Last updated: 13 June 2020
I was 17 when I first visited Valencia. I was spending a month in Murcia with my friend, away from my parents for the first time, and when my friend heard that his friends were backpacking around Europe and making a stop in Valencia, we decided that we couldn’t miss out on the chance for a little adventure.
My first impression?
I loved it.
We spent the night eating traditional Valencian paella (made with rabbit and chicken), drinking litres of beer and stumbling around the cobbled streets until 7am, when we took the first train back to Murcia.
However, as much as Valencia had made an impression on my teenage self, I was determined to see another side to this city, and so when I returned almost 8 years later, I decided that I wanted to experience the city on a deeper level on a Valencia tour.
After a lot of Googling, I contacted Valtournative, a Valencian tour company that promises to offer travellers an alternative experience in and around the city of Valencia.
Hot Springs, Bull’s Tails & Waterfalls in Spain – My Valencia Tour
Who are Valtournative?
Valtournative are a small company who are passionate about enabling people to connect with the ‘real Valencia.’ They do not simply walk around the city of Valencia pointing out churches and statues – they take travellers off the beaten path around Valencia to craggy mountains and tiny villages, picturesque orchards and small family wineries.
They have various Valencia tours available, all designed to give travellers some of the best day trips from Valencia and provide them with an authentic Spanish experience.
Most of the tours are geared towards exploring the beautiful countryside around Valencia, but there are also tours where you can learn to make your own paella and sangria, go wine tasting or explore stunning Medieval villages in the region.
My Valencia Tour – The Thermal Springs Adventure
The Valencia tour that I’d opted for was a full day trip that would take me around the mountains and waterfalls surrounding Valencia, before swimming in the hot springs in the Montanejos area.
As most of my travels had been in Southeast Asia, I was excited to experience something totally different, and so as I waited for my tour guide, Daniel, outside Valencia Nord train station, I was super excited.
When Daniel arrived and greeted me warmly, I suddenly realised how nervous I was. I’d been worrying so much about how I was actually going to get into Valencia from where I was staying in Oliva that I hadn’t actually given much thought to the fact that I was probably going to be the only solo traveller on the tour.
What would everybody think of me? Would they think that I was some weirdo who didn’t have any friends?
Despite having travelled alone for so long, I was still super nervous about how the day was going to go.
However, as soon I got settled on the minibus, it soon became clear that I had nothing to worry about. There were 9 other people on the tour besides me – two couples and a family of five with three kids around my age – and although everybody was a little shy to begin with, Daniel did a great job of breaking the ice and asking us all questions about where we were from.
Seeing as we had Daniel from Spain, myself from the UK, a couple from Texas, a couple from Panama and a family from The Netherlands, we certainly had a lot to talk about!
Navajas and the ‘Jump of the Bride Waterfall’
The first stop on our trip was a bit of a drive outside Valencia, but unlike some tours, where you spend all day sitting in silence in a car, Daniel made the 40 minute journey fly by with his stories and information about our surroundings.
He regaled us with tales about everything from the old walls that used to surround the city of Valencia, to various customs, traditions and legends unique to the surrounding villages.
For example, if you’ve been very bad in Spain, one way to be forgiven by God is to crawl up a hill with a cross on your back at Easter time. If you’ve only been a little bit bad then you’re permitted to walk up the hill, but you’ve still got to carry something heavy!
For every single thing we drove past, Daniel had something interesting to tell us. Each village seemed to have a unique legend or tradition, and we also learned all about everything from how to make the best olive oil to the famous La Tomatina tomato festival!
As I mentioned, Daniel made the journey fly by and so before we knew it, we’d reached the village of Navajas and the Salto de la Novia Waterfall, which literally translates to ‘Jump of the Bride’ (I will explain why this is in just a minute!).
Navajas is a small village full of fountains with medicinal mineral water and a famous Elm tree that was panted in 1636 and is in the Guinness Book of Records!
Just next to the village is one of the most famous waterfalls in Spain, the Salto de la Novia Waterfall, which is a 30 metre drop down into the Palancia River and is easily reached via a short walk through the forest, close to the parking lot.
The waterfall, whose name translates to ‘Jump of the Bride,’ tells of a sad legend…
The legend of the ‘Bride’s Jump’
Many years ago, a local tradition said that brides-to-be should jump across the Palancia River in order to prove their love and commitment to their future groom.
The girl would find a spot where the river narrowed a little before jumping across. A successful jump was said to ensure a long, happy and fertile marriage!
Unfortunately, for one couple, their story did not get a happy ending.
When the bride jumped, she slipped and fell down into the river, disappearing behind the crashing waterfall. Without hesitation, her husband-to-be jumped in after her to try and save her, but he sadly became a victim of the waterfall too, their bodies being swept down the river and never discovered.
Legend has it that sometimes, in the light of the moon, the river glows as white as a wedding dress and the couple’s laughter and giggles can be heard from behind the waterfall.
Something that is a little strange (and amusing!) is that Navajas and the Jump of the Bride Waterfall has since become a really popular spot for wedding photoshoots! While the photographs must undeniably look fantastic, it seems like a bad omen to take your wedding photos at a sight supposedly haunted by a couple that drowned!
Montanejos Hot Springs
Next stop on our Valencia tour was the Fuente de los Baños, or the Montanejos Hot Springs. The Montanejos Hot Springs, or thermal baths, are in the province of Castellon, a mountainous area with an abundance of waterfalls and canyons at an altitude of 418m.
I’d actually visited some hot springs before in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and they were so hot that people were boiling eggs in the water! The smell of sulfur in the air was almost enough to make you gag, but they were pretty cool, nonetheless.
This time, however, I was relieved when Daniel said that the water would be around 25 degrees – warm enough to enjoy but not hot enough to burn us!
