Updated: Oct 13
This beautiful lake, just a stone's throw from the buzzing city centre, offers an oasis of serene waters, tranquil rice fields, and picturesque mountain scenery.
A tranquil escape just six miles from the buzzing city centre of Valencia, Albufera lake almost resembles Bali with its lush rice fields. Set in its own nature park, steps from the sea, combining its fresh waters with sweeping beaches and pine forests laced with walking and cycle trails.
From sunset boat rides to long strolls along the pine-shaded paths, this verdant nature reserve is like a breath of fresh air for city dwellers. At weekends, convoys of cyclists can be witnessed traversing the romantic seafront while picnicking families and keen birdwatchers soak up the silent tranquillity.
For those seeking the perfect paella, this 5,000-acre zone is home to countless rice paddies that keep the kitchens of Valencia stocked up on its iconic ‘bomba’ rice. The first paellas were enjoyed by farmhands in these serene lands, and the local restaurants still take pride in creating Valencia’s most famous dish.
One of the most important wetlands in Spain, this freshwater lake and its peaceful surrounds have also been declared a Special Bird Protection Area, meaning this calm oasis is preserved for generations to come.
The 52,000-acre natural park consists of a 7,000-acre lagoon surrounded by expansive wetlands, charming waterways and glistening rice paddies. Embraced by the inviting waters of the Mediterranean, the sun-splashed beaches are fringed by fragrant woodlands, and tranquil marshes teem with life.
Some 1.8 million years ago, this thriving habitat was created by the collapse of coastal land stretching from near the city’s boundaries south towards Cullera. Today, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of this intoxicating region.
From the traditional boats so popular for sunset cruises to the narrow canals that dissect the serene landscape, to visit the Albufera is to submerge yourself into the world of Blasco Ibáñez.
Perhaps Valencia’s most celebrated novelist, Ibáñez’s tales of the 19th-century Albufera brought to life the stories of this colourful region and provided a rich insight into its history as the birthplace of paella.
Despite hints of ancient influence, Valencia’s most iconic dish generally traces its origins back to the mid-19th Century and takes its name from the wide, shallow pan in which it is cooked. You’ll find authentic paella served at restaurants on every corner of El Palmar, Albufera’s largest village.
One lake, multiple experiences
A popular day trip destination easily reachable by car, bicycle, or on regular public buses, Albufera offers a delightful day for the whole family. Immerse yourself in nature and discover the diverse flora and fauna of this mesmerising beauty spot.
Take a hike in Valencia’s Albufera
Inhale the fragrance of honeysuckle and Aleppo pines on a hike along the winding trails that network the land, stopping to listen to captivating bird songs or watching as the cranes take flight.
Passing by pristine dunes, swaying reeds and glimmering rice fields, there are routes for every ability level offering the best way to soak up Albufera’s natural charm on foot.
Follow the winding Botanical Trail, explore the coastal path, stroll along the sandy beach or discover the dune restorations that have revitalised the hilly habitat. The longer Scenic Trail (with a guide currently only available in Spanish) through La Devesa takes you past the old bull-fighting corrals and ranger’s house for an insight into the changing communities that live here.
For those who arrive by bike, well-maintained bike paths network the coastal forest, ports and fishing villages, offering a scenic route that fans out for 50 miles from Valencia Centre.
Embark on a sunset boat ride
Witness the setting sun paint the skies in fiery pinks and tangerine oranges in the company of night herons and egrets. As you admire the final glimmers of sunshine reflected on the serene waters, it’s impossible not to feel completely at peace.
With prices starting at around €4 per person in the daytime and €6 at sunset, these serene boat trips guarantee a romantic night without the city-centre price tag.
Head to the docks at Gola de Pujol, Catarroja, Silla, Solana or El Palmar to find the handcrafted boats, or book a tour to explore the lagoon, traditional cottages and paellas of El Palmar.
Discover the traditional tastes of paella
Paella dates back to the mid 19th Century when day labourers and farmhands would add cheap yet filling ingredients to the pan and cook it over an open fire. Rabbit, duck, even snails, and typical Valencian butter beans gave them strength, while branches of rosemary and indulgent saffron added flavour.
