Sierra de Bernia
The Sierra de Bernia is a small mountain range with a length of 11 km that stretches in an east-westerly direction. This mountain range is situated along the Mediterranean and covers an area of 1,900 hectares. The peak is 1,128 metres above sea level.
On the southern flank, at 803 meters above sea level, are the ruins of the former Fort Bernia. This fort, built in 1562 by architect Juan Bautista Antonelli on behalf of King Felipe II, was manned with a modest garrison.
Fort Bernia was an out and out military base, with canals, fortifications, etc.
The intention was to spot attacks by pirates and Moors in time and to send military troops where necessary.
Because of the high location, the view was very extensive, but soon the many drawbacks of this location became clear. The fort was difficult to reach (supply and delivery of materials, food, etc.), the troops needed a lot of time to descend the mountain flank (to fight against invaders) and finally the south, east and west were very clearly visible, but the north flank could barely be guarded and was therefore very sensitive to attacks.
King Felipe III recognised this and decided to abandon Fort Bernia. The once powerful fort is now overgrown and is mainly occupied by grazing mountain goats.
Today you can still visit the ruins.
Most people brave the Sierra de Bernia to crawl through the Forat. This is an approximately 20-metre-long tunnel that has been excavated by water for centuries. Later, the mountain was pushed up and so the Forat came into being.
This tunnel goes straight through the mountains, the Forat is dark but you always see light on the other side. You will have to endure about 15 metres on all fours, but at both ends you can enjoy a phenomenal view. The south side (Altea) has a panoramic view over the skyline of Benidorm. On the north side (Jalón), you look out over thickly covered hills and valleys. You can even spot the Montgó from here.
Alongside the theoretical explanation of how the Forat originated, there is, of course, also a heroic legend.
During the battles with the Moors, the inhabitants of Altea did not just give in. The residents resisted the attackers for a long time. But more and more Moors kept arriving as reinforcements. Our brave inhabitants had to give up ground and withdrew, with the Moors chasing them, back to the Sierra de Bernia.
From a strategically chosen cavern, they managed to keep the enemy at a distance. The Moors took no further losses and decided to surround the Christians. They knew that there would be a shortage of food, so that over time they could easily overpower the Christians.
Our fighters had also thought of this. Moreover, they knew that their location in the mountain range was a lot smaller. They decided to dig out the tunnel. A few days later they reached the northern flank and were able to get themselves to safety.
The Moors felt that the Christians were holding out for a rather long time, and they decided to send a group of scouts out to explore. Upon returning, they reported that the cavern was completely empty. Surprised, the Moors went out and decided to continue exploring.
The tunnel was discovered, but the inhabitants of Altea had long since disappeared.
During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the mountain areas were in the hands of “Bandoleros”. These were highwaymen who lived in the mountains and knew the area inside out.
Especially travellers, and occasionally mountain villages, were the victims of these Bandoleros. Because they were so difficult to combat, the Guardia Civil was eventually established. These corps were housed in barracks in the mountain areas.
In a very short time, the robbers were arrested or chased away, ensuring that the villages and their travellers were safe again.
The Sierra de Bernia is certainly worth a visit. There are several access roads from which you can venture out into the mountain. The walking route is about 9km long, so you will have to calculate a few hours.
We do not recommend taking up the challenge with children under 15 or people with breathing problems.
Beautiful views are guaranteed, and it is a great way to keep fit.