Via de Arles continues from Oloron Sainte Marie (France) to pass Somport (1640 m) where starts the Spanish Aragón tram of the St James pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela.
The Aragón Road (Camino Aragonés) is only 170 km long. It starts, as already mentioned, in Somport and it ends, or better said, it joins the Royal French Road in Puente la Reina in the community of Navarra.
In the community of Aragón, it passes some lovely towns and villages such as Canfranc, Castiello de la Jaca, Jaca , Santa Cilia de Jaca, Puente la Reina de Jaca, Berdún...
Belchite used to be a splendid mudéjar town, crammed with monumental churches and heralded residences. Between August and September 1937, one of the cruellest battles in the Spanish Civil War happened to be fought there resulting in more than 6000 civilian casualties and the almost total destruction of the town and its stunning artistic legacy.
After the war, a new settlement (New Belchite) was built a few metres down the road. Old Belchite was left untouched. It remained as a collection of impressive ruins; a unique place that makes you ponder on the horrors of war.
Generally speaking, war memorials and monuments fail to induce me any emotion other than frustration. I find that, in most cases, they ultimately glorify patriotism and all the qualities that have so often been used to justify all kinds of violent conflicts. The ruins of Belchite, however, are one of the most emotional places I have ever visited. It was a foggy winter morning with practically no other human being around. No garlands or wreaths were to be seen around. No mention to heroes and no tribute to the dead but the fragile ruined buildings that threatened to collapse under the chilly wind. It was just us alone with the devastation and despair that the carcasses of those old buildings induced.
The river Ebro has the most important debit of all Spanish rivers. It is also the longest of all the rivers that run exclusively across Spanish territory. Although it has its source in the mountains of Cantabria, and despite being shared by other five Autonomous Communities in Spain, it is Aragon that has developed a stronger link with the river.
It flows through the entire province of Saragossa from West to East, forming a depression which is one of the driest areas in Europe. The contrast between the surrounding barren land and the lush banks of the river is so blatant that it is easy to compare the importance of the Ebro in Aragon as a source of life with the role of the Nile in Egypt.
The Ebro’s importance goes actually beyond the borders of Aragon, as the entire Iberian Peninsula is named after the river (Iberus) and not the other way around. That name is thought to derive from the Basque language, but linguists have noted similarities with the names of 200 other European rivers and streams (e.g. Ibar in Serbia, Eberbach in Germany, or Irwell in the UK) giving a tantalising clue as to a form of Basque being once spoken throughout Europe before the arrival of Indo-European tribes and languages.
Several Spanish cities, like Bilbao or Valencia, have successfully used the architecture-spectacle formula to get out of their ostracism and become relevant players in the global scene. Now, Zaragoza is also attempting (somewhat more modestly than its predecessors, though) to get the world's attention with cutting-edge contemporary architecture and the organisation of a big event: a world expo focusing on water and sustainable development.
Zaragoza is a city of considerable size - with 650,000 inhabitants, it is the fifth in Spain - and great historical relevance – it was founded by the Romans and became capital of the ancient Kingdom of Aragon. And yet, most people outside of Spain would be unable to relate it with any building, craft, tradition, culinary speciality.
Zaragoza is confident in its claim to become Spain's new stellar city. After all, its delightful historical district, cramped with monuments and taverns, was there long before the expo madness started. The focal point of attention is the stunning Plaza del Pilar: long, narrow and lined with buildings and churches competing in grandeur with each other. In this competition, the Basilica del Pilar is the obvious winner, with its slender towers and domes and the sanctuary which is home to the Patroness of Aragon and the whole of Spain, all of it mirrored in the waters of the Ebro.
The new developments are trying to open the city to that river - the mightiest in Spain - to which Zaragoza owes its very existence, but, somehow, has always turned its back to. Now, stunning bridges, promenades and parks are being thrown out to allow visitors and locals for the discovery of the river charms.
Zaragoza, although located in the middle of the semi-desert that the Ebro Valley is, has excellent access to Spain's main cities, the Mediterranean beaches and the Pyrenees. It is the only city to speak of in Aragon and, therefore, a great base for exploring this fascinating, however unknown region.
