At South of the Pyrenees some mountains rise, highly individualized, an unordered set of massifs marking the transition between the mountains and the great depression of the river Ebro is the so-called sierras exteriorres (outer mountains), reaching altitudes, of course, smaller than the axial chain although in all cases are important enough to highlight in the region in which they appear. We are referring to the peaks of Santo Domingo, San Juan de la Peña, Riglos, Loarre and Guara.
Also included here, the Sierra de Sis/Ribagorza area (Ríos Isábena y Noguera Ribagorzana), or Sierras Interiores (inner mountains), see also Pyrenees-Benasque.
The pre-Pyrenean sierras of Aragón are N or NW, (or in the case of Sierra de Sis, NE) of Huesca, the capital city of the province of Huesca and the Hoya de Huesca basin. The region of Aragón comprises the provinces of Huesca, Zaragoza, & Teruel, with Huesca the most northern of the three. The most "important" area are: Jaca - Sierra de Guara - Riglos - Sierras de Loarre & Gratal (Sierras Exteriores) and Sierra de Sis/Ribagorza (Sierras Interiores). Away from Huesca & Jaca the area is dotted with small villages & hamlets, many of them abandonned, but a rural life still very much exists here.
GEMS OF THIS AREA: Apart from the rock climbing at the internationally reknown Mallos de Riglos, the Sierra de Guara Natural Park is one of the best places for canyoning "in Spain, if not Europe" (quote from "The Rough Guide to Spain"). The Rodellar & Vadiello areas have some superb sport-climbing and there are even a few via ferrata/protected routes. Ascents of the high points Tozal de Guara & El Turbon are more than simple hikes, especially in winter, while elsewhere there is easy, un-crowded hiking on a network of local footpaths and quite an extensive network of BTT trails, with nearly always the fine backdrop of the big Pyrenean peaks some 150km further north. Other delights include important cave-paintings around Alquézar, hermitages, castles & historic fortresses and many local festivals and fiestas.
MAP BY VISENTIN. Click on areas.
TRAIN: The high-speed (AVE) train services link Huesca with Madrid.
In the skiing season, Huesca's small Monflorite Airport has flights from other parts of Spain (& in 2010, from London)
COACH: As a general guide, Barcleona-Huesca: 4h 20m. Huesca-Zaragoza: 1h. Jaca–Madrid: 3h. Jaca–Huesca: 1h
BY ROAD: Mostly good road links. See below for detailed information in "Getting around".
For information for Sierra de Sis, see El Turbón.
1.Peñas de Santo Domingo
It's an isolated but nice place with a landscape very special with a lot of aiguilles and peaks in crackeds ridges. As curiosity the area is in the province of Zaragoza, just between Navarra and Huesca but geographically is a continuation of the same line of small ranges of Pre-Pyrenees.
The highest and most popular peak is Peña de Santo Domingo (1,525m) but you have another peaks in the Sierra de Luesia as Puy Moné (1,302m), Punta del Cabo Bal (1,312m) or Balsiruela (1,250m).
The most important town in this area is Jaca (406,3km2, altitude 818m). South of Jaca the "massif" of Peña Oroel (1,783m), is visible from many points of the city. A wonderfull lookout point for the Pyreneann peaks to the north, especially those of the Canfranc area.
North of Jaca exist some smaller peaks around the Collarada massif (2,885m) and the area of Canfranc, such as Pietrola (1,465m) and Grosín (1,422m).
South-West of Jaca is the San Juan de la Peña range with the peaks of San Salvador (1,547m) and Cuculo (1,549m). The Monastery of San Juan de la Peña built into the rocks on the north face is of major cultural interest.
To the West the most important town is Sabiñanigo, South of the Tena Valley, with important mountains as Oturia (1,920m), with the famous route of the hermitages and caves.
