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SPAIN

Stargazing in Valencia – A Starlight Reserve within easy reach

By on 09/12/2017

If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you will have noticed that I am a regular visitor to Valencia. I feel like I know the area quite well already, however, I’ve recently realised that there are a lot of hidden secrets that can’t be found through a bit of online research. They are true local secrets. I was recently invited by the Region of Valencia to attend Gastrobloggers Under the Stars, an event where I discovered one of these well-kept secrets – a Starlight Reserve where the sky is so clear that you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. And only an hour and a half away from the city! How many major cities can claim such a privilege?

starlight reserve stargazing valencia milky way

The Milky Way – Photo Credit: Observatori Astronòmic de la Universitat de Valencia

But what is a Starlight Reserve?

A Starlight Reserve is an unpolluted area where natural night sky light conditions are kept intact, and the area’s local communities have committed to protect the quality of the night sky and to maintain access to starlight through the preservation of a dark zone. This dark zone is protected to avoid the adverse effects of air and light pollution. There are 10 Starlight Reserves in the world, 8 of which are in Spain.

The Serranía del Alto Turia is one of these Starlight Reserves, an area given this prestigious title because of the quality of the night sky and the commitment that the local community has for protecting it. The Reserve covers an area that includes mountain villages such as Aras de los Olmos, Alpuente, Titaguas, La Yesa plus 23 more villages of the Teruel Gúdar-Javalambre region, a bit further inland.

This group of villages has been working hard for years, not only to preserve access to quality night sky, but to make the area a Starlight Tourist Destination. They’ve developed an offering based on the appreciation of the sky combined with means of observation available to visitors, trained staff for astronomical interpretation and quality accommodation infrastructure.

aras del los olmos starlight reserve stargazing valencia

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Gastrobloggers Under the Stars

Held in Aras de los Olmos, one of the villages within the Serranía del Alto Turia, Gastrobloggers Under the Stars was organized to commemorate the achievement of the area’s Starlight Reserve certification and to celebrate the region as both an astronomic and gastronomic tourist destination.


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The event brought together a group of bloggers and the residents of the local area to sample a few local specialties. As we say, we eat with our eyes, and this destination is a clear example where this is the case. Not only did we sample a selection of locally produced delicacies, but also the clearest night sky I’ve seen in a long time.

The local producers brought a selection of things for us to taste:

  • Black truffle by JavalTuria, a combination of wild and home-grown organic truffles with a beautifully delicate flavour. Some of these truffles can reach the size of a fist!
  • Esperiega apple jam produced by Loles Salvador, head of an award-winning family of Valencian chefs. Esperiega apples are a variety native from Rincón de Ademuz. They are also known as frozen apples, due to the process of crystallisation of the sugar, which makes the apples really sweet and ideal for baking. Loles combines these apples with flavours like vanilla, cinnamon and ginger to create the most exquisite jams.
  • Local honey by La Travina, a family run beekeeping business that works with the natural migratory patterns of the local bees. Due to this nomadic style of beekeeping, the harvest of the honey is different every year, as it depends on the work of the bees and the quality of the flowers, but this year they were able to collect rosemary, thyme, lavender and kermes oak honey. My favourite was the rosemary one – beautiful flavour!
  • Locally crafted beer La Galana, another family run company born out of a passion project. I tried two award-winning malt beers – one infused with apricot, very light and refreshing, and the other one a dark malt beer with Colombian coffee and toasted caramel flavours.

After the tasting session, we all jumped on a minibus to drive up the hill to the Observatory, where we learnt about the solar system and telescopes and enjoyed the highlight of the event – the starriest night with the Milky Way clearly on display. The experts also pointed out a few well-known constellations for us and explained the importance of the preservation of the night sky.

starlight reserve stargazing valencia shooting star

A shooting star over the observatory – Photo Credit: Observatori Astronòmic de la Universitat de Valencia

All the while the tasting session and our visit to the Observatory took place, the locals in Aras de Olmos were working hard preparing a typical dish of the area called gachas. You boil water and flour in an iron pot on a wood fire for two hours, followed by half an hour of stirring. This creates a dumpling-like dough which is then combined with fried pork belly and sardines. Gachas was traditionally prepared by shepherds while they were out in the pastures, and it’s now more of a festive dish prepared in special occasions.


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On our return from the Observatory, the main gastronomic experience of the night was waiting for us – A Dinner of the Stars, Galaxies and Other Curious Culinary Phenomena. With a name like that, we were all very intrigued to try an astronomy-inspired menu that included dishes like Iberian Constellation (Iberico game carpaccio with black garlic and anchovy butter), The Cream that Wanted to Be a Wormhole (artichoke cream with squid in black ink), Lamb’s Milky Way (roast lamb with spirulina, honey and violette potato) and Saturn in Cocoa (a chocolate and caramel sphere with rings).

