If you travel to Valencia wanting to see the much-hyped City of Arts and Sciences, you may be suprised to discover a place which is less pulicised, but just as worth visiting.

The Bioparc is a sprawling expanse covering some 25 acres, home to dozens of species of animals. It is a zoo, but with a safari-like experience for the visitor, for the animals are in enclosures often without glass or cages keeping them at bay.

One of the first zones you'll encounter is the Madagascar Zone -  home to monkeys - and playful lemurs welcome you as you enter the zone, casually walking across your path and sitting on the grassy slopes within inches of you. Touching or feeding the animals is not permitted, but it doesn't hamper the experience of getting so close. At certain times of the year, gorillas and chimpanzees are in the zoo.

A very friendly Lemur 

A very friendly Lemur getting close

This feeling of immersion into the wild does not end there. Other zones are home to elephants, leopards, hippos, zebras, lions, hynenas - and they are often kept apart from visitors only by strategically-placed watering holes, rocks or trees. Safety is of course paramount, but the layout cleverly allows you to get as close to the animals as possible. There is no effort spared to make this a comfortable home for the wildlife, keeping it as near possible to their natural habitats. It does not escape the visitor's attention that this zoo does things differently - animals which live in the wild together, are put in the same groups at the zoo. You'll see giraffes running alongside antelopes. You may even see a zebra push an ostrich into the water. 

 Pelicans 

No barriers or cages between you and these pelicans

BELOW: Scenery from the Bioparc 

zebras

There is a cafe serving light snacks and drinks, and a main restaurant serving hot food. Despite the good service, it's not the food you'll remember - it's the unique dining experience. As you sip your latte, you'll be able to look up and see giraffes walking past. Elephants and pelicans if you sit on a different side. You'll get the feeling of having lunch on the African savannah.

  Giraffe 

A giraffe enjoying lunch

Getting to the the Bioparc: The Bioparc is located on the western side of Valencia. The nearest Metro station is Nou d'Octoubre. Turn left and walk for 20-25 minutes to get to the Bioparc over a bridge. Entry fee is 20 euros, but if you have a tourist card you get a 10% discount.

Bioparc Valencia Website