Located between Catalonia to its east and Castile-Leon as well as other regions to its west, Aragon has been central to the history of Spain from the very beginning, and its cities and towns like Teruel, Huesca, and capital Zaragoza are packed with history, culture, and architecture. But it’s also a land of impressive natural landscapes where if ecotourism and adventure are your thing, you’ll be in heaven – and not so far at all from Madrid. Here are three of the more unusual areas of wilderness you’ll be especially taken by:
The Monegros Desert
Some 2,764 square kilometres (1,067 sq. miles) of semi-arid steppes and badlands just over an hour east of Zaragoza, Monegros is known for its tozales, formations of reddish stone that like something from the planet Mars, as well as – despite less than lush conditions – its variety of birds, including royal eagles and various species of owls, as well as endangered species such as the great and little bustard, the Eurasian stone-curlew, the lesser kestrel, the Montagu’s harrier, and the Dupont’s lark. (And by the way, for wildlife of the human variety, this coming year on 31 July the Monegros Desert Festival will bring back tens of thousands of EDM fans after a several-year hiatus.)
Spain’s ‘Great Wall’
Just under three hours northeast of Zaragoza in the Prepirineo (the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains) at Aragon’s border with Catalonia, an astounding rock formation called the Roques de la Vila is more popularly known as the Great Wall of Finestres thanks to its unusual shape: a pair of narrow, jagged, and sheer rock walls running parallel to each other on the Canelles Reservoir. They’re amazing to climb, and furthermore between the two walls you can also explore the ruins of Finestres Castle, which dates back to at least the 11th century. Way cool!
Rivers of Stone
A river runs through it – the lush, leafy landscape near the village of Orihuela del Tremedal in the Albarracín Mountains, some two hours south of Zaragoza and some 50 minutes west of Teruel. Except several of the rivers here aren’t ones of water but rather Ríos de Piedra, filled with countless small quartzite rocks, up to 2.65 kilometres (1 2/3 miles) long and 250m (820 feet) wide – the world’s longest of their type. They were created by the freezing and thawing cycles of glaciation millions of years ago, and as you can imagine, they’re quite a sight to behold. The charming historic centre of Orihuela village is also a nice bonus.
Intrigued? Hop an Iberia flight and get yourself a unique eco-experience in Aragón!