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The 10 + 1 must-see places to visit in Aragon

Aragon is a landlocked region in northeastern Spain. Although celebrated for its distinctive Moorish-style Mudejar architecture, it has many lesser-known attractions that are sure to lure you off the beaten path.

Explore Aragon’s towns and medieval villages with their fairytale fortresses, fantastic tapas bars and laid-back lifestyle. Or wander into the region’s national parks, where you can discover extraordinary natural sights untouched by tourists, spot endangered wildlife and birds, and indulge in unforgettable outdoor adventures. Discover Spain’s most underrated region with our list of the best places to visit in Aragon.

1. Castle of Loarre

Javier Romeo©. 24 03 2004.

Loarre Castle, a Romanesque castle perched precariously on a rocky outcrop in the southern foothills of the Pyrenees, is one of the oldest and most impressive medieval castles in Spain. You may know it from the 2005 movie “Kingdom of Heaven.”

Built in the 11th and 12th centuries in a tactical location on the border between Christian and Moorish territories, the castle had to be built in several parts and surrounded by fortified walls due to its location on a cliff. Later, a monastery was added outside the castle walls.

Today, the castle is considered the most important Romanesque fortress in Spain, with an abundance of secret passages, dungeons and semicircular towers. It is most notable for its irregular layout, the enclosed church of San Pedro, and the “Queen’s Tower” with its double-arched windows influenced by Lombard and Mozarabic architecture.

Look out for the monkeys carved into the columns at the gate, which mean “Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil” – one of the rules of the castle was that all internal affairs had to be hidden from the outside world.

Calatayud is located on the Jalon River and is surrounded by the Sistema Iberico mountains. It is the fourth largest city in Aragon. It dates back to Roman times and was built as Augusta Bilbilis on the former site of a Celtiberian city, but was soon abandoned.

The Moors rebuilt the modern city as we know it near the Ayyub castle around 716 AD. Today, the historic center of Calatayud houses a lively market, small stores, and some of the finest examples of Mudejar architecture in Aragon.

Take a look at the Church of San Pedro the Franconian with its unusual leaning tower, the Church of Santa Maria, and a Mudéjar-inspired bell tower known as La Parraguia de San Andres.

Other interesting sights include the Collegiate Church of St. Mary Major, a brick church built on the site of a former mosque; the 16th-century Terrer Gate; and abandoned cave houses carved into the cliffs above the city. Don’t miss the ruins of Bílbilis – the birthplace of Martial, a famous poet who was born here in 40 AD. Old Bilbilis has five amazing castles surrounded by fortified walls that are worth exploring.

2. Jaca

Affectionately called “the Pearl of the Pyrenees,” Jaca is a vibrant town and popular tourist destination along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Jaca is close to Astun and Candanchu, and also offers a quieter base for a winter ski vacation in the Aragonese Pyrenees.

This Spanish town, which dates back to the 3rd century BC, is characterized by many peculiarities. Most notable is the 16th-century Jaca Citadel, a pentagonal fortress with a museum of military miniatures.

Other fascinating sights in the old town include the 11th-century Cathedral of San Pedro, with its Romanesque and Gothic frescoes; the 15th-century Gothic Clock Tower (or Prison Tower); the Benedictine Monastery; and the San Miguel Bridge.

Work up an appetite? Take a seat and people-watch from one of the many quirky tapas bars. You deserve it!

3. Posets-Maladeta Natural Park

Posets-Maladeta Nature Park is located in the northeastern Pyrenees and has some of the highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula. The park itself is very popular for its diverse ecosystem, ranging from numerous glaciers and snow-capped mountains to picturesque alpine lakes and dense highland forests.

The oh-so-photogenic landscape is home to a rich variety of wildlife including bears, otters, deer, wild boar, mountain goats and marmots – making a hike through the park a true adventure for nature lovers. The Posets-Maladeta Natural Park extends over three oriental valleys and includes the picturesque villages of Benasque, Gistaín, Montanuy, Sahún, San Juan de Plan and their surroundings.

