Soñando Sunday: Villena
Transport Options to Arrive: Plane, Train, Car, or bus
Villena is located between Valencia—to the north—and Alicante city—to the south. The closest airports are in Alicante and Valencia (you will still need to get a bus or rent a car to reach the city), but you can often find cheap flights to this region. In addition, Villena has both an AVE and a normal train station, making it an easy city to get to by train. Finally, Villena is on the road from Valencia to Alicante so, if you are already on a road trip, it is an easy place to stop for a day or two.
Recommended time of year to visit: While you can easily visit the city center in a day or two, if you want to explore the nearby nature, you can easily spend five days in Villena. And, if you want to go during their famous festival of Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) at the beginning of September, you will surely be entertained for the whole week you are visiting.
Note: Before going to Villena for this festival with a friend from the city, I didn’t even know it existed. However, it is now very much on my map of things you are probably going to want to see in Spain (and didn’t ever expect).
Fun Fact: Villena is supposedly known for its traditional healers (curaderos), the most famous one—according to my friend from the city—is “la Juanita,” an elderly woman who is visited by people from all around Spain when they have issues they want fixed. While this might not be your thing, it does seem to still be commonplace in the city.
Top Three Must-sees:
1.) El Castillo de la Atalaya: One of the most famous (and historically most important) castles in Spain, this castillo plays an important role in the festival of Moros y Cristianos as it represents the transition from Moorish Spain to a Catholic country. As you can see in the photo above, during this time it is lit up with candles and fireworks. The castle costs three euros to visit and free guided tours are offered regularly.
2.) El Tesoro de Villena: After the castle, the treasure of Villena is the most important thing you can see. Although this treasure was only discovered in the last century, it is thought to be one of the oldest collections of gold in all of Europe.
3.) Teatro Chapí: If historical sites aren’t your thing, consider heading to the main theater in the city. Chapí Theater is a beautiful architectural building that was created in honor of a famous musician from Villena. It was recently renovated and is where you should go if you want to see a performance or concert during your stay in Villena.
One thing to eat: Gachamigas
I don’t really know how to explain this typical dish from Villena (I honestly have never seen it anywhere else), but it a sort of batter that is made of flour, garlic, water, and salt and cooked into one giant pancake-like-loaf in the course of an hour. To make one takes incredible strength as the pan tends to be very heavy and, once it is almost ready, requires frequent flipping. As I cannot explain it any better, check out the video that I took when my friend’s dad was making one for us!