The province of Castellón covers almost 7,000 square kilometres, and is home to just over 600,000 inhabitants. Over 180,000 of these live in the capital city, but there are no other major population centres, the second most populated being Villarreal with only 50,000 inhabitants, other larger centres being Borriana,La Vall d’Úixó and Vinarós.
Like the rest of the Mediterranean arc, the area has been home to human inhabitants since prehistoric times and remains have been found of settlements dating back at least as far as the Neolithic. The Romans left their mark on the province, which lies between the important towns of Saguntum (Sagunto) and Tarraco (Tarragona), and of course the Moors ruled the area for many centuries. El Cid conquered the region at the end of the eleventh century, and those familiar with the film version starring Charlton Heston will perhaps recognize the castle of Peñíscola.
The capital city, Castellón de la Plana, was founded in 1252, as the Christian Reconquist established new bases following 500 years of Moorish rule and throughout the province there are various castles which testify to the conflicts of the Middle Ages, some of them in excellent condition, dominating the surrounding area, Morella with its aquaduct and castle a popular spot for visitors.There are also several significant religious monuments including the cathedral of Santa María ( spectacular stained glass) and the Ermita de Sant Mateu.
Although most of the population live in the coastal area of the province, much of the interior is mountainous, and in fact despite being so far from the Pyrenees and the other major mountain ranges it is the second most mountainous province in Spain. The highest point in Castellón is the Peñagolosa at 1,813m above sea level, and most of the mountain area is sparsely populated, although the scenery in the interior is spectacular and well worth a trip inland from the coast, with vast forests and natural parks. Of course the weather is typical of the Spanish Mediterranean, with hot sunny summers and fairly dry winters, but inland the mountains accumulate substantially more rainfall than the coastal areas.
The economy of Castellón has always been based on agriculture, particularly citrus fruits,( Nules and Benicarló) and although other sectors such as chemicals, ceramic tiles, (Onda, Alcora, Nules, Castellón and Villarreal make this the ibiggest concentration of ceramic tile manufacturing in Spain) furniture, (Benicarló and Vinaroz) footwear(Vall de Uxó) and fishing (Castellón, Vinaròs) have all made contributions in recent decades, tourism and its associated service ndustries now account for more and more of the province’s economic activity.
As a tourist destination Castellón has been less popular than its neighbours to the north on the Costa Dorada of Tarragona and south on the Costa Blanca. The province’s Costa del Azahar, however, includes such well-known destinations as Benicassim, Peñíscola, Oropesa del Mar and Benicarló, and is complemented by numerous nature reserves among which are the Islas Columbretes, which lie just over 50km off the coast due east from the provincial capital. Of course the proximity of the mountains adds to the attraction for visitors.
Among the culinary specialities of Castellón are a mix of Valencian and Catalan influences, with paella being an ever-present favourite as in the rest of the Comunidad Valenciana. Locally produced ingredients include cheese and other dairy products, as well as seafood and meat products, but perhaps the most representative food in the province is its fruit. Massive orange groves prosper in the lowlands, and apples, pears, cherries and melons are also grown alongside leaf vegetables. This completes the famed “Mediterranean diet”, and the artichokes of Benicarló enjoy Designation of Origin status. Of course no Mediterranean table is complete without a good bottle of wine, and the vineyards of Castellón are becoming more productive as the local wines and liqueurs attract an increasing number of fans.
The Valencia region has three main DO wines- Alicante, Utiel-Requena, and Valencia, Castellón having is own Vins de la Terra de Castelló (VdeTC) Vinos de la Terra classification, best described as being along the same lines as the French ” Vins de Pays” classification.
Among the main annual events in Castellón are the spring Fiestas de la Magdalena in the capital, which begin on the third Saturday of Lent and last for nine days. The fiestas centre around the “Romería de las Cañas”, when a procession down from the Cerro de la Magdalena (Castellón de la Plana) commemorates the founding of the city in 1252. For the following week the city is host to one long carnival, with fireworks, concerts, parades, “gaiatas” (the typical floats which are festivals of light, in remembrance of the lanterns used by locals in the past to find their way across the marshland by night) and, of course, plenty to eat and drink.
In all there are 135 municipalities in the province, some of them very small: in eighty-seven there are fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, and in sixteen of those there are under a hundred. Consequently, for many administrative purposes they are grouped into eight “comarcas”, or geographical regions, named Alcalatén, Alto Maestrazgo, Alto Mijares, Alto Palancia, Bajo Maestrazgo, Plana Alta, Plana Baja and Los Puertos de Morella.
Castellón is well connected to the remainder of the Valencia region ( Alicante province and Valencia province) via the main A-7, which runs right along the coast to Barcelona, and is serviced by Valencia airport . Unfortunately the airport at Castellón has made constant headlines for all the wrong reasons and remains closed at the end of 2013, nearly 3 years after its official inauguration.
Where is Castellón?
Click for map, Castellón, Comunidad de Valencia, Spain