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Not far from the coast, you’ll find the agricultural village of Santa Magdalena de Pulpis, set in the Sierra de Irta Natural Park, nestling between the mountain ranges of Sierra de les Talaies and Sierra d’Irta. Filled with almond, olive and carob trees, it’s a small Spanish village with a little under 900 inhabitants.
The closest beach is in Peniscola, which is around 12km away, about a 10 to 15 minute drive.
This village is a good spot for nature lovers, because of its setting in the Sierra d’Irta Natural Park. In fact the flora of the area is one of the richest to be found in the Valencian Community, as is the fauna. Currently there isn’t a hotel there, but there is rural tourism accommodation, and a hostel on the N340.
Apart from discovering nature, the village is well placed to visit some of the area’s most popular destinations, such as Alcossebre, which is about a 20 minute drive, or Peniscola which is about a 10 to 15 minute drive, or you could go a little further to Benicassim where you can do the route of the villas, or visit where the Carmelite Fathers make their famous liqueur.
Santa Magdalena de Pulpis is a destination for nature lovers and people who want to be in a quiet, small village. If you’re looking for more action check the destinations mentioned above. Or if you want to be in an authentic Spanish town, then another option close by is Alcala de Xivert, which has a population of 8218. It has its own Australian bar!
Architectural finds over the years show that Santa Magdalena de Pulpis would have had its own Iberian settlements, and like neighbouring Alcala de Xivert, the village would have been dependent on agriculture and livestock.
Like a number of other places, the village of Santa Magdalena de Pulpis can trace its more recent history and roots back to its castle. Polpis Castle (10th/11th century) was in the hands of the Muslims, when King Alfonso II gave it to the Templar Knights in 1190. At that time the Templars had a good stronghold in the area, between Santa Magdalena de Pulpis, Peniscola, Cervera del Maestre and Alcala de Xivert, but then the Muslims launched a successful counter-offensive in 1195, at which stage they took possession of it again.
In 1233 after Peniscola fell, Santa Magdalena de Pulpis was reconquered by Jaime I of Aragon, who offered it to the Order of Calatrava in 1244. In February 1287 the town charter was granted, and was integrated into the Order of Montesa. Later it fell under the charge of Alcala de Xivert. In 1329 it had 30 houses and by 1845 this had increased to 160.
The first mention of this building was in 1521, when it was acquired by a man from Benicarlo, called Don Elías Lluís. However the structure that you see today was commissioned by the Miquel I Marquis of Benicarlo, who intended it to be his summer residence.
Representational of a period of great splendour, it was designed by Juan Perez-Snamillan in 1925, and frequented by diverse government characters of King Alfonso XIII. It really stands out impressively from various vantage points in the countryside of the Sierra d’Irta Natural Park.
The nearest beaches are in Peniscola, which is 12 km away.Apart from the beaches it has a gorgeous historic old town. To see more click on Peniscola.
After that you could go in either direction really, depending on how far you are willing to travel. Alcossebre is quite developed, but not at all tacky, and is a favourite with many travellers. Further afield there is Benicassim, which is lovely and has a route of villas amongst many other things, Vinaros, which is a nice, typical town that is capital of the Baix Maestrat
2km to the east of the village
Declared a site of cultural interest, the Castillo de Pulpis is around 2km east of the village itself and was originally a Moorish castle that dates to the 10th/11th century. When James 1 conquered the town of Peniscola, he also conquered this castle, which later passed to the Templar Knights and then to the order of Montesa.
It is 431 metres high, with a total area of 2200m2. The castle is in a state of progressive ruin, but there is still a fair bit of the structure to be seen on the hilltop, which is 325 metres above sea level, in the middle of the Sierra d’Irta Natural Park.
It has thick walls and a fortified design due to the fact that telegraph equipment was considered state property, and needed to be defended against bandits of any type. However there is no evidence that the tower ever held telegraphy equipment, much less actually be of service, so 4 years after its construction it fell into disuse.
The church you can see in the village is the Church of Saint Mary of Magdalene, which was built between 1860 and 1866, on the site where there was a Gothic chapel that dates back to 1330. In 1863 the primitive Gothic chapel was established as a communion chapel, which is the part of the structure that you can see on the left hand side today. The parish church is dedicated to Santa Magdalena (Saint Magdalene), whose feast is celebrated for about a week towards the latter part of July.
The exterior is a combination of terracotta and grey brickwork, and the interior of the main church has only one nave, so that when you walk in there is a feeling of length. On either side of the nave there are lateral chapels, by way of small arches, between the buttresses. There are sacristies on both sides of the presbytery.
The main style influence in the interior is iconic, whereas the exterior doesn’t really fall into any specific architectural genre. The bell tower on the right has a small campanile which is covered in ceramic glass in the tradition of Valencian Baroque architecture.
This is a modern hermitage that was built in 1961; it’s a simple whitewashed chapel with a contemporary look and functional lines. Inside there’s a room which is quite small, around 16m2, which has a vaulted ceiling and stone plinth walls.
It is set in a lovely area, which is of ecological importance, with oaks, pines and ancient olive trees, amongst other native species. A picnic and barbecue area is available in the recreational area, making it a good spot for a day or afternoon out. There are lovely circular stone tables, and a beautiful smell of the pine trees.
The Sierra d’Irta has almost not been discovered by English speaking people, so I was surprised recently when I saw this article in the Independent Newspaper. There are many planned routes that you can choose, or of course you can do your own thing. Don’t be surprised to encounter wild boars in the Sierra d’Irta Natural Park.
The area is really beautiful, with endless nature stretched out in from of you. The last time I was in the park the almond trees were in bloom, with their lovely ice pink flowers – they magically reach out to each other and it is one of the prettiest scenes – you need to be here in February for that.
Within driving distance there are a few other important natural parks:
Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park – Catalonia – although it’s not far from the border with the Valencian Community
Els Ports Natural Park – Catalonia – this is also close to the border with the Valencian Community