Marked trails are available, and since each trail climbs to different elevation levels, there is something for all fitness levels.

If you’re interested in birds, pack your binoculars – golden eagles, vultures and bearded vultures are often spotted here. If you’re lucky, you might even see a Great Horned Owl. One thing is for sure: you are promised fresh air!

4. Ordesa National Park

must-see places in Aragon

Open since 1918, Ordesa National Park was the first protected area in Spain – and for good reason. This spectacular landscape in the Pyrenees is full of lush, forested valleys, roaring rivers, amazing waterfalls and grassy meadows. But most of all, some spectacularly rare wildlife and birds!

Hiking is the main attraction in the park, and because of the varied terrain, there are hiking trails for all levels of ability. If you want to see everything from the comfort of your car, forest trails and buses are available, but their range is less than that of the foot trails.

The park is home to four deep gorges carved into the limestone and consists of the Ordesa and Pineta glacial valleys and the Anisclo and Garganta de Escuain valleys formed by rivers. The Ordesa Valley is, of course, the most famous, with towering cliffs that extend to Monte Perdido – the third highest peak in the Pyrenees.

Along the trails, look out for griffon vultures as well as rare bearded vultures (often with wingspans of two meters) – the Spanish Pyrenees are home to the largest population in Europe! The park also has endangered sarrios (Pyrenean chamois) and several breeding pairs of golden eagles. The highlight of the park is the Cola de Caballo waterfall, aptly named “Horse’s Tail”.

5. Alquezar

Entering the medieval village of Alquezar, built around an 8th-century Moorish citadel and accessible through a Gothic gate, is like stepping back in time. You’ll find an old square lined with cobbled streets and stone houses with arcades.

When the Christians took over the village, they built the 11th century Collegiate Church of Santa Maria la Mayor (rebuilt in the 16th century) – now one of the most visited tourist attractions in the region.

The village’s other claim to fame are the more than 60 caves that house prehistoric rock paintings. The Casa Fabian Ethnological Museum, where you can learn about the history of the region and its winemaking traditions, is also worth a visit.

But the fun isn’t just within the village limits. Perched high above the foothills of the Pyrenees in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Nature Reserve, Alquezar is surrounded by endless scenery. It is the ideal destination for a variety of outdoor adventures such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, climbing and canyoning.

6. Tarazona

Tarazona was founded during Roman times at the foot of Moncayo Mountain and was once a prosperous Roman city. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 8th century, it became a Muslim city before being conquered by Alfonso I of Aragon and becoming the seat of the Tarazona diocese. Over time, the population grew to include Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and much of this influence has fused with the city today.

Legendary for its impressive architecture, Tarazona is home to one of Aragon’s most unusual cathedrals – one that combines a Gothic structure with Mudejar towers and a Baroque facade.

Other highlights include the Renaissance Episcopal Palace, the 16th-century Town Hall, and the Mudéjar-style La Magdalena Church and Concepción Monastery. The 18th century polygonal bullring is a real highlight – surrounded by houses, it is the only inhabited bullring in the world!

For those interested in food and drink, Tarazona offers some of the best restaurants and hospitality in Aragon. In fact, many of the activities revolve around food and drink, the most famous being the Festival of San Atilano. This unusual festival takes place in August and includes a “cipotegato” who walks through town throwing tomatoes.

7. Calatayud

must-see places in Aragon

Calatayud is located on the Jalón river and surrounded by the mountains of the Sistema Ibérico. It is the fourth largest city in Aragon. It dates back to Roman times and was built as Augusta Bilbilis on the ancient site of a Celtiberian city, but was soon abandoned.

The Arabs rebuilt the modern city as we know it near the castle of Ayyub around 716 AD. Today, the historic center of Calatayud is home to a lively market, small stores and some of the best examples of Mudejar architecture in Aragon.

Definitely visit the Church of San Pedro el Franco with its unusual leaning tower, the Church of Santa Maria and a Mudejar-inspired bell tower known as La Parraguia de San Andres.