Fanlo has preserved its traditional Pyrenean character.
Several nobles' houses remain, which have a round fortified tower with battlements, and an impressive defence tower - give Fanlo a majestic look.
In the Gothic church of the village we can see a polychrome altarpiece from the 17th century.
The mudéjar style is almost omnipresent in the whole of Aragón, but one of the areas with a highest concentrations of monuments in this style is the Jiloca river Valley.
In this area, famous also for the quality of its fruits, you can visit interesting towns, like Maluenda, Paracuellos de Jiloca or Fuentes de Jiloca, pictured here.
When you drive into the Monastery of Stone, near Nuévalos, you can only think that all those cascades and waterfalls, creeks and lakes in the middle of a dry scrub land can only be the result of a miracle.
The only divine intervention, though, is the existence of a monastery that provides accomodation for the travelers in search of scenic areas.
The natural beauty of the Pyrenees and the Prepyrenean ranges, the excellent offer in winter and adventure sports have put the Northern province of Aragon into the map of tourism, at least as regards Spain and Southern France.
This picture shows one of the many scenic waterfalls in the Ordesa Valley.
Rugged, broad, harsh, empty...All these and any other adjective that refers to inifinity or spirtuality would fit into a description of the province of Teruel, whose aging population struggles to survive and to keep arts of life that have existed for centuries but that cannot cope with the XXI century way of life.
In this mountainous southernmost part of Aragon, any place you choose has at least one reason to be visited and they all have reward the traveller with the feeling of truly be "off the beaten track".
The hilltop old town of L'Ainsa is a quintessencial Medieval mountain town, filled with robust stone buildings that embrace a picture-perfect arcaded square.
L'Ainsa is the capital of the Sobrarbe region, the craddle of the former Kingdom of Aragon, and a perfect base for exploring the central Pyrenees, including the National Park Ordesa and Lost Mountain.
Fountain-of-All or Fuendetodos would be another unknown place in the barren plains south of the Ebro if it were not for the fact that Francis of Goya and Lucientes, one of the masters of the XIX century painting, was born here.
His birthplace has been restored and turned into a museum that recreates the appearance that the house would have had when the artist was born. In the last floor there is also a lithographies exhibition.
This picture shows a detail of the Museum-House of Goya.
Calatayud, part of the Saragossa province, is the fourth city in Arag?n, and capital of a rich agricultural region. It is noted in particular for its emblematic mudejar towers, often considered as one of the summits of this artistic expression. This picture shows the towers of Saint Andrew and Saint Mary seen from the ruins of the Arab fortress.
Although the first thing that pops up in your mind when you think of the province of Saragossa is the river Ebro, its fertile banks and the dessert-like, wind-swept valley through which it flows, this large province reaches as far North as the pre-Pyrenean ranges and presents a significant number of varied faces.
Apart from the regional capital, some of the most historical cities and towns of Aragon are located in this province: Calatayud and its incomparable mudejar towers, Daroca, the walled town, Caspe or town of the compromise, Tarazona, the mudejar jewel on the shadow of the Moncayo, and the so-called Five Towns: Sos of the Catholic King, Onecastle, Sadaba and Egea of the Knights.
Torla is the gateway to the Ordesa National Park. During the high season, private cars must be left at its parking lot and take there a shuttle to the park entrance.
The picturesque church of Torla and the high mountains in the background make one of the most photogenic corners in Aragon.
The National Park of the Ordesa Valley and the Lost Mountain was the second to be declared in Spain and it protects some of the most scenic areas in the Pyrenees.
Hiking possibilities are unlimited, but certain routes require a good equipment and mountain knowledgement, as casualties among unprepared hikers are unfortunately not uncommon.
This is a picture of the spectacular Añisclo Canyon.
The hotel: don’t let discourage you by a quite anonymous entrance hall, this hotel is a very nice...more
Plaza Mayor 9 Rafales, Teruel, 44589, Spain
Good for: Couples
Large family town house once used by the cannons of the catholic church untill the time of Elizabeth...more