Earlier on day three our trip up to Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido was kind of a bust, but we did see some cool things along the way. With half a day left we set out to find some more cool things, and headed southeast toward Parque Natural de la Sierra y Cañones de Guara (Natural Park of the Mountain and Canyons of Guara) near Huesca.
In Spain it seems that “natural parks” are of similar designation to “national parks” but with a different goal. Both preserve and protect natural features yet have two key differences. National parks here seem to emphasize the visitation of superlative natural wonders by the public, much like national parks in the United States. Natural parks, in contrast, seem to emphasize the preservation of the environment for native organisms, much like wildlife refuges in the United States.
While the interpretive sign south of Arcusa suggested everything from Peregrine Falcons to jackrabbits and snakes, the only real wildlife we saw on our brief visit was this bird of prey perched on a power pole:
Near this spot we stopped to take a few pictures and a couple of local puppies came running up to us out of nowhere. After loving on them for a bit we moved on.
While wild animals proved elusive here, the scenery did not. Further south we stopped and hiked a bit at Vero Canyon.
This was one of the most gorgeous spots on our trip through the Pyrenees. Here the Rio Vero has carved a deep gorge through limestone deposited during the Eocene Epoch (56-34 millions years ago). The lush, aromatic evergreen foliage provided a stark contrast against the pale rock walls.
This stretch of Spain was much more than natural features. As with much of this part of the country, historic buildings and ruins littered the landscape.
The village of Lecina was of particular interest. The first thing that caught our attention was the old church near the center of town.
Like many rural Spanish towns the ancient streets here were barely wide enough for a single car, making travel interesting.
The rich green trees and flowers against the historic architecture made the visit worthwhile, however.
As we headed south and passed through Alquézar, we came upon the majestic Puente L’Albarda.
This medieval foot bridge over Rio Vero was built in the thirteenth century, and its solid construction (along with periodic maintenance) has helped it last for centuries.
With our trip through the Pyrenees Mountains of northern Spain near an end, we headed back to Barcelona for our flight back to Michigan. Before we left, however, we made sure to do one touristy thing and visit the area around the famous landmark of La Sagrada Família.
Designed by celebrated Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudí, this basilica has been under continuous construction since 1882. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Spanish Property of Cultural Interest, this massive and ornate church isn’t scheduled to be completed until nearly 2030.
Although my wife and I got to see a lot of fascinating things in our three days in northern Spain, it wasn’t nearly enough time to really explore the region. We were originally scheduled to have four days here, but our flight was canceled and we lost an entire day. Although that additional time would have been welcome, it still wouldn’t have allowed us to even begin to fully appreciate this exotic and wonderful country.