The Monasterio de Piedra Natural Park is the most visited private park in Europe. After entering the park (13.50 Euros) we enter a world of nature in the middle of a dry region in the south of Aragón.
During the route, perfectly guided with the map we received, which is about 2 hours and a half long, we will see the great number of different waterfalls in the park. You have all types of them: strong, steep, calm, with trees, with little water…and even one with a cave, the most popular one, Cola de Caballo.
I recommend that you wear waterproof boots or sandals because there is always a lot of water and some parts can be flooded. Also, even in August it gets cold, so bring a jacket.
The only thing that bothered me in this beautiful place was the engravings on stone and trees that some uncivilized people that cannot appreciate nature leave there. Also, I didn’t like the screaming of some groups of people who think that they are at the fair. But other than these annoying groups, the visit to the park was wonderful.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is perhaps, along with the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and La Sagrada Famila, one of the most famous and frequently-visited Catholic cathedrals in all of Spain. According to tradition, it traces its founding back to the era of St. James ve saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary instructing him to build a church on the spot.
Since then, the church has undergone an amazing expansion arriving, finally, at the hulking baroque wonder we have before us. Once you enter Zaragoza, you notice it's four towers and massive dome peeking between buildings and along the horizon, calling you to visit. The first thing you notice as you enter are the proportions: it's massive...really, breath-takingly massive. The gargantuan pillars hold up a ceiling covered in giant domes, each one decorated by some of Spain's most famous artists like Goya. Staring down the football-field sized basilica and taking in the domes, the paintings, the geometric tiled floors, and the excruciatingly detailed decoration of the altars and chapels built into the walls is really an impacting sensation.
Make sure to get there early so you can visit the north end of the cathedral as well (they close it off many times in the afternoons) and enjoy the silence, space, and light filtering through the domes and taking the elevator ride to the top of the San Francisco de Borja tower to enjoy the views of the basilica from above.
Ibn-Racin was the name of the Berber tribe that established here with the Muslim invasion. After some time it became a Roman town. The town was called Santa María de Oriente when it was Christian…The ancient history of Albarracín begins like this, a history where protection and defense have been the premise. Today, as you walk its narrow streets and breathe the calmness, it is difficult to imagine that its location was not imagined just for pleasure but as a shelter against danger.
The amazing old part of town is just for pedestrians and very high up. If you go up on the afternoon you will see that the passageways under the arches, the stairs, the doors of the mansions, seem as if they were inhabited by mysterious shadows. Albarracín oozes an aristocratic air; you can see it in its studded doors, in the iron door knockers, in its balconies made with carved wood, in its spectacular work with wrought iron. In one of the winding streets there are little squares that open over the abysm from where the houses seem to hang. The landscape is extremely beautiful. For the construction of houses, they have traditionally used plaster instead of stone, and the color of its walls has the same color of the ravines underneath them.
If you spend the night in the town, don’t miss out on a nocturnal walk. The starry night, the solitary streets, the lights that twinkle in the ravine and the soft murmur of the Guadalaviar River are unforgettable.
It is very hard to describe what the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park means. The most comfortable choice to enter Ordesa is through Torla, a beautiful town located next to Puerto de Cotefablo. In order to preserve the nature and incredible landscape, you can’t go by car to the base of Ordesa, which I think is a great idea. There are buses that take you there from Torla.
Once you are at the entrance of the park, the best thing is to take one of the paths; the most famous one is the one that takes you to the waterfall called Cola de Caballo. It’s probably one of the best known waterfalls in the Pyrenees and it’s called like this because the water looks like a horse’s tail as it falls. It is an incredible feeling to walk along the great cirque of Ordesa, through its green valleys, until you get to the waterfall. A bit higher you can access the Góriz shelter and from there see mountains as emblematic as the Monte Perdido and Cilindro de Marboré.
I recommend that you go to Ordesa at least once in your lifetime. It might be my favorite corner.
I went back at the end of March, when there is still a lot of snow in the area, but when it is starting to melt, it is a great spectacle. I could see a different aspect of one of the most wonderful corners of the Pyrenees. In the areas with sun, the snow had disappeared, but there was still plenty of snow in the shadowy areas.
It was the first time that I saw so much snow in Ordesa, from the parking lot to the Cola de Caballo waterfall. To see the Circo de Soaso covered by a white sheet of snow is an unforgettable image.
