Alhama De Granada
The Adventure starts! After deciding on a rough route north, we opted to spend our first night in the beautiful spar town of Alhama de Granada, we had visited there before and were excited to be going back to enjoy the pretty town and surrounding countryside.
Located about 50 km from the city of Granada, the town gets its name from the thermal pools located there. The pools are really well preserved, however they are a paid attraction where booking in advance is necessary, but there are also some free natural hot springs at the base of a bridge a short walk from town and at the right time of day, its possible to have them all to yourself! The old town has a good selection of tapas bars and is very pleasant to wonder around with a pretty main square.
What attracted us to revisit Alhama is the spectacular gorge walk. The old town sits on top of a cliff edge and from the designated large car park where we parked the van, with great views over the surrounding countryside, there is the start of a walk. The walk takes you down by the river with views looking up at the old town dramatically perched upon the cliffs and continues up and through the gorge with fantastic views all around, this is a great way to start your day and you can walk all the way to a large pretty reservoir suitable for swimming in the summer.
We had a fantastic first day at Alhama, doing the beautiful Gorge walk and enjoying some tapas in the old town, but unfortunately for us, disaster struck on day 2! We left the van bright and early to hopefully try and get the free hot springs to ourselves, when Sarah Slipped and fell down a bank injuring here back. We decided to head back to the van as the pain was quite bad and later after heading off to the hospital in Granada for an x Ray, discovered she had broken a rib in her back. Obviously this was not an ideal start to our big adventure on day 2, but with plenty of painkiller and some rest for a while we will continue north!
Banos de Encina
After the news from Sarah’s Hospital visit, we were obviously a little disappointed, but also we thought its best for something like this to happen at the start of the trip, way before we get up to Scandinavia and the best summer months where we will want to do lots of hiking, swimming, kayaking etc. the recovery time of around 6 weeks was frustrating for Sarah but at the same time we had planned to take around that time to reach Scandinavia, so it defiantly could have been a lot worse. We planned to put the bad news behind us and move on to have a good time regardless.
Our second destination, Basnos de la Encina was a cracker. We found a fabulous parking spot next to a large reservoir with outstanding views looking down and all around the surrounding area, we arrived late and it wasn’t long until the sun began to set, and the location couldn’t have been better for it.
The following morning we decided to have a chilled day in this fabulous location. We knew we would have to take things easier over the coming weeks and this is exactly what we planned to do. We Spent the day getting on with editing, sorting out the van, trying out our new outside cooking stove and went for a dip in the reservoir. A very enjoyable, relaxed day that ended with a bbq and watching the sun go down.
Before leaving, we wanted to check out the old town and the Moorish Castle. The 10th century Fortress is amazing with its oval shape and 14 towers and is one of the best preserved castles of its type in Europe. We walked all the way around it from the outside taking in its greatness, unfortunately we couldn’t venture inside as the castle only opens for visitors with a tour 3 times a day and we were a few hours in between those times, we had a great time in Banos and really glad we stopped by the cute town with wonderful surrounds.
As we drove towards Madrid, it was a last minuet decision to head East to the City of Cuenca, and we are so glad we did! Arriving in the afternoon we had a quick bite to eat before heading out to check out the old town. We had read a little about the place on our way there, but didn’t expect it to be as amazing as it is. The old town is built on top of a cliff with the meeting of 2 deep river gorges either side, there are the famous hanging houses with their wooded balconies that jut out over the sheer cliff. The medieval buildings and the uniquely narrow colourful houses blend marvellously together in the main square with the Gothic Cathedral.
The narrow cobbled streets with the array of medieval building are a delight to wonder around, and once we reached the far end of the old town and looked back on the view, we were blown away, incredible looking back onto the old town perched on the cliff side and down the gorge to the San Pablo high Iron bridge, witch takes you over to the old Convent. Cuenca was going to be up there as one of the most memorable Cities we had ever visited!
The Following morning, we drove to a large car park nearer to the old town and the famous view. we were lucky enough to get a good parking spot over looking the beautiful countryside. there are lots of amazing walks you can do with stunning views everywhere you look. Nick took the boys to explore the city and later we headed out together for a last look around and marvel at the amazing views before heading off to find somewhere to spend the night.
We only drove for around 10 minuets north of the City and found a great parking spot for the night just off the road with great views down the gorge, we took a day to chill out there after the excitement of the brilliant City of Cuenca.