In the sleepy fishing village of El Palmar, La Barraca del Tio Aranda is a great example of the original thatched, adobe buildings of the area and serves as a restaurant, although currently closed temporarily. Alternatively, you can dine al fresco with a water view at Arrocería El Rek or Arrocería Nour raco.
Just around the corner, Restaurante Mornell pays tribute to the Albufera’s eel-farming traditions both with their name and their menu, while Arrocería Maribel returns to the original duck and snail dish.
Another popular seafood restaurant is Mikkonos Beach Club, on the sparkling sands of nearby El Saler. Remember, a Sunday lunch paella in Albufera is one of the most important local traditions, so booking ahead is essential.
Explore a birdwatcher’s paradise
The freshwater lagoon provides a perfect habitat for diverse bird species, making this green and turquoise a haven for birdwatchers. From marshland to sandbars, woodland to rice fields, expect to see red-crested pochards, booted eagles, Savi’s warblers and perhaps even the elusive elegant terns, the only breeding pair in all the Palearctic.
Embark on a guided tour, head to the Racó de l'Olla Interpretation Centre, or walk the fragrant paths with binoculars and a camera. It’s an ideal way to soak up raw natural beauty while understanding this unique habitat more deeply.
Swim at nearby El Saler Beach
Embraced by the glistening Mediterranean Sea, the rugged coastline of the Albufera is home to sweeping sandy beaches and enchanting pine forests. Among the wild beaches of Devesa, La Garrofera, L’Arbre de Gos, El Saler offers a delightful midday stop halfway between the city and the tranquil lagoon,
Submerge in the crystalline waters, stroll along the sun-drenched promenade, or drop into one of the seafront restaurants for tapas and a drink. As the waves lap the silken sands and children find adventures among the golden dunes, you don’t feel a million miles away from Spain’s third-largest city.
How to get to Albufera Lake
Only six miles from the beating heart of Valencia, there are plenty of ways to reach the Albufera Nature Reserve. Wherever you are staying in the city and however you plan to travel, arriving here couldn’t be easier.
On two wheels
Cyclists set out for the Albufera early every morning, making this an easy route to navigate from the back of a bike. We recommend starting in the tranquil Turia Gardens that wend their way through the ancient city, heading eastbound towards the port.
Upon reaching the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, one of the most popular Valencia attractions, join the other bikes exiting the gardens on the southern side by the purple, domed Agora building. From here, it’s a 40-minute ride down the sun-splashed coast along a cycle path, so you don’t need to touch the road and won’t lose your way.
If you’ve booked a car rental and are hoping to make the most of it, Albufera offers an ideal opportunity. The wetland’s reserve is just 30 minutes from the centre of Valencia by car, and you’ll find plenty of parking upon arrival.
If using public transport
The regular number 24 bus route offers daily service to Albufera, leaving you in the heart of El Palmar village for an afternoon of exploration. You’ll find the departure point in a central location beside the Puerta del Mar, and the journey only takes 20 minutes.
On an organised tour
If your trip to Valencia looks more like a whirlwind tour than a relaxed exploration, you could benefit from booking an organised tour. Most tour operators include a boat trip or paella lunch in their prices, and you’ll be saved the hassle of finding your way there.
Where to stay near Albufera Lake
Enjoy full immersion in the nature of the Albufera when you stay within this gorgeous zone. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the nearby mountains and sunny coast, and it is close enough to Valencia city centre for evenings out on the town.
We particularly like Hotel Parador El Saler, a luxurious waterfront retreat home to a glorious golf course, exquisite cuisine and elegant balconies in every room. Soak up the stylish ambience, breathe in the fragrant air, and relax to the sounds of birdsong. You can find out more about this iconic hotel here or directly reserve through Booking.
Why visit Valencia and Albufera?
An integral part of Valencia’s cultural heritage, Albufera offers a serene escape just miles from the vibrant city centre. It's set as the birthplace of paella, making it one of the most famous places in Spain, while fresh air and briny breezes make it a welcome haven on the outskirts of the Mediterranean city.
Your trip to Valencia isn’t complete without an afternoon spent hiking the twisting trails and pine-shaded lanes of the Albufera Nature Reserve. It’s only of the most popular Valencia attractions, and a peaceful time is guaranteed.