The night culminated with a get together around a cremaet, a cocktail that comes with a ritual. After mixing rum and coffee with honey, coffee grains, cinnamon bark and orange and lemon peel in a clay pot, it is set alight for a few minutes. The anticipation of such an elaborate drink makes drinking it even more pleasurable and memorable.

starlight reserve stargazing valencia cremaet

Cremaet – Photo Credit: Rafa Gasso

It was certainly an evening to remember, where not only we got to experience it with two senses – sight and taste – we also got to appreciate that most of us don’t get to see the night sky very often, and that it’s important that we create and support areas that protect and maintain dark zones, so we don’t forget that we are only a tiny little speck in the universe.

How to get to the Serranía del Turia Starlight Reserve

There are 3 buses a day from Valencia Bus Station to the villages of Titaguas and Aras de los Olmos. You can find information on timetables here (in Spanish).

The easiest and most convenient way to reach the Serranía is by hire car. The road there is pretty spectacular so you will have the freedom to stop for photos and explore the area at your own leisure. For the best deals on car hire check Holiday Extras.


Have you ever seen the Milky Way with the naked eye?
Let me know in the comments!


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Disclosure: A big thank you to Region of Valencia, who hosted me on this event. As always, all views are my own. This post also contains affiliate links, that earn me a small commission but come at no extra cost to you. Thanks as always for your support!

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13 Comments
  1. Reply

    Mindi

    10/12/2017

    How clever and fun to combine gastronomy and astronomy! I haven’t stars like that since I was in South Africa earlier this year. Hopefully I’ll make it to Valencia in 2018 for the food … and the stars.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      10/12/2017

      Thanks Mindi! It was such a great concept for an event. The chef is super creative – he does the dinners in the dark and other unusual dining experiences. I hope you make it to Valencia in 2018! 😊

  2. Reply

    Kelly

    10/12/2017

    What a neat post!! I had no idea that they had these preservation areas for viewing the night sky. What a great idea!! I wish I had known about this in Valencia because I totally would have checked it out. Such a great concept!! Thanks for sharing and cannot believe that 8 of the 10 sites are in spain. Stunning photos by the way!!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      10/12/2017

      Thanks Kelly! It’s amazing isn’t it? Such a great concert! We don’t get to see enough stars nowadays so it only makes sense to protect the areas where it’s still possible 😊

  3. Reply

    Martina

    15/12/2017

    wowww – this blog post is wonderful, your pics are amazing! I would love to visit the observatory – it must be incredible watching the stars from there.

    Thanks for sharing darling!

    Have a nice day
    Martina

    • Reply

      Teresa

      15/12/2017

      Thanks Martina! It really was an amazing visit! And seeing all those stars was truly special 😊

  4. Reply

    The Wildest Tales

    15/12/2017

    This sounds like a top-notch experience. The picture of the sky is stunning and trying local products are always the best… but for that you have to explore more the area and not only come for 1-2 days. You are lucky!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      20/12/2017

      You’re so right! There are lots of hints you can do in the area like hiking and exploring the beautiful mountain villages. I go to Valencia quite often so I’m planning to go back and explore more 🙂

  5. Reply

    Taylor

    15/12/2017

    Really enjoyed this post! The stargazing photos looks amazing, and I would love to try the dish they spent hours making. I mean stiring for 30 min is crazy.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      20/12/2017

      Thanks Taylor! I know right? A very labour intensive dish… this dish is traditionally cooked by men and they took turns with the stirring.

  6. Reply

    Somnath

    19/12/2017

    Love your writing and your experience with gastronomic tourist destination.Really enjoyed the article and the wonderful photos

  7. Reply

    Ioanna

    19/12/2017

    I haven’t seen that many stars in years! And I’m a hiker! It’s hard to find not only non-polluted skies but also areas with a big chance for fair weather 🙂 … and me not falling asleep too early 😀

    Thank you for sharing, such a lovely destination 🙂
    Happy travels,
    Ioanna

    • Reply

      Teresa

      20/12/2017

      Thanks Ioanna! It’s such a shame that we’ve lost easy access to our starry skies! We need more areas like this one where they can be protected from light pollution.

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HI, I'M TERESA!

Hi! I’m Teresa, a London-based traveller and photographer who quit her job in the summer 2016 to explore the world. I’ve been to 39 countries and have ticked some adventures off my bucket list. I hope I can inspire you and motivate you to get out there and explore this beautiful world we live in. Follow my updates and discover the essence of travelling with me!

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