Complementary activities



Nit de Sant Joan
Peníscola i Morella
Festes populars
Castelló de la Plana
De tapes
Excursió al Desert de les Palmes
Vòlei platja

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Guided tour of Castelló


Castelló de la Plana is a city of 175,000 inhabitants, located by the Mediterranean Sea and home to the Universitat Jaume I.

The origins of Castelló de la Plana date back to 1251, when King Jaume I founded the city in the middle of a plain – referred to in the city name – after he had granted the municipal charter to the original settlers of the Magdalena castle. Today, Castelló and its surrounding area has a strong economy based on agriculture (mainly orange production), industry (ceramic tiles in particular) and services.

The buildings in the city centre reflect the history of the city: the seventeenth century Tuscan-style City Hall; the gothic cathedral, rebuilt after the Spanish Civil War; the bell tower popularly known as ‘el Fadrí’, which dates back to the sixteenth century; and the Llotja del Cànem, a former exchange market that is now used as the university’s base in the city. Other places worth visiting include the Teatre Principal, the Casino Antic, the post office building and the Ribalta park.

Castelló also has an auditorium offering a wide-ranging concert programme, and several museums, such as the Espai d’Art Contemporani and the Museu de Belles Arts.

As for leisure activities, the recreational area of the port in the district of el Grau combines restaurants – specialised in rice, fish and seafood cuisine – with cinemas, pubs and other entertainment venues. In the summer, the beaches are the main attraction in the area. Together with those of Benicàssim, they form a 14-kilometre stretch of fine sand and clean water where you can sunbathe and swim.

If what you like is the mountains, there are several natural parks nearby: Serra d’Espadà, Desert de les Palmes, Serra d’Irta, Penyagolosa, Tinença de Benifassà...

La Llotja del Càneem
Passig de Ribalta

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Festival of Sant Joan


The arrival of summer is marked by the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year, and falls around the night of 23rd-24th of June, the festival of Sant Joan (St John).

On much of the Mediterranean coast, including Castelló, festivals are held on the night of 23 June. These festivals relive the ancestral pagan traditions celebrating the summer solstice, and at the same time, the Christian commemoration of the birth of St John the Baptist.

This magical night is also celebrated by other historically or geographically distant civilisations, such as the ancient Celts and many cultures in South America.

The most important element in our festivities is fire; people gather on the beaches and when night begins to fall they light bonfires at the water’s edge. While they wait for the magic midnight hour to arrive, they eat, dance and play music, and on the stroke of midnight, weather permitting, they swim in the sea, or at least dip their feet in the water, accompanied by fireworks or dancing devils.

A variety of rituals are closely linked to the Nit de Sant Joan: jumping the bonfire, swimming in the sea, throwing flowers into the water... all believed to bring love, security, protection, peace and harmony.

In some cities, like Alicante, this celebration has become an official festivity —les Fogueres de Sant Joan— that attracts thousands of people every year to see the bonfires, complete with papier mache figures, which are set alight at midnight and turned into ash.

As part of the social programme for students on the Catalan and Spanish courses, we will go to the Castelló beach and light our own bonfire, have dinner there, follow all the traditional rituals, and if the weather is good, wait to see the sun rise over the horizon of the Mediterranean Sea.


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Trip to Barcelona


Barcelona, host to the Olympic Games in 1992 and capital of Catalonia, is a city with some 2 million inhabitants. Less than 280 km from the Universitat Jaume I, and with good train and motorway links, its historical, cultural, leisure and tourist attractions make it well worth a weekend visit.

The city has its origins in the old Roman city of Barcino, founded by the Emperor Augustus around the year 14 BC, of which the public baths, the remains of the forum and walls, etc., can be visited at both surface and underground sites.

The later splendour of medieval Barcelona is reflected in the buildings of what is known as the Gothic district, where you will find the cathedral, the City Hall, the church of Santa Maria del Mar and many other palaces and buildings that today have been turned into restaurants, shops or museums, like the Picasso museum. Another museum that should be on every visitor’s itinerary is the Museu d’Art de Catalunya, particularly for its collection of Romanesque paintings.

