Alquezar is a small town of about 300 people (2018) standing on the rocks in Aragon, north of Spain. It is in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Natural Park, and there are various campsites in the local area to cater to outdoor enthusiasts. Popular activities include canyoning, walking, rock climbing and abseiling, as well as ornithology (since vultures nest on the steep faces of the Rio Vero canyon).
The town looks very much like Poble Espanyol in Barcelona, but this time it's genuine old-time architecture, not an imitation.
Locals earn their living only by providing tourist services; no commercial agriculture is done in Alquezar. Many weekend travellers come to town for a relaxed stay among the rocks for old folks and beginner-level activities for families. Also there are daily bus excursions with old folks visiting Alquezar for several hours: tourists see the Collegiata, eat at the central square and leave. Excursion buses arrive at the central square. Weekday travelers are mainly French, with a few Belgians, Netherlanders and Italians mixed in.
The surrounding area to the south towards Barbastro, in the direction of the flatter Ebro basin, is part of the Somontano, an area known for its fine wines. There are more than 60 limestone caves with prehistoric cave paintings in the surrounding area, which has led to the region being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998. A good example is the cave at Arpán on the A-2205 road heading north towards Bárcabo.
Situated on a limestone outcrop of the Eocene age to the west of the canyon of the Rio Vero in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Natural Park, the village grew up around a castle and the Collegiate church of Santa Maria, which was consecrated in 1099.
The name of the village comes from the Arabic القصر al qaçr for "fort" or "castle" (renamed as Alcazar in Spanish). The castle became the main defence point of the nearby city of Barbastro.
Maps of the town are freely available in the tourist office and at several stands around the town. Most traveller-oriented businesses can be found on the map.
The town is small enough to be fully accessible by foot.
There are several free parking lots around the town. Some hotels have their own private parking space.
Stone pavements are not comfortable for those with high-heeled shoes or a child carriage, but alpine boots are not required either, unless you do some serious trekking.
- Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor. Same hours as in other museums of the city; closes at 19:30. Visitors should wait near the entrance for a guide to finish with current group and join the next one. Picturesque terrace with patio. €2 adults (includes a guided tour).
- City's striking clocks adding to feeling of living in a medieval town.
- Swim in a public pool (25 m) near La Marmita de Guara albergue
- Quad bikes. Operators:
- Guara Quad
- Via ferrata: much less popular than canyoning, advance reservation essential. Same operators as for canyoning.
- Walking treks along the Río Vero Canyon
- Birdwatching all year round but specially winter, when is easy to find wallcreepers on the cliffs around.
- Rock climbing: performed by Vertientes Adventura (see below) in the evenings and canyoning off-season, and by many other activities operators.
- see more in Aragon:Do.
- See also: Aragon:Do:Canyoning.
Alquezar is the main starting point for canyons in Aragon. Canyoning operators expect customers to drive by their own car from Alquezar to the start of canyon. Operators include:
- Vertientes Adventura, C/San Hipólito s/n (Albergue Casa Tintorero), ☏ , , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. until 21:00, March-Nov. More oriented towards experienced canyoners, compared to Avalancha. Progressive discounts for repeat customers (which are 70% of its clients base). Also offers multi-day multi-day packages..
- Avalancha, same as Hotel Santa Maria. June-Oct. More popular-sports oriented than Vertientes.
- Guias Boira.
The cheese made of sheep milk from the near town of Radiquero has won several prices.
Also there are several wineries in the region with the distinctive D.O. Somontano that is worth to try.
There's nothing unique to the town or region to be bought in Alquezar. Only chorizo sausages are worth buying as local souvenir (the same as elsewhere in Spain); cheese is made of sheep milk and is not really distinctive. Other local grocery items available are honey from Barbastro (many varieties up to Eucalyptus), and olive oil (as cheap as €30 for 5L).
Some local versions of Kukuxumusu are available.
- Alimentacion y Capnoceria (look for Tabacos sign). The food shop appears to be oriented towards locals, but the locals consider it extremely expensive and tourist-oriented. They head to Barbastro to buy food.
Restaurants and cafes
Stewed rabbit, partridge, and veal dishes are the best bet in most local restaurants.
- La Cocineta. Large portions. Good rabbit and duck main meal. A rare example of really good fried potato--very thin slices. Some will love the pork and bean soup, but it's not for everyone.
- La Marmita de Guara, Paseo Pilaseras (on the hill over the main street; off the beaten path), ☏ . Apr-Sept: opens at 21:00. Popular among local climbing and canyoning guides. Only by reservation if you're not staying at the hostel of the same name, which it shares a site with. Menu of the day €12-20.
- Meson del Vero (town's central square). Its popularity seems to be supported only by guidebook recommendations. The service is slow, prices in your bill may differ from menu, and it has poor gaspatxo. Only the Estofado Ternera is really good. The sangria tastes like a cold glintwein.
- Peña Amán, C/Arrabal, 22 (town's main square), ☏ . Probably the best restaurant among those on the main square. Large salads. Recommended dishes: gazpatxo; rivuelto (local variety of scrambled eggs) with garlic and prawns; veal steaks, both with Roquefort and a-la Pireneas. The red pepper in the dishes is typically pickled, not a fresh vegetable. Mains €5.80-14, soups €3.30-4.50, salads €3.80-6.50; starters €4.80-6.90.
- Narbona. The stewed lamb is good, while the fried variety is not. The paella a-la Navarra is quite large, but bad seafood makes it a dish to avoid. Menu del dia: €18 for two meals and desert; €15 for a more limited choice of dishes.
- Casa Gervasio. Restaurant serves only lunch, 13:30-16:00; bar-only the rest of the time. Most tables are on a small-and-cozy square in the depths of the old town, a dozen meters away from the restaurant's entrance. menu del dia €25-30, VAT included.
Sangria sometimes tastes like glintwein on the rocks, although it shouldn't by the traditional recipe. Wines from the region: D.O. Somontano
- La Marmita de Guara albergue, Paseo Pilaseras (on the hill over the main parking in the town; off the beaten path), ☏ . Popular with advanced climbers and others who come to Alquezar exclusively for activities. Open Apr to Sept.
- Villa de Alquezar. One of the top two hotels in the town. Spacious rooms, large private terraces, private parking, en-suite bathrooms with bidet, branded towels and single-use shampoos. Rooms #20-25 have a great view over the rocks. Rich variety for breakfast. Travelers mix: many families with children (esp. for weekends); mostly French. VAT included.
- Hotel Santa-Maria, ✉ email@example.com. Another of the top two hotels in the town.
- Casa Mercedes, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Nice, extremelly clean and cheap local host house. There are three rooms with a bathroom and a terrace to share. Good views of the Castle and cliffs.
- Camping Alquezar, Ctra Barbastro s/n, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. The only camping in the town.
Although the town is a base camp for multiple types of outdoor activities, it has no resident doctor or hospital. Outdoor activity operators advise travellers to head to Barbastro which has a national hospital.