3. Sierra de Guara
The Sierra de Guara is in the El Parque Natural de la Sierra Y Canyones de Guara made up of a central protected area of 47,450 hectares with a perimiter zone of 33,775 hectares, and declared a natural park in 1990. An area for rock (sport & some trad) climbing, canyoning, caving and easy to strenuous hiking that is also of great interest for its flora, fauna and geology. The highest and emblematic point of the Sierra de Guara is the Tozal de Guara (2,077m).
Erosion has created deep canyones, ravines, gorges, waterfalls, caves and narrow passes in this mainly limestone and "pudding" rock environment. The climate is cold and dry in winter, moderate with frequent rainfall in spring and autumn, and dry and hot in summer. The main summits can be snow-covered during much of the winter. The northern slopes are dominated by low, rough vegetation over a large area with wild pine, black pine, fir and beech forests. The southern slopes are Mediterranean forest and sierra, with the "encina" & box predominating together with wild pine.
Despite these treasures, it's an area that is not hugely visited and can seem remote and wild. Acccess from La Tejeria/Santa Cilia (south), Nocito (north), Rodellar (east) and even Salto de Roldán (south) all involve a fairly long drive-in on minor roads.
Somontano de Barbastro. Area borded by the Cinca anad Alcanadre rivers, the north of this area sits on the eastern edge of the Guara park. The village of Alquezar is an impressive Medieval town with a former Arabic fortress. Also falling within The Parque del Rio Vero the town houses a new albergue y climbing wall (Rocodromo) and is, along with Rodellar & the Mascún Canyon, one of the main centres in the area for sporting activities such as canyoning and sport climbing.
The typcial terrain of this area is low sierra interspersed with (semi)-abandonned villages with a network of short-distance footpath routes or PR-HU trails,or "pequeño recorrido" routes, mostly well-marked (yellow-white markings) and signposted.
Rock (sport) Climbing: at Rodellar / Mascún Canyon / Guara / Bierge.
Via Ferratas/(protected routes): Bierge / Rodellar (Mascún) / Vadiello. These routes require experience and the correct "via ferrata equipment including harness, ferrata shock-absorber, rope & helmet.
Barranquismo / Canyoning: For the uninitiated, this involves descending wet or dry canyons with the use of ropes, harness, helmet and neopreno suits. A serious sport that should only be undertaken by the experienced and suitably equipped. Even if you have experience of this sport in other areas, its vital to be well-informed about a particular area before taking on any descent. Many companies in the areas around Alquezar & Rodellar offer guided excursions and training, as well as hire of equipment.
4. Mallos de Riglos
El Reino de Los Mallos - Kingdom of "the Mallos" - is probably best known for the rock climbing at the impressive Mallos de Riglos. A "mallo" is a pinacle or rock outcrop and these conglomerate rock formations have been attracting climbers since before 1929, with around 170 routes on 11 crags. Routes of all grades, though the majority are long, difficult, and/or mulit-pitch requiring experience and ability. There is also some interest here for hikers, while ornitholgists come here for the important colonies of birds of prey, especially the buitre leonardo (griffin vulture).
There are also a couple of via ferratas at Riglos & Ruaba - though in December 2010 this ferrata had been closed, possibly only temporarily, to protect wildlife/nesting birds. The main villages for this area are: Riglos (centre for access to the climbing area of the Mallos de Riglos), Ayerbe, Carcavilla, Murillo de Gallego, and Satna Eulalia de Gallego.
Try a virtual visit on the Mallo Visera or CLICK below on "Carnaval" & "El Puro" II for a 360º panorama (requires "Quicktime" player).
5. Sierras de Loarre & GratalThe most "important" mountain here is Pico Gratal, 1,574m an impressive rock outcrop, clearly visible from the south. Other summits are less "important" but have their own delights for easy hikes and excursions. These include: Pusilibro (1,597m) above Loarre Castle & Pico de la Calma (1,584m).
