THE SIERRA BERNIA
Altea. This town is simply beautiful. Altea holds the title of the "cultural Capitol" of the Valencian region. The name "Altea" derives from the greek name "Altahia" which originally means "I cure" as the river Algar, which flows past Altea was said to have a mystical and certain healing properties by the Greeks, and amazingly that feeling of something mystical still exists today. Attracting artists and Bohemians from all over the world. This very pretty, quaint town is also called the Gem of the Costa Blanca.
Having a population of around 25,000 in the winter and 50,000 in the summer, Altea is a busy, bustling little town. With narrow, maze like streets, stunning white washed houses and beautiful restaurants with stunning rooftop terraces. The main old town square of Altea is situated at the top of the Hill which it is built on, here you will see the main Catholic Church, The Virgin of the Consol.
Rising up behind Altea on its northern side lies the almighty Sierra de Bernia. (1126m) This Mountainous ridge line rises from behind Altea giving it an impressive "wow" factor. The walking route around this Ridge line is approx. 12Km's long and takes approx. 3-4 hours to complete. The famous Sierra De Bernia hiking route is also one of the most popular routes on the whole of the Costa Blanca, encountering a ruined military fort that dates back to the 1500's, 7000 year old cave paintings and not to mention the all impressive "Forat" or tunnel which is completely natural and cuts through the ridge line for 20 metres from one side to the other, and through this we must venture.
The Sierra Bernia fort was constructed in the year 1562 under complete secrecy and under the orders of King Phillip II of Spain. The material needed was shipped in via the port of Moraira and humped up the Mountain and onto the Southern side of the Sierra Bernia. Here the Fort would have a perfect vantage point to look out over the Guadalest valley, keeping guard of their coast and for possible Berber Pirate attacks or supply runs up through the Valley. However, in the year 1612, the fort was deemed unnecessary and its order for its dismantlement was given.
Then we have the Cave Paintings of the Sierra Bernia, these are estimated to be approximately 7000 years old. And although relatively small, the paintings or small drawings can be made out on the wall. The red paint makes out pictures of what appear to be people with children plus the marking of what looks like the sun.
Then we have the El Forat, or the Sierra Bernia tunnel. This naturally made tunnel cuts through the Mountain for approx. 15 metres. On the Sountern side we are met with a huge, absolutely stunning cave entrance which over looks the bay of Altea and Guadalest valley. This pass would have been used through out history, making it easier for Shepards and travellers to traverse the land. Shepards to this day still use the tunnel to aid in counting their flock as they pass through one by one. The same as what we do whilst hiking this memorable and beautiful route.