Clinging to the mountains of Els Ports, in the North of Spain’s Castellon province, is the Valencian town of Morella. Its white and terracotta homes, blue-domed churches and towering Moorish castle and fortress walls make this small but hospitable town one of the most striking in the region. Add to that a growing gourmet food scene, eco-friendly farm stays and plenty of outdoor adventure opportunities, and Morella might just be the next weekend destination that everyone’s talking about.
Architecture, history and views
In Morella, it’s all about slowing down: spend the morning meandering its medieval streets on foot, passing clusters of terracotta roofs, whitewashed walls and narrow stone alleys scented with orange and honey. In the centre of town, stop by the Basilica de Santa Maria la Major, a blue-domed Gothic church with intricately carved doorways and a stunning marbled staircase.
Inside, you’ll find a 3,000-pipe organ dating back to 1719, as well as a museum showcasing the town’s most valuable religious art. Nearby is the Convent de Sant Francesc, a 13th Century convent that once housed Franciscan monks. From here you’ll find the steep road to Castell de Morella, the town’s imposing Moorish castle that’s been continuously inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. If you make it, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Morella and the surrounding valleys and hills.
Cheese, truffles and hand-woven blankets
Follow your nose back to the centre of town until you reach Blasco de Alagón, Morella’s main drag, where craftspeople and shopkeepers sell the region’s signature truffles, honey and hand-woven carpets. It’s here that you’ll find hole-in-the-wall delis like La Casa de la Miel y del Queso selling locally-produced goats cheese, cured meats and up to 14 varieties of honey.
Wander long enough and you’ll notice that Morella has a seriously sweet tooth: stop by one of the many bakeries to try flaó (a heavenly pastry stuffed with cheese and almonds), panoli (a crepe-like snack filled with caramelized pumpkin) and doughnuts drizzled with honey and custard. Then, learn the art of Morella carpet weaving and stock up on hand-crafted souvenirs at family-owned workshop, Mantas Morellanas García.
Slow-roasted lamb and chorizo stews
You’ve worked up an appetite, so it’s time for lunch at Morella institution, Casa Roque. Opt for ternasco asado, Morella’s signature dish of locally sourced lamb that’s slow-roasted with white wine, bay leaves and garlic. If you can stomach another dish before dinnertime, the potaje morellano (chorizo, bean and pig’s ear stew) and the mushrooms with truffle come highly recommended. A glass of Castellón Tempranillo is the perfect accompaniment to all three dishes.
Escape to the country
Wake up surrounded by mountains and cow-dotted pastures at 15th-century farmhouse, Font d'en Torres. The 125-hectare, adult-only property is just 6 kilometres from Morella, but its vast grounds and surrounding mountains make it feel like a remote country retreat. Enjoy the view of Els Ports mountains from a jacuzzi or lace up your hiking boots and explore the forested mountains by foot, passing towering pine and oak trees, crystal-clear waterfalls and flower-filled meadows.
The hotel also organises guided truffle foraging trips, where you’ll learn everything there is to know about Morella’s long and fruitful relationship with sustainable truffle production. For adventures outside the grounds, Morella la Vella, a 20-minute drive from the hotel, is home to prehistoric cave paintings thought to be more than 7,000 years old. Capacity is limited, so be sure to book ahead at Morella’s tourist information centre ahead of time.
From wild mushrooms and truffles to organic beef and lamb, Morella is blessed with some of Spain’s top produce. It’s of little surprise, then, that talented chefs from across the country are flocking to this small Valencian town to put their own spin on local dishes. At Michelin Guide restaurants like Mesón del Pastor, for example, you can expect creative dishes such as cured deer carpaccio with goats cheese ice cream and ginger oil, while Vinatea and Daluan are just as bold with local ingredients: think steak tartare served with a fried egg cream and fillet of duck with peaches soaked in wine. For an al-fresco nightcap, finish your evening with a glass of local wine or a carajillo, a lemon and cinnamon-infused coffee with brandy or whiskey, at Bar la Nevera.
Whether you’re looking for farm-to-table dining, crowd-free hiking or 7,000 years of history, Morella offers the perfect Spanish weekend getaway. Our advice? Get here before everyone else does.