The captivating Sierra de Bernia (Altea)
A huge and spectacular petrified dinosaur crest is erected northeast of the province of Alicante, oriented from west to east, a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea and distributed, mainly, between the municipalities of Altea, Xaló, Benissa and Callosa d’en Sarrià. It is none other than the captivating Sierra de Bernia.
The simplest option is to follow, from Font del Runar (which can be reached by car, along a deteriorated asphalt road), the circular route marked as PR-CV 7, which surrounds the mountain passing through the so-called Fort and Forat (fort and hole). In our case we also made the ascent to the summit from the fort and, after returning to this, we follow the signposted route again.
At the beginning of the route, the spectacular profile of the mountain is surprising, as well as the numerous rocky outcrops that, on several occasions, we must cross. From Font del Runar we go towards the fort, following the PR marks and with the highest part of Bernia on the right. Of the fort, built to prevent Moorish revolts and Berber attacks, there are only a few remains such as foundations, a cistern or the moat that surrounded the fortress, which was erected in 1562 by order of Felipe II and projected by the military engineer Giovanni Battista Antonelli. After the expulsion of the moriscos, the king Felipe III ordered its demolition, in 1612, to avoid that it was occupied by bandits. A few meters from the fort, in its southeast part, is the Font del Fort.
It must be said that the access to the summit is not simple, because the unevenness is significant, there are no signs and the path is hardly visible in the upper part. There are only, occasionally, some red marks that indicate the itinerary to follow. At the summit, located at 1126 meters above sea level, we find some vestiges of an ancient Arab castle, called in different texts of the 13th century -—already under Christian control— as castle of Berdia, Verdia or Bergia. The oldest text found dates from year 1263.
After a break in the incredible viewpoint that constitutes the Bernia summit, we retrace our steps to the fort and, from this point, we continue towards west, surrounding the mountain and following the marks of PR-CV 7. The immediate pass of l’Orenga (in some maps, of Xaló) is amazing, from which you can see, opposite and between mountains, the perched municipality of Tárbena. A little further on we can also see, in the distance, a little to the left and at a lower altitude, the town of Bolulla.
After making a stop at the rock of l’Orenga, from which you get a clear perspective of the Ferrer mountain range, we continue along the path until we reach Casas de Bernia, where we find several informative panels of PR hiking routes and from where we are heading , along an asphalt road, towards Font de Bernia (or Cabanes).
To reach the Forat we ascend through the shady part of the mountain, whose vegetation is significantly more abundant than in its southern slope. The Forat consists of a hole, like a tunnel (about 20 meters long), that crosses the ridge of the mountain from north to south. The south opening is the most spectacular (main image of this article), for its dimensions and the panoramic view that it offers on the coast of Altea and Benidorm.
Always following the PR-CV 7 signals and with the crest now to the right, we go towards a small cave, called Penya de l’Ermita del Vicari, in which we can see some cave paintings dating to the Neolithic (more than 5000 years ago). From this point we only have to continue for a few minutes until reaching Font del Runar, where the route ends.