Inside of Valencia´s region, leaving Valencia City south-westerly and limiting the Plana de Utiel and Hoya de Buñol, we found “The Ayora/Cofrentes Valley”. The region is essentially mountainous with two valleys that cut their relief, opening the way to river basins of the rivers that converge in them, bordering Albacete. They are lands watered by the Júcar, Cabriel, Cautabán and Reconque rivers, including a number of villages united by their history and location: Cofrentes, Jalance, Jarafuel, Teresa de Cofrentes, Cortes de Pallas, Zarra and Ayora; municipalities of outstanding natural beauty, artistic and gastronomic value, which still retain traditions of Arab origin. This region is one of the most rugged and lonely areas by high mountains that characterize it. The Ayora Valley is formed between the Palomera Mountains and Caroche Mountains; in this valley the Cantabán river fits up to Jalance where it joins to another valley, the river Cabriel valley. This junction with the Júcar River take in the middle villages like Jarafuel, Teresa of Cofrentes and Zarra, and a more isolated Cortes de Pallás.
Historically, the region was border area, given its difficult access, was the limit between Arabs and Christian kingdoms, constantly changing hands during the 12th and 13th c., until King James I finally conquered it. The King ceded the land to Castilla, under whose auspices the First Repopulation occurred. In 1304, after the annexation of Peter III and Jaime II, the region returned to the Crown of Aragon, being an area of insurgents Moriscos given its geography. Later with the expulsion of the Moors in 1609 came the demographic and economic decline in the region, was again a strong core of Moorish resistance (Cortes de Pallas and Jalance villages). The Duke of Gandia, then Lord of this lands, directed the Second Repopulation, imposing harsh conditions of payments, especially those related to the partition of fruit (farmer tax).During 19th c, during the Reign of Ferdinand VII, the valley’s population strongly opposed to continue to meet the demands and stately was the focus of peasant revolts again.
The region is like a huge green carpet surrounded by mountains, whose peaks over a thousand meters high, covered with pine trees, juniper trees and arbutus trees, base covered in rosemary, gorse and thyme. Therefore, it is a paradise for outdoor activities; the area offers all kinds of possibilities: hiking, camping, fishing (catfish, pike, carp, trout and crabs), hunting, canoeing, climbing, mountaineering, caving, paragliding, mountain biking, etc. In addition to this, as all waters are discharged into Jucar river, between Cofrentes and Cortes dam, there is a navigable stretch of nearly fourteen kilometres, running through landscapes of incredible beauty. There is also the region of a wide range of cultural interest, focused on visiting castles (Ayora, Cofrentes, Chirel and Jalance), ancient churches (the Assumption and the Rosary in Ayora, Santa Ana in Zarra), places of historical /artistic interest (Jalance, Cofrentes), or heritage sites (the Iberian city of Castellar of Mecca -4th c.BC-). Visitors can also do tour also by underground way, finding treasures of rock art embedded in different rock shelters and caves, as The Beautiful Cave and the Cave of Don Juan jealously guarding inside a treasure of stalactites and stalagmites created capriciously by nature over millions of years.
Gastronomically the main dishes, which are prepared in this area, are Gazpachos de Monte (similar to Gazpacho Manchego) served over traditional shepherd´s cake, Pots, Casseroles, Morteruelo, Calducho, etc. Recommended for cold months, dishes like Aajetao, Ajotonto, Trigopicao and Gachamigas are also tasty dishes. With them, a variety of pastries, cakes and sweets dishes, as Grullos, Aguamiel, Almendrados, etc. Also important are fruits (peaches and cherries) and honey, an ancestral production, which still lingers, celebrated every year the National Beekeeping Fair. As festivals stand out for their originality the Water Battle in Jarafuel village during the second week of August month, the Fool´s Day at Jalance village, Carnival and Easter in Ayora and the Falla of Cofrentes, which has the particularity of being burned the on May 1 instead of March 19.