We had a hire car the whole time we stayed in Zaragoza so having explored all parts of the city we were keen to get out and about and see more of the surrounding area. We found a monastery and put that on the visit list, but our Spanish friends recommended a day trip to the Cinco Villas enthusing about this beautiful part of Aragon and two little villages in particular. We set off, on the drive it really struck home how isolated Zaragoza is from just about everywhere else. A two hour plus drive and we arrived at the Cinco Villas, reasonable roads all the way but no sign of civilization and barely another car in sight for the whole of those two hours.
The Cinco Villas is north of Zaragoza and stretches for 90km along the border with Navarra. We found delightful, deserted countryside and marvelled how close we were to the snowy peaks of the Pyrenean Mountains. Getting out of the car to take pictures I marvelled at how the temperature had dropped incredibly in this area. We were shivering, astounded by the chill wind that seemed to be coming from those snowy peaks.
Sos del Rey Catolico was our first port of call – the guidebooks call this the most visited town in Northern Aragon. We saw four people the whole time we were there. The streets were deserted and we had it all to ourselves.
This was the birthplace of Ferdinand the Catholic King in 1452 – hence the name. The kings of Aragon fortified the village with a thick wall and even today much of its medieval character has been preserved – the town is now a national monument.
We parked, set off and just wandered. The streets are a maze of cobbled, twisting lanes with dark stone houses and deeply overhanging eaves. Much of the city wall and all of the gates are still intact and the medieval street pattern inside the wall is still there.
We found the Romanesque church – closed unfortunately but checked out the watch tower. A shame really as the church has the font in which Ferdinand was baptised and a few other things of interest – we had to suffice with just reading about them. This whole place felt really untouched by time, in fact the only clue we were in the 21st century was the string of gigantic wind turbines along the spine of the mountain range behind the town. The village seems to grow out of the hill and at the very top is the keep tower – all that remains of a 10th century fortress that once held the Christian line against the Moors.
We found the paradour just as we were leaving and decided to have lunch there. Steep steps to the entrance but gorgeous views and a lovely place – so peaceful. We (yet again) were the only customers and opted not to eat in the (very nice looking) restaurant but had sandwiches in the bar. Delicious with gorgeous garden views, we loved it here.
A short drive later and we were in Uncastillo, the second of the villages we wanted to visit. Parking up by the side of the road we just wandered here too. Not on a hill but equally untouched by time we again were the only people walking the streets. We found an impressive castle fortress with a keep from the 11th century, soaked up the views and the peace before driving back to Zaragoza.