The monastery of Porta Coeli sits in the Sierra Calderona. Built 1272 (although most its current buildings date from between the 14th and 18th century) it has an aquaduct, gardens and reservoirs in additon to the church and charter houses although most its current buildings date from either the 14th or 18th century and although the monastery is closed except by appointment, is an impressive sight from both up close and from above. We took a 14km long loop starting at the car park of Pla de Lucas recreation area, up into the mountains before descending to the monastery itself.
The first part of the trail was on a reasonably wide gravel road and although the stones were loose it was not a difficult climb. We soon came to the Mirador de la Pedrera for views of the monastery and mountains in one direction and the coastline in the other. We continued up before the path flattened out for a bit, this route is especially popular with mountain bikers, many of whom come down at great speeds so we had to watch out for them. The path led us around the valley which gave us great views of the trees below and further mountains in the distance.
We soon turned off the wide path for a trail through the forest. This trail was steeper and far more uneven. The were large ruts in the ground, big rocks and often the path split to avoid fallen trees. It was a lot of fun though and it lead us to a crossroads where the path split for the Cami de Portaceli or towards Coll Blanc. We followed the Cami de Portaceli. Once again, the path widened out and now that we were out of the forest we could see the spectacular views of the valley. The clear weather not only made for stunning vistas but also meant that coats were not required. Yey for January in Valencia.
We now had to go up again. The trail started off through forest and back to a single file width. We soon came out the trees to ascend the steepest part of our route. There were large rocks to step on or over on this path and uneven footing all the way. It did however, lead us to our first sight of the entire monastery and its grounds. The monastery is still a working monastery having being reconsecrated in 1947 after having been used as a concentration camp from 1939-41 under the rule of Franco. The name Porta Coeli means ‘heaven’s door’ which the monks were knocking on long before Guns ‘n’ Roses.
We continued upwards, the path was steep and dusty but the scenery of the Porta Coeli valley was worth it. To complete our loop, we had to go down. On the way we stopped for lunch by the clear pools and eucalyptus trees at Font de Marge which is just a short walk from the main path.
We soon passed under the one of the 12 arches of the aquaduct and followed the road towards the monastery. Although the monastery itself cannot be accessed directly, on the same road there is a good viewpoint where the tree stumps conveniently make it easy to see over the gate. We walked on the road for a bit before turning off on to a path that was not only used by hikers, trail runners and bikers, but also horses. This path led us back to our starting point and a well earned drink.
The hike is a great way to not only see Porta Coeli, but also the surrounding areas, as the deep valleys and viewpoints offer extensive panoramas. There is a nice combination of gravel roads, forest trails and rocky paths to keep the route interesting and plenty of oppurtunities to enjoy the beauty of the area.