Albufera: Spain’s Largest Lake and the Origin of Paella
Have you heard of Albufera, or L’Albufera as they call it in Valencian? Albufera is famous in Valencia for many reasons. First, we’ll explain exactly what it is and later we’ll explain more on its importance to Valencia, the Valencia Region, and Spain!
Meaning of Albufera
The word “Albufera” originated from the Arabic word (as many Spanish words do!) meaning “small sea”, and in Spanish the definition is “salt-water lagoon”. The Albufera of Valencia is unique in that it is now a fresh-water lagoon, usually considered a lake. Due to years of sandbars increasing and other environmental changes, the once salt-water lagoon was transformed to fresh water by the 1600s. This lake is located just next to the sea and its water continues to pour into the Mediterranean Sea, however the water now originates from rivers and the rice fields.
The Natural Park
The Albufera Natural Park was declared a Natural Park in 1986 and is altogether almost the same size as the city of Valencia! It not only consists of a lake as we mentioned, but the Natural Park is also made up of rice fields, wetlands, a nature reserve, forests, and dune beaches where it is connected to the sea. Located just about 10 kilometers outside of the city of Valencia, the Albufera Natural Park is well worth a visit. It is the largest lake in Spain and home to many species of birds and diverse wildlife.
Importance to Valencia
Albufera has a special importance to the Valencia community. Apart from it’s biodiversity, the rice fields located in the Natural Park are the origin of the famous Spanish dish, Paella. Valencia was actually the first place rice was brought to in Spain due to its fertile wetlands perfect for rice plantations. It was brought over by the Moors, and ever since rice has become an important part of Spanish gastronomy, specifically in the Valencian Community.
What to Do at Albufera
Since Albufera is so large, there are of course many things to do in this area! Below are a few of our favorites:
One of the most popular activities for tourists and locals alike is going to the Albufera Lake to take a boat ride at sunset. Since the sun sets over the lake (and not the beach), it is one of the best spots in Valencia to watch the atardecer.
Many people like to bike to Albufera from the city center, but it is quite the journey so be prepared to spend a full day getting there and back!
Eat paella in El Palmar (or any other typical Valencian rice dish for that matter), a town located on the small island inside Albufera lake!
Visit El Saler Beach, where you’ll find sand dunes, clearer water, and a more wild setting than the popular city beach of Valencia.
Check our activities to find out if there are any upcoming trips to Albufera!