We have seen 2 foxes, several roe deer, deer, as well as vultures, eagles and multiple birds that we have not identified. We had not felt in such a long time full nature in our own country, at times where there is no mobile coverage, in an unadulterated cosmos, within the Geopark of the Region of Molina-Alto Tajo (It is part of the UNESCO World Geoparks), the largest in Spain with more than 4,300 square kilometers of extension.
Planning a route by car through Alto Tajo Natural Park (with map)
There has always been talk of Guadalajara as one of the forgotten jewels of Spain. If we go further to the northeast, we enter the region of the Señorío de Molina-Alto Tajo, which many call the "Spanish Lapland" for having one of the lowest population densities in all of Europe (in fact, you can find yourself abandoned villages) but also why landscape (and gastronomically in our opinion) manages to be one of the most unaltered and authentic places in Spain, where beyond those geological formations derived from the river courses of more than 600 million years, there is a great variety of species and flora (sabinares and high pine forests, especially), not forgetting monuments of great interest (hermitages, monasteries, ...)
Although the region is made up of 7 associations and Molina de Aragón where the capital of Señorío de Molina, Valle del Mesa, Zafra Castle and many others are incentives to spend more days, we We focus our trip on knowing and touring the P.N. Alto Tajo, its main treasureand we bring you here a proposal so that this getaway from Madrid, Zaragoza, Barcelona or other destinations within 3 hours can be perfect (and, of course, for longer trips from anywhere in the Peninsula). What to see on a route by car through the Natural Park of Alto Tajo essential?
Proposal of 3-day drive through Alto Tajo:
- DAY 1. We approached the area visiting the Monastery of Buenafuente del Sistal, Cobeta, Montesinos to enjoy, after eating in Anquela del Ducado, the famousRavine of the Sickle (You can also start here). Late for Molina de Aragón.
- DAY 2. Route of the Gancheros del Alto Tajo starting by Peralejos de las Trouts for in the Martinete Bridge, face the forest track until the Taravilla Lagoon. After visiting the Poveda jump, we can eat in Poveda of the Sierra and follow Peñalem, the Sima de Alcorón, Zaorejas and his Tajo viewpoint, Escaleruela waterfall and San Pedro Bridge.
- DAY 3. We focus on the easternmost area until Orea and its "Río de Piedra" to return by Czech and surroundings. We can eat in Corkscrews and then approach the town surrounded by sandstone formations of Nozzle, a true enchanted city.
It goes without saying that this is nothing more than a proposal in which we leave the west zone of the P.N. High pit where it could be done another route from Arbeteta to Sacecorbo passing through the Sunken Armallones and then going to the cave Cave of the Casares in Riba de Saelices. Back, outside the park itself, a Game of Thrones scenario is also very close to Molina de Aragón, the Zafra Castle.
Essential experiences of this route by car through the Alto Tajo
1 Making impossible balances in the Barranco de la Hoz
Just 15 kilometers from Molina de Aragón and the main N211, there is amagical and privileged enclave that the Gallo River has carved through the centuries turning it into a spectacular reddish canyon, one of the most beautiful on the Peninsula (and the most visited of the Alto Tajo) and of which we have written an article dedicated to
You cannot leave here without visiting this place that also has a legend behind that you should know.
2 Discover the secrets of the Monastery of Buenafuente del Sistal
They say it existed in this place a fountain whose waters had miraculous and healing properties. On it a small hermitage was erected that, already in Romanesque time, was replaced by a temple of greater dimensions until in the 13th century, the Cistercian nuns would adapt it to the Cistercian architecture that we see today.
We are in the Monastery of Buenafuente de Sistal, that former Cistercian monastery that breathes a special atmosphere and where we can still see water flow from that old spring.
3 Know charming villages like Cobeta and its imperishable tower
Cobeta receives the name of that cylindrical tribute tower with battlements that still resists imperishable to the passage of time and history.
Today, approaching the town of Cobeta is also knowing the site chosen by Iñigo López Tovar to rebuild an old tower and build a castle that would serve as a lodging and defense against the incursions of the Aragonese and Navarrese.
