Agro Tourism as well as crop and livestock production are the businesses being engaged into by agricultural cooperatives in the Autonomous Community of Valencia, Spain. This was the information I got during my visit together with the other members of the 15-man Philippine Delegation to the Study Tour on the Development of Cooperative Integration In Spain at the Conselleria D’ Agricultura (Department of Agriculture Regional Office) at Peixca I, Alimentacion, Valencia City, Spain.
Candidly, my eyes twinkled in excitement when our tour guide Ms. Katia Oceransky informed us that our next visit would be at Castielfabib Explotaciones Agrarias y Ganaderas (CEAGA), a Cooperative engaged in agro tourism in Castielfabib, one of the seven towns comprising the Comarca (union of towns similar to County in the United States) of Rincon de Ademuz, which is constituted as an exclave of both the Region of Valencia and the province of Valencia located between the provinces of Cuenca (Region of Castile-La Mancha) and Teruel (Region of Aragon).
With the prior knowledge that the provinces of Valencia, Castellon and Alicante of the Autonomous Community or Region of Valencia are all located at the coast facing the Mediterranean Sea, I was confident that on our way towards our agro tourism destination, we would be traveling along the coastline hoping that I could have a chance to see Spain attractions suited for island vacations . Nevertheless, much to my disappointment, the bus that we had chartered went inland instead.
From Valencia City, your vehicle can head west traversing through the elegantly paved roads and highways and travel longer periods at the A-3 (signs for N-III/Madrid) and N-330 leading to Teruel/Zaragoza. As you start to maneuver through winding uphill roads, your head will also commence turning from left to right as as you observe rugged and mountainous terrains very much in contrast with the rest of the regions of Valencia and Castille-La Mancha. Your curiosity would surely shoot up some more as you enter the towns belonging to the Comarca of Rincon de Ademuz as residential houses are tucked on steep mountain slopes. After 2 hours of travel, more or less, you can reach Castielfabib, a town on a hill on the right bank of the river Ebrón, and park on a hostel situated at a distance from the town proper whose name you can find out upon checking-in as . . .
The Hostal Centenares, a facility fully equipped for the cold season, complete with a sitting room, bar, summer terrace, swimming pool and barbecue, which is owned and operated by CEAGA Cooperative, is a country inn, a lodge and restaurant folded into one. Its eight bedrooms, 3 of which have double beds, while the rest having 2 beds each equipped with ensuite bathroom, as well as its shelters comprising of six modules having bunk beds, really fit the taste of weary guests and travelers eager to experience agro tourism like you. Its 80-seat restaurant specializes in traditional cuisine (porridge, rice empedrao pot, lamb, etc.). You would surely enjoy a lot during socials conducted at the 200-capacity restaurant annex ideal for business and professional meetings, family celebrations and others .
I woke up early to have a morning stroll and take souvenir pictures . . .
Right after breakfast, the agro tourism journey had began . . .
Passing by patches of spinach and onion plots and chatting with a farmer and mingling with the vineyard, olive and almond tree plantation owners. . .
En route to the Villa Vieja (old town) of Castielfabib . . .
Among the exhaustive and exciting parts of our agro tourism trip were climbing on narrow uphill walkways and passing through pinched tunnel-passageways of the Castle of Castielfabib, which is said to have been an impregnable fortress belonging to the Arabic Kings of Albarracin . . .
Capping the agro tourism journey was the access to the medieval period Gothic temple, which was constructed with the castle as a starting point. . .
Until we reached the castle summit …
And found enjoyment in gazing the vast expanse of the kingdom coming into being from the Iberian, Roman, Arabic, Christians, Muslims until finally re-conquered by the Christians.
Castielfabib Agro Tourism – Lessons Learned
Agro tourism, being a direct expansion of ecotourism, is an attractive form of sustainable tourism for rural areas. In Castielfabib, Valencia, Spain, they are successful at bringing in tourists to shell out 20 Euros per hour getting in touch with the natural environment, agricultural activities, local products, and the community lifestyle and culture undergoing in the process hiking, biking, canyoning, caving, rappelling, climbing, nature workshops, farming, mycology, and so on. Moreover, agro tourism had lessen the impact of urban migration that had taken its toll on the place way back from 1950-1970 leaving the area populated with only 115 to 120 during winter and 1,000, more or less, during fiesta and summer. The case of Castielfabib reaping the fruits of development despite limitations on their agricultural resources is more than enough reason for other rural areas to venture into agro tourism.