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To Pyrinees and back, Pt I

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

This road trip in fact happened in our honey moon and Pyrinees was a long desired destination but this blog post is not about honey moon pictures of newly wed couple, it's about places we visited and the beauty we discovered, and that can give you some idea on how to plan a 3-week camper van trip.

Zaragoza Province

Day 1-2: Calmarza

Our first destination point was Calmarza village. It's located close to the canyon of Mesa river and was a strategic stop for the morning hike. On our way to the village we picked up local granny Pilar on her way back home from the garden works. We suggested her a lift in our rented camper until the village and as a sign of gratitude she shared a bunch of figs and tomatoes from her garden and even offered us to visit her anytime we needed any help. On all our trips we would always meet simple and kind people like that, and these are the moments that make our special memories about these trips. I wonder if Pilar is still there and if we ever pass by the village again.

In the morning we hiked up to Rio Mesa Lookout to take in the views of the canyon. We were the only people there and enjoyed the views to ourselves. With some crunchy cookies for pre-breakfast. Then we continued the way to ancient rock carvings and came down to the canyon on our back to the parking.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Contemplating Mesa River Canyon
Contemplating Mesa River Canyon

Returning to the village we also paid a visit to the small waterfall Pozo Redondo and I did long exposure shots of it.

Leaving the village we had a good feeling about the start of our trip.

On the way out of the village we met Pilar again, working in the garden, and waved at her. Lunch stop in Jaraba and our next destination was El Buste.

Day 3: El Buste

To be close to El Buste, overnight we parked in the caravan area near Magallon, that was 20 min drive from Balcón de El Buste where we drove at sunrise to contemplate the windmills. This caravan area even has a shower facility, although the shower water is cold.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Sunrise at El Buste
Sunrise at El Buste

Parking the car at Balcón, we could continue walking along the alley of endless tall windmills which felt quite futuristic.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Windmills Alley
Windmills Alley
Day 3: Tarazona

This is a small town within 18 minute drive from El Buste where we stopped for coffee and brief exploration. Although it was quite a late morning and the sun was high, the dispersed clouds allowed me to take a mobile snap of local cathedral Santa Maria de la Huerta de Tarazona which had an intriguing stairway leading to it. Among other parts we explored narrow streets of Jewish district and hanging houses. The village is definitely worth a visit.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Cathedral Santa Maria de la Huerta de Tarazona
Cathedral Santa Maria de la Huerta de Tarazona

Navarra Province

Day 3-4: Bardenas Reales

As we were just within 37 minute drive from Arguedas, there was no excuse not to visit Bardenas Reales. Only this time we chose to explore less common and more remote spot in the north-west of Bardenas, called Peñaflor Castle, located in the nature reserve Vedado de Eguaras. The road to it is very bumpy and may be more suitable for 4x4 but we somehow made it with the rented VW T5 camper.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Peñaflor Castle
Peñaflor Castle

The castle is rather just a tower that was constructed at the times of Navarra and Aragon kingdoms, which is now ruins of the past. The only other people in this place were a couple with a jeep. The area suffered summer forestal fires and had many burned tree trunks scattered around. This made semi-deserted landscape even more surrealistic.

Wild camping in this area is not allowed but as it was it getting late and the return road was complicated and long, we slept in the van and decided to return to Arguedas early morning.

Forestal fires of summer 2021 left a big impact on the flora of Vedado de Eguaras. As I watched the burned trees siluettes at sunrise, I had very mixed feelings about this scene.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Recovery Dance
Recovery Dance

When the sun rose, the light accentuated the textures of the hills.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Crinkles Of The Earth
Crinkles Of The Earth

Of course I had to climb it up for an elevated perspective. That tiny camper below was ours. There couldn't be a better way to start my birthday.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Vedado de Eguaras
Vedado de Eguaras

Huesca Province and Pre-Pyrinees

Day 5: Ayerbe

We drove to Ayerbe through Aguarales de Valpalmas, the weather wasn't favorable and soon it started raining. Our overnight parking in Ayerbe was near Municipal Polideportivo below the walnut trees, which were shaken by the night thunderstorm and a walnuts kept falling onto our van rooftop. I had figured out the trail to the castle ruins and hiking there was my early morning mission while Juan kept sleeping. Even though it was cloudy and no spectacular light, I could still feel the surrounding atmosphere, history and nature blended together.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Window Through The Past
Window Through The Past

I fell in love with the village and its charm. There are places that we encounter and they feel cozy from the start and Ayerbe was just that.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Ayerbe Village
Ayerbe Village

Spent the rest of the morning wandering the streets and watching the locals awakening.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Morning Walk in Ayerbe
Morning Walk in Ayerbe

Coffee and bread in bakery Gracia & Bahdi was the right way to sum it up.

Day 5-6: Loarre

Loarre has a wonderful camping that allowed us to take a shower, flush grey waters and refill the clean water tank. The famous castle is within 4 minute drive or 35 minute hike.

The dramatic lighting looked promising and we decided to spend the afternoon exploring around the castle rather than inside. It all started with the light rays breaking through the clouds.

And after the light rays spectacle sunset ended in color burst.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Sunset by Loarre Castle
Sunset by Loarre Castle

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Loarre Village
Loarre Village

Day 6: Mallos de Riglos

Next afternoon we drove to explore Mallos de Riglos, a place I was craving to see since I did my first research about Huesca province. Our mission was to hike to the Vultures Lookout (Mirador de Los Buitres) to get an elevated perspective of the village and rock formations. However, please keep in mind that the last 150 meters of this trail are by via ferrata and some climbing equipment like ropes, carabins and helmets are needed. Without reaching the official viewpoint you will have these views...Not bad, huh ?

Sunset panorama had all this beauty deploying in front of us.
Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Mallos de Riglos Sunset
Mallos de Riglos Sunset

The icing on the cake was spending the night near Mallos under the stars.
Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Under The Stars
Under The Stars

Day 7: Marcuello Castle

Castles and their ruins blended with the natural landscapes were our main itinerary, we therefore we couldn't skip it. Marcuello castle is accessible from Sarsamarcuello village which is also an alternative and easier trail to Mirador de Los Buitres, that goes along the mountain. The castle neighbours San Miguel Hermitage and I feel it would have been a perfect place for meditations.

After the shooting session of the castle we continued to the Vultures Lookout but I'll have to say our view from the previous day was way superior!

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