Every period of history has left its mark on the streets and buildings of Barcelona. More recently, towards the end of the nineteenth century and coinciding with Catalonia’s cultural renaissance and early industrialisation, the Modernist movement appeared, and has left an extremely rich heritage, particularly in its architecture: the Sagrada Família, Parc Güell, the Palau de la Música Catalana... These buildings and others have all been declared UNESCO world heritage sites.

But what truly brought international recognition to Barcelona today was without doubt its role as host to the 1992 Olympic Games. The city underwent a radical facelift for the event and has come into the twenty-first century with a whole array of new avant-garde buildings and infrastructures.

Today, people come to Barcelona from all over the world, and from all cultures, some as visitors and some to make their home in the city. On every street you will hear different languages and accents, but no more so than on the Rambla, the true human, cosmopolitan heart of Barcelona.

Sagrada Família

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Walk in the Desert de les Palmes


Here, we outline a route for a day’s walk in the Desert de les Palmes natural park, the authentic “green lung” on the Plain of Castelló. It will take you through real mountain countryside, introduce you to our flora and fauna, and lead you to the top of the highest peak (the Bartolo, 729 m), from where you will descend to the beaches at Benicàssim.

Despite its name —desert—, you will not find an endless landscape of dunes, or paths through the sand. In this case, the origin of the name desert is historical, not geographical, and refers to a solitary spot where, in the seventeenth century, a group of monks settled to lead a life of contemplation.

On our walk we will visit their monasteries and some of the hermitages the monks built in the area. We’ll also see animal shelters, natural springs and farmhouses; as well as the monks, the Desert was also inhabited by people who worked the lands and grazed their animals there.

Day: 9 July 2011
Departure point: New Monastery, Desert de les Palmes
Time: 8.00 am
Difficulty: intermediate

Distance: 12.6 km
Ascent: 441 m
Duration: 5 hours

We go from Castelló by bus to the new monastery where the walk begins. Our first stop is at the Carme hermitage lookout point, from where we can see the medieval castle of Montornès, the sea and practically all the route of the day’s walk.

In just over 15 minutes, we reach the Desert de les Palmes park information centre, where we will be given an explanation of its environmental importance, and visit the Mediterranean tortoise breeding centre, a species threatened by extinction.

We then climb up for about an hour to the crest of the sierra, where the path takes us to the top of the Bartolo. Spectacular views can be enjoyed along the route: on one side, the mountains of inland Castelló, with Penyagolosa, the highest mountain in the Valencian region, and on the other, the Mediterranean Sea, with the Columbretes Islands right in the middle, a volcanic archipelago that is also a protected natural park.

From the Bartolo, the view of the beaches and the Plain stretches down to the Cape of Sant Antoni and the Montgó mountain next to Dénia and Xàbia to the south, and the Serra d’Irta, to the north. Our descent takes us down to the Desert’s Old Monastery, built in the seventeenth century, and later destroyed by a landslide.

Although the Desert has numerous natural springs, we pass just two with water where we can replenish our water bottles: the Teula spring, the most abundant, and the Sant Josep spring.

We follow the Desert ravine down to the town of Benicàssim, where we can enjoy an ice-cream on a terrace, or head straight to the beach for a well deserved swim.

Everyone will make their own way back to Castelló on public transport.

Essential material

Walking boots, walking poles, rucksack, water bottle (1.5 litres minimum), sunscreen, cap, morning snack and packed lunch, fruit...

Rules to bear in mind

Punt Each participant is responsible for their own insurance.

Punt Respect the rules established to protect the natural park.

Punt Do not leave any kind of rubbish or litter in the countryside.

Punt Do not uproot or pick any plants, or disturb the wildlife.

Punt Keep to the signed footpaths and do not damage them in any way.

Punt Be punctual and follow the guide’s instructions.


Boira a les Agulles
Sant Elies i el Convent
Covent Vell
Del Collet al Bartolo
Torre de Guaita
Flor de palera
Pujant al Bartolo

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Popular festivities


The Saint Peter festival is celebrated during the week of 29 June. This event gives you the chance to experience first-hand a typical example of popular activities in our region.

