The historic capital of the sub-region known as Foia de Castalla has undergone a process of economic development, taking it from being a farming community to an industrial and services-oriented town.
Castalla has a very well-preserved old quarter with steep narrow streets that wind their way up to the chapel of La Preciosísima Sangre de Cristo and the castle.
A large part of the surrounding area is covered with dense Aleppo pine forest and hundreds of aromatic herbs. The area is a popular place for hiking and cycling, especially around the local beauty spot of Xorret de Catí.
Things to see in the town include Palacio de los Rico near the Town Hall, the Ermita de la Sangre chapel and the Moorish castle.
La Foia de Castalla is a wide valley, or trough, in south-eastern Spain. It is surrounded by blocks of mountains in the Subbaetic mountain ranges in the northern and inland areas of Alicante province. These include Sierra de la Argueña (1,228 m.), Sierra de Castalla (1,175 m.) and the northern section of the Sierra del Maigmó (1,296 m.); to the east, north and north-west of La Foia the highest mountains are within the boundaries of Tibi, Ibi, Onil and Biar. They are El Reconco (1,206 m.), Fenessosa (1,210 m.), Menejador (1,352 m.) and Penya Roja (1,226 m.).
All these mountain ranges have abundant vegetation, especially on their shadier slopes, primarily Aleppo pine forest and aromatic plants such as thyme, rosemary, the region’s native Piperella thyme and mountain tea.
The scented valleys and fantastic views attract walkers along the many paths and trails winding through local areas such as Balcón de Alicante in the Sierra del Maigmó mountains, or to Xorret de Catí, a local beauty spot with picnic facilities, accommodation and various other services for enjoying the countryside.
Fans of adventure sports will find plenty to do in Campament de Fontés, a youth hostel very close to the Sierra del Maigmó mountain range in the Sierra del Maigmó nature park.
The castle is perched on a 780-metre high hilltop, with commanding views over the valley formed by the Foia de Castalla trough.
The castle has historically been the main feature around which houses clustered within the town’s defensive walls in the Middle Ages.
Jaime I of Aragón took the castle from the Moors following the conquest of Biar and made it part of the Kingdom of Valencia after the Almizra treaty was signed in 1244. At that time, Castalla was on the border with Castile. This was the reason why rebuilding work was started on the castle and the first church was consecrated on the site where the Ermita de la Sangre chapel stands today.
In 1336, King Pedro IV of Aragón made it Crown property. The Barony of Castalla was created in 1362 and was granted to Don Ramón de Vilanova. The castle was inherited by the Marqués de Dos Aguas in 1729 and in 1989 it became municipal property.
The castle’s most interesting features are the 16th century Torre Grossa, the parade ground and water tank, the remains of various Almohad rooms dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, and the walls and battlements. However, perhaps the most striking part of the castle is the so-called Palau, a large palatial section with buildings dating from the 13th through to the 15th century, including the Torre Prima, the Guard Room and other rooms.
What else to in Castalla
The Church of La Asunción was completed in 1572 by two stonemason brothers from Castalla.
It is built in the Catalan Gothic style with an enormous central vault, chapels set between the buttresses and a polygonal apse. The central vaulting over the nave is ogival and ribbed, and there is fan vaulting over the apse.
The side chapels include the Renaissance-style Capilla de la Virgen. The main and side façades are also in the Renaissance style, as is the square bell tower.
The Town Hall. The Renaissance-style town hall is typical of civic buildings of its period in Valencia. It has a masonry façade, a ground floor with three semi-circular arches that was used as a marketplace and an upper floor with ten semi-circular arched windows.
It was built in the mid-17th century. Inside, the council chamber is on the first floor and the building houses a number of paintings by local artist Eliseo depicting scenes of everyday life, traditions and customs in Castalla. There is a reproduction of a painting by Langlois of the Battle of Castalla, commemorating battles fought in the vicinity during the Napoleonic War between 1812 and 1813. The original painting hangs in the Versailles museum in Paris.
Convent of the Franciscan Fathers. The convent is a Neoclassic style building but the decorative features are quite austere, in keeping with the Order for which it was built.
It was started in the mid-18th century and completed in 1810.
The church used to have an adjoining room but nowadays only the entrance door survives. After the ecclesiastical confiscations carried out by Mendizábal the building ceased to be a convent and the Cloister was used for social events.
Casa del Fester The building was opened in 1983 for use during the annual town festival of Moors and Christians. It is currently the headquarters of the Castalla Moors and Christians Parade association.
Temporary exhibitions around the theme of local festivals are held here throughout the year and this also where all the costumes worn during the Moors and Christians festival are stored.