A walk over ‘snow’? Explore the surreal salt route of Albatera in Valencia

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Rambla Salada
ASSSA

For hiking enthusiasts residing in or visiting the province of Alicante, there’s a remarkable trail that transports you to a landscape reminiscent of far northern latitudes, even in June. Known as the Salt Route of Albatera, this trail offers the illusion of snow, on which you can actually walk.

Strategically positioned between the municipalities of Albatera and Orihuela, close to the Murcia region, the Salt Route of Albatera is accessible via the N-340 road from Crevillent towards Albatera. Keep a keen eye on the signs as there is no direct access.

The Rambla Salada de Albatera was originally a “Camino de Sal” (salt route) leading to the salt pans in the province of Alicante. These routes pay homage to the historical significance of salt as a vital resource. Salt played a crucial role in the region’s trade and economy. The landscape here is strikingly dry, characterised by rugged rocks, cliffs, salty water springs, and the remnants of ancient aqueducts.

How to reach the Rambla Salada de Albatera

To start your journey, it is best to use navigation tools such as Google Maps. Follow these steps:

  1. Drive to Albatera: Depart from Crevillente and follow the N-340 towards Albatera.
  2. Arrive in Albatera: After about 600 metres in Albatera, you will reach a junction. Take the CV-873 and follow this road for 4.6 km.
  3. Turn left: At the designated point, turn left despite the “No Entry, Except for Services” sign. Be cautious of the large bumps on the road. Follow this path parallel to a canal for 1.9 km.
  4. Turn right: After 1.9 km, turn right (approximately the 6th exit). Follow this road straight for about 3 km.
  5. Park: Drive until you reach a small open area. Park your car here and begin the walking route.

Exploring the landscape

From the parking area, follow a dirt road where you will soon encounter Las Finestres, stunning erosion formations of sandstone rich with fossils. Continue on, and at the first junction, you can go straight along an old aqueduct or turn left into the Rambla Salada. Although our route went straight, it was worth descending into the Rambla Salada to admire the beautiful pools and fossils.

Back at the junction, follow the aqueduct until you reach the Rambla again. There are two distinct sections here: a rocky area with salt deposits and a more enclosed part with steep walls. Midway, you encounter the climb of Barrón Negro. After overcoming this barrier, you pass old wells and the entrance to a small ravine formed by the rambla. The route continues until you reach large greenish rocks, an impressive natural landmark. While the rambla leads to a via ferrata (a protected climbing route with steel cables) to the salt pools of Los Lagos, many hikers choose to turn back at the large green ophiolite rocks, creating a circular route that ends where it began.

aquaduct Rambla Salada Salt Route

If you opt not to take the via ferrata, you can leave the Rambla and continue your route. Note that the path out of the Rambla is challenging due to loose sand and steep slopes. The view from the top is highly rewarding. Then, follow the path back to Las Finestres and the parking area. The entire route is generally easy, except for this last section.

About Barrón Negro

The Barrón Negro is a standout feature of the route, with remarkable geological formations. The large rocky structure was carved by humans to mitigate flooding by directing water with less force. The environment here is predominantly dry, with rust-brown and pink hues, creating a desert-like ambiance. The salt deposits scattered around offer a picturesque illusion of snow. Notably, the Barrón Negro’s dark colour with white veins (Triassic dolomite) adds to its unique charm. Nearby are two old, deep wells carved into the rock. Another striking rock formation in the rambla is a large greenish rock (ophiolite or porphyry).

A surreal landscape

Salt Route Rambla Salada

The Rambla Salada of Albatera offers a journey through a somewhat surreal landscape. Here, the natural beauty defies the conventional green, presenting a fascinating glimpse into the region’s rich geological history. While the area seems barren, a keen eye can spot various plant species. The unique atmosphere adds to the tranquility experienced while hiking in this extraordinary environment.

Practical Information

  • Length: Approximately 9.5 kilometres
  • Duration: Around 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Ranges from low to moderate. Some sections, like the area near Corral de las Vacas, may be less clear and require more attention.
  • Type: Semicircular, ideal for deep exploration and a contemplative return.

Before setting out on this adventure, it is advisable to check the current state of the paths and structures. Since 2022, parts of the Albatera Salt Route have been overgrown with vegetation, and the aqueducts are in poor condition, posing a risk of collapse.

Salt: The ‘white gold’ of Alicante

Salt, known as the “white gold,” has played a significant role in Alicante’s history. Highly valued since ancient times, it was a driving force behind the local economy. During the Middle Ages, salt production flourished, with La Mata and Torrevieja salt pans being the largest and most important in Spain. These salt pans provided the kingdom with a vital supply of salt, with a small surplus traded. From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the Spanish Crown held a monopoly on salt, known as the “Estanco de la Sal.” This monopoly was a crucial revenue source and allowed the Crown full control over salt production and trade.

The end of the salt monopoly

However, high salt prices and the monopoly led to dissatisfaction among the population. In 1869, the Constituent Cortes decided to abolish the salt monopoly. This led to the privatization of the salt pans and the introduction of taxes on salt production, ending centuries of Crown control and laying the foundation for Alicante’s modern salt industry.

Also read: This is why Spain is a hikers paradise

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