Weeks 7-8: 6th – 18th June
After returning from a weekend in the UK and spending a couple of days in Valencia, I took the train to Teruel in Aragon to meet my second workaway host, a family living in the small historical village of Albarracín.
Albarracín is sometimes described as the most beautiful village in Spain. When it was under Muslim rule they built a huge wall up the cliff that now towers over the village, and all around is countryside and mountains. The village is full of narrow streets and staircases going up and down the hill it’s built on. It’s also one of the best bouldering locations in the world with prehistoric cave paintings to boot; paradise for geologists, climbers and archaeologists alike.
Family workaway experience
The family I stayed with wanted to improve their English; I spoke with the three kids (aged 0, 5 and 7) in English, and the older two at least understood me some of the time. It was great to be part of a Spanish family as a completely different experience to just going around the tourist sites of a place. Apart from teaching them tricks on the trampoline and skating (of course) around the roundabout, I also went to a theatre and dance performance the kids were part of and met quite a few friends of the family. One day we went to a local music festival, and another night I met some local people who were learning English for tapas and talk.
Sightseeing in & around Albarracín
I got to explore quite a lot of the local area in my free time – a few highlights were:
- Pinares de Rodeno conservation area – location of bouldering spots & cave paintings plus an excellent viewpoint (Mirador de Peñas Royas), which is a short walk from the car park. The walk back to Albarracín takes an hour and a half through beautiful countryside and is well worth the effort.
- Fluvial walk, about an hour (including breaks & photo stops) following the route of the river that circles the village. Sometimes steep & uneven – wear decent shoes.
- Walking tour around Albarracín. Difficult to follow in Spanish as the guide talks quite fast and the groups (at least on a weekend) are large. There are English tours but only on certain days.
A few other things I did in and around Albarracín were to walk up to the muralla for a closer look and views around the countryside (do so in early morning or evening if it’s summer), visited the local museum (all in Spanish) and some of the Roman aqueduct ruins in the area (car necessary). There is a castle you can visit, but only on a guided tour which discusses the archaeology of the site in Spanish – I thought this was a bit beyond my Spanish abilities.
Windows built into the Roman aqueduct
Sightseeing in Teruel
I went on a day trip back to Teruel, where I visited the municipal museum. It’s free, currently with a photography exhibition on the ground floor. All the information is in Spanish, covering life in the area from prehistoric to the modern day, and there’s a huge mosaic on the top floor as well as a balcony with views across the city.
The Casa de los Amantes is home to a Romeo & Juliet-like story from the town. Somewhat disturbingly, the couple’s preserved remains are still on display. The church that’s part of this museum (another converted mosque) was probably the best part of this; it’s one of the prettiest I’ve visited with an amazing wooden altarpiece and a ceiling painted with stars.
Tips for visiting Albarracín
Make sure to avoid the crowds that come with the weekend tour buses. A car will make your stay a lot easier, although there are a lot of long-distance walkers that pass through the town if that’s your thing.
Be aware there is no supermarket in the town. There is a weekly fruit/veg market in the square next to the tourist office, and a bakery to buy fresh bread and pastries, but for more than that it’s worth stocking up in Teruel before arriving to avoid extortionate prices.
Most people who visit Albarracín only do so as a day trip from Teruel, but it’s worth spending at least several days in the area to make the most of its surroundings. Find yourself a base within walking distance of the village and just enjoy exploring.