Routes in Valencia - Ribera del Xúquer

Ribera del Júcar


Ribera del Xúquer, Ribera Baixa, Valencia


The River Júcar, or Xúquer in Valencian, runs for approximately 500 km from its source at Ojuelos de Valdeminguete, on the eastern flank of the Montes Universales, Cuenca, close the sources of the rivers Tajo, Cuervo, Turia and Cabriel (the latter serving as its most important tributary) to the Mediterranean Sea.

The River Júcar flows first southward and then eastward through the towns of Cuenca, Alcalá del Júcar, Cofrentes, Alzira and Sueca, before entering the Mediterranean Sea at the town of Cullera, in the Gulf of Valencia. Along its route it crosses the provinces of Cuenca, Albacete and Valencia.

The lower course of the river, which we follow in part in this route, crosses through the comarca of Ribera Baixa in the south of the province of Valencia, flowing through the flat, predominantly rice- and orange-growing fields that it helps to irrigate.

Vuelta al Júcar




Distance: 26 kilometres
Altitude gain: 35 metres
Riding time: @ 2.5 hours
Difficulty: very low

We've taken the village of Fortaleny (approx. 1000 inhabitans, 2016) as the start of our route, located around 10 kilometres inland from the town of Cullera. In fact, down river as we start our ride we can see in the distance the 250-metre high mountain known as la muntanya de les raboses, located at the mouth of the River Júcar and bearing the name of "Cullera" in large, whitewashed letters on its flank.

As an alternative to the ride described here, we could start our route in Cullera, reaching Fortaleny by crossing the impressive landscape of the local rice fields. If we choose this option, it is wise to bear in mind that this additional section of the route offers virtually no shade, an important factor during the hotyest months of the year.

Fortaleny lies around 40 kilometres south of the city of Valencia, from where it can be reached easily by car and by train (Cercanias, Valencia Nord - Sueca).

To our left during the outward leg of our route we have the mountains of Corbera and, beyond, the town of Alzira, the capital of the neighbouring comarca la Ribera Alta.

There are plenty of sites to park in Fortaleny should we travel there by car, and numerous bars and restaurants in which to fuel up before we set off. We've estimated around 2.5 hours (riding time) for the route, taking things at an easy pace.

La Mota

To start our route we make our way down to the riverbank, where find ourselves on the elevated path that we will follow throughout most of the ride. Known as la mota, it runs along the river to the town of Algemesi and was designed to protected the villages and towns along the river from flooding.

Such a threat has been present in the area right back to the founding of the first villages, but increased protection became imperative after 1982, when the Tous reservoir, located around 35 kilometres up river, overflowed and caused what is considered as the most serious flood in Spanish history.

From atop la mota, we will be able to enjoy excellent views over the river, the surrounding land and the villages that we pass through.

Only a few hundred metres after starting our ride we come across one of the characteristic structures to be found on the river in the form of el Azud de Fortaleny.

An azud, which is derived from the Arabic "as sad", meaning "barrier", is a diversion dam used both to raise the level of and to redirect the water in the river in order to supply the irrigation channels that water the nearby rice fields and orange groves.

Azud de Fortaleny, Ribera del Júcar, Valencia
Azud de Fortaleny, Ribera de Júcar

These constructions form an important part of the traditional irrigation system employed in the area and, together with the many irrigation channels that criss-cross the entire region, have been used not only for watering crops, but also for filling public wash houses and drinking troughs. The force of the redirected water was also used in the past to power water wheels.

The azudes are also good spots for bird watching, and it is possible to see white wagtails, great crested grebes, little grebes, common sandpipers and mallards.

La mota running along the south bank of the River Júcar
"La mota" runs along the south bank of the River Júcar

The rest of the river is also offers opportunities to see waterhens, grey herons and, occasionally, kingfishers. The trees that in many places flank the river serve as optimum resting places for many birds, and at dusk it's possible to see flocks of little egrets as they seek refuge for the night.

Alfonso XIII iron bridge over the River Júcar
Alfonso XIII iron bridge over the River Júcar

Around a kilometre after the azud de Fortaleny we pass under the (currently disused) green-painted Alfonso XIII iron bridge and its modern replacement, after which we enter a stretch of the route where it is common to see rows of patient fishermen lining the river bank.

The species to be found in the Júcar include common carp, black bass, Iberian barbels, Júcar nases, common bleaks and eels.

Information about fishing licences and permits for this stretch of river can be obtained from the Valencia Fishing Federation (Federación Valenciana de Pesca).

The village of Riola sits on a meander on the south bank of the river, just across the river from Sueca, host of the Sueca International Valencian Paella Competition, which is held every year in September.

Village of Riola, Ribera del Xúquer, Valencia
The village of Riola, which backs onto the River Xúquer

As with Fortaleny, the village backs onto the river bank, with la mota running along the rear of the houses overlooking the river.

