Visiting Daroca, in the province of Zaragoza, means enjoying a unique spa experience. Its facilities gained fame in the period of Isabel II and now, revitalised, they continue to offer options such as bathing in winter in an outdoor lake, with temperature around 32º C. If this weren't enough, the region of Daroca is full of medieval remains and charming villages.
19th century spas, brought up to date
Thirty and forty-five kilometres away, respectively, from the town of Daroca, sulphur waters await us in two spas created in the 19th century.
The Paracuellos del Jiloca spa is the oldest in Aragon. It was built in 1848 and recently renovated. Respecting its essence, it conserves the original furniture and decoration and it is fitted out with the most advanced hydrotherapy technology.
The second, Termas Pallarés, in Alhama de Aragón, is surrounded by almost seventy thousand square metres of woods and gardens which surround a natural thermal lake, unique in Europe. Its temperature of 32º centigrade is constant both in the winter and the summer, so that it is possible to take a dip in it during any period of the year.
The hotel was a casino during the last century and famous people still go there, such as the writer José Luis Sampedro. It also has a gastroteca where signature cuisine dominates.
The imposing town walls of Daroca
Very close to the spa area, Daroca was one of the obligatory stops of the court or its dignitaries between Madrid and Barcelona. Four kilometres of city walls almost intact, which follow the course of the river Jiloca, are the testimony of its importance. Beyond the walls, the village is surrounded by vineyards and cereal fields.
They were founded by the Iberians, and later, the Arabs made them their own for over 400 years. The layout is winding, since the town climbs little by lithe through the San Cristóbal and San Jorge mountains. Climbing upwards, we find streets with names as curious as Traición (Treachery) or Rey destronado (Dethroned king). A true parade of Mozarabic, Gothic and Baroque art.
Further information: http://www.comarcadedaroca.com/
A patisserie with a long tradition
Strolling through Daroca, you must look for an old zuquerería or patisserie from 1874, one of the oldest in the country. This is the home of theMuseo de la Pastelería Manuel Segura (Manuel Segura Patisserie Museum) , run by the family who established the shop six generations back.
In a traditional baker, delicacies such as baturricos dark chocolate truffle sweets, are prepared, touched with the typical cachirulo (neckerchief).
The favourite lagoons of migratory birds
And since we are in Daroca, it is well worth while making a small effort and travelling about twenty kilometres by car to a plain thousand metres above sea level.
We are talking about the Laguna de Gallocanta, a wetland which is a wildlife refuge of international importance. Due to being highly salty, the lagoon has no fish, although there are plenty of birds. Up to two hundred different species have been observed.
Strategic enclave in the migratory route of cranes, it is of particular interest between the first weekend in November and the first in February when they arrive and leave.
Close by, there are also other lagoons such as La Zaida, ideal for a romantic sunset.
Suggestions on where to eat
Still without leaving the region, half an hour by car from Daroca we come to Cariñena, famous for its wine. The main character of the play La venganza de don Mendo, critisises it when he loses a crucial hand of Sette e mezzo due to having drunk too much.
The land, hard and clayey, gives grape varieties such as white and black garnacha. Also juan ibáñez, from the same family as the Somontano moristel.
These wines are ideal to go with the Aragonese cuisine in the restaurant La Rebotica (c/ San José 3, tel.: 976 620 556. Cariñena), with its black pudding lasagne or cheese bonbon migas (bread crumbs). The Gastroteca de las Termas Pallarés is also worth visiting (Avda. Constitución 20, tel.: 902 930 938), managed by the prize-winning chef Juan Morales.
Acknowledgements: © Comarca Campo de Daroca. Balneario Termas de Pallares spa. Balneario de Paracuellos de Jiloca spa. Piedra de Nuévalos Monastery.