Away from the tourists crowds, the Matarraña (or Matarranya) region is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway, especially if you’re in search of some peace and quiet. We suspect that was what Donald Trump Jr. was looking for in his recent visit to the area.
Indeed, you should certainly embrace the slow travel philosophy when in Matarraña. The region is often compared to the Italian Tuscany for its tranquility and serene atmosphere, with rural chic accommodation options and truly singular spots in the middle of the nature. There’s no better place to take is slow, stay present and be mindful: the best recipe to reconnect and recharge.
In the north-east of Spain the Matarranya is nestled among Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia counties, with its capital located in the lovely town of Valderrobres. Not far from the Mediterranean Sea, this region was named after the Matarraña River, flowing surrounded by the scenic landscapes of this natural wonder that still remains off the beaten path and is among the Starlight Tourist Destinations for its clean sky and ideal conditions for observing the stars.
Matarranya gastronomic highlights
Truffles: if you’ve never been truffle hunting, this is your chance. The so-called “black gold” is a subterranean fungus that grows in wet soils at altitudes from 700 to 1,400 meters, normally around oak forests like the ones found in the south of the Matarraña region. Truffles are found by trained dogs and boars during the harvest season: that’s between November and March for the black truffle technically named tuber melanosporum. Needless to say, truffles are highly appreciated for its aromatic pulp, which can be transformed into pâté or simply grated to season different kinds of dishes or our preferred way: on a plain toast with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
Did you know Spain is the black truffle’s world biggest producer?
Extra virgin olive oil: With olive groves all around Matarraña (37,000 hectares to be more precise), the region is well known for producing excellent extra virgin olive oil. The main olive varieties used are empeltre and arbequina, which are processed in the same place under the supervision of a regulatory institution that protects the designation of origin. Being a staple of the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil contains healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that help protect against heart disease. If you want to learn more about its health benefits and savor the most rich and flavorful varieties think of planning your custom expedition across Matarranya.
Almonds: Along with vines and olive trees, almond trees dominate the Matarraña’s landscapes. If you’re lucky enough to be there during the flowering season, you’ll enjoy spectacular views, especially around the towns of Calaceite, Valderrobres and Valdeltormo. Although different varieties are cultivated, the most appreciated one is marcona, used to make local sweet delicacies that you should definitely try: the rosquillas and almendrados are not to miss.
Peaches: For a slightly healthier gastronomic experience, look for the melocotón de Calanda, a yellow peach variety protected by the designation of origin of the area. The harvest takes place from mid-September to October, when you can best enjoy the sweetness and aroma of these fruits that mainly grow around the towns of Valdeltormo and Mazaleón.
Cheese: The traditional cheese from Matarraña is made with high quality goat’s milk. Thanks to the variety of plants eaten by the goats, the cheese, both fresh and cured, results in a rich and flavorful product. One of the most renowned goat cheeses is Estrell Fresneda, made by José Ramón Mata Frexneda de Cabra, which has been voted one the best cheeses of Aragón.
Wine: Thanks to its geographic and weather conditions, the Matarraña region produces fine wines too. Thus, taking part in a wine tour and tasting is a great experience to enjoy, particularly in the wineries of Lledó, Cretas and Valderrobres. Apart from whites and reds made from varieties such as garnacha blanca, macabeo, Chardonnay and tempranillo, it’s worth trying their grape must, known as mistela.
Natural and Cultural Highlights
Hikers will be delighted to discover what Beceite mountains have to offer. With several hiking trails, El Parrizal is especially recommended. Suitable for the whole family, this trail takes you along the Matarraña for about four hours (starting from Beceite). On the way, you’ll find amazing canyons, spires and impressive natural pools with crystal clear water that are perfect for a quick plunge in the summer.
Adrenaline seekers will be happy to know that there is an excellent climbing spot located at Rocas del Masmut, in the town of Peñarroya de Tastavins. Not only you’ll be able to climb a 100-metre vertical wall, but you’ll also get a close-up view of some the vultures that nest on these rocks.
On the cultural side, the Matarraña region is home to picture perfect medieval towns with wonderful examples of Baroque architecture. The best way to explore Calaceite, Fresneda and Valderrobres, which are amongst the most interesting towns, is walking around their old quarters: you’ll stumble upon historical places such as churches, town halls and hermitages that reflect their rich architectural legacy from the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, the itinerary between Calaceite and Mazaleón makes a great tour for archaeological enthusiasts, with unique cave paintings and Iberian settlements along the way.
Last but not least, the Picasso Center in Horta de Sant Joan showcases reproductions of the works that the great Spanish artist produced in this town, where he spent time in 1898/99 and later in 1909. The proud locals want to make sure everyone knows what Picasso once stated: “Everything I know, I’ve learnt it in Horta”.