4 Marvel at the Sanctuary of the Virgen de Montesinos
At one point, isolated in the P.N. Alto Tajo, a wooden sign with the name "Montesinos" points to a forest path that makes its way between vertical rock formations and large monoliths. We cross a beautiful landscape until reaching the Sanctuary of the Virgen de Montesinos, a privileged enclave protected from the sickle of the Arandilla river.
There, surely almost alone and in the only widening of the canyon, an ancient center of sacred prayer emanates a special energy, a simple hermitage where the virgin appeared who was formerly used for arcane cults prior to Christianity.
5 Enter the heart of the park between the ravines of Peralejos de las Truchas
Famous for the novel "The river that takes us"by José Luis Sampedro, Peralejos de las Truchas was one of the first hook towns that we met on our route by car, those who descended trunks along the river with great mastery and whose memory should not be lost. Here you can visit the parish church, the Herrera de la Hoz Seca and the Hermitage of Our Lady of Ribagorda.
In addition, there are still pre-Roman settlements in Peralejos, but especially as we follow the path that the Tagus marks, somerocky cliffs of more than 100 meters that impress
6 Explore the purest nature in Taravilla Lagoon
Before the Martinete Bridge, beautiful as few, we take the forest track that leads to Taravilla. Each landscape exceeds the previous one and here the opening that opens the Tagus in its path has already received the waters of the Dry Sickle leaving a green environment in which we can hardly move forward since the rocky walls narrow the road to the limit. In the end another pearl that gives us nature ... The Taravilla Lagoon!
This mountain lagoon, which reaches 11 meters deep, pours into the Tagus and is of karst and totally natural origin. In summer it is also a good bathing point for the traveler that reaches their domains, with a parking lot and area prepared for it. It seems that it served as a stage for the novel "The river of Eden"by José María Merino.
7 Admire the Poveda waterfall and its isolated environment
They say that to get to Salto de Poveda you travel one of the most beautiful routes that can be done through the Alto Tajo Natural Park, among pine trees, riverside forest and even a suspension bridge. Already very close to the Casas del Salto (we speak below of them) is an artificial waterfall of what was an attempt to make a reservoir for a hydroelectric last century that never got to set
Currently, this Salto de Poveda looks bright integrated into its isolated environment of the urban world and as one of the most attractive points to visit on your route by car (or for hiking enthusiasts).
8 Envy the privileged enclave of the population of Peñalem
When we arrived in Peñalem (another quintessential hook town) I couldn't help it, I missed a "here I would live a good season". Peñalem, with its Romanesque church highlighted above and a colorful reddish roof, is located on the left of the Tagus in a unique location with views of the mountains, rocks, cliffs, forests or waterfalls of the park.
Peñalem was important for the Order of the Knights of San Juan and there is a book called “Peñalem and the encomienda of the Order of San Juan in the Alto Tajo”By Aurelio García López very interesting if you like this part of the story.
9 Stroll through the Romanesque legacy of towns like Villanueva de Alcorón (and feel explorer in its Sima)
Very close to Villanueva de Alcorón is the Sima de Alcorón, an impressive cavity that opens to the outside through a large entrance that lets in the light and where you can go down some steps enabled with railing. We with Olivia of 5 little tables decided to leave it for another occasion but we did not leave without knowing the Romanesque church that looks in the main town square.
Throughout the Alto Tajo Natural Park there is a legacy of different eras and styles (rock, Celtiberian, Roman, Romanesque, Baroque ...). The Romanesque heritage of the region highlights more places like Poveda de la Sierra.
10 Enjoy Zaorejas and its surroundings, viewpoint, bridge and waterfall
Following that Route of Gancheros, after Peralejos de las Truchas, Poveda de la Sierra or Peñalem, the Tagus takes us to Zaorejas where is the Museum of the Gancheros and the Center of Interpretation of the High Tagus. Very close to the population is also possibly the most spectacular viewpoint to the Tagus from all the Natural Park.
If we move along the CM-2015 we will enter another magical scenario where the road makes its way between canyons, sickles, forests and monoliths to the San Pedro Bridge and the nearby Escaleruela waterfall.
It is incredible to imagine the landscapes that those "shepherds of the forests" crossed with their newly cut logs.