It is a bit tougher to go up to the waterfall when there is snow, but I still recommend that you visit the park when it’s snowy, but you have to be well prepared, since it is unstable with this weather.
The Aljafería Palace was probably the best thing I visited in Zaragoza, although its Mudéjar churches and basilicas were great too. This castle-palace was built by the Moors in the 11th century and, along with the Alhambra in Granada and the Mosque in Cordoba, is one of the best examples of Islamic art and architecture in Spain.
The courtyard with its gently tricking waterfalls, creeping ivy, flowers, and Islamic archways, is the definition of tranquility. Later, as you move through the rest of the building, it's like traveling through history. You move through rooms that are Islamic, Mudéjar, Renaissance...all with those mind-boggling ornate ceilings which are so common in Spain.
It's free to visit on Sundays (although you can't visit the administrative part, but who cares?) and if you get there early, you'll beat the tour groups and have the place to yourself. I think this should be your first visit in Zaragoza. You won't regret it!
Loarre Castle is perhaps the best preserved of its age. Situated in a privileged enclave at the foot of the Pyrenees in the province of Huesca, from its towers you can make out the valley which goes as far as the city and much further than that. I was originally designed to control the route to the Aragonese valleys. However, if there is something for which this castle is known, it is that here, Ridley Scott filmed some of the scenes in his film “Kingdom of Heaven”. But this castle is much more, it’s a very beautiful environment. The ascent at the rear of the castle to the car park, and then a good distance walking using the castle as a reference, has to be one of these excursions which are worth it.
This is an ideal place to spend a morning, buy some souvenirs, visit the Cathedral, eat at the restaurant Las Palomas (buffet, self-service), sunbathe, take a sightseeing bus, enjoy an ice cream and contemplate the beautiful river running behind the Cathedral.
I went on a photography course in the summer and, one evening, I came across a spectacular scene in the city. I had to capture it with my camera. It happened pretty fast, as few minutes after the sun was gone it was completely obscured. This is the final result, I hope you like it.
Alquézar owes its name to the castle built to defend the access to Barbastro which can be found halfan hour away by car at the most. Its houses and streets possess a special medieval charm.
You can get there by bus or car, there is free parking at the entrance of the village because you cannot drive inside the village.
The principal points of interest are the church of San Miguel, the collegiate churchand its cloister and the last tower which remains standing of the old castle of the collegiate church. But it also has various viewing points and small squares from which you can see different types of birds of the vulture and falcon family, as well as the canyons of the Sierra de Guara.
I was pleased to have been able to discover this beautiful place, it was worth the trouble detouring from the main route.
When you decide to visit a place like Belchite, you can’t forget what happened in the Spanish Civil War. The experience is devastating, the destruction is complete. Belchite, ancient town, like the sign in the entrance says, is an enormous open air horror museum. It is an enclave that is disappearing with time and nature. An enormous ruin that will disappear with time and this is why I felt like documenting it.
I was also interested in the architecture of the buildings. The vault compartments that have disappeared with the bombings or are severely damaged, yet the transverse arches are still standing. It is like being in a practical course of architecture. It is a corner of the history of Spain that is worth visiting.
La Seo Cathedral is, in my humble opinion, the most stunning cathedral in Zaragoza, even more than the world-famous Basilica de Pilar. It's located at the east end of the Plaza de PIlar, right behind the Roman Forum museum.
Externally, it's geometrically-stunning Mudéjar wall of the Parroquieta gives you an indication of the granduer which lies inside. The whole cathedral is done in white ceilings and columns and there are some of the most ornate and complex chapels I've ever seen. Back in the day, only the wealthy could afford to add a chapel or mausoleum to the walls of the cathedral and it became, I imagine, something of a status symbol. You can see that each family tried to out do the others in terms of beauty, ostentatiousness, and opulence.
There are chapels featuring massive marble sculptures, Moorish tile work, wrought iron, gold leaf, amazing oil paintings, and intricately-designed floral sculptures in stucco. Simply put, it's overwhelming. You can literally spend hours in here going over the details. Even if you're not an architecutre or design buff (which I'm definately not), it's a wonderful place to be. You 100% have to make a visit if you're in Zaragoza.
We decided to visit this old station and to go there on the old paths in order to enjoy a walk in nature and peace. It is a route situated 5 Km from the station and if you enjoy hill walking it’s worthwhile.
