hidden corners, spain, travel

Hidden Corners of Spain: Alquézar, Aragón

I’m here to write about yet another picturesque village with a wealth of natural abundance nearby. It seems Spain has an endless supply of them! If you’ve ever wanted to don a helmet and descend into a river gorge before taking a stroll around one of Spain’s most picturesque villages before sitting down to lunch on an outdoor terrace, Alquézar is one place you have to visit.

Located in the province of Aragón, which is conveniently situated between Madrid and Barcelona, Alquézar boasts deep river canyons and makes the official List of Spain’s Most Beautiful Villages. (If you google Pueblos Más Bonitos de España, nobody seems to agree on how many there actually are.) But this town has a sign posted at its entrance verifying the claim, so it must be official. Driving up the road toward town there’s an overlook where you can see the whole town and the surrounding mountains, views so stunning you can see how it made the Most Beautiful Villages List.

Alquézar sits just 45 minutes to the east of the city of Huesca in the province also named Huesca, which is home to some of the best hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees. With its muted earth-toned architecture, the village blends in with the surrounding landscapes, some of which include a part of the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Natural Park.

The town gets its name from the old Arabic word al-qasr which was the castle-fortress constructed in the 9th century to defend the Muslim territory from Christian invaders who were trying to take the land back. As medieval history goes, the Spanish Christians eventually won, so of course they turned the fortress into a Catholic institution. Over the years the fortress was added to and rebuilt, and the 16th-century version, called Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, is still standing today. La Colegiata is one of the top monuments to visit in Alquézar and has retained some of its original Biblical-themed paintings.


Las Pasarelas de Alquézar

One of the main activities people come here to do is take a hike through the river gorge on a platform that’s attached to the cliffs. These platforms are called pasarelas and allow you to walk safely above the Vero river. To access the trail, you head to the entry point where you buy a ticket for 4 euros, or you can buy one online for 3 euros in advance. The fee helps keep the pasarelas safe and clean for visitors. Kids under 12 can enter for free, of course as long as they’re accompanied by an adult. The ticket also gets you access to a helmet which is recommended to wear during the hike. The whole route is only 3 kilometers in total and takes you back to the town. The last bit is an uphill climb – best to avoid on hot days! Enjoy the spectacular views of the cliffs and the river.

Image credit: http://pasarelasdealquezar.com

When you finish your hike, head back into the village for a rest and a bite to eat. All along the bottom area of town you can find restaurants with terraces overlooking the valley. All of it is typical Spanish fare with local ingredients. Here the local wine is Somontano, produced in the nearby vineyards.

Take a stroll around the village and admire its architecture and definitely head up to the Colegiata to see the views from the top, as well as the interior. It’s a peaceful place to take a contemplative walk. Though not a cathedral, stop by the little parroquial church of San Miguel to see a typical village church with its painted figures and side chapels.

Interested in the way people in this region lived in the past? You might want to check out the Casa Fabián Museum for some historic replicas.

As you wind your way through town, you can explore smaller alleys and experience the quiet atmosphere that the locals (around 300 in total) live in every day.

Not sure how to get to Alquézar? The tourism board offers a helpful route map to get you there by your preferred means of transport. If you’re not able to get there by car, you can take the high-speed AVE train to Huesca, take a bus to Lascellas and from there, get a taxi the rest of the way.

While you’re in the area, it’s recommended you visit the rest of what’s known as the Vero River Cultural Park (Parque Cultural del Río Vero) which is composed of 9 villages: Bárcabo, Colungo, Alquézar, Adahuesca, Santa María de Dulcis, Pozán de Vero, Azara, Castillazuelo and Barbastro. In this region you can take guided wine tours, go canyoning, hike, and take a guided tour of cave paintings.

With all the region has to offer, you really can’t go wrong. Do yourself a favor and get off the beaten track between Madrid and Barcelona and spend some time in Huesca!