The coastline of the Costa del Azahar stretches from Vinaros in the north and close to the boundary with Catalonia, to Almera in the south which leads the way to the province of Valencia. These 112km of coastline are full of fine, sandy beaches and coves, formed at the places where the spurs of the Iberian mountains run into the Mediterranean sea. All the way along, the coastal shelf gently slopes away from the coast, and this makes the beaches on the Costa del Azahar particularly safe for bathers as well as ideal for the practice of all kinds of water sports. The latter are more than well catered for and able to satisfy the needs of even the most demanding tourist.
The beaches are famed for their calm, crystal-clear waters and free from any unexpected dangers.
The journey from north to south along the Costa del Azahar is of particular interest and covers such towns and villages as Vinaros, Benicarlo, Peņiscola (Peņiscola) -the latter being the residence of Papa Luna, otherwise known as Pedro de Luna, the obstinate Aragonese who came to power as Pope Benedict XIII-, Alcala de Chiver-Alcoceber, Torreblanca, La Ribera de Cabanes, Oropesa del mar, Benicasim, Castellon, Almazora (Almassora), Burriana, Nules, Moncofar, La Llosa, Chilches and Almenara. There are orange plantations all along the coastline of the Costa del Azahar, but the strong smells of pine and other typically mountain plants reaches the plain, and when the orange trees are in blossom all these smells blend together. the Spanish word for orange blossom is Azahar, hence the name Costa del Azahar.
The archipelago of the Columbretes lies some 60km off the Castellon coastline and is formed by four small islands and several rocky isles. This marvel of nature has recently been designated a Nature Park.
The Columbretes islands are the most outstanding examples of their kind within the entire Community of Valencia. They are of volcanic origin and the largest islands of the archipelago are Columbrete Grande, La Ferrera, La Foradada and El Berganti`?n or Carallot. The waters surrounding these islands are rich in fish and, as a result, have always attracted the interest of sports fishermen who come in search of such prized catches as lobster and grouper. nevertheless, fishing is now restricted and it is forbidden to fish from the islands. The Columbretes islands are also the nesting grounds of several rare European birds, including Audouin's gull, Cory's shearwater and Eleonora's Falcon.
Because of these birds, the islands have become one of the most important breeding grounds in the Community of Valencia. The archipelago also plays an important role as a resting area for migratory birds and, as a result, for more than ten years now there has been a special ringing station set up for the study of those birds whose migration includes a stopover in Spain.
The most Important aspect of the local cooking from the province of Castellon is the fact that it all stems from home-produced natural products. There is really no one typical style or dish since the differences between the dishes from the coastal and inland towns and villages obviously vary a great deal.
Naturally enough, on the coast there is a great use of fish, shellfish and vegetables, since these are the products yielded from the sea and the land in that area.
Inland cooking is a much richer affair, relying mainly on lamb and pork, as well as game and that gastronomic delight that is the truffle. The latter are particularly abundant in the area of "El Ports" and Morella has been dubbed the truffle capital of the province.
If there is one dish linking both coast and inland areas, not only in the region of the Costa del Azahar but throughout the Community of Valencia, then that is rice. These dishes come in a great many different varieties, ranging from the universally known Valencian paella to arroz abanda.
Vinaros, Benicarlo, Peņiscola, Alcoceber, Torrenostra, Oropesa, Benicasim, Castellon de la Plana (with El Grao) and Burriana are the main towns where fish dishes are the main types of local cooking, especially those which have ports and a fishing fleet, as is the case of Vinaros, Benicarlo, Peņiscola, Castellon and Burriana.
The sea provides some extremely high quality fish and shellfish which, in the hands of expert cooks, is turned into the most original of dishes. There are a whole host of recipes based king prawns which, sin some establishments in Vinaros, Benicarlo, Peņiscola and Castellon, come into a world of their own. From the simplest dishes of grilled or perhaps boiled prawns served with a variety of sauces, to more complicated recipes invented by master chefs. When confronted with a dish of king prawns it is quite possible to lose all sense of time and forget about one's problems.
The Mediterranean coastline also provides other perhaps more reasonably priced fish and shellfish. Examples include exquisite red mullet (which the people from these parts consider to be the only ones of their kind in the world and different from those caught elsewhere), sole, sea bass, gilt-head bream, the modest but tasty sardine, fresh anchovies, excellent squid and cuttlefish, bab octopus with onions, razor-shells, date-shells (a very typical shellfish of the area with an excellent taste), as well as eels and elvers.
Every cook has his own particular way of preparing things, so the visitor may choose between the simple of more elaborate dishes.
Back to: Castellón Province Information