Have you ever heard of Matarranya, a lesser-known region of Teruel /Aragon often called the Spanish Toscana? – Let me show you this secret corner of Spain with no tourists on the radar.
Traveling to Teruel
For the past few years, the Province of Teruel has been one of the Spanish regions awakening my wanderlust the most.
Countless memories made on the road are already connecting my family with Teruel: exploring local mudejar architecture, strolling down the streets of Albarracin (one of the most beautiful Spanish small towns), discovering other secret villages of the Teruel region, hearing for the first time the romantic legend of the Lovers of Teruel, visiting Dinopolis Park with kids, showing snow to my little ones for the first time in Valdelinares…
Yet, I still feel like an explorer when my Spanish road trips take me to Teruel. The region is still so undiscovered by international tourism. There´s no shortage of local landmarks and hidden gems waiting for you around the corner.
The Spanish Toscana
While I´ve previously heard of the Matarranya region in Teruel/Aragon from my local Spanish friends, the stars just did not align for us for a while.
Matarranya (also called Matarraña) is often called the Spanish Toscana in the national media. This region fits perfectly in my blog series Undiscovered Spain – it´s quite local, very authentic, and still non-touristy.
Although I´m not sure if I agree with Matarranya´s comparison to Tuscany, especially after my romantic getaway in Toscana. Matarranya and Toscana are both about tiny medieval towns, cobblestone streets, charming squares, towers, and bridges. But the feel is very different, like if you compare Madrid and Barcelona ( which are both Spanish cities but literally have nothing else in common).
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Toscana needs no introduction, everyone knows it is well-established on the tourist track. Dreamy panoramas with endless fields and hilltop hamlets, Chianti wineries, and numerous Michelin-star restaurants. At the same time, the Spanish region of Matarranya has a sort of lonesome charm. The majority of visitors are Spaniards, so you might be the only English-speaking person around. While I haven´t visited Tuscany 20 years ago, I feel like back then it was as rural and unknown, as Matarranya might feel today.
Nevertheless, as tourism in Spain keeps growing constantly – I´m sure that Matarranya won’t stay a secret gem for long.
In my opinion, the reason that kept Mataranya away from the public eye lies in its remote location. While Toscana has easy access to the Mediterranean coast, reaching Matarranya from the major Spanish coastal towns takes a while. Even the city of Teruel can be an easy day trip from Valencia, but the region of Matarranya is a 2-h-long drive from Tarragona, Zaragoza, or Castellon.
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But believe me, once you see with your own eyes all the beautiful details from my recent weekend in Teruel – you´ll put the unknown Matarranya on your Spain Bucket list asap.
Where is Matarranya
How to get to Matarranya
The best way to explore Matarranya is to travel by car. The closest airports are Zaragoza, Tarragona, Reus, Teruel and Castellon.
Weekend in Matarranya
In this post I´ll be sharing with you my 3-day itinerary for the Matarranya Region in Teruel. During a long weekend, I traveled by car with my husband and kids across the Matarranya . As we were coming from Castellon, it took us only 1,30 h to reach the small town of Monroyo. While it is not considered an essential stop in the region from the tourist point of view, our trip dates overlapped with a local artisan fair Feria de Alimentos y Artesania de Monroyo (usually takes place in the beginning of November). So, I just could not miss a chance to shop traditional Spanish delicatessen of the villages.
The small town of Monroyo has a beautiful hilltop location overlooking the region of Matarranya.
It only has around 300 inhabitants, but the medieval architecture is really beautiful. I really enjoyed the wide stairs leading towards the City Hall Ayuntamiento from the XVIth century. Another emblematic local building from the XVIth century is a local church La Iglesia de la Asunción. Actually, no matter where you travel in Spain – don´t miss cathedrals and monasteries. Since the Spanish Catholic kings, the places of the religious cult were always put first, so the crone spared no expense on them.
Near Monroyo, you´ll find two other beautiful villages of Matarranya – Peñarroya de Tastavins and Rafales.
What a trip without testing one of the top Spanish hikes. This time it was the turn of a popular trail in the small town of Beceite – Ruta Pasarelas del Parrizal. You can check the views via IG Reels and read the details in this post.
After the hike, we headed to another one of the Spanish natural wonders – Salto de La Portellada. It´s a popular picnic area in the summer months and gets quite busy. Although, as we were visiting in November, no soul was around. So we got a chance to marvel at the peculiar rock formations on our own.
On our second day in Matarranya, first thing in the morning we headed to one of the most beautiful villages of Teruel – Valderrobres. This small town is mostly known for its picture-perfect medieval bridge from the XIVth century. As medieval characters centuries ago, we crossed the bridge and entered the city through the gate Portal de San Roque (one of the 6 ancient city gates). From the central square Plaza de España I picked a random direction and we spent quite a while wandering around the medieval quarter.
Valderrobres is for sure one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Spain.
In the afternoon, it was time to explore the tiny local village of Matarranya called La Fresneda.
The old town center was full of beautiful details …
I really enjoyed walking around the castle ruins and a local church Iglesia Parroquial Santa Maria la Mayor. You can see on the IG highlights that there was sort of a narrow tunnel surrounding the church walls which felt surreal.
The foodie moment at La Fresneda was finding a traditional local bakery. This place was called Horno de Pan Dilla Pastas Tipicas. As you might have already imagined, I could not resist buying traditional pastries with the flavors of anise, orange, nuts&raisins, and meringue with almonds. Another delicious find was a cottage loaf, called hogaza in Spanish. You can check it in this post.
The small town of Cretas is another secret gem of the Matarranya region. It was, probably, my personal favorite from this trip.
The gates of ancient medieval walls were stunning – Portal Capilla de San Roque, and Portal Capilla de San Antonio de Padua. The baroque building of Casa Turull from the XVIIth century was another must-stop.
Foodies will enjoy El horno de Llerda, one of the oldest in Teruel wood-fired ovens. Here, you can also buy local pastries from the Matarranya region.
Cretas lies on the way of a popular Spanish bicycle route Via Verde Val de Zafran. This trail is an abandoned and restored railway track. I hope to test it during my next visits to Matarranya.
The last stop on this trip to Matarranya was the town of Calaceite. It´s another beautiful example of the medieval architecture in Spain. Don´t miss a central square Plaza de España, Iglesia Parroquial de Asuncion, Plaza de los Artistas, and Portalet de Maella.
More things to see
If you plan to spend more time in Teruel, consider combining your visit to Matarranya with Morella, and a few other beautiful villages of Castellon. Also, the magical Catalan villages of Horta de Sant Joan and Miravet are located close to Matarranya. For more hikes, head to Parque Natural Tinença de Benifassa – Fredes (Portell de l’Infern,Salt de Robert), and Ruta a la Fageda del Retaule y el Faig Pare.