The alluring Spanish oasis of Albarracín
The alluring Spanish oasis of Albarracín
When you start planning a trip to Spain, it likely involves the sun-drenched beaches of Barcelona, the flamenco capital of Seville or the majestic city of Madrid. Maybe, if you’re feeling inspired (especially since it’s close to winter), a weekend in flashy San Sebastián or the Pyrenees is in the works. It’s easy to stay within the confines of the well-known; however, if you’re looking for an alluring and authentic Spanish experience, look no further than Albarracín.
Sitting in the middle between Madrid, Zaragoza and Valencia, is a remote and seemingly desolate river plain. At first glance, the area appears so isolated one would think there’s nothing worth visiting there. If you look closer, tucked above the bend of the Guadalaviar River is one of Spain’s hidden treasures. Cropping up along the rocky hillside like a mirage in the desert is Albarracín, a fortified medieval hamlet. Consistently named one of the country’s most beautiful villages, it’s easy to see why as you explore the fortressed walls, charming old-world buildings and narrow passageways.
A Little History
Filled with archaeological ruins of its Roman past, visible architectural influence of the Moors and stunning frescoes found in the Catedral de Albarracín, the village is a veritable melting pot of history, religion and culture. Once the capital of the Moorish kingdom of Taifa, the village prospered with textile trading. As Christian crusades resurfaced and conquered the Moors during the Middle Ages, Albarracín soon converted to Christianity. During the War of Independence in the early 19th century, the small town was caught in the crossfire leading to a decline in population and economy. As the post-war recovery was under way, Albarracín once again fell victim to the spoils of war during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Nearing abandonment, the remaining population banded together and ensured the preservation of the isolated village.
A True Beauty
These days, as you walk past the old defenses of the Albarracín walls, the pink-hued stone buildings stand against a backdrop of hilly, cobblestone streets and craggy cliffs. At night, the orange glow of streetlamps provides a soft luminescence within the village, resulting in a breathtaking scene. During the day, the sun shines upon the brightly colored tile roof atop the cathedral that was built on the ruins of an old mosque. Visitors can catch a postcard-worthy glimpse of the village from the Torre del Anador, the tallest point in the town. Walk along the mighty stone walls that lead to the tower and drink in the stunning Spanish countryside. During the autumn months, the changing leaves transform from green to copper and crimson, framing the town in vibrant colors.
Explore Mother Nature’s handiwork and walk along the Paseo Fluvial. This relatively easy hike follows the bend of the Guadalaviar River around the town, providing different scenic views of the village. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, as you’ll cross old stones, hanging bridges and wooden paths cut into the rocky canyon next to the river. Bring a picnic lunch or snack to enjoy while relishing the crisp fall weather at Fluvial Park and Zona Picnic at the other end of the trail. If you venture further south from the village, you’ll discover even more trails and tumbling waterfalls (the Cascada del Molino de San Pedro is amazing) in the nearby Albarracín mountains. Bouldering or rock climbing during the summer and fall are also popular for adventure enthusiasts.
Foodies will rejoice with the delectable local flavors offered. Most restaurants and cafes are rather unassuming but serve up delicious Spanish fare. For fresh-baked breads and pastries, Panadería Marconell e Hijos is worth a stop. Restaurante El Serón in the town square offers dishes such as carpaccio from locally sourced beef and crispy house-made chips. For traditional tapas, head to the outskirts of town to Despensa de Tusta. Serving up savory cured meats, olives, albondigas and rich wines, you’ll want to make sure you go earlier to grab a spot. You could easily spend a few days just tasting your way through the village.
Once you’ve experienced all this exquisite area has to offer, you’ll understand why it was easily voted one of Spain’s most beautiful villages. Take time to venture out of your comfort zone and into the historical and fascinating town of Albarracín.
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