Albufera Valencia Paella! Unforgettable Bike Trip to the Home of Paella
Paella is internationally considered to be a national dish of Spain, but actually, it’s just a national dish of the Valencian region. In its current form, paella originates from the rural area just outside of Valencia, around Albufera Lake. So, if you visit Albufera Valencia paella is a must!
Nowadays, the Albufera region is a national park and besides being known to be the origin of Paella, it’s also known for its natural beauty. It makes for a great day trip or a half-day trip from Valencia. You’ll be rewarded with some amazing views. And the best part is you can get vegan paella in the hometown of Paella. So, let’s go explore Albufera Valencia.
Albufera National Park
The Parc Natural de l’Albufera de València is named after the freshwater Lake Albufera which is located in the park. Albufera is the Valencian word for Lagoon, it’s derived from the Arabic al-buhayra, which means small sea. A long time ago the lagoon was salt water but it’s been transformed into freshwater. Since the seventeenth century, it’s been a freshwater lake with a great variety of flora and fauna. It’s popular amongst nature lovers and birdwatchers.
Why I recommend going by bike
Valencia is one of the most bike-friendly cities I’ve ever visited and has the most bike-rental companies I’ve ever seen in any city. The city itself and its surroundings are pretty flat, so perfect for a bike ride. That’s why we decided to go by bike to the village of El Palmar in the Albufera National Park. And I would recommend everyone to do the same!
Okay, all the other cyclists we saw seemed better equipped for a long bike ride, but we managed all right in our normal clothes and our city bikes. Depending on where you set off in Valencia it’s about 24 km one way and should take about 1 hour and 20 minutes by bike, it took us about 1h45min but I’m a very slow cycler. Okay, I have to admit one thing, my butt hurt the next day because I’m not used to going on such long bike rides. So, make sure you choose a computable bike!
Bike paths along the way
The bike path towards Albufera starts close to the city of arts and science in Valencia. From there, follow the path and you’ll soon leave Valencia behind you. The first part of the path is on a cycle path completely separated from the car street. For a bit, there’s a bike path separated from the car lane just by a line on the pavement. But eventually, you’ll have to cycle right on the street next to the cars. I was a bit worried about that, but when we went the cars all kept a good distance while taking over and none were going very fast. So, of course, I preferred the separated. Bike paths, but I didn’t mind going on the street either.
What you can see on the way
It’s amazing how you can see the scenery change while you cycle. You start in the big city, go past the super futuristic city of arts and science and then you come by some beautiful beaches. And the longer you go the more nature surrounds you. You cycle past rice fields and the lake and have a great view of the mountains in the back.
Enjoy some scenic beach views
Soon after you leave Valencia you’ll be at the quiet Pinedo beach (well, at least it was quiet in November when we went.) You can fill up your water bottle, enjoy the ocean view and look back at the harbour of Valencia. Then you get to cycle next to the ocean, the beach, sand dunes and lots of plants for quite some time.
See where the paella rice comes from
Cycling through some rice fields on my bike, I felt like back in Southeast Asia. I just love the intense green colour of the plants and the reflecting water. Add some nice mountains in the background and you have an amazing view while you keep riding your bike. And it’s so cool, that they use local rice for Paella and that you get to see where the rice comes from!
Take a break at Mirador del Pujol
You’ll be cycling past the Mirador del Pujol. This lookout platform is located right at the edge of the lagoon Albufera. This is the first point where you have a good look at the lake, so it’s very special. You can walk out onto the pier and enjoy the view of the green lagoon with mountains in the back.
Depending on the time of day, you’ll see many people who just go to the viewing point by bus. Especially during sunset, it gets packed with people. And it is pretty, but you get much prettier spots if you’re there by bike and can stop anywhere next to the road.
Eating vegan paella in El Palmar
The main thing you have to do in El Palmar is eat paella. And we were so happy when we saw that you can also get vegan paella! According to HappyCow, three restaurants have vegan paella on their menu. All the restaurants in this village make the paella fresh, so you can wait up to one hour until it’s done if you haven’t preordered it.
We decided to go to MariBel Arrocería since it seemed to have the most vegan option. The vegan dishes are clearly labelled on the menu. We got a vegan vegetable paella (one pan for 2 people) and a small starter each. The starters were very nice but the star of the show was, of course, the paella. It came in one massive pan, the portion was really big. We took the leftovers home and were sorted for dinner the next day. The paella was delicious and super crispy at the bottom. And the fact that we had it in the home town of paella with only local ingredients made it even better.
Is Albufera Valencia worth visiting?
People come in big tour buses to the Albufera nation park, specifically to El Palmar, to eat Paella. That way you get to enjoy some local paella without the trouble of getting there. But, the getting there part is no trouble at all, it’s part of the experience, in my opinion. I would go as far as saying it’s only worth it if you go there by bike. You can enjoy the beautiful, changing scenery and you are able to get around easily. And the paella tastes better when you did a bike journey before through the rice fields.
If you don’t have time to eat paella in the hometown of paella you can also cook an authentic Valencian vegan paella in Valencia yourself.
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