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.
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.
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 …
Cretas is another village of the “Spanish Tuscany”.
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.
Neither you will find here too much glamour & luxury.
The good news is you will be most probably the only tourist around.
Beceite is very little …
The countryside is very nice by Beceite.
Valderrobres has a Gothic church and a daunting castle (both from the 14th century)
Gothic gargoyles seem to live very happy in Matarraña.
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):
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.
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)
Next morning you can go on to Madrid via Calanda and Molina de Aragón.
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.
This is Madrid (Puerta de Alcalá) …
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)“