Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Aragon's most popular tourist attraction, The Monasterio de Piedra is a wonderful day out in the country. Stunning waterfalls, trout feeding, bird of prey displays and the little known story of the introduction of chocolate to Europe all lie in wait.
The Monasterio de Piedra or Stone Monastery is a hidden valley temple atop a seam of lush parks and mountain streams. The streams become waterfalls that cascade over mountain rock to feed a tranquil lake and trout farm. It is also in the driest part of the most arid region of Spain. A place of contradiction and deep introspection, it is justifiably the most visited place in Aragon.
To get to Nuevalos, where the Monastery is located, from the city of Zaragoza will take you around an 1hr
and 20 minutes and is itself an interesting journey along the A2 motorway cutting through the desert and escalating into mountainous ridges. There is also a bus that leaves from the Delicias train station, Zaragoza at 09:00 returning at 17:00.
The public have rated the park and Monastery ‘excellent’ with over 2,500 5 star reviews on tripadvisor. Understandably it can get very busy during high season, but is most definitely a highlight of any visit to the region.
The Monastery was founded in 1194 by Alfonso II of Aragon, built on the ruins of a Muslim fortress. Muslim settlements would often be established in the lowlands, close to water as they depended upon agriculture. This forced the Catholics onto higher ground and explains the monasteries and other buildings fretting the mountainous regions.
The location thrived under the Cistercian Monks who enjoyed the naturally protected and beautiful environment, building a trout farm in the spring fed waters and carving and developing a network of tunnels and caves that weave through the surrounding rock faces. The trout farm is still thriving and you can buy a bag of food to chuck in their faces for €1 at the entrance.
Certainly, one of the most impressive sights is the stone stairwell that leads into the mountainside, you descend into the caves at the base of the waterfall which breaks onto a plateau, here a tunnel leads you to a beautiful lake. The Monks may have been drunk, but they were not stupid, the ‘mirror lake’ which is full of hungry trout is ridiculously beautiful and resonates with a sense of tranquility.
The park has two wild bird displays during the day, if you miss them it is worth going to visit the birds whether you’re with children or an adult that failed to grow up.
We recommend you start with the park, as this is the larger part of the experience and unwind with a stroll around the Monastery. The Monastery was home to some very industrious Monks and there are fascinating displays detailing the wine and spirit production, agricultural development and how they introduced chocolate to Europe. Yes, the humble monks of this relatively unknown place played a significant role in the development and distribution of the chocolate we enjoy today. Wine, Spirits, trout farming and chocolate, perhaps they maintained their isolation for a good reason.
The park and Monastery are open from 10:00 until 19:00. It is a full day out, the park requires a lot of footwork, so either take a packed lunch and enjoy one of the many beautiful eating areas or go to the onsite restaurant. Alternatively, The Hotel Las Truchas restaurant just outside the park does a rustic menu del dia including three courses and a drink for only €14. The perfect way to end a full, photographic and entertaining day out.
Tickets include access to the park and Monastery and are €16 for adults or €11 for children and seniors. Book at least 24 hours in advance online to get a 10% discount.
Call 976 87 07 00
Calle Afueras, s/n, 50210 Nuévalos, Zaragoza
Visit the Monasterio de Piedra website for full details.