Peniscola is in the province of Castellon on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
Understand : Peniscola is an ancient fortified seaport first established by the Iberians in 1000 BCE. The port was conquered by the Phoenicians, later by the Greeks, and then by the Carthaginians, where Hannibal famously swore to never ally himself with Rome. Later the Romans and Moors controlled the seaport, until it finally came under Christian control in the 13th century.
Today the town with its 5km of beaches is one of the most heavily visited tourist destinations in Spain, popular with both Spanish and international visitors; in summers the population of this small town explodes from less than 8,000 to more than 150,000 people.
Access : Coordinates : 40.359167, 0.4075 / By train : Estacion de Tren de Benicarlo – Peniscola, Placa de la Estacion, s/n (7km N of Peniscola). 06:45-22:00 (information). Long-distance trains connecting Valencia with Barcelona stop here, and regional trains connect the city with Castellon and Tarragona. A taxi stand (tel. +34 964 460 506) is located in front of the station. By bus : All inter-urban buses stop at the 2 Placa Constitucio (Plaza de la Constitucion).
Autos Mediterraneo runs multiple daily buses connecting Castellon with Vinaros and points in between. A bus route and schedule can be downloaded here. HIFE (tel. +34 902 119 814) runs a daily bus between Valencia, and Peniscola, with a stop in Castellon. From Castellon the one-way fare is €6.05 and the journey takes just under 1½ hours. Tickets can be purchased directly from the driver or online.
Get around : By bus : Autos Mediterraneo runs a bus service connecting Peniscola with the nearby towns of Benicarlo and Vinaros. Buses operate daily 06:30-23:30 and leave every half-hour a bus route and schedule can be downloaded . In late April and from the end of June until mid-September, HIFE (tel. +34 902 119 814) operates three routes (lineas urbanas) within Peniscola
- Castell de Peniscola (Castell del Papa Luna / Peniscola Castle). 16 Oct – Palm Sunday: daily 10:30-17:30; Palm Sunday – 15 Oct: daily 09:30-21:30. Built on the remains of an older Arab fortification, most of the castle’s construction was completed between 1294 and 1307 by the Order of the Knights Templar. The castle served as the residence of Pope Benedict XVIII (aka ‘Papa Luna’) from 1411 until 1423, and in the late 16th century a series of bastions and gates were added to the complex. The terrace overlooking the castle affords great panoramic views of the town to the north as well as to the Irta mountains to the south. €5 (adults), €3.50 (concessions), free (children under 8).
- Esglesia de Santa Maria de Peniscola (Iglesia de Santa Maria / Church of Santa Maria) (by the town hall). Built in 1234 atop the remains of an earlier Moorish mosque, the parish church was renovated in the Gothic style in the 15th century and expanded in the 18th century. It houses several valuable objects owned by Papa Luna and his successor Clement VIII, including a cross and chalice, and reliquary. Free.
- Museu de la Mar (Museo de la Mar / Museum of the Sea), C/ Principe, s/n. Oct-Mar: Tu-Su 09:30-15:30; Apr-Jun: daily 10:00-14:00 16:00-20:00; Jul-Sep: daily 10:00-14:00 17:00-21:00. This small museum showcases archaeological and ethnological artificats from the area, as well as model ships and maps. It also has three aquariums devoted to Mediterranean marine life. Free.
Activities : Festivals : Festes Patronals en honor a la Mare de Deu de l’Ermitana. 8 September. Declared a festival of national touristic interest. Highlights include human towers, traditional dances, fireworks, and a Moors and Christians parade
- Platja Nord (Playa Norte) (N of the castle). Closest to the old town and Peniscola’s most popular beach, it stretches 5km and has lifeguard station and first aid stations, as well as disabled access, walkways, and showers. It is lined with a pleasant promenade, and has facilities for a number of water sports.
- Platja Sud (Playa Sur) (S of the castle). This smaller beach, with great views of the castle, also has a promenade as well as full lifeguard and first aid stations, showers, and water sport facilities.
Hiking and biking : 1 Parc Natural de la Serra d’Irta (Parque natural de la Sierra de Irta / Natural Park of Serra d’Irta) (just south of Peniscola). The combined mountain park and marine reserve offers good opportunities for hiking and mountain biking, and has several sights of historic and architectural interest. The park can also be accessed from Alcossebre, with many trail heads beginning in the south. The Peniscola tourist office has an online list of hiking trails with trail descriptions in English an official trail map (in Spanish) can be downloaded here.
2 Centre d’Interpretacio (Centro de Interpretacion / Visitor Centre), Av Estacion, s/n . Tu-F 10:00-14:00, Sa Su and holidays 09:00-14:30. Has exhibits about the park and organizes guided activities.
4 Castell de Polpis (Castillo de Polpis / Polpis Castle). Also of Muslim origin, the fortress was built between the 11th and 12th centuries and conquered by the Knights Templar in 1233, who heavily modified the structure. It was ultimately abandoned in the 16th century. Free.
5 Torre Badum (Torre Almadun / Badum Tower). A seaside watchtower, believed to be Muslim in origin. Free