However, what really makes the Saint Peter festival unique are the activities that identify the Grau as a maritime community: the sea parade, a sort of ethnological display of the port district traditions that pays homage to the sea as source and way of life; the grilling of sardines, a popular meal accompanied by bread and wine; the fireworks reflecting on the sea (on Saint Peter’s day itself); and swimming events to the port.

As well as this, there is of course the traditional bull running and the popular musical bands playing the dolçaina and tabalet, two typical instruments of the region.



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Let's go and eat some tapas


A deeply rooted Spanish custom is going out to eat tapas. This consists of meeting up with friends to eat a few (or more) small snacks, but with one peculiarity: the food must be shared.

Tapas come in an infinite variety of shapes and forms: crisps, olives, mushrooms, potatoes in a spicy sauce (called braves or bravas), brochettes, meatballs, chicken or cod croquettes, cuttlefish, squid, different kinds of anchovies – a delight for the palate!

The origin of tapas is to be found in a legend, according to which king Alfonso X of Castile, nicknamed “the Wise”, decided that a glass of wine should be accompanied by a piece of bread to prevent the negative effects of drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. A small saucer was then introduced to cover the glass of wine. And hence the name, since the word tapa means ‘cover’ or ‘lid’.

But if you really want to find out what tapas are, the best thing to do is go and try them for yourself.


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Beach volleyball tournament


One of the sports activities planned to complement the Catalan and Spanish as foreign languages courses is a beach volleyball tournament. The activity is open to all students who would like to participate, and will take place at the Castelló beach facilities.

The activity is divided into two parts: first, beach volleyball training and information sessions; second, practical sessions in the form of a small competition.

Training sessions

Day: 7 July, Thursday (2 hours)
Starting time: 6 pm
Place: Platja del Serradal
Session 1
Presentation and basic rules of the game
Warm-up exercises and training in serving
Practice in a real game

Day: 12 July, Tuesday (2 hours)
Starting time: 6 pm
Place: Platja del Serradal
Session 2
Warm-up exercises and training in receiving
Practice in a real game

Day: 19 July, Tuesday (2 hours)
Starting time: 6 pm
Place: Platja del Serradal
Session 3
Warm-up exercises and training in setting and
Practice in a real game

Tournament days

Tuesday 26 July
Time: 6 pm
Place: Platja del Serradal

Depending on the number of participants, several teams will be organised to take part in a friendly knockout tournament. A trophy will be awarded at the end.

Jugant a vòlei
Pilota de vòlei

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Trip to Morella and Peníscola


Morella is a fascinating mediaeval town in the comarca of els Ports, in the north of the Valencia Region, located at the top of a walled hill. The archpriestal church of Saint Mary, the convent of Saint Francis and the castle are found within the walls at the top of the town.

Morella presents a tortuous maze of typical streets adapted to the steep relief of the town. The main street, lined with arches, is Blasc d’Alagó, named after the mediaeval conqueror of the town in 1233. The old town is accessed through magnificent gates in the walls (Sant Mateu, Estudis, Sant Miquel...). They date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and a number of museums are located within them.

A walk through these streets, among monumental houses and palaces like the Siurana house, the Cardinal Ram palace, the gothic Town Hall building, can be followed by a relaxed stroll through the park – a dense pinewood – on the shady side of the mountain where Morella is built.

Other significant monuments in the surrounding area include the mediaeval aqueduct of Santa Llúcia, the Giner factory – now converted into a country hotel – and several sites with cave paintings and even dinosaur remains.

The gastronomy of Morella and the comarca of els Ports is based on meat and local products: olleta morellana (a stew), roast lamb, rabbit with snails, cold meat, ham, cured meat, dried salted tuna... Truffles and wild mushrooms also figure highly in Morella cuisine. And to round off a good meal in Morella, there is a wide range of desserts including junket, flaons (curd cheese pies), carquinyols (hard almond cookies) and pinyonades (pine nut sweets).

Crafts represent a very important part of Morella’s economy, especially textile and manufactured goods, which can be purchased in many of the town’s shops.

The main festivity in Morella is the pilgrimage to the Vallivana virgin — the Sexenni – which has taken place every six years since the fifteenth century.

