The bus screeched to a halt, hurtling me out of my dreamy state. I looked out the window and saw a wide arc of golden sand and the gorgeous blue Mediterranean sea. I wondered where we were and my question was soon answered as I noticed a board near the traffic lights. It read: Peñíscola. I rubbed my sleepy eyes. “Penis-Cola?”, I queried out loud. My friends burst out laughing and corrected me: “It’s ‘Peh-niscola’!”.
Peñíscola in photos
Peñíscola (map) is a beach town near Valencia with a stunning medieval centre built atop a rocky peninsula, complete with a lighthouse, ancient fortress, pebblestone alleys and panoramic views of the Costa Azahar. I later discovered that the name Peñíscola stems from the Latin word for ‘peninsula’. The peninsula was inhabited in ancient times by the Iberians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines and later the Arabs, who ruled the area from the 8th to the 13th centuries AD. In the 13th-14th centuries, the Templar knights built the castle on the rocky headland.
Today, the town is a popular seaside resort for both locals and tourists, with the palm-fringed beaches and the fortified town being the biggest attractions. I spent a few days lazing on the beach and exploring the walled town, and absolutely loved the gorgeous whitewashed buildings with their splashes of colour, and the beautiful vistas of the beaches and the sea. Check out my Peñíscola photos below.
There’s a great variety of cafés and restaurants to sit at, quaint shops to explore and decks from which to enjoy the panoramic views. We entered the castle (tickets can be purchased in the office around the corner from the castle’s entrance) and climbed up to the top where we were treated to amazing views of the town’s step-like rooftops and the coast.
Along the way to the castle, we passed picturesque, pebblestone alleys lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. A lovely place to sit at for a drink is Blue Dream, which boasts beautiful sea views. Another relaxing place to hang out is Agua Clara.
Summer is the busiest time to visit Peñíscola as it’s a popular beach destination. In the evenings, the town buzzes with throngs of people strolling around or eating and drinking at one of the many alfresco cafés and restaurants.
The most popular areas to stay at are along the northern beaches. However, check out the area just south of the old town. The broad arc of sand south of the old town is often quieter and it’s perfect for families as the bay is shallow and is protected by dikes. This is also a quieter part of town, compared to the area just west and north of the old town, yet still just a stone’s throw away from the old town.
Peñíscola is a perfect day-trip from Valencia but is also a destination on its own. Visitors can spend several days wandering the town’s lovely alleys and absorbing the medieval atmosphere, and combine this with a lazy beach holiday full of sunshine, golden sands, paella and sangria! 🙂
How to get to Peñíscola
Peñíscola is accessible by train from Barcelona (2.5-3 hours). There are also regular bus services from Valencia (1.5-2 hours). I suggest hiring a car either at Barcelona Airport or Valencia Airport so you can explore more of the region, such as Morella.
Read other Velvet Escape posts on the region of Valencia: