Visiting Albufera National Park - Valencia
Albufera National Park is home to the largest lake in Spain just over 10 kilometres from Valencia. It's primarily used for fishing and cultivation due to extensive land reclamation for rice fields. Other benefits are the excellent bird watching, sunset boat rides and, of course, several restaurants specializing in paella.
To get there from Valenicia we took the EMT 25 bus. This is great value at only 1.50 Euro a ride as it is part of the regular Valencia bus system. It's even better (0.80) if you have a Bonobus card. Be careful though since there are two 25 bus routes. One goes to El Palmar and the other to El Perrellonet but, inexplicably, they have the same number. On our first trip to El Palmar we never made it since we misread the map at the bus stop and thought the bus went to both destinations. In fact it goes to one or the other - so we ended up with an unplanned trip to El Perrellonet! The buses are not very frequent and in some cases are full so if you have your own transport it may be a better option.
On our successful second try to go to the lake we made it all the way to El Palmar. It's a pretty little town with it's own character. We visited on a Thursday in October and found it quiet and sleepy. After wandering through the town we stopped for a menu del dia at Restaurante Mateu which was one of the rice restaurants that had been recommended to us. To be honest were a little disappointed. Having spent many months in Valencia we are pretty good at discerning what makes a good paella, or rice dish, and this one was too salty, too greasy and had none of the signature soccarrat that paella lovers yearn for. Perhaps we caught them on a bad day.
Still after a belly full of food and a cool beer we were ready to wander some more. We thought about taking a sunset boat ride but the town was starting to shut down by 4pm and we realized that some of the operators were not going to be running any boats later.
There are several vendors offering boat trips and they all seemed to charge around 4 Euro per person. I would imagine at the weekend or in the summer there are a lot more choices. We took one from a tiny cultural museum and piled in with half a dozen fellow passengers for a pleasant pootle around the lake.
The traditional barracas on the water's edge with their Toblerone shape and thatched roofs are very picturesque. We also floated passed several lakeside restaurants that seemed very nice and I imagine are super busy at the weekends. The reeds around the shore line are also abundant with birdlife but, all things considered, the lake can't really be described as pretty. Once out on the open water the vistas are somewhat marred by the city of Valencia and its suburbs on the west shore. Still it was a treat to feel the cool breezes blowing off the water on a such a hot day.
After returning to dry land from our boat trip the town really was starting to feel like it was closed. We felt we had made a good decision to not hold off on the boat trip. We waited with everyone else to get back on the #25 returning to Valencia. It was a fun day trip out of the city but I think next time I would be tempted to go by a bike and ride there via El Saler and feel a little more nature around me.