Unfortunately we’d picked a really cold day – there had been a torrential downpour less than 24 hours before, and the rain water that had mixed in with the spring water had lowered the temperature to around 22 degrees. This doesn’t sound too cold, but it really was, and we were all especially grateful that Daniel had provided us with some wet suits to help keep the warmth in!
Legend has it that Montanejos hot springs were the result of Zayd Abu Zayd, who ordered some baths to be built so that himself and the women of his harem would remain young due to the medicinal properties of the water.
These well documented healing properties of the mineral water are a big draw for tourists and locals alike – not only is the water great for the hair and skin, but it is also said to help aid digestion and even treat cardiovascular and liver disease!
After adjusting to the cold, we spent quite a while in the water, swimming and skimming stones, and some of the boys even tried their hand at cliff jumping, which Daniel made sure to capture on his GoPro.
This was one of the aspects of the tour that I really liked – Daniel was constantly playing the part of a paparazzo by snapping candid pictures of us all day, which he then later sent us a link to!
Trying traditional Valencian cuisine for lunch
After we’d tired of the springs, it was time for lunch, and what a lunch it was!
Anyone who knows me will know how much I love food, and I’d be lying if I said that a bad lunch wouldn’t have put a bit of a dampener on the day for me – I’d been dying to sample some traditional Valencian cuisine with a local’s recommendations!
Daniel took us to a nearby restaurant in a small mountain village and proceeded to order an absolutely fantastic meal for us. We ate the Spanish way, ordering a handful of dishes and sharing them, between ourselves. When everything arrived, we had quite the banquet!
As we were up in the mountains, the food differed slightly from typical Valencian cuisine, which has lots of grilled seafood and rice dishes, and was real Spanish mountain food, hearty and rich.
We feasted on pork cheeks, bull’s tail (which was divine), creamy goat’s cheese, juicy steak, calamari with lemon, garlicky patatas bravas, thick crusty bread and a hearty soup full of beans and meat and blood sausage called Fabada Asturiana.
We ate until we were stuffed, washing down our meals with cold beers and Sangria and although the meal was not included in the price of the tour, the bill only came to 13 EUR each, which we all agreed was fantastic value.
I only wish I had a picture to present you with, but I was too busy stuffing my face!
Views for days
With our trousers bursting at the seams, we piled back onto the bus and listened to more of Daniel’s stories about millennial trees (olive trees which are over 2000 years old!), bull racing and Valencian oranges as we made our way to the next stop on our mega Valencia day trip.
En route, however, we spotted a man about to zipline from the cliff side, and so our driver stopped the bus and we all disembarked to watch. It turned out that the guy and his friends were actually testing the zipline for the very first time, and although this sounded ever so slightly worrying, we stuck around to see how it went! Luckily it went without a hitch, and so after taking some more pictures and admiring the incredible views, we continued onto the next leg of our journey – a reservoir called Pantano de Arenoso.
Pantano de Arenoso
Pantano de Arenoso certainly didn’t disappoint, and yet again, I was forced to admit that Spain had surprised me! It seemed as though each stop just got more and more beautiful, and the water was so still and peaceful, I could have stayed here for hours.
El Chorro Waterspout
Our last and final stop on our Valencia tour was El Chorro Waterspout. We had a short walk from the bus to reach it (armed with some fresh Valencian oranges, thanks Daniel!) and I honestly can’t think of how to describe it other than to say that it was very strange but very cool.
I think the way that I described it to my mum when I got home was that it was ‘a tiny crack in a cliff face where water just poofs out,’ and, well, it’s not inaccurate.
I’m honestly still at a loss as to how to describe the waterspout so I’ll just leave you with some pictures…
Returning to Valencia
After we’d finished taking silly pictures with the waterspout, it was time to head back to the bus. The tour officially finished at 5pm but it was already gone 6 and we were still quite far from the centre of Valencia.
In the end, we got back to the city at 7:40, which unfortunately made me miss my train back to Oliva and I had to wait another hour in the train station!
I did have mixed feelings about getting back so much later than planned – on the one hand, we got an extra 2 hours and 40 minutes together, which is definitely a bonus when you’re only paying for 7 hours! On the other hand, however, I was originally supposed to be attending a food tour in Valencia that evening, which I had to cancel, and I also missed the 7.40pm train and had to sit twiddling my thumbs for an hour in the station!
However, as long as you don’t have any specific plans for the evening, the delay really shouldn’t matter.
How much did my Valencia tour cost and was it worth it?
The cost of this particular tour with Valtournative is 79 EUR, and if you ask me, it’s worth every cent.
It may seem expensive if you’re travelling on a budget like I do, but considering that you’re getting your own personal chauffeur and tour guide for the day, I think it’s well worth it – I dread to think how much it would have cost to hire a car and pay for petrol, not to mention that most of the places we went to were way off the beaten track and required a local’s knowledge.
Our tour guide Daniel, who is also the owner of Valtournative, genuinely cares about his guests and has an incredible amount of information to offer about Valencia and the surrounding areas. The tour really wouldn’t have been the same without him there to tell us all about the places we were seeing and the legends behind them.
Even when we were in the car for 45 minute stretches, Daniel kept us all upbeat and engaged, and when he wasn’t sharing fascinating facts with us, he was asking us questions about ourselves and ensuring that the conversation was always flowing between everyone.
We saw and learnt so much on this tour, and I came away truly awestruck and inspired by the sights that I saw. I think that this tour is probably one of the best day trips from Valencia that there is, and I can honestly recommend it to anybody who wants to experience the ‘real’ Spain, and see things that most tourists will never get the chance to.
To keep up with all of their tours and see some gorgeous photos, make sure to follow Valtournative on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!