Towns: Ayerbe, Loarre, Santa Engracia, Aniés. The village of Loarre is famous for its wonderfull 11th century castle/fortress, probably the main tourist attraction of the area. The Castillo de Loarre has appeared in many films about Middle Earth and the Crusades, in particular the recent Ridley Scott epic "Kingdom of Heaven".
6. Sierra de Sis/Ribagorça
& Sierra de Guara (r).]
To the east, also known as "Sierras Interiores" of the Aragonese Pyrenees, see also Pyrenees-Benasque. These sierras are on the far eastern edge of Aragón, close to the Llerida border. Main summit here is the magestic El Turbon, (2,497m). See link for more details, access etc. Even further east, lies L'Aumurriado' (1,790m), highest point in the Sierra de Sis. This area is characterised by wide, open slopes interspersed with dramatic rock outcrops. Major towns: Bonansa, Pont de Suert, Castejón de Sos and Las Paúles.
|[img:694874:aligncenter:small:Eastern area. (Vall de Bellasia).]|
Salto de Roldán
[img:675422:alignleft:small:Salto de Roldán from]
* * The Salto de Roldán, 1,124m: Could be the emblem of the city of Huesca. Two conglomerate rock outcrops, significant landmarks seen from the city. Mirroring the structures found further west in Riglos, these two “mallos” - Peña San Miguel 1,123m) and Peña Aman/Man (1,124m) - are often considered the gateway to the Sierra de Guara Park from the Hoya de Huesca basin, situated as they are on the extreme south of the park. Between the two flows the River Flumen.
* * Salto means "jump". And Roldán? Roldán (Roland or Orlando) was a commander during the reign of Charlemange (his uncle) who died at the Battle of Roncesvalles at the hands of the Vascones* in the year 778. Legend has it that, fleeing from his enemy, Roland was surrounded as he reached Peña Aman. In a bid to escape he mounted his horse and made a wild jump (salto) to the opposite Peña Miguel, leaving his prints in the rock. * Possibly early Basque Country people. Both Peñas can be climbed. Peña Miguel is a hands-on scramble with the help of three short "protected" sections of metal ladders and "clavejas" or pegs. Peña Aman has just 5 very old pegs to surmount a near-vertical wall at the very top, which require much more effort to ascend and is only for the experienced.
Red Tape & Maps[img:694539:alignleft:thumb:Typical sign in Guara.]
The Sierra de Guara is a natural park area and there are restriction on climbing, caving and canyoning as well as camping. For hiking and ascensions of the Tozal de Guara, general park regulations exist. In particular, no camping, no fires
(In Summer the area is tinder-dry and the danger of forest fires is extremely high).
The small climbing areas usually have individual restrictions during nesting seasons. For more information on these, contact:
BOOKS AND MAPS: The Rough Guide to Spain has a short section on Aragón.
Maps: Alpina 1:40.000 Sierra de Guara 11.
The PRAMES Series Mapa Excursionista 1:40.000 Prepirineo/Pirineo
Aragonés covers the following area:
No. 7 San Juan de la Peña
Nos. 14 & 15. Sierra y Cañones de Guara I & II
No. 16. Somontano de Barbastro (for Alquézar area)
No. 13. Reino de los Mallos (for Riglos)
A new edition (2010): Sierra de Guara. Edition Sua.
Colección: CUADERNOS PIRENAICOS. With GPS co-ordinates and maps. (In Spanish). ISBN: 978-84-8216-393-2.
Fiestas.[img:694537:alignleft:thumb:Dance Festival in Jaca.]
Aragón like any other Spanish province has a full calendar of fiests throughout the year. The following could affect availability of accommodation in the area.
HUESCA: Though mid-summer is not the best time of year to visit Huesca for hiking or sport activities because of the high summer temperatures, you may want to bear in mind that the main week-long fiesta in early August each year is San Lorenzo (patron saint).
JACA: Late June/early July. Internatinoal Folklore Festival of the Pyrennes. This alternates anually with France with Jaca hosting in the odd-numbered years. Dance & music from all over the world.
