Some years ago, when we did a roadtrip through Portugal, we stopped some days in Extremadura, as you already probably know. However, in our way from Barcelona to Extremadura we did another stop, during lunch time, that we had not explained yet. Once you cross the border between Catalonia and Spain, the landscape changes completely. We entered the Monegros desert, with almost no trees and basically small bushes dominating the landscape till the horizon. After Zaragoza, and following the A2 highway towards Madrid, the landscape is still desolate, with some green just at the bottom of the closed valleys between dry and rocky hills.
In the middle of that landscape, and after taking a local road towards the East, we found a gem, an oasis, the place where life is everywhere, water falls from every pore in the rock and a monastery reigns the location. The monastery was built during the transition from Romanesque to Gothic and monks lived there for more than 600 years. The monastery belonged to the Cistercian order, like other big monasteries built in the Aragon Kingdom with its capital in Barcelona. In this blog we have already written about this order and given you some examples like Poblet Monastery, where the Kings of Catalonia rest in peace and it is a World Heritage site. Also Santes Creus monastery, close to Poblet one, is part of Cister Route and is a must in any visit to Catalonia.
In fact, it was Alfonso II of Aragon who donated the castle of Piedra to the monks of Poblet to found another Cistercian abbey there. Between 1190 and 1196, 12 monks left the Catalan monastery to start the monastic life in Monasterio de Piedra. Today the old Abbey Church is in ruins due to the years of neglect that in the 19th century all the buildings of the complex suffered after the last Confiscation. From then until today, Piedra has become a first-class tourist destination. The acquisition of the buildings by the Muntadas family, the transformation of the Monastery into a Hotel and the new tourist uses that were given to the whole monastic complex have probably halted its degradation and preserved it in its current state. Listed as a National Monument on February 16, 1983 (today, Site of Cultural Interest in the category of Monument), Monasterio de Piedra is today one of the most amazing places in Europe.
Nowadays, the Monasterio de Piedra offers the possibility of organizing all kind of events, being a special beautiful place for weddings. You can also overnight there, enjoy the spa or just have a delicious lunch as we also did. But Monasterio de Piedra would not be such a gem, probably, without its surroundings, a completely oasis of water, green and life in the middle of the desert mountains. There is a nice walk among water streams, caves and waterfalls that should not be missed. It is like a game trying to find all the waterfalls of the park.
There are more than 20 different bird species in the area and children can also enjoy a show with prey birds. Its unusual geological configuration fed by the river Piedra creates a unique space with a surprising variety of flora and fauna. It was not a coincidence that the first fish farm in Spain was built here 150 years ago, at the heart of an extraordinarily wealthy biological ecosystem.
There are two magestic waterfall, La Caprichosa and Iris waterfalls. The first one is a very photogenic site and the second one can be seen also from inside the cave behind it. The access to the cave is at the top of the waterfall, and narrow and dark stairs go down through the rock till you find yourself watching the waterfall from behind.
After leaving the cave through another hole at the base of the Iris waterfall we did a round walk around the area, enjoying the Devil’s Rock, the cliffs and all the lakes. We encourage you to stop at Monasterio de Piedra in any roadtrip through Spain or just if you travel to or from Madrid to Barcelona by car. Due to the fact it is located in a middle point of the route it is a perfect stop for lunch.