Baños de la Reina in Calpe, swimming on the beach among Roman ruins

The Valencian Community hides authentic treasures such as the Sistine Chapel of Valencia or the Albufera Natural Park, among many others. In this case, one of the most unknown gems of this community is located in the province of Alicante and are the popularly called Baños de la Reina in Calpe. However, these baths are actually Roman architectural remains where one can bathe in the waters of the Mediterranean. In addition to those in Calpe, the best known, there are similar structures in El Campello and Jávea. 

This is a legacy of great patrimonial and historical value; as there is no other area of similar characteristics in the Iberian Peninsula. They are therefore essential places to visit where you can swim, snorkel or simply take several photographs while enjoying the landscape. 

History of Baños de la Reina

Baños de la Reina en Calpe

Baños de la Reina in Calpe | Photo: Joanbanjo

The name of Baños de la Reina has an explanation. Legend has it that these baths were used by an ancient Moorish queen to enjoy bathing in the sea. In the case of the Baños de la Reina in Calpe, the legend took shape after discovering the existence of drainage galleries in the pools, which is why some believed that they were actually blocked by tunnels that would lead to the queen’s residence and from which she could secretly reach her coastal bath.  

Nowadays it is known that this is only a legend; as the origin of Baños de la Reina is much more plausible. These pools located on the rocks were actually fish farms that were carried out during the Roman settlements 2,000 years ago. They were factories for salting fish, also used to make a sauce called garum, reserved for the most exquisite palates (and with more purchasing power). 

Baños de la Reina de El Campello

Baños de la Reina in El Campello | Photo: TEMPLE XIXONA

The Banys de la Reina are located in the province of Alicante, in the towns of El Campello, Calpe and Jávea, although the latter are not as well preserved. What is most surprising is how they have managed to stand the test of time, mostly in such good condition. These three Roman fish farms are located in the middle of the sea and it is now possible to swim in them

Although it may seem the opposite, they are artificially built spaces. There were larger fish production centres in Baelo Claudia, an ancient Roman city located in Cadiz, but these are no longer bathed by the sea as is the case with those in Alicante. Thus, the Baños de la Reina are unique places in Spain where the bathing experience takes on a much more historical meaning. 

Banys de la Reina en Calp

Banys de la Reina in Calpe | Photo: Joanbanjo

During the Roman era, all parts of the fish were used in these salted fish farms. Thus, not only the flesh of the fish was used, but also the bones and cartilage from which fishmeal was produced and used as food and fertiliser for domestic animals. But that is not all, the fermented viscera of the fish was used to prepare the aforementioned garum sauce, reserved for the upper classes. 

Baños de la Reina in El Campello

Baños de la Reina de El Campello

The Baños de la Reina in El Campello | Photo: EL CAMPELLO TURISMO – MARQ ALICANTE

Baños de la Reina in El Campello are among the best preserved. They are located in La Illeta dels Banyets; a small peninsula that, due to an earthquake, was separated from the coast for some time. However, it was artificially joined in the 1940s. They are also known because in its surroundings is the archaeological site of Illeta dels Banyets; one of the most important in the Mediterranean. It is a site that is more than 5,000 years old, where research work discovered that different civilizations lived here: the Bronze Age, the Roman and the Iberian

Yacimiento arqueológico de Illeta dels Banyets

Archaeological site of Illeta dels Banyets | Photo: EL CAMPELLO TURISMO – MARQ ALICANTE

It must be taken into account that access to the Baños de la Reina in El Campello is on foot and involves a little difficulty; as it is necessary to surround the site of Illeta dels Banyets. However, the walk is worth it, as the fish farms have managed to save the erosion of the sea and to this day you can still clearly see four pools carved into the rock that also communicate with each other. It is also a great place for snorkelling; as it has an interesting sea bed. 

Baños de la Reina in Calpe

Banys de la Reina en Calp

Banys de la Reina in Calpe | Photo: Joanbanjo

Baños de la Reina in Calpe are also in excellent condition. Located in a beautiful coastal setting with spectacular views of the Peñón de Ifach; the Baños de la Reina site is located nearby. This Roman site is one of the most important in Roman Hispania and is made up of three parts. One of them is the Roman Vicus, of which only 25% of its entire surface has been excavated to date; which predicts the great magnitude of this Roman villa, made up of great luxuries. It dates back 2,000 years and has a striking number of domestic, funeral and production facilities. The pools dug into the rock with which the Romans supplied themselves with fresh fish, known as the Baños de la Reina in Calpe, gave this site its name. 

Baños de la Reina de Calpe con el peñón de Ifach

Baños de la Reina in Calpe with Ifach Rock in the background | Photo: Joanbanjo

Another part of the site is the small Muntanyeta Thermal Complex. Located at the top of a breakwater on the coast, these old thermal baths were composed of a frigidarium which was entered by three steps and a caldarium and tepidarium, hot water rooms that had several ovens that served to maintain the temperature of the water high. 

Finally, the site is also made up of the Roman nurseries, popularly known as the Baños de la Reina. A total of six fish farms with a total surface area of 165 metres; where each pool is divided by natural rock walls but connected to each other through openings in each of the walls. The pools were connected to the sea by four channels that could be closed manually by means of perforated gates, enclosing the fish inside. 

Vicus romano en Calpe

Vicus romano | Photo: Calpe Turismo

The opportunity to swim in pools with so much history do not happen every day; so it is an almost unique experience. The waters of the Baños de la Reina in Calpe are calm; but there is not much depth, so you have to be careful with the jumps. There are many schools of fish in the area. 

Baños de la Reina in Jávea

Baños de la Reina in Jávea are also very interesting; although they are the ones that worst maintain their original structure. Dating from the 1st century BC, they are located in the Cala del Ministro. It is a very small cove with calm waters, ideal for disconnection. Another of the old fish farms dedicated to the production of salted fish; which are now known to be a natural pool in the sea. 

As far as the three baths are concerned, none of them has a surveillance service, so precautions must be taken. As they are located on the rocks; it is advisable to wear suitable footwear to avoid slipping or rubbing your feet.

*Main picture: TEMPLE XIXONA

About the author