The Montgó mountain has kept watch over the origins and rich history of the beautiful town of Dénia, as can be seen from the remains of early Iberian settlements unearthed on its slopes.
Although there are traces of even earlier settlements by other civilisations, Dénia‘s history can be traced with some certainty to Roman Dianium. The town was given the category of civitas stipendiaria, or town conquered with resistance, by the Romans, who compelled the inhabitants to pay a tax in perpetuity as a punishment for their opposition. It subsequently became a municipium. The remains uncovered are unequivocal proof that Dénia underwent an era of great splendour and wealth, with a magnificent port bustling with trade and imperial troops.
In the Moorish occupation, it was known as Daniya and was also a seat of wealth and power, becoming a Taifa kingdom in the 11th century. The Taifa of Dénia was one of the largest and most important on the Iberian peninsula, holding land in what we now call the Marina Alta region, stretching down to modern Alicante. At one time, it included part of Murcia and the Balearic Islands.
With the Christian conquest, Dénia continued to be a stronghold, the leading town in the county and later the Marquisate of Dénia. The fifth Marquis of Dénia, the Duke of Lerma, a favourite of King Felipe III, was the most famous.
In the 19th century, Dénia went through a period of great prosperity thanks to the raisin trade, which was the town’s main source of income. This success led to major urban development, a lively cultural scene and a well-established middle class society.
In the early 20th century, Dénia became a major centre for toy production, and raisins gave way to citrus fruits.
The Dénia you see nowadays is the result of a wide variety of cultures. Iberians, Romans, Muslims and Christians all left their mark, enabling us to trace the town’s history through its museums, monuments, archaeological remains and urban layout.
The castle is the town’s most quintessential heritage site and houses the Archaeological Museum. The town’s other museums are the Ethnological Museum and the Toy Museum.
From wherever you look, whether it is from the lookout towers, the castle battlements, the Torre del Gerro tower or from the foot of the Montgó mountain, you can see the town’s history set in stone. Walking through its streets and visiting its monuments and museums is the best way of discovering the historic and artistic wealth of a town that was the envy of all others in the region.
Montgó Nature Park
The Montgó mountain is in the Marina Alta region, at the north-east end of Alicante province. It stands on the adjoining plains of Ondara-Dénia and Javea-Gata de Gorgos, occupies an area of 2,117 hectares and was given Nature Park status by Valencia’s regional government on 16 March 1987.
This imposing mountain, an impressive sight for residents and visitors alike, runs almost parallel to the coastline and stands at 753 metres above seal level at its highest point.
The Montgó is very close to the coast, with only a narrow plain, known as Les Planes, separating it from the sea. The plain ends at the headland of San Antonio, where the land drops sharply towards the Mediterranean sea in steep cliffs.
This is one of the most spectacular landscapes on the Valencian coast. The sea around the San Antonio headland was declared a marine fishing reserve on 9 November 1993. The diversity of its marine life and habitats led to its subsequent upgrade to Natural Marine Reserve.
This is an impressive rocky mass that seems to rise up from the sea towards the sky, reaching for the clouds that frequently gather around the summit. From a distance the mountain looks rugged and dry, but in fact it is home to a startling assortment of wildlife. The impressive ravines, rock walls, summits, terracing, coastline and seabed on and around the Montgó exemplify the rich biodiversity to be found in the Valencia region.
The privileged location of this rocky outcrop has resulted in an ongoing connection with the people who settled here and used it as a home, as defensive fortress, hunting and foraging ground, farmland and recreation area since time immemorial. You can see traces of human occupation all over the park and the surrounding area, providing evidence of its past and present use. From ancient civilisations to the present day occupants, people have been leaving their mark but the natural balance of the park environment has been preserved.
The Valencia regional government has pledged to protect the area, enabling conservation work to continue and keeping this emblematic landscape in the best possible state for future generations.
What else to see in Dénia
Dénia castle is one of the defining features of the town’s historic landscape. The remains of houses and fortifications dating back to Roman Dianium have been found on land surrounding the castle.
The design dates from the Moorish era, between the 11th and 12th centuries, and the results of various refurbishments can be seen in the various architectural styles. The most interesting are the Almohad period additions, the 15th century Torre Roja and Torre del Consell towers, the bastions and other Renaissance-style defensive features and the Governor’s Palace, rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries by order of the Duke of Lerma, Marquis of Dénia. The Palace and the old town, the Vila Vella, were both destroyed during the Spanish War of Succession, and the military garrison was abandoned in 1859.
Nowadays, the castle is one of the town’s most emblematic heritage sites and is undergoing conservation and restoration work. A number of innovative ideas are also being put forward to publicise it. The castle stands on a gently sloping hill overlooking the sea in the centre of town.
The Archaeological Museum is in the top part of the castle. It has four sections displaying artefacts from the Iberian, Roman, Muslim and Christian eras. The museum collection reflects the town’s seafaring past and the links between different cultures. Exhibits include a balsamary representing the god Mercury from the 2nd century BC; a collection of 11th and 12th century Islamic bronzes, many of which are oriental; a dish with a picture of a Moorish ship from Qayrawân; the 15th century Tresor de Les Rotes; a stamp collection; locally produced and imported Moorish pottery.
The Toy Museum, based on the first floor of the old Dénia-Carcaixent railway line station, has a display of toys produced in the town from the early 20th century through to the 1960s. The wide range of toys illustrates how important the industry was to the town’s prosperity from 1904.