Flora & Fauna (in brief)[img:377478:alignleft:small:Griffin Vulture (foto: Diego Sahagún).][img:675415:alignright:small:Griffin Vulture on Peña Aman.]
The rocky cliffs and pinacles of Riglos, Mascún etc attract eagles, egyptian vultures (alimoche) and the griffin vulture (buitre leonardo) and the rare Lammergeier or bearded vulture (quebrantahuesos in Spanish, literally bone breaker. Mammals include wildboar, fox & mountain cat. In the rivers, trout & the tritón pirenaico.
In the Guara park in particular there is a distinct contrast between Mediterranean flora on the southern slopes - with the “encinar” predominating while N we can find alpine flora with Quercus faginea or Portuguese Oak and beech forests. One of the best-preserved and southern- most beech forest in Aragón can be found on the northern slopes of Monte Peiró north of the Sierra de Gratal.
Getting AroundGood access by road for main towns but for small villages the minor roads (especially in poor weather) can make journeys longer than expected. [img:47318:alignleft:thumb:Alquezar]
Huesca - Jaca: 70km (1 hour by road) from Huesca. The N-330 N towards Sabiñanigo which then becomes the A-23 at Cartirana, heading NW to Jaca.
You could also take the train from Huesca which is a very scenic route in itself if you have time to spare. However, not many trains run each day).
Huesca - Riglos (Mallos de Riglos): 42km (40m by road) on the A-132. After passing Ayerbe, take a turning right onto the HU 310 to Riglos village). You can take the train as mentioned above. Check that you notify the driver you want to get off at Riglos, as it doesn't automatically stop. Ask for Riglos-Consilio. This is also important if you want to take the train to return to Huesca! The service is very infrequent. Huesca - Loarre: The A-132 to Ayerbe and A-1206 to Loarre.[img:693725:alignleft:thumb:Guara from SE]
Main access points for the SIERRA DE GUARA:
South: La Tejería or Santa Cicila*. 40m by road. N.240 direction Monzon. The A-22 and then the HU-V-331. * Take care: There is also a Santa Cicilia in Jaca!
East: Rodellar/Mascún, in the centre of the park: 1h 14m. N-240 - A22 - HU 341. via Abiego, Bierge. Warning: in busy climbing season, it is not possible to park in the village. Look for the parking area to the left as approaching the village.
North: Nocito. N-330 N. At Arguis, a minor road via Belsué which borders the north of the park. 1h+ (49km, partly on minor road which could be difficult in poor weather conditions).
West: Salto de Roldán. H-324 to Apiés. HU-V-3241 to Santa Eulalia de la Peña. Don't turn into the village but continue up to the Peña San Miguel/end of the road. From here a track (1h) to Embalse Zingfuens. Vadiello: 23km. (30m on minor roads). N-240 east. HU-330 N via Loporzano, La Almunia de Romeral.
Accommodation & Camping[img:505449:alignleft:thumb:On the route from Yebra to Oturia.]
Alquézar: Rio Vero, Alquezar
Rodellar: Mascún, El Puente
Yaso: Altaoja Guara.
Panzano: Cañones de Guara y Formiga.
Huesca: San Jorge
Jaca Camping Aín (Note: Camping Peña Oroel/Jaca is not in operation, despite info on the 'net.
Alquézar: Albergue Rural de Guara
Rodellar: Las Almunias.
Peña Oroel: images and text (spanish) about this peak.
Cuculo: images and text (spanish) about this peak.
San Salvador: images and text (Spanish) about this peak.
Pirineo.com: Guara (Spanish)
La Fueva: village with some routes about Guara on the page (Spanish).
Consumer: Parque Natural de Guara: information about the park (Spanish).
Gobierno de Aragón (Spanish)
cai Aragón: some information about Riglos (Spanish).
gdargaud.net some rock-climbs (English)
malditoduende: a few of routes of rock-climbing (Spanish).
revistaiberica: route quebrantahuesos (Spanish)
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