Peñíscola is about 140 km or a 90-minute drive north from Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. Located in Castellón, one of the three provinces of the Valencian Community (Comunidad Valenciana), the city is the most popular beach resort and holiday destination along the Costa del Azahar.
The Costa del Azahar stretches from Vinarós in the north, more than 120 kilometres to Sagunto. Along the Costa del Azahar (Blossom Coast) spread citrus groves, with their delightful, intoxicating scent, from which the region takes its name.
The Costa equals, at the very least, the Costa Blanca to the south in appeal and beauty, yet has a fraction of its visitors. This is one of the reasons that make the Costa del Azahar stand out, between the other, more popular, and well-trodden Costas. The area is lesser known outside of Spain when it comes to tourism, but doesn’t have to yield in terms of sights, attractions, activities, and facilities.
The Costa del Azahar sits on an enchanting, golden, sun-drenched, Mediterranean coastline, dotted with enticing beach resorts, including Peñíscola, Benicarló, Alcossebre, Oropesa del Mar, Benicàssim, and Castellón de la Plana.
The area enjoys a mild climate, with warm summers and mild winters, which makes it ideal for visits all year round.
The sweeping high hinterland, with its eight natural parks, by contrast, offers great hiking solitude, in one of Spain’s most mountainous regions, and its many charming, picturesque, and historic little towns and villages.
Whether you prefer vast mountain scenery and good hiking or sun and sea (or both), you’ll be safe in the knowledge that with over 300 days of sunshine in Castellón every year, you’re almost guaranteed a sunny holiday!
Add to this variety one of Spain’s most spectacular historic marvels, and what you get is Peñíscola. The city envelops the region’s most renowned and prominent landmark: the majestic castle poised on its unyielding high rock. The castle of Peñíscola rises 64 m above the azure blue water, at the end of a narrow stalk of causeway, complete with basilica, gardens, lighthouse, museum, and panoramic views of the Costa del Azahar. The coast stretches all the way to Benicarló, 8 km to the north and boasts long, wide fine sand beaches and hides impressive coves along the shores.
The heavily fortified rocky promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean shields the maze of narrow winding cobbled alleys of Peñíscola’s old town with perfectly preserved massive medieval walls: the white little houses, lots of little shops, and lovely gardens. Strolling through these historic streets, you’ll find yourself pausing frequently to take in the stunning views.
Historically, Peñíscola is usually associated with late medieval times and Pedro de Luna or pope Benedictus XIII in particular, better known as Papa Luna (1328-1423). This is undoubtedly because few cities, beside Rome and Avignon, can boast about their status as pontifical. In addition, Benedictus XIII made the final substantial alterations to the castle of the Knights Templar that we are privileged to behold to this day.
But Peñíscola has a much longer and richer history, dating back more than 2500 years to ancient history, and most probably prehistory.