Alquézar and Ruta de las Pasarelas
It’s mid-August 2022 and we’re on our Summer travels en-route to Alquézar and the Ruta de las Pasarelas. We’re taking in the most fascinating vistas surrounding Huesca, in the Aragon region of Spain. To be honest, this is more like something out of the Wild West and it’s magical.
The desert landscapes come as a complete surprise along this absolutely stunning route. The terrain is dry, broken up by miles of incredible rock formations, lying between dramatic gorges. Onwards we drive, crossing arched stone bridges, connecting winding roads where Vultures glide overhead.
Viewpoint of Vultures
High on the arid cliff’s we come to a large parking area and viewpoint. This is the start of some intense hikes involving ropes and helmets, taking action-packed individuals on a trail of discovery. Not only is it UNESCO world heritage, but it’s also relatively low-key. We can’t help but think how busy this geographical masterpiece would be elsewhere in Europe.
There’s a mix of caves, rock formations, cliffs and canyons, dominating this vast cliffs and gorge. For us, we’re here for the view and a few meters from the campervan brings us to the main attraction.
By the way, the air is hot, the temperature high and the skies blue. In other words, it’s just how we like our Summer travels to be. Wondering over the dirt path brings us to the viewpoint, somewhere we could stay for hours.
Luckily we have the binoculars, so our eyes scan the cliffs dominating a leafy, deep gorge. We can just about make out the wooden ledges and staircases, taking hikers to various levels of the cliff face. High above the canyon, are metal grids, preventing access into caves, but cave formations are visible.
Not only does the hiking route look amazing, but the vista for watching birds of prey is just awesome too. By now, there’s an abundance circling around us high overhead. Amongst them, the Egyptian Vulture, flying prestigiously with a wingspan like no other. This after all is a viewpoint of Vultures as much as anything else. Suddenly, we feel very small in this vast arena.
Alquézar and it’s daring walk
By the time we approach Alquézar we feel a sense of gratitude for setting eyes on this region. We’re super impressed, but then this hilltop town of red-tinged stone comes into view and it’s beautiful.
Once again, images of the Wild West spring into the imagination. There’s a line of stone clad buildings clinging to the hillside and culminating with a stately church.
There’s no overnight parking here or any at all in the surrounding National Parks. However, there’s plenty of day parking and it’s free. So, we find a spot beside the winding road leading to a dead-end parking area. Unfortunately, it’s quite chaotic, even at this time of day, so this is where everyone is!
About a 10 minute walk, passing fabulous views of the surrounding countryside makes a great start to this town. Inside, we find a maize of tiny streets and a few terraces, where more viewpoints give an almighty impressive panorama across vast gorges.
Apparently this area is renowned for adrenaline adventure sports and the options are endless. Also, the selling factor seems hot property too, with small doorways advertising numerous activity trips. Overall, canyoning seems the big attraction and it looks and sounds incredible.
Ruta de las Pasarelas – A walk with a difference
We opt for the other big attraction here in Alquézar, the Ruta de las Pasarelas, and a walk with a difference. This 3km circular route begins in the centre of the town, leading you into the gorge and back up the cliff at the opposite end of town.
The big difference is that this walk involves metal walkways and ladders, attached to the cliff face above the floor of the gorge. First though, we have to pay, because this walk isn’t free, it’s actually 5 Euro each which we pay in the ticket office by the start.
First, we show our tickets at the entrance before beginning a downward walk along marked paths. Ultimately, this brings us out at the base of the canyon, passing along a mix of dirt tracks and steps along a wooded route. So far so good.
Then we arrive at a sign, where a surprise detour leads us to a vast open cavern, hollowed out of the cliff. We cross a shallow river of pebbles underfoot to take a closer look, before entering the massive shady hollow. Now we begin to get a glimpse of why this place is so special.
The middle and those metal walkways
Retracing our steps back to the sign post and the main route gives our first glimpse of the metal walkways. These are attached to the cliff face high above the river and gorge, where staircases link each section.
Luckily the air is cool thanks to a threatening storm in the distance and at this time of day, there’s few people around. We take our first steps up onto the metal treads of the staircase, leading us onwards, deeper into the gorge.
Now we can see a little further ahead, where the platforms wind along the bending cliffs, whilst the most beautiful blue river flows beneath. It’s not a scary feel up here, as the stairs and platform seem solid and sturdy, unlike other similar walks we’ve done in the past.
Now, we pass gigantic, smooth boulders and the pale rock of the cliffs towering above us, surrounding us in this fascinating geographical masterpiece.
Eventually, the shallow river flows to form a wider section, where an infinity-type pool forms and people swim. Another metal walkway takes us further around the cliff, passing the most beautiful blue lagoon, where water tumbles from a higher level. Now, we feel we’re in a tropical paradise, it’s both unexpected and jaw-dropingly gorgeous.
Here, more people are swimming, it’s turquoise blue waters look irresistible. Now the river and gorge become narrower, yet the blue water still flows, making the contrast on the pale rocks ever more dramatic.
Next it’s time to leave the metal walkways behind, as the dusty track begins a 700m uphill trek back towards the town.
From here we’re rewarded with incredible views of both the gorge and Alquézar and it’s simply superb. Probably, we’re here at the right time of day, early evening and without the full heat of the sun.
Maybe if you’re visiting, take into account, this place surely must get busy. Then, when those metal stairways are filled with people, they may not be quite so inviting.
A Fortified Monastry
When we arrive back on the stone streets of Alquézar, the Colegiuta de Santa Maria, a fortified monastery becomes an irresistible diversion. It’s an uphill walk to reach the entrance and a 3 Euro fee, but it’s worth it.
Beyond the stone steps of the entrance lies the most beautiful carved, stone arches and a staircase to a higher level. Here, there’s both incredible views and a fascinating archiecture. The one thing lacking is a toilet, and we’re both desperate to go!
After a good look around and crossing our legs, we move swiftly on to find public loos in town. Phew, never have we been so pleased to see them!
Then it’s time for tapas in an outdoor taverna-style place, which wasn’t too favourable. However, those hunger pangs are gone for now.
As nightfall sets in, we head off to try and find a place to park for the night, without fear of being moved on.
The Aire at Huesca
We drive for some time, it’s now dark and we’re ready for bed. Oh how we long for those good old days, when you could park pretty much anywhere!
Instead, we opt for the nearest Aire which happens to be in the large town of Huesca. Now, because this is the only legitimate overnight spot for miles around, by the time we get there it’s over-flowingly full.
However, we know it’s here or nowhere, so wedge ourselves between a couple vans.
We know it’s not the best, but we turn the engine off and shut the blinds, hoping for a sharp exit in the morning. Oh, vanlife is so romantic at times!
Next time, there’s more incredible rock formations and ancient castles, ensuring the landscapes of Spain just keep on giving.