Cuenca National Park
After researching a little and picking up some information in the City of Cuenca, we headed north into the National Park in search of nature, waterfalls and gorges. It was a lovely drive through the pine forests at first before the scenery became more dramatic, rugged and prehistoric like with huge canyons looming over us. Again we were pleasantly surprised by the province of Cuenca and were so pleased we decided to explore there.
we drove through several small villages in the National park and spent our first night next to a pretty lake (Toba) A spectacular spot and we had the whole place to ourselves. We woke up to morning mist hovering over the lake and once the sun came up the mist cleared and the chilly morning became warm and bright. the lake was so calm and tranquil that we decided to hang around for a while and enjoy the surrounding nature and peacefulness of the place before heading off.
After leaving the lake we continued north through the park in search of some waterfalls we had read about, we were also on the search for phone signal as we hadn’t had much luck since arriving and needed to get online. We visited 2 waterfalls along the Cuervo river, the surroundings are beautiful and our second stop was an amazing walk through lush surroundings with trickling streams before reaching a picturesque waterfall with crystal clear waters and beautiful surrounding, the walk continued along a very well maintained boardwalk with nice viewing platforms and onto the source of the river, where you can see the river literally coming out of the inside of the mountain.
There are so many hikes and walks you can do in the area and definitely well worth a few days enjoying this National park if you get chance.
We continued onward until we found some phone signal and as soon as we did, we literally pulled off the road in the National park, found a nice flat pitch amongst the bushes and spent a very peaceful night there!
The main draw for us to visit Zaragoza was the wonderful Baroque Basilica Nuestra Senora del Pilar, which you can see on the cityscape horizon as you approach from quite a distance. We only had a few hours in the afternoon to explore, and found a very convenient place to park for free, 5 minutes walk from the Basilica and old town and after checking out the Basilica (free entrance) Nick continued onto the old town for a look around. the architecture is a combination of Gothic and Islamic and with the urban Graffiti, it made an interesting cycle around, defiantly worth a stop off if your passing by.
The small City of Huesca in Northern Spain is a pleasure to wonder around. Again we didn’t spend much time here, but enjoyed the atmosphere and the hilly old town with its pretty Gothic Cathedral. We had a few tasks to do before heading into France and after a lovely cycle around the town with a visit to the tourist information centre (with extremely helpful staff) we got some information on the surrounding area and were ready to continue. on the way back to the van we cycled through the pretty Parque Miguel Servet which runs parallel to the old town and is a place to cool off in the summer with ponds and little sculptures and a unique colourful little house. there are over 200 types of plants and trees in the park and the tree canopy makes it wonderfully shaded for those hot sunny summer days.
After visiting a couple of northern cities, we made a beeline back to the nature and after leaving Huesca, it wasn’t long until we found the perfect spot to relax for the day. A great find and literally just down a dirt road not far from the main road heading north was a hidden gem. A great place to wild camp and have a camp fire and at the bottom of the dirt road was a little gorge with the perfect swimming hole with lush turquoise waters. There was no one else there and it felt like our own little piece of paradise and just perfect after visiting the City. We could have easily stay at this spot for alot longer!
We continued north towards France and drove passed the Grado Reservoir. We couldn’t resist not pulling over to check out the area. There are so many amazing quiet spots and great National Parks north of Huesca. and onward towards the Pyrenees, and this Reservoir that led onto a gorge was stunning. The colour of the turquoise water is amazing and although quite chilly is very temping on a hot day for a dip. We spent the afternoon in a hidden wild camp spot by the water and slept very well in our peaceful spot. The following day we headed out on a Gorge walk, with great views walking along the cliff looking down on the gorge. The walk continues for around 3 hours and in places is a little tricky and good footwear is recommended. There are rails to hold onto on the slightly scarier sections, so definitely manageable.
This tiny medieval town not far from the border was a great last stop off for us before crossing into France. There is a really great area to park and stay for free in a large field just outside of the old town up on the hill. With its 11th century Castle surrounded by magnificent mountain countryside and looking onto the Pyrenees and the 12th century church in the heart of the old town its definitely worth a visit. The old town is amazing, like stepping back in time. we hadn’t visited anywhere like this before in Spain, its more somewhere you would expect to see in France. All the buildings with the medieval stone work and cobbled streets are in such pristine condition, its like being in a film set and it looks so new although is all so old! The impressive Plaza Mayor with all of its old archways has a small selection of restaurants to sit and soak up the calm atmosphere and there are also a few boutiques shops to browse around, well worth a stop off on our way into France.