Geological Weekend in Aliaga

We have spent a weekend hiking along a couple of fluvial trails and exploring the extraordinary Geological Park of Aliaga, Teruel. The trip also included swimming in Arquello reservoir and in a cool mountain river.

The trip started in San Blas, where we came to do the Camino natural de Guadalaviar fluvial trail. After the mandatory tostadas con tomate we set foot on the path. The route is quite easy, as it follows the flow of the water and does not have any serious elevation changes. Right away we got a chance to try out the water, which turned out to be pretty cold. However, that also made the air temperatures here cooler, which coupled with shadows of trees was quite a relief on a hot summer day.

Interesting fact – the Guadalaviar river may sound quite strange and unfamiliar, but each one of you has walked along it and may even had the chance to dip and its waters. That’s because the river changes its name, as it enters Valencian lands and get called Turia here. Yes, the famous Turia, the river that flows through Valencia, has two names and its headwaters are deep inland, close to Teruel’s borders with Cuenca.

Soon there was a fork on the road and a sign indicating a superior and inferior variants of the trail. Naturally, we took the superior route, which (after ascending a set of stairs) gave us nice views of the ravine below us. Here we also observed the wheat fields and gazed far out to the horizon.

Some of you may have heard a phrase Teruel Existe. I was certainly doubting that, as the city cannot be seen neither from motorway, nor from the nacional we were driving on, despite being only few kilometres away. Only while doing this part of the trail was there visual evidence of the city of Teruel laying down in the valley.

By this point it was starting to get quite hot, but fortunately it was also the time when we suddenly found ourselves facing the Arquillo reservoir. Clearly, this was a great opportunity to stop for lunch and dip into the sky blue waters. Even though the water in the river was quite cold, it gets the chance to warm up in the calmer waters of the reservoir. As such, swimming here was very pleasant and we even found a spot for jumping.

It was time to make our way back to San Blas. Even though the trail is inferior in terms of its position in space, it definitely wins in the department of scenery. Multiple bridges and gangways helped us to cross the river back and forth, while the views from inside the canyon kept surprising us with their magnificence. Even though we did not stop for more swimming, the fresh waters were always there to keep us cool.

We stopped for some refreshing drinks in San Blas, before heading to our albergue in Aliaga. As the day’s trail was quite easy, we opted for walking up to the castle of Aliaga in the evening. The warm light of the setting sun illuminated the most beautiful rocks of the geological park, while the town was slowly getting covered in shades. Aliaga itself is a very pretty town and sometimes even reminds of those charming pre-Pyrenees villages. As the town and castle visits were over, we finally came back to albergue for a great dinner, which (among other things) included huge and delicious home-made Turolense pizza.

The second day was reserved for the local gem – senda fluvial de Aliaga, which goes through the most scenic spots of the geological park. The trail starts right from the albergue with a gentle stroll along the Guadalope river. Soon we passed by one of the most curious rock formations – la Porra, and the town of Aliaga itself later on. Eventually we reached the first pasarelas – metal walkways mounted in rocks, which facilitate walking along the river.

From here on, the route got progressively more dramatic. First, we got to observe the Aldehuela reservoir and its abandoned hydro power plant. Then, we walked along the reservoir and started our descent into the gorge made by the same river. The gorgeous landscape here can surprise unsuspecting hiker with its immensity, its depth and the quantity of water flowing through…

Half way through the canyon we decided to stop to jump in the river and have some snacks. The water temperature was surprisingly mild for a mountain stream and allowed us stay in there for quite a while. A small waterfall nearby provided additional entertainment, as the current produced by it was quite strong, giving the opportunity to either fight it or go with the flow.

The rest of the trail was just as splendid! The canyon is simply a pleasure to hike in, as you get to listen and observe the river flowing by, gaze at the vultures nesting high above you at the walls, and just let yourself be overwhelmed by the massive rock walls surrounding you. There was quite a lot of metalwork further down the trail, which is what makes this trail quite doable for most hikers. Eventually, we got out of the canyon and found ourselves going through the woods again, before reaching the road at the other side of the path. If I were to use one word to describe the trail – it has to be smashing (sorry, Saz told me to use that one).

Each trail has its end, and so had our trip. We got back in the van and got one more look at the park, from a slightly different angle. Then we made one more stop in the albergue to have lunch together and headed back to Valencia.

The Geological Park of Aliaga definitely deserves another visit. For one, there is a space observatory (which was unfortunately closed during our visit). The spectacular rock formations for sure deserve to be explored again and again. The good news are that we are already planning to return to Aliaga in the end of September/beginning of October. Stay tuned for the announcement!

Photos: Catherine Salsbury & Dmitry Blatov

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