August in Valencia is a bit of a weird month. For the most part, the typical rhythms of the city are disrupted as huge numbers of people leave for vacation, taking trips both far away and into local pueblos. It’s a far cry from the few days that Americans take for rest and relaxation, and Europe boasts a wealth of destinations to pique all sorts of curiosities.
For me, though, I have limited myself to modest getaways that are easy to reach and that offer much more local flair. In the Valencia region, there are many places to see and explore, and many are great day trips accessible by train or bus. So, when a friend suggested going to the seaside town of Cullera, I was more than happy to give it a try.
Cullera is unique in many ways: it has hosted a civilization that existed before historical records, and its name is derived from the words Colla-Aeria (High Summit) from the Moors (Hisn Qulayra) that inhabited the area after the Romans had founded a city here named Sucro. Prehistoric man (and woman) lived here since the prehistoric age, as artifacts discovered nearby attest. This area is also where some of the first open-air human structures were thought to have been developed.
The Moors built a castle atop the nearby peak, adding to the presence of the mountains surrounding the city. As a trading center, Cullera was also famous for its agricultural resources, and was a strategic fort conquered by Jaime I, who also saw the value of its ocean port, agriculture, and trading opportunities.
Ahhh, but with honey come the flies, and Cullera was a target for piracy, too. The Barbary Pirates attacked the city in the 16th century, and there is even a museum dedicated to the pirate Dragut, who was a key figure in the attacks. This guy was the nasty lieutenant to Barbarossa, and in 1550 Dragut gutted Cullera, making away with a huge amount of goods and captives that left the town deserted for decades.
Due to these attacks, the entire area developed a military-esque approach to building fortifications to defend and control the coast. Smaller forts and castle structures dot the coast to present a strategic face to the ocean. Now that the pirate approach has been gentrified and supplanted by tourism, there is plenty to see and enjoy, and in August, this town swells to its limits as people visit from all over Europe.
Quite historic, this little town.
This pueblo is easy to reach by train or bus, and relatively inexpensive to visit. Great for a long weekend or even a day, Cullera is a history-rich place to relax! I definitely recommend taking the tourist train or a car up to the castle (check out the tourism office on the beach), but there are still things I would like to see if I go back. I visited the Castle of Cullera and the Santuary of the Virgin of the Castle, both of which are interesting. The historical museum in the castle is especially worth seeing.