From Barcelona to Madrid through the “Spanish Tuscany”

A featureless and uninspiring highway connects Barcelona and Madrid. People drive their cars through this expressway like androids, willing to go from point A to point B as fast as they can.

This way of travelling is very useful if your target in life is to be a productive person. But if your target in life is to enjoy your life, or simply if you have no target at all in your life, I´d propose to you an alternative route from Barcelona to Madrid (or vice versa), spending one overnight in the village of Alcañiz.

So, my dear bohemian reader, follow Covetotop in this slow, unproductive, very little known and immensely charming alternative route between the two most important cities of Spain. We are about to cross the southernmost part of the old Kingdom of Aragón, including its Matarraña Region, also known as the “Spanish Tuscany”.

It is a land of beauty and mystery, striped with olive trees and vineyards, surrounded by pine-covered mountains and dotted with medieval little villages. In other words: this is just another hidden treasure disclosed by Covetotop for the joy of his millions and millions of kind followers worldwide.

(I take for granted that my millions and millions of kind followers are able to spot on a map or GPS the following villages and to figure out the route I am talking about)

Our trip starts by the beach of Barcelona.

Port Olimpic

Now say goodbye to the Mediterranean Sea and take the highway just for a while, direction Reus/Tarragona. Then, get out of the highway and cross the village of Gandesa (or stop here for a while and buy some outstanding local wines) and drive directly to Calaceite.

Gandesa

Stop in Calaceite, get out of your car and enjoy a walk in time and space through this wonderful village of the Matarraña Region, Bajo Aragón …

Calaceite Calaceite tranquil place From6 From7

Cretas is another village of the “Spanish Tuscany”.

Matarraña Cretas

By “Tuscany” they mean Mediterranean character, nice countryside, old castles, picturesque villages … but don’t expect to find here Piero della Francesca’s frescoes nor Cellini’s statues.

Charming arch

Neither you will find here too much glamour & luxury.

Luxury by the square

The good news is you will be most probably the only tourist around.

Quiet streets From12

Beceite is very little …

Old village From14

The countryside is very nice by Beceite.

countryside Beceite

Valderrobres has a Gothic church and a daunting castle (both from the 14th century)

Valderrobres From16

Gothic gargoyles seem to live very happy in Matarraña.

gárgola

It’s time to rest. Let’s go to Alcañiz. This is the main square of Alcañiz and the Santa María la Mayor church (interior view):

Renaissance square

Baroque church

My recommendation is to spend one night at the “Parador de Alcañiz”, in the village of Alcañiz, which is conveniently situated halfway between Barcelona and Madrid.

Medieval castle

Castle in Aragón

This Parador (hotel) is actually a 12th century castle-convent that was converted to the seat of the Order of Calatrava in 1179.

This comfortable and mysterious hotel (owned by the State and strictly protected) has a plethora of authentic Gothic murals, a Tower of Homage, a Romanesque church, an Aragonese Palace, a gardened patio and quite a few phantoms (webpage: www.parador.es)

Gothic painting

Next morning you can go on to Madrid via Calanda and Molina de Aragón.

Castle and church

A little further from Molina de Aragón, you will join the serious and productive androids that are driving their fast cars from Barcelona to Madrid through the A-2 highway. By then, the only difference between them and you will be a happy smile on your face.

Górgola feliz

This is Madrid (Puerta de Alcalá) …

Madrid gates

Good bye!

Ps: If you opt to drive your car through the boring A2/AP2 highway, Zaragoza is a very easy and rewarding stop. At this regard, read my post “Zaragoza (Aragón, Spain)

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About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
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22 Responses to From Barcelona to Madrid through the “Spanish Tuscany”

  1. The tiny country villages are my favorite! Lindas fotos 🙂

  2. Lovely photos of our home town 🙂 !
    If you like photography, we’d like to invite you to participate in our next Travel Photography Competition. Here are the details:
    http://hitchhikershandbook.com/your-contributions/travel-photography/
    Happy travels!

  3. oliviaobryon says:

    Beautiful, as always!

  4. Wow, I had no idea it was so beautiful! I’ve only been through part of that route in the middle of the night, on the way to more famous places. Looks like a new trip might be in order….

  5. Christina says:

    Excellent post! (And I like the jokes!) I’ve actually been thinking about seeing Madrid and Barcelona this spring and your scenic tour through “Spanish Tuscany” is a perfect itinerary to avoid mindless driving 🙂 Thanks!

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you! But take into account that an art lover as you will need a lot of time to spend in both Madrid (the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofía museums alone require “years” to visit properly) and Barcelona (Gaudí, Picasso, Tàpies, Romanesque and Gothic Art in some museums …) My “scenic tour” is intended for people who have plenty of time to lose when driving from one city to the other … 🙂

      • Christina says:

        So true, I will need multiple visits, but I just can’t wait any longer to see the Prado and Gaudi’s cathedral. I was thinking 16 days for Barcelona and Madrid, with a day or two to find some small villages in between. That seems like a more civil pace. 🙂

      • Covetotop says:

        Great! You’ll enjoy your trip 🙂

  6. A wonderful excursion off the beaten track. And another great report upon a well-hidden gem. Well done!

  7. GalOnTrip says:

    magnificent! you must be very familiar with streets in Spain that you can find alternative ways without getting lost and still in track. did anyone tell you before about the route? and how many hours drive from barca to madrid without using the highway?

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you for that “magnificent!” 🙂

      Yes, I am very familiar with Spain: I am Spaniard. Nobody told me before about this route; I knew that “Matarraña” was a very interesting area and I figured out this route by myself when traveling from Catalonia to Madrid. This alternative route may take 9 hours non-stop (non-stop makes no sense here, as the main target in this route is to spend some time in the Matarraña region). Madrid-Barcelona using the highway may take roughly 6:30 hours.

      • GalOnTrip says:

        thanks for stopping by my site. never heard those regions you mentioned, i guess most tourists are not familiar enough with the areas. i don’t think huge travel agents have ever offered that kind of package.
        the one i did was from madrid to salamanca, avila, then heading to andalucia region for 7-10 days.
        you must be a very good local guide 😉 did you travel alone?

      • Covetotop says:

        Huge travel agents have no imagination …;)

  8. You inspire me to write more about a few of my off-the-beaten-path driving trips in Italy and France. Thank you!

  9. Pingback: Winter is coming! $375 flights from Boston to Spanish Mediterranean, Roundtrip. – New York to London Flights

  10. Hi! Hubby and I actually did the 2 day trip from Barcelona to Madrid, and we both really enjoyed the small medieval towns and the lovely landscape. We are so glad we came across your blog, because the sound of driving just straight to Madrid on the highway didn’t sound very appealing. Thanks for your blog, we are sharing it with our friends 🙂

    • Covetotop says:

      Hi, Ariba. Thank you very much for your nice comment, and for sharing my chaotic blog with your friends. I am glad to know that it has been useful and, somehow, inspiring for you and your Hubby. This is an authentic “off the beaten path” way of traveling between Barcelona and Madrid. I just hope you found the correct path to your final destination after this diversion 😉

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