11 "Navigate" through a river of stones in Orea
There is another place where the strength and foam of the brave Tagus are not present and have been replaced by a unique geological formation of quartzite stone blocks that cover the river-shaped hillside from millions of years of ice action and sudden temperature changes.
Orea, in addition to the "Río de Piedras" has one of the most beautiful pine forests from around the Alto Tajo Natural Park, in addition to the church of the Assumption and its Molinese houses.
12 Enter the "Andalusian village" of Czech and its surroundings
Imagine a very old town (in fact in Castil Griego there are still remains of an important Celtiberian castro), whose inhabitants have more than "8 Basque surnames" from noblemen from the Basque-Navarre country who inhabited it at the time but whose aspect is that of an Andalusian town, saving distances (that nobody bothers). Welcome to Czech! where you shouldn't miss your 18th century Town Hall,
I was especially impressed when we discoveredThe Aguaspeña, about 2 kilometers from the population, a tuff in formation where water infiltrates the calcareous rock Creating incredible formations.
I had never seen anything like that and paying attention as you hear the water flowing through the moss-covered tuff walls has been a surprise.
13 Living a Haunted City among monoliths in Chequilla
And when you think you've seen everything, one deviates from the road and enters a story. A Natural wall of imposing red sandstone monoliths has given rise to a true Enchanted City, in which the houses sits on rocks building cave houses (and even a bullring) and that has been lovingly carved by its inhabitants, those of Chequilla.
The passage of time and the erosive action of the wind are the causes that today we can enjoy one of the prettiest towns we have seen in Guadalajara.
14 Discover a "Gaudian" house in Rillo de Gallo
While Rillo de Gallo is not strictly within the Alto Tajo Natural Park, it is certain that you will pass through it on your way to Molina de Aragón through the same N211. Stay tuned and you will observe a Modernist building that follows a Gaudian model they call "El Capricho Rillano"
Inquiring in Molina they told us that such construction was the result of a bet between neighbors although the heirs have abandoned it to their fate. A pity!
15 Stroll through the Señorío de Molina and get lost in its corners
Although Molina de Aragón is the subject of the dedicated article, nobody should leave without knowing the capital of the region and get lost in its streets.
Molina de Aragón is one of the most beautiful medieval towns of Guadalajara and its castle impresses from the moment you start to see it on the horizon.
More options if you want to extend your visit
Obviously the weather is finite and you can't see everything but the Alto Tajo Natural Park has more points of interest, starting with the sighting of its fauna. When the rocky walls of the imposing canyons allow you to see the sky, it surprises you with the flight of some golden eagle or griffon vultures of which there are large populations as we could see returning from the Barranco de la Hoz. If you want more routes, the west zone takes us from Arbeteta to Sacecorbo by Ocentejo where to visit theSinking Armallones or the old ones Unexpected salt flats or, later, the cave Cave of the Casares in Riba de Saelices.
- The parochial church of S. XVII de Saceborbo.
- The Romanesque church of the 11th century and the castle built from the 14th century of Cifuentes.
- The Church of the Assumption of the 16th century of Mazarete.
- The Romanesque church of the 11th century of Poveda de la Sierra.
- The parochial church of the 18th century of Terzaga, one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Spain.
It can also be interesting to add to the route the waterfall and the terraces of The Carquimas in Armallones, tobaceous buildings and waterfalls of Fountain of the Tobas or any of the 9 main hiking trails (especially that of Barranco de la Hoz from Corduente, that of the Valley of Miracles or that of the viewpoints of the Tagus).
It doesn't even have to say The Camino del Cid through Guadalajara lands has its section in the Molina - Alto Tajo region and in the Natural Park itself (and is perfectly indicated for cycling) through Corduente, Ventosa, Fuembellida, Terzaga, Pinilla de Molina, Megina, Chequilla, Checa and Orea
Practical data to visit the Alto Tajo Natural Park
Any advice to keep in mind to drive the P.N. High pit?
The N211 is the main communication to access Molina de Aragón from the A2 that is taken in Alcolea del Pinar and from there to the P.N. Alto Tajo (another option is to access the CM-204 through Almadrones and then the CM-2115 to the road that leads to Zaorejas, Peñalem and Poveda de la Sierra). There are not many gas stations within the park itself but the distances are very small refuel in Molina de Aragón where there are several options). Nor have we found no problem parking neither in the capital nor in those places where we were stopping that, generally, they have a small parking lot enabled.
