So, you’ve heard that a visit to Albufera Natural Park is a must-do in Valencia. You want to see the rice fields, eat paella, and go on a sunset boat trip across the lagoon. The only problem is, it’s winter or spring, and the ‘best’ time to visit is during the summer. How will you live out your Albufera dreams? If you read this article, you’ll have all the tips and tricks you need to make the most out of your off-season day trip to Albufera.
Why visit during off-season?
Although many may prefer Albufera during summer when it’s sunnier and the rice paddies are green, there are many advantages to visiting during off-season. For one, the glorious sunshine in the summer comes with the unfortunate side effect of lots and lots of bugs. Especially if you are mosquito-bite prone, winter and spring will be far more pleasant for you.
Alongside the advantage of less bugs, there will also be less people visiting Albufera between November and April. Dodge the crowds and don’t waste time waiting for a boat or jostling elbows on the bus by visiting during the colder months.
How to get there
If it’s a sunny winter or spring day, and you want the achievement of getting to Albufera by bike, you can certainly cycle – or cheat a little with an electric bike. You can cycle from Valencia along the V-12 road, going past El Saler beach along the coast.
Something to note if you’re renting a bicycle for a day to cycle to Albufera, is the closing time of the rental shops. Keep in mind that for most rental places you’ll need to return the bike before they close in the evening (usually 6-7pm), or pay for two days and store the bike yourself. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend cycling there and back in a day if you also want to see the sunset.
There’s also the Vuelta a l’Albufera, a 78-kilometre cycle route that starts in the city and circles round the whole natural park. The main attraction of the Vuelta a l’Albufera is the cycle through lush green paddy fields, but there won’t be rice visibly growing in winter or spring. Unless you want a workout, or to stop off at other parts of the natural park, you can skip the long cycle off your itinerary and head for the small town of El Palmar by bus.
Catch the bus 24 or 25 by Puerta del Mar in Colón for €1.50 each way. Both will take you to the Albufera area, but I recommend taking the 24 to El Palmar if you want to head straight for the action – there are restaurants and boat trips in the same area, and it will save you some walking. El Palmar is also the last stop on the bus route, so it’s easy to get off in the right place!
If you’re planning on having paella for dinner before taking the sunset boat ride across the lagoon, think again. Most restaurants will close at 6pm during off-season, although there may be one or two open a little later, don’t count on them being available. Time your visit so you can get paella for lunch rather than dinner, so you’ll have more options to choose from.
Sunset boat rides
You can ride a handcrafted albuferenc boat from the docks at Gola de Pujol, or the ports at Catarroja, Silla, Sollana, and El Palmar. Boat rides last around 40 minutes and cost €5, while sunset boat rides cost €6. Expect the times to vary a little month to month for sunset boat trips as the seasons change, and make sure you check the time the sun is setting so you don’t miss the boat. The most important tip is to make sure you bring cash for the boat ticket, as you sometimes can’t pay with card!
If you burn easily and it’s a sunny day when you visit, make sure you pack sun cream for your boat trip, as the reflection from the water can intensify the sun’s rays. If you’re taking the sunset boat trip, make sure to bring an extra layer, as it gets cold on the water after sunset. When visiting during spring, make sure you avoid the Fallas festival from 14-19 March, as restaurants will have variable hours and boats may be closed completely. In mid-winter, you may have to ask in a café or restaurant about boat hire, as there may be fewer scheduled trips occurring. If there are no sunset boats when you visit, you can easily walk on the path along the edge of the lagoon from El Palmar and still see part of the sunset over the water.
There are plenty of things you can do in Albufera. Organised tours can include longer boat rides, or paella making excursions, and there are also nearby beaches you can include in your personal itinerary. But for those wanting a simple day trip with all the highlights, I hope these tips have helped you to plan your own route, and given you useful advice for how to avoid the tricky timings of visiting in off-season.
Report by Julia McGee-Russell
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’
Photo copyright Julia McGee-Russell / ’24/7 Valencia’