Bocairent

Often described as one of the prettiest towns in Spain, Bocairent is just a 35-minute drive through the Sierra Mariola National Park from Alcoy.

Archaeological finds in the area show human settlements dating back to Palaeolithic times, but it is the Islamic period that has shaped the town we see today. The name Bocairent comes from the Arabic bakirén or bekirent (pineapple or hive) and would refer to the way in which the buildings were “crowded” around the castle, sitting on a hill. In the eleventh century, after the dismemberment of the Caliphate of Cordoba, Bocairent and its castle, located where today stands the parish church, became part of the Taifa of Denia. In the thirteenth century, after the conquest of Biar by James I, the town became part of the Crown of Aragon, already in the orbit of the fledgeling kingdom of Valencia, and was repopulated by Christian settlers, mainly Catalans and Aragonese.

A visit to the “Old Town”, declared an artistic-historical heritage site, is highly recommended, especially after having seen its spectacular panorama from the road. The peculiar layout of its streets is in the purest Arabic style with climbs and descents, stairways, turnings, cul-de-sacs, little squares… A walk along its steep streets, using the appropriate footwear, will reveal hidden corners of great beauty. Fountains and plant pots are dotted along the route that will lead you to the three chapels of the old quarter: Sant Joan, Mare de Déu dels Desemparats and Mare de Déu d’Agost.

The Plaça de Bous (bullring), the oldest in the Valencian Community (1843) and the most unique, as it is partially carved in rock and offers a curious aspect that reminds us of the old Roman amphitheatres.

Nearby is Les Covetes dels Moros is a group of some 50 caves carved out of a limestone wall 50 meters high that faces the town, about 500 meters, in the ravine of Fos. The wall has 53 mouths with rings that presumably fixed the esparto stairs by which it climbed. The primitive utility of these caves-perhaps funerary niches or granaries-remains a mystery, but we know that it was used before and during the Arab period.