That station was opened in 1928, if I remember correctly. When you reach there you find a small passageway which leads you to this era, it’s like crossing a tunnel to the past. Its old roofs, its loose tiles and the grass which today grows in the tracks, transports us to those difficult times where people waited on the platforms to greet some relative or friend.
The old trains were left to their fate and these days you can see the remains of what one day was full of people. It’s a pity that more has not been done so that places such as this don’t finally disappear. It is very well preserved. Highly recommended.
In the Aragon Pyrenees you can find the valley of Benasque, a regular place to ski. In summer it’s a highly recommended destination for lovers of nature.
Its gastronomy is great, specially beef and lamb, to eat with the wines from the Denominación de Origen of Somontano wine. Beautiful villages in medieval style throughout the area, monasteries and hermitages.
It’s a peaceful area to take advantage of and spend relaxing holidays, and at the same time it has all the necessary services for being well attended to.
Torla is a town in Huesca situated at the beginning of the convergence of two valleys: the Bujaruelo Valley and the Ordesa Valley.
The village maintains a good harmony with its structures, and it is the village that I love the best in the Aragon Pyrenees. Whenever I can, I escape there to enjoy a few pleasant days. I recommend it.
See from a afar, from the little tarmac track which leads from the A-132, Riglos is one the best postcard views of the Aragon Pyrenees. The small village appears suddenly, limed and silent, with hardly any element which spoils this mountain village, at the foot of the gigantic rocks which make the village seem small.
Totally vertical mythical walls which appear to release fire when the sun hits them, Riglos is the historic capital of mountaineering in Spain. On its walls of cemented gravel, product of the erosion of the glacial moraines which came down the Pyrenees, entire generations of climbers have been trained and hardened, like the famous Rabadá and Navarro, who died on the north wall of the Eiger (Swiss Alps) in 1963, to whom there is a monument dedicated at the entrance of the village.
The rivalry between Catalan and Aragonese climbers was also epic to get to the top of the famous rocky needle of Puro, the last summit in the Mallos to be conquered. Finally, it was the Aragonese, who in 1957, equipped with hemp shoes and rudimentary ropes, achieved it.
In its vertical walls, one of the biggest colonies of griffon vultures in all of Spain, nests. You don’t have to be a climber to enjoy this superb scenery: a circular track goes round all of the base of the Mallos, and permits you to get to know what this unique territory is like, in which there are also a lot of the other formations typical of the county, gorges or canyons excavated from the limestone walls . The peacefulness of Riglos, a small hamlet of 66 inhabitants, contrasts with the continual coming and going of climbers of all types and ages, dressed in colourful clothes, ropes, pitons and clasps. Facing los Mallos, still in the province of Zaragoza, is Murillo de Gállego, the water sports capital of Alto Aragón, where you can practice rafting and other white water sports in the Gállego River.
Situated on a promontory at the convergence of the Ara and Cinca rivers, this beautiful old centre of Aínsa revolves around thefantastic and very old arcaded Plaza Mayor.
The village, which was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Sobrarbe, is sprinkled with middle ages buildings, among those which stand out is the exquisite Romanic tower of the church. The small paved streets of Aínsa are flanked by beautiful decorated manor houses, many of them converted into friendly hotels and decoration shops.
The village itself, is the centre of village life in Sobrarbe, it’s full of life. Under the arches of the square, the traditional inns and restaurants are usually full of clients who are trying the typical dishes of the region.
The best: a tasty lamb stew in the traditional style of Aragon.
A lovely story
During the Iberian route through the province of Teruel and its capital, we visited the complex of the Mausoleum and Church and Tower of San Pedro, where there is the museum dedicated to Los Amantes de Teruel.
The story of the young lovers of Teruel (Juan Diego Martínez de Marcilla and Isabel Segura), apparently comes from and old tradition of the XIII century, where a poor boy and a rich girl fall in love, the relationship being badly looked upon by the rich family. They gave the suitor a period of five years to become rich, he went to war and when he returned the girl had already got married to somebody else. Juan Diego got to ask for a kiss from Isabel, but she refused and he died of sadness. The following day she went to look at the deceased and wanted to give him the kiss which she had refused him in life, and she suddenly died next to him.
The museum uses visual elements to tell the history of the city of Teruel, along with the visit to the beautiful cloister of the church of San Pedro.