Guide to Aragon
Aragon is a nature lover´s paradise. With no coastline to tempt hordes of summer sun seekers, Aragon has remained relatively untouched by tourism.
Package holidaymakers visiting the north east corner of Spain prefer the more obvious delights of neighbouring Catalunya – home to the beautiful beaches of the Costa Brava which attract millions of foreign visitors each year.
Your average sun, sea and sand tourist would probably struggle to pinpoint the location of Aragon (though most Brits have some vague notion that it was once a powerful kingdom and the birthplace of King Henry VIII´s ill fated first wife Catherine, youngest surviving child of Ferdinand and Isabella)
Yet this largely overlooked autonomous region of Spain is teeming with riches ranging from heart-stopping Pyrenean mountain landscapes to mesmerising medieval towns and villages which look as though they belong in a Brothers Grimm fairytale.
Aragon offers ski resorts, World Heritage sites and vast tracts of virgin countryside where lovers of nature and outdoor sports will feel they've died and gone to heaven. The fact that Aragon remains so unspoilt is part of its charm. Specialist tour operators are starting to introduce increasing numbers of foreign hikers, bird watchers, culture buffs and adventure sports enthusiasts to the region. But Aragon remains a place where you can climb mountains, hack on horseback or drive a 4x4 through glacial valleys for hours on end without seeing another living soul.
The beautiful Aragonese Pyrenees
The Aragonese Pyrenees, bordering France, are home to Spain's oldest nature reserve – the spectacularly beautiful Ordesa National Park, founded in 1918 by royal decree. The 55,000 acre reserve is awash with lush valleys, waterfalls and alpine slopes carpeted with seasonal flowers including wild violets, edelweiss and orchids. The park is as perfect for gentle hiking as it is for white water rafting and challenging mountain climbing. The wildlife which abounds here includes eagles, otters, wild boar and chamois deer along with more than 170 bird species.
There are several good ski resorts - including Cerler, Formigal and Candanchu – in Huesca province in the north of Aragon. They're relatively uncrowded, compared with better known Andorra (to the north east of the region) and the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain, Andalucia. And they remain totally Spanish in character, attracting very few foreign skiers.
There are two tiny ski stations in the Teruel province in the South of Aragon – Valdelinares and Javalambre. The ski-ing is limited but the countryside is gorgeous, peppered with enchanting medieval towns and villages such as Mora de Rubielos and neighbouring Rubielos de Mora.
It is easy to see why this picturesque town earned the honour of an international award for historical preservation. A dramatic cliff above the Rio Guadalaviar is the perfect setting for this attractive cluster of mellow pink buildings.
Both Teruel and Zaragoza, the region's capital city, boast some spectacular gems from their Moorish past. Teruel is the more outwardly inviting of the two cities and has won world recognition as the home of Spain's finest examples of Mudejar architecture. Mudejar is a term given to a unique style of architecture which arose from a period when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in harmony, fusing elements of their very different cultures.
Teruel was the birthplace of this type of architecture and the city's many Mudejar structures and monuments have been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986.
Zaragoza , Spain 's fifth largest city, is a bustling, modern commercial centre. It attracts few foreign visitors despite having several fascinating historic sites including the 11th century Aljaferia Moorish Palace which is now the base of the Aragonese regional government. Once home to the Catholic monarchs Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, it's one of the most fabulous examples of Moorish architecture in Spain after Granada's famous Alhambra Palace.
Aragon - Family entertainment and things to do
Aragon is not big on theme parks and family entertainment centres but a must for kids is a visit to the Dinopolis “edu-tainment” centre just outside Teruel city. It's a fun way to learn about the region's dinosaur days through a myriad of attractions including the Paleantology Museum, a 3-D cinema, time-travel ride and life-like animatronic T-Rex.
Located at the foot of the Pyrenee mountain range, offers landscapes of incredible beauty.
Most notable are the city's great Mudejar style monuments, a consequence of a long Moorish dominance. Highlights include the Cathedral with its beautiful belltowers and the churches of San Martin, San Pedro and El Salvador.
The region's capital, located at the Ebro river, is one of the great monumental cities of Spain. Its historic heritage of Romans and Moors is documented in its museums.