Desert is the term which Carmelitas Descalzos designate for those lonely and remote places, where they retire to devote themselves to contemplation and prayer. Since there used to be many palm trees (Chamaerops humillis) in the area, the park was named Desert de les Palmes. The lands in this area have been populated since the Neolithic, although its history really begins with the arrival of the Carmelite fathers.
From the highest peaks, Mola del Morico (694 meters) and Bartolo (729 meters), the visitor can enjoy the wonderful perspectives of the coast that these two peaks offer. The climate of the park is characterized by being clearly Mediterranean, but its proximity to the sea gives it special climatic characteristics. Due to the humid winds from the east, fogs are common in the area, which in turn allows the formation of more humid micro-climate.
The two official names of El Bartolo, the highest mountain in the Desierto de Les Palmes, are El Montsoriu and Alt del Colomer. However, few people know these two names of the 729-meter peak that watches over Benicàssim and Castellón from above.
The name Bartolo is related to the ‘colonization’ by the Carmelites since 1694. The first community of these monks was established by only three members, one of them being Brother Bartolomé, known as Brother Bartolo. The aforementioned Bartolomé or Bartolo, as they prefer, retired to live as an anchorite for several years in a cavity located near the summit of Montsoriu. Despite the fact that he finally died in Boltaña (Huesca), in 1728 and at the age of 81, a shrine was built in 1751 on the mountain in honor of San Miguel. After that the mountain, in homage to the popular religious traditions, was called in honor of him – Bartolo.
Located on the top of one of the mountains of the Natural Park of the Desert de les Palmes, Montornés Castle was a 10th century ancient defensive system of Arab origin, built over Roman remains, although it was the Christians who reinforced and extended it after the reconquest.
It has a traditional scheme of fortifications, with three enclosures surrounded by walls. It forms a triangular figure with the tower of San Vicente and with the little house of Salandó, which probably had the function of reinforcing its defense. Some wall canvases, ceramic altarpieces and two watchtowers are all that remain from these constructions.
According to a legend, the castle was conquered by means of deceits by Cid Campeador, belonging later to the knight Ximén Perez d’Arenós and to the monastery of Poblet.
The ‘Desierto de Las Palmas’ Monastery is located in a wide area, an area protected by its natural wealth. First monastery started in the year 1694 and had been destroyed some years later. Its ruins are still preserved, they also gave way to building another one located in the higher part of the mountain. The barefoot Carmelite friars have lived there since 1784. The name is Monastery, but they are not monks, but friars, followers of Jesus, living in community, dedicated to prayer and mission.
Photo credit: Catherine Salsbury
Distance: 11km with 400m of elevation gain (4 hours)
Level: medium (some trickier trails along the ridge for 2km)
Bring 1.5l of water, picnic lunch, sunscreen and hiking shoes.