Close your eyes and imagine a forgotten land, one that could only be found in a novel picked up at the airport – reading material for your two-week beach holiday.
The autonomous community of Aragon is about as far off the beaten track as you can hope to find in Spain, hardly touched at all by tourism. The region comprises of three provinces: Huesca – its capital, Zaragoza and Tereul.
The north province of Huesca borders the frontiers of France and is located in the mountainous range of the Pyrenees; within Spain the community borders Catalonia to the east, Valencia to the south and Castillo and Leon, La Rioja and Navarro to the west. The Aragonese population is just over 1 .25 million, with 50% of these living in the capital city of Zaragoza.
If you ask most foreigners what they know about Aragon, they will probably say it was where Catherine of Aragon came from; the ill-fated child bride who married the brother of King Henry VIII and was later wed to King Henry himself.
However, there is much more to Aragon; the region dates back to pre-Roman times and came under the Al Andalus rule of the Moors for four centuries.
The region’s 33 comarcas or counties all have a rich architectural history dating back to pre-roman times. Medieval towns and villages dot the landscape and give you the sensation that you have just stepped into a fairytale. One such place is Albarracin, situated in the province of Tereul, in
the Sierra de Albarracin National Park. This wonderfully picturesque town has been awarded as a national monument for its historical preservation and has also been named as the most beautiful village in Spain.
A rich and long history, architectural splendour and a deep rooted culture make Aragon an interesting and unique tourist experience; but what really makes the region so alluring, is
its natural and diverse beauty.
The land is barely touched, brimming with contrasting natural beauty: lush valleys blanketed in flowers, waterfalls and a back drop of snow-capped mountains. Open your eyes and read on, this ‘forgotten or magical land’ does exist, it’s called Aragon and is located in the North
East of Spain.
Without any coastline to boast of Aragon has stayed virtually tourist free, it’s an idyllically natural area, perfect for those who want to completely get away from the crowds and discover the stunning diversity of the Aragonese landscapes and the wildlife that dwells there.
Aragon’s terrain is diverse with its permanent glaciers, the Aragonese Pyrenees mountain range, home to the dazzling beauty of the Ordesa National Park, Spain’s oldest nature reserve, ski
resorts, medieval towns, lush valleys and rich pastures, right through to the contrast of the arid steppe plains of the central lowlands.
Aragon’s capital Zaragoza, or Saragossa in English, is Spain’s fifth largest city, situated on the river Ebro, Spain’s most voluminous river. The city’s history spans back over 2,000 years and many architectural remains have been painstakingly preserved and can be enjoyed by visitors to the city. The city’s Forum, Thermal Baths, the River Port and Great Theatre, all represent the influence of the Roman Empire when it took over the city.
There is also a large Arabic influence from its occupation a few centuries after the Romans. Most evident and a stunning example of Muslim art is the Aljaferia Palace, built in the 11th century for the Banu Hud dynasty and later home to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. It is now home to the Cortes – Aragon’s regional parliament.
The city of Tereul also boasts some marvellous Moorish architecture, and is home to Spain’s finest examples of Mudejar architecture. Mudejar is the name given to a style of Iberian architecture, strongly influenced by the Moors, at a time when Moors, Christians and Jews lived together in peace in the city. The city’s Mudejar
examples are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The third city of the Aragonese region is Huesca, which lies at the foot of the Pyrenees, where the
landscape shifts from pre-Pyrenean peaks, to the arid plains, which descend down to the River Ebro.
Huesca is the smallest of the three main cities of Aragon, with just over 50,000 inhabitants; although it is the capital of the Huesca region. Arriving in the city you immediately note its
relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It’s small enough to tour around without transport and it as many important archaeological remains that depict the millennial history of the city, the churches, cathedral, city hall, all tell a tale from a different part of the city’s history, Romanesque, gothic, renaissance and baroque influences are all represented in Huesca.
Aragonese cuisine, like much of Spanish cuisine, has inherited its flavour from the different cultures that have one time or another resided there. The main style of dish is a stew, which vary dependent on the area that they are prepared in, Lamb is frequently used, as are vegetables typical of the region: haricot beans, onions, asparagus and
chestnuts. And from the River Ebro comes other typical dish ingredients, including Trout, Eel and even frog.
You can define Aragon's climate as continental moderate, but it is determined by the region’s elevation differences. The region of the Aragonese Pyrenees has an extremely cold climate, the Pyrenean interior region, such as at Albarracin is temperate and in the Pyrenean and Iberian pre-mountainous areas, such as the region of the Martin-Ebro River, Sariñena and Matarraña the climate is sub-warm.