On one of my weekend visits to Valencia, we decided to escape to see one of the villages that were nominated for Rural Wonder of Spain in the contest promoted by HomeAway last December. It was Chelva, a stranger to me until I see her included in the list. Further, It was second after popular voting.
This population is the capital of the Los Serranos region - also known as La Serranía or Alto Turia -, the second largest in the province of Valencia and one of the most forested and mountainous.
How to get to Chelva
If you travel from Valencia to Chelva in your own car, you will arrive in about 45 minutes, taking the CV-35 road. The distance to travel is about 70 km.
A little history about Chelva
Although today Chelva (known as Xelva by the Valencian-speakers) is a sleepy population who noticed excessively the flight of people from the countryside to the city during the second half of the twentieth century, in past centuries it had a much higher popularity and importance.
Around Chelva have been found archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze Age. In addition, there is also evidence of important Iberian and Roman seats, being the Peña Cortada aqueduct The most important of them.
During the occupation of the Iberian Peninsula by the Arabs, Chelva was an important square that changed hands several times between the end of the 12th century and half of the 13th century. First, Pedro II of Aragon would recover it for the Christians (1194), to be taken back by the Arabs in 1214. Finally, in 1238, Jaime I The Conqueror would place the banner of the cross definitively.
Until the 17th century, the three major monotheistic religions would live in Chelva. Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony, giving the city a diverse cultural wealth that has endured to this day.
What to see and do in Chelva
We arrived in Chelva on a Saturday morning. The sun looked splendid in the sky and the streets of the center breathed the happy uproar that emanates from the town markets. I love that holiday atmosphere and I think it is the perfect occasion to walk slowly and observe people. Although I am in love with nature and prefer the countryside open to cities, in the case of markets I always make an exception, because I think they are one of the best places to understand the culture and way of being of the people of any place .
Chelva's market extended its stalls in the Plaza Mayor of the historic center, in front of the Los Angeles Church. But not only can you see churches in Chelva, because its architectural legacy reflects the coexistence of the three religions.
The Church of the Angels
The church of the Main Square of Chelva
Built in the 17th century, it is the most iconic building to see in Chelva. The works began in 1626, ending in 1692. Already in the eighteenth century, the Chapel of the Communion and a bell tower were added in which a clock of the nineteenth hour, day and week.
Arab quarter of Benacacira