Spain’s Matarraña region: an undiscovered gem!

Last summer we went on a camping trip. We first stayed in France for a week, but we love Spain so much we couldn’t resist driving a bit further south. We ended up in the ‘Matarraña’ region, part of Teruel. An unknown region, but we were so pleasantly surprised we already have plans to return! Read on for some of our favorite finds in (or near) the Matarraña.

Our small camping was located near the town of La Fresneda and aptly called ‘Camping La Fresneda’. It was a little piece of paradise!

La Fresneda
From the camping, we were able to walk to the village of La Fresneda in around 45 minutes. It was a fun walk too, involving some climbing over rocks and beautiful views.

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During our walk from the camping to the village

La Fresneda is a medieval village, that still has lots of monumental architecture. The steep streets lined with medieval homes, the city hall, the covered gallery leading to the square: everything has been beautifully preserved. We found a path behind the church leading to a ruin above the village offering amazing views. We watched the sunset from this place on our last night.

What made us love this small village even more were the people. There are not many tourists here and the locals were pretty interested in us. Luckily we speak some Spanish, and we ended up having some conversations whilst having a beer on the square.

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Medieval architecture
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The steep streets of La Fresneda

 

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Sunset from the ruins above La Fresneda

La Portellada
The owners of the camping recommended this waterfall for a refreshing swim. It was a challenging drive over an unsealed rocky road, and then a climb to get to the waterfall, but it was very much worth it. Clear and cool waters, and there were only a few other people here.

A great place to cool off

Via Verde
We felt like exercising a bit, so we decided to rent some bycicles and go for a ride. We left early and rented our bikes in Horta de San Juan, with a company that picks you up at the end of the route. The route we took is called the ‘Via Verde del Val de Zafan’, and it is an old railway line between Alcaniz and Tortosa that has been converted into a biking & hiking trail. It has lots of tunnels (we counted 33 of them!), bridges offering wonderful views on the surrounding nature and old train stations, some of them now in use as bars. Since the route pretty much only descends and the tunnels offer some cold and shadow, this activity is also doable on warm days and for people who are not super fit (like me).  We took the ‘long’ route, with the old station in Xerta as our end point, but the last few kilometers were less interesting and there was almost no shade. So we would advise you to opt for the slightly shorter option.

One of the many tunnels along the way

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Bar along the route

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Wonderful views from this bridge!


El Parrizal

‘El Parrizal’ follows the (crystal clear!) Matarraña river through a gorge. It is a hike of around 10 kilometers, but I don’t think we walked that far. It depends on your starting point (aka where you decide to park; we chose the parking closest to the hike), and on the water level in the gorge. We simply couldn’t continue after a certain point as the water was too high. There are bridges, wooden walkways and sometimes you need to cross the river balancing on small stones. We did end up getting our shoes wet a couple of times but who cares when it’s almost 40 degrees Celsius? If it had been allowed I would have jumped in the water immediately for a refreshing swim, but unfortunately swimming is prohibited in the gorge. Still, this hike is very beautiful and SO much fun!

Ah, those waters… !
At the end of the gorge, where we couldn’t walk any further 

Catedral del Vi
Another recommendation from our camping owners was the ‘Catedral del Vi’ in Pinell de Brai. An amazing cooperative building in Modernist style for producing wine and oil. It was designed by Cèsar Martinell, a disciple of Gaudi. We did an audio tour here, and were the only ones there! This enabled us to take some great photographs. And the best thing about this place? Included with the entrance fee is a wine- and olive oil tasting. You can opt for a deluxe ticket (€7,40) that includes tasting of four wines, cheeses, jamón and olive oil, or a general ticket (€5,50), that includes tasting of two wines and olive oil. Since I still had to drive, we opted for one deluxe and one general ticket, so I could still have a small sip of four wines ánd try the cheese and jamón =) I would say both packs are great value for money and would highly recommend this amazing place to everyone!

Lots of arches made out of bricks
The first floor: full of cool elements!x
The perfect end to our visit: a wine tasting including bread, olive oil, cheeses and jamón
Valderrobres
The small town of Valderrobres is the ‘capital’ of the Matarraña region. It was chosen as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain and I can see why! We first drove here a few times to do our grocery shopping and thought the town did not look very appealing. We then discovered that you have to park your car in the ‘new’ part of town, then walk across an old medieval bridge, before you see the ‘old’ center. The old center is very charming, with lots of small alleys, stairs, flowers everywhere and a central square with some nice bars.
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Flowers everywhere!
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The entrance to the old town

We absolutely loved this region, that has so much to offer! Beautiful nature, good food and wines, friendly people and charming villages. For now, this area is mainly visited by Spanish tourists, and we actually like it that way. Nothing has been spoiled yet =) We will probably return next year and continue discovering the area. So, more to follow!


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