and stunning scenery, head for the Jalon Valley.
Good times to visit are in February or March when the valleys are blooming in pink and white from the orange, lemon and almond blossom. Take a deep breath as the scent is divine. September and October are also great months for a trip to Jalon at harvest-time. Tractors – and sometimes horses – pull carts filled to the brim with grapes to be turned into delicious wines.
Throughout winter and spring in particular, you will find groups of cyclists enjoying the challenging twisty roads and steep climbs in the Jalon valley region. Amateurs and professional groups like the area because of the temperate climate as well as the tough circular routes.
Driving along the winding road up to Jalon, you will be surrounded by orchards brimming with olive, orange and lemon trees alongside terraces of vines. This is superb wine country with award-winning reds, whites and rosés as well as cava and the local mistela, a sweet wine made from the Muscatel grape.
Take your time to enjoy the contrasting countryside with breathtaking views across to the sea and up to the majestic mountains.
As you would expect from such a fertile area, the local dishes are rich and diverse to bring out the best of the local ingredients such as honey, raisins, oranges and lemons. The region is also famous for its tasty home-made sausages such as sobrasada (made with pork and paprika) butifarras (like black pudding) and chorizo. Local dishes include cocas, which are mini pizzas with a variety of toppings), oven-baked rice dishes and arros amb fessols I penques which is rice with green beans and cardoon (thistle artichoke).
Jalon ‘s narrow streets are lined with traditional townhouses, bars, restaurants and family-run shops such as bakers, butchers, honey shops, antique dealers and bodegas or wine cellars. Many streets offer glimpses of the impressive mountainous backdrop while others enjoy views of the imposing church, the Iglesia de Santa Maria, with its blue-tiled dome.
Tuesday is market day with stalls surrounding the church filled with local produce, clothes, pottery and other Spanish handicrafts.
On Saturdays, Jalon holds an antiques and secondhand market in the riverbed car park, opposite Bodegas Xalo. This is Jalon’s finest bodega, which local farmers set up as a co-operative in 1962.
Nowadays the wines are highly-sought after as they offer great value for money and are brimming with flavour. Many have won coveted national and international awards. You can also try before you buy.
Particular favourites are the Bahia de Denia white, Vall de Xalo red, Vall de Xalo muscatel and Vall de Xalo Brut Nature cava. You can also buy olive oil, honey and raisins produced in Jalon.
In the car park opposite the bodega, locals sell oranges, lemons, grapefruit and nispero (loquat). For €2 you can pick up a carrier-bag full of sweet, juicy oranges. You can mix the local cava, orange juice and orange liqueur to make the local cocktail Agua de Valencia - it's delicious!
Places to visit:
While in the area, My Destination Alicante recommends that you take a few hours to visit The Lavender Gardens, which is just off the road from Jalon to Benissa. The Lavender Gardens is a beautiful Mediterranean Garden with lavender bushes, roses and many other beautiful plants. It also has great views of the mountains.
Visit Bodega Xalo by the bridge at Jalon for bargain wines, cava and olive oil.
In the car park opposite Bodega Xalo, you will see locals selling fruit such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit, as well as some veg at very cheap prices.
This is a great area for cycling - the climbs up to Jalon are pretty steep so you may want to stop at one of the cafes for refreshments and a rest.
It's also a great area for walking or hiking and you will be rewarded with fabulous views.