Other places of interest are the Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor, a brick church built on the site of an ancient mosque, the 16th century Puerta de Terrer, and the abandoned cave houses carved into the cliffs above the town. Don’t miss the ruins of Bílbilis, birthplace of Martial, a famous poet who was born here in the year 40. Ancient Bilbilis has five amazing castles surrounded by fortified walls that are worth exploring.

8. Zaragoza

Zaragoza is one of the most underrated capitals in Spain: it is the fifth largest city, but you probably didn’t know that. Situated on the banks of the Ebro River, it is home to more than half of the Aragonese population and there is always something to do. Here you will find some of the best tapas bars.

Over 2,000 years, Zaragoza, nicknamed the city of 4 cultures, has been ruled by the Iberians, the Romans, the Arabs and the Christians, all of whom have left their mark.

It has an interesting Caesaragusta route, where you will visit the Roman ruins of the city, including the Roman Theater. A dream palace, the Aljafería, is the northernmost Islamic palace in Europe, as well as being the most luxurious and best preserved of the Taifa period.

The Mudejar architecture has beautiful examples in the city: The Church of San Pablo, San Gila, La Magdalena, are some of them.

You cannot leave Zaragoza without visiting and getting to know the work of Goya, its most universal artist. You can see his work in the baroque basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar and certainly in the Goya Museum, very close to it.

9. Teruel

One of the smallest capitals in Spain, Teruel has a permanent population of only 35,000. However, what it lacks in crowds, it more than makes up for with medieval landmarks and monuments. The city is known for its Mudejar architecture, dinosaur fossils and countless historic buildings.

For the best example of Mudejar architecture, visit Teruel’s 12th-century cathedral and admire the inspiring painted ceiling depicting medieval life. Discover 17th-century tapestries in the Convent of San Francisco, admire outstanding woodcarvings in the Diocesan Museum, and visit Dinopolis, one of the largest paleontology museums in the world.

But that’s not all. La Plaza del Torico is literally the beating heart of the city; you can find live music, dancing and all kinds of activities at any time of day. Don’t forget to climb the bell tower of Torre de San Salvador for an exceptional view of the city.

10. Albarracin

must-see places in Aragon

Albarracin is a small medieval town that balances theatrically on the vertical cliffs of east-central Spain. Albarracin was built in a strategic location above the Guadalaviar River and bordered the three former kingdoms of Castile, Aragon and Valencia.

Albarracin features fortified walls, Moorish architecture, ancient archaeological sites and steep, winding streets, and offers much for the adventurous. Walk the walls of Albarracin and wander the maze of cobbled streets and pink buildings.

Don’t miss Casa del Chorro, Casa de la Julianeta and Casa de la Calle Azagra, which are among the best-preserved examples of Albarracin’s old townhouses. If you’re overwhelmed, guided walking tours are an easier way to see the sights of this labyrinthine village.

Other attractions worth seeing include the Albarracin Cathedral and the Plaza Mayor – the vibrant heart of the city. Don’t forget to take an Instagram-worthy photo on Calle Portal de Molina!

10+1. Valderrobles

One of the most beautiful villages in Spain, located on the banks of the Matarraña river. It has a beautiful postcard view: its houses hanging over the river and the stone bridge that gives access to the old town. Valderrobles is a village anchored in the Middle Ages, its cobbled streets, its castle, the stone bridge that gives access to the village seems taken from a story of dragons and castles. Just past the story we find the Portal de San Roque, one of the seven gates of the old wall, which consisted of the population and still stands, is the main entrance to the village.

One of the most important buildings of Valderrobres, is undoubtedly the town hall, an example of Renaissance architecture of Aragon, since 1981 declared of Cultural Interest.

Once located in the Plaza de España the ideal is to let yourself go through the streets, its steep slopes and cobbled stairs. You will find the streets San Antonio, San Roque or Santa Teresa, popular architecture, memories of the old wall, uninhabited houses, portals such as Vergós and noble mansions.

 

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