Further information:

Punt Tourist office

Punt Morella

Castell de nit
Basílica de santa Maria la Major
Portal de sant Miquel
Torre Redona


The town of Peníscola, located 90 km north of Castelló de la Plana, is a blend of two apparently contradictory elements: modernity and history. On the one hand, it is a tourist resort, offering numerous leisure activities, particularly linked to its stunning beaches. On the other hand, it is a historical town, built on a rocky headland on the Mediterranean, which was walled in ancient times and has a fascinating historical and architectural past.

The castle, located at the top of the promontory, served as a vantage point and fortress. For centuries, it made Peníscola an impregnable city of great strategic value. The mediaeval fortifications dating from the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries were reinforced in the eighteenth century by the Italian engineer Giovanni Battista Antonelli.

Pope Benedict XIII, known as ‘El Papa Luna’, took refuge in Peníscola. He was involved in the Western Schism, which almost split the Catholic Church.

The old town, built within the walls, is today a maze of typical streets full of restaurants and souvenir shops. Besides the castle, other attractions that must be visited include the gates in the walls, the chapel of Santa Anna, the Artilleria park and the curious Bufador, a big cavern with a landward entrance through which the seawater escapes in clouds of spray in stormy weather.

Thanks to the maritime tradition and wealthy coast of Peníscola, its cuisine has become one of the healthiest, freshest and most creative of the Mediterranean. Typical dishes include allipebre de rap (monkfish with garlic and cayenne pepper sauce), suquet de peix (fish stew), seafood, date mussels, sea snails, Norway lobsters and shrimps. The rich variety of seafood rice dishes in the area is also remarkable: paella mixta, paella de llamàntol, paella marinera, arròs caldòs, fideuà and arròs negre are some of the varieties.

To round off a good meal, try the bescuits del frare Vicent (almond sponge cakes), flaons (almond and curd cheese pies), pastissets de carabassa (pies made with pumpkin, honey and lemon) and the typical tortells del papa Luna (made of almond, orange, honey and curd cheese).

History, sun, sea and good cuisine are all elements that can been found in perfect harmony with the more than six kilometres of beaches and the countless coves shaped by the mountains of the Serra d’Irta natural park as they plunge into the Mediterranean sea.

Castell i barquetes
Castell i palmeres
Platja del nord

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Trip to Valencia


Valencia, the capital of the Valencian autonomous community, is a city on the Mediterranean coast with a history that dates back to its Roman foundation – Valentia, 138 BC – and that continued with the Muslim and Christian cultures, which left their mark not only in the form of archaeological and architectural remains, but also on the surrounding fields of fruit trees and vegetables – the so-called “Horta” – and the character of its people.

A visit to the old city is therefore a must for anyone who comes to the area. The main historical buildings are found in the heart of the city: the cathedral and the bell tower known as “el Micalet”; the Mare de Déu dels Desamparats basilica, with a dome painted by Palomino; the palace of the Generalitat, the seat of the Valencian government; the Llotja de la seda, an old silk exchange market; the Serrans towers, the most significant remains of the old walls; and a maze of streets with museums, churches, palaces and noble houses that invite the visitor to wander and experience the golden age of the old city, the fifteenth century, when the main literary authors lived, including Ausiàs March, Joanot Martorell and sor Isabel de Villena.

Today Valencia has opened its doors to the future, which is represented by the avant-garde architecture of Santiago Calatrava. He is the creative force behind the City of Arts and Sciences, a leisure and artistic complex where a variety of events are put on, including opera or 3D film shows. You can also  visit the largest aquarium in Europe, or walk through the gardens and around the original buildings.

Nature lovers can visit the Albufera natural park, just a few kilometres from Valencia. The park is close to the beaches and woods of the area known as el Saler. It is here, in the rice fields surrounding the Albufera lake that the most famous and representative dish in Valencian cuisine was born: the paella. So you can combine a boat trip with a good meal, preferably a rice dish, in any of the restaurants of the villages around the park, a major stopping off point for thousands of water birds migrating between Europe and Africa every year.
No description of Valencia would be complete without mentioning the Fallas. This traditional celebration is internationally famous for the thousands of huge cardboard and papier-mâché monuments that are set on fire every 19 March in honour of saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and to celebrate the arrival of spring.

La Llotja
Palau de la Música

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