Desierto de las Palmas Natural Park Spain
Desierto de las Palmas Natural Park Spain-Desert de les Palmes
In a spectacular setting, with amazing views down over the coast, you’ll find the Desert de les Palmes Natural Park (Valenciano) or the Desierto de las Palmas (Spanish). These lands have been inhabited as far back as the Neolithic period, but historically the area is most associated with the Barefoot Carmelites. When I’ve been there, I always admire and think about the impeccable taste of the Barefoot Carmelites, as it would be hard to find a spot that is so inspirational. For those who are spiritual and seek a perfect place to meditate and feel close to nature, the Desierto de las Palmas is definitely a good choice.
Unique, magnificent nature
Located in the province of Castellon, this is a special place that is embraced by the mountains of the region of the Plana Alta. It has unique and magnificent natural characteristics, which inspired the ancient Barefoot Carmelites to choose it as a location for their monastery. The word desert, in this instance– doesn’t mean a real desert. It is the historic name of this area, originating from one of the mountain ranges – the Sierra del Desierto.
The word desert, in terms of the Carmelites and their practices, can also be considered to refer to solitary places that are away from population. They believed that the Desert de les Palmes is like a spiritual refuge for them. Thanks to the Generalitat Valenciana, the Desert de les Palme Natural Park was declared to be a protected area on the 16th October 1989. It occupies a space of 3200 hectares.
Desert de les Palmes Restaurant
Ever since 1967 there has been a restaurant in the Desert de les Palmes. It has a very good reputation for consistent, quality food. Do be warned however, if you like a glass or two of wine with your meal, you would need to arrange a sober designated driver for the journey back down. These are roads to be taken very seriously! Their website is below, which is currently in Spanish:
Municipalities & mountains
The Desert de les Palmes extends over parts of the five municipalities: Benicassim, Cabanes, Pobla Tornesa, Borriol and Castello de la Plana. The park runs parallel to the coast, and the mountain ranges that you can see there are the Sierra del Desierto, Les Agulles de Sant Agueda and the Sierra de les Santes.
On a clear day, from the Desert de les Palmes Natural Park visitors can see the Gulf of Valencia, the Columbretes Islands and the inland areas of the province of Castellon. They also can see several mountains such as the Sierra del Desierto, the Sierra de Les Santes and Les Agulles de Santa Àgueda Mountain. The highest peak is the Bartolo peak, at 729 metres.
If you are someone who especially likes mountains, there are more close to the natural park that you may like to be aware of, such as:
Serra d’En Galceran – 1078 metres in height
Montegordo 837 metres in height
Serra d’Esparreguera 1087 metres in height
Serra d’En Celler 1147 metres in height
Serra d’Espadà 1106 metres in height
Tossal d’Orenga 1144 metres in height
Some towns close by, that you can visit from (click on name to see the Travel Guide for each town):
Oropesa del Mar – 19.5 km – takes around 40 minutes
Vilafames – 22 km – about a 40-45 minute journey
Benicassim – 25.5 km – takes a little over 40 minutes
Torreblanca – 25.9 km – takes a little over 40 minutes
Castellon – 34 km – takes around 50 minutes
Alcossebre – 35 km – 50-55 minutes
Almassora – 40 km – takes around 55 minutes
Peniscola – 64 km – 1 hour 25 minutes
Desert de les Palmes Interesting Heritage
The Desert de les Palmes has a rich cultural heritage. Here are a few of its highlights:
Castillo de Miravet – Miravet Castle
Located in the Cabanes municipality, Miravet Castle is quite well preserved. It was built by Arabs before the year 1153, and then was conquered by El Cid in 1091. Interestingly it is thought that it was originally a Muslim Warrior Monks Monastery – warriors who had dedicated themselves to fight the Islamic Holy War.
Castillo de Montornés -Montornés Castle
Montornés Castle dates back to the 10th century and is located in the Benicassim municipality. Considered to be one of the area’s most important Arabic fiefdoms, we know that up until around the end of the 15th century it was inhabited.
Castillo Viejo & Ermita de la Magdalena – Old Castle & Hermitage of Magdalene
Imagine that ever since 1378 a procession has taken place to commerotae the birth of the city of Castellon de la Plana. This is because when King Jaume (James) I conquered the area, he gave the authorisation for the people from the lands to concentrate their population in a new city, that is Castellon de la Plana. This procession goes each year, in celebration of this, from the city of Castellon to the Hermitage of Magdalene.
Ermita de Les Santes – Hermitage of the Saints
Heading around 7 km from Cabanes, you can visit the Ermita de Les Santes, in the Barranco de les Santes. The Bishop of Tortosa ordered the people of Cabanes to reconstruct the ruins of the hermitage, and in 1617 both Santa Lucia and Santa Agatha were featured on the new altarpiece. Later the Bishop Francisco Gavalda Guasch gave the image of the Virgin of the Rosary to the hermitage. The village people also know her as Our Lady of Good Success, and she is their patron saint.
The soil significantly varies in the park, which enables various plants and even several species of the same plant to grow up. Generally the soil is poor in lime, loose, and varies between siliceous and limestone characters. The words in brackets are the Latin names of these plants.
The maritime pine trees (Pinus pinaster) which require sandstone and siliceous soil to grow up.
The Aleppo pine trees (Pinus halepensis) which can grow on any soil.
The land in the park is mainly covered by scrubs such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), white jara (Cistus albidus) and black jara (Cistus monspeliensis).
There also are typical shrubs such as:
Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo)
Juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus)
Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Desierto de las Palmas Fauna
The variable climatic conditions throughout the park allow it to have various animals and endemic or rare ones. It was found that the park contains more than 120 species of birds.
Here are a few of our feathered friends that you might spot:
The long-eared owl
The predominant humid climate in the park allows different kinds of amphibians and reptiles to grow up. And below is a list of some examples of the most amazing ones that can be seen there:
The trained midwife toad
The common frog
The horseshoe Culebra
Ocellated Spiny lizard
The Iberian lizard
The Iberian Eslizon.
The straight snake
You could also spot other animals such as:
The genet, the green woodpecker, wren listing, the marten, weasel, badger, wryneck, wild boar, hispaniolan crossbill, and fox.