The natural lagoon of the Albufera extends to the south of Valencia, separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow strip of sand. It's the largest natural lake in Spain, and supports a diverse ecosystem of birds, fish and plant life. With its abundance of rice fields, paella restaurants, and traditional houses called barracas, the Albufera has become an important piece of Valencia's cultural identity.
One of the most rewarding excursions you can make from Valencia is to Xàtiva, which is about an hour south by train. We spent two days exploring the town's quiet streets, checking out its historic buildings and monuments, and hiking into the surrounding hills. But first, we climbed up to the castle which dominates the city from on high.