Riola diversion dam, Ribera del Júcar, Valencia
Azud de Riola

A kilometre or so and another iron bridge (which we will later cross on the return leg) after Riola we come to el azud de Riola, somewhat larger than that of Fortaleny and accompanied by a picnic and play area. This lies just before the les estacades footbridge, which crosses over Riola's main irrigation channel (Acequia mayor de Riola), and beyond which la mota, now with a gravel surface, continues along the river through orange groves to the next village, Polinyà.

On this stretch, as on most of the route, we are unlikely to come across more motor traffic than an occasional truck participating in the orange harvest, or the odd car carrying fishermen. 

“Les estacades” bridge and sluice, Riola, Valencia, Spain
“Les estacades” bridge over Riola's main irrigation channel

Furthermore, during our ride the route almost constantly flat, with only the very minimum differences in surface level, making it ideal for children and those who perhaps aren't in the form of their lives.

Bike route along the Riu Xúquer, Valencia
The route along the River Xúquer is almost completely flat

Unlike the last two villages, Polinyà is separated from the river by a road, which lies to our left for a few hundred metres as we pass the village. To our right, and a few metres below la mota, is el Poaor, a former riverside landing for boats carrying sand extracted from the river. There is an elevated footbridge over the CV-505 road should we wish to vist Polinyà.

For the last kilometre or so of the outward leg of the route, la mota takes a short cut and leaves out the final meander, leading us through mainly orange fields to the iron bridge that crosses the river and takes us into the village of Alabalat del Xúquer.

Fountain in la Plaza de la Corte, Albalat de la Ribera, Valencia, Spain
Fountain in la Plaza de la Corte, Albalat de la Ribera

Albalat del Xúquer is home to around 3,500 residents and, like the other villages that we cross on this route, has traditionally been dedicated to the cultivation of the rice and, more recently, oranges. A considerable part of the municipality lies within L'Albufera Natural Park.

Façade of San Pedro Church, Albalat de la Ribera
Façade of San Pedro Church, Albalat de la Ribera

Located as it is at the half-way point on our route, Albalat is an opportune place to take a break and refuel in one of the village's bars, before setting off again on the homeward leg along the north bank of the river.

Carrer Crist Campanes, Albalat de la Ribera
Carrer Crist Campanes, Albalat de la Ribera, which leads us back to the River Xúquer for our return leg
The next stage of our route sees us leaving the immediate riverbank for around 3 kilometres, which we can cover either along the CV-515 local road, which we can pick up at the exit of the village, direction Sueca, or along an agricultural road that runs parallel to the CV-515, and which we can pick up by turning left some 200 metres outside the village and then right after some 50 metres or so. Although the Sueca road doesn't usually carry a great deal of traffic, the latter option might be preferable for groups with younger children.

Cami els Canos, Albalat, Valencia
Turn off to Cami els Canos on CV-515

Whichever of the two routes we take, our immediate destination is the same: the turn off on the right to Cami el Canos on the CV-515 (the agricultural road joins the CV-515 again just before the turn off), which leads us to the irrigation installations at Casa Cano de Múzquiz, which are used for controlling the level and distribution of the water in the surrounding irrigation channels.

Casa Cano de Múzquiz irrigation installations on the River Xúquer

At this point, just as we pass Casa Cano de Múzquiz, we take a right fork up a very short ramp and we find ourselves once again on gravels roads, this time on the northern bank of a splendid bend on the River Xúquer.

Bend in the River Xúquer at Casa Cano de Múzquiz
Bend in the River Júcar at Casa Cano de Múzquiz

It is this gravel road that we follow to the iron bridge at Riola, where we will cross the river once again to the southern bank. On the way we will pass by the Riola azud, thios time on the northern bank, and its picnic area equipped with bicycle stands, which is a good spot for a stop on the way back.

Picnic area with bicycle stands at Azude de Riola on River Júcar
Picnic area with bicycle stands just after el azud de Riola on north bank of the River Júcar

Around half a kilometre after the picnic area we come to the iron bridge that takes us back across the river. The bridge is located on the CV-505 Sueca-Alzira road and, as such, is open to traffic.

Iron bridge over the River Júcar at Riola, Valencia
Iron bridge over the River Xúquer at Riola

Once we've crossed the bridge, we can find some steps on the left hand side that take us down to la mota, which we follow back the way we came through Riola to our starting point in Fortaleny.

Steps down to la mota from iron bridge at Riola
Steps down to la mota from iron bridge at Riola

We've allowed 2.5 hours riding time for the flat, 26-kilometre round trip, a leisurely-enough pace that should be within the reach of most people.

The stretches on open road have been kept to minimum, and those that are included are not usually subject to heavy traffic. Although we've taken the village of Fortaleny as the start and finish point, given that the route is circular we can start and finish at any point we find convenient.

The presence of the river helps to keep temperatures down somewhat during the hottest periods of the year, but there aren't that many places along the route that provide overhead shade, so protection against the sun (hats, suncream, etc.) is recommended during the summer months.


Links


Valencia Fishing Federation

Sueca International Valencian Paella Competition

La Ribera del Xúquer

Map of L'Albufera Natural Park

RENFE Cercanias

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