An important tip is that you walk, by bicycle or by car, anticipate a possible unforeseen event (be it a flat tire - it is not usual - or what you may need). In many points of the park There is NO mobile coverage (The best is the one that covers Movistar as we have asked some inhabitants of Molina de Aragón)
What is the best time to visit the P.N. High pit?
In our opinion, any time can be very cool to get to know a beautifully landscaped area, as long as you have looked at the weather forecast before (don't come with storms or heavy snowfall). If we had to choose one it would be this one in which we have come, in May, as the spring months enjoy stunning landscapes due to the increase in river flow Due to the thaw. Nor would we rule out The colors of autumn.
With which companies can you hire activities in the P.N. High pit?
If you want to make one Guided tour of Molina de Aragón including the castleDo not hesitate to get in touch with the guys from Discover the Manor. Rocío is a charm and helped us in all our preparations for the park itself. You can also call her or write a whatsapp at 633549175
There are several active tourism activities that can be hired from companies like Active Tourism Alto Tajo or Aquaventur such as canoeing, kayaking, canoeing, descent, paintball, climbing, caving, bungee jumping or hiking. The accommodations themselves can surely advise you too.
You can find much more information about Visitor Services, routes through the P.N., etc ... in the own Castilla La Mancha Tourism website
What charming restaurants I can not miss in the P.N. High pit?
Leaving aside the multiple options of Molina de Aragón (in a dedicated article), those looking for the best cuisine in the area will find it in 3 restaurants that have delighted us (and pleasantly surprised) These days for their typical dishes from pork, game, honey, mushrooms or truffles (mortaruelo, torreznos, crumbs, stewed deer, roast lamb, trout, ...), its location or its excellent attention and affection for its owners. They are the following:
Restaurant / Bar La Zofra in Anquela del Duchy (Technically it is not within the P.N. Alto Tajo but it is worth considering), David's personal project where we premiered with the excellent cuisine of the area with products kilometer 0 resulting in dishes such as those tasty torreznos, his mortar with a touch of cinnamon or that confit lamb that we had never tasted so rich.
Parri House in Poveda de la Sierra (It also offers accommodation), an inn-grill that offers traditional cuisine and typical dishes from the area since 1998 and that has specialized in grilled meats and game stews. The mortaruelo and its peppers stuffed with deer were there for a tear ... exquisite!
El Corrinche restaurant in Alcoroches, with a bar and tables for the menu of the day in addition to the dining room itself, in a few places I have felt as well received as in this family place where the owners go out of their way to offer you their best smile accompanied by the best dishes of the area. Broken eggs with truffle, mortaruelo and, especially, a wood oven where it allows you to taste roast suckling pig or lamb that I never thought I would find in the Alto Tajo. Highly recommended.
Where to sleep in the Molina de Aragón - Alto Tajo region?
While it is true that we raise our starting point of each day in Molina de Aragón because we went with little Olivia (5 little tables), the population with more restaurants and services, it is possible to enjoy some rural accommodations that are perfectly integrated in the Alto Tajo Natural Park. These are the suggestions of accommodations that we propose that we met (there are more):
Baltán Mill in Molina de Aragón, a restored 19th-century mill with spacious rooms a few steps from Molina de Aragón (our choice).
Casa Rural Las Campanas in Torremocha del Pinar, an option next to the renovated Romanesque church of the town, with 2 bedrooms, living room and kitchenette to isolate yourself from the world.
Houses of Salto in full nature of the P.N. High pit, old facilities of a hydroelectric power plant rehabilitated to rural tourism near Salto de Póveda.
Salinas Rural Cottage in Salinas de Armallá, an option well connected with Molina de Aragón but already in the park, which has a restaurant, barbecue, solarium and more facilities.
Did you like to know more about this Spain unknown to many, that region of Guadalajara that enjoys the Alto Tajo Natural Park, a privileged enclave for nature and gastronomy lovers? If you decide to make one route by car through the Comarca del Señorío de Molina - Alto Tajo, we await your comments.
Isaac, Paula and little Olivia, from the P.N. Alto Tajo (Guadalajara)