Things to do around Mas del Encanto and in Matarranya
Matarranya has a lot to offer for everyone. From tapas with vermut in a picturesque village to hiking in the mountains, and from Aragonese cuisine to extreme sports; you'd have to stay here for months to try it all.
If you're just here for the day, these are a few of the many options...
Hiking, sports and adventure
Hiking is the number one activity around here. From here, you can go see our neighbours at Nuestra Posada (30mins walk), visit the Ermita de Santa Rosa (just opposite the road), walk a bit of the Via Verde or just go for a stroll in the almond fields and vineyard. Or you can take the car to the start of a hiking trail: from here, it's about 10 minutes to the first parking lot in Els Ports National Park (Catalan side). We think the most beautiful walk around here is El Parrisal - it's about 25 minutes drive to the parking lot on the Aragonese side of the national park, called Los Puertos de Beceite.
You can also take it up a notch, and book a walk with GeoPixel Beceite; their guide Bruno Duran can take you on a hike or a 4x4 ride to shoot ibex (mountain goats) or vultures (with a camera, of course!). There's more - you can book tours and activities or rent bikes with MatarranyAventura in Cretas or Montsport in Horta. From archery to paintball, from canyoning to geocaching; there is rock climbing and speleology as well, with several clubs in the area.
We also love the vulture observatory, Mas de Buñol: every morning at 9 o'clock, Jose Ramon (aka Buitreman) feeds hundreds of vultures (and sometimes eagles and others as well) with leftovers from the local slaughterhouse. For a fee, you can witness this from behind glass, and it's pretty impressive.
And let's not forget horse riding; the closest "hipica" is Hipica dels Ports in Cretas (5 mins). Just a bit further from here (25 mins) but in English, there's Establo de Crystal. Both offer "à la carte" horse riding; whether it's just for an hour or 2, half a day, a full day or even a several days trek.
You can go swimming; our favourite spots are the natural swimming spot at the river Algars, just across the border towards Horta de Sant Joan (10 mins drive, 45 mins walk), the embalsa de Pena has stone beaches and a stunning view (30 mins drive), or you can go to the more remote "les Olles" where the Canaletes river has shaped several swimming basins in the rocks (40 mins, drive).
The Via Verde can be found all across Spain; parts of the old railroads have been remodelled into a hiking / biking / horse riding trail. The closest access is about 10 minutes walk from our land; going right you can go for a drink at the old station of Cretas, go towards Valderrobres or even further up towards Alcañiz. Going left you'll pass the aforementioned swimming spot at the river Algars, and from there it's slightly downhill through the Els Ports mountains to Tortosa. You can do this (or a part of it) by foot, or you can rent a bike (see links at the bottom) - the company will pick you up at a spot of your choice on the Via Verde.
If you're willing to go a bit further, you could spend your day at the Ebro Delta. It's about an hours ride from here, and certainly worth the visit (maybe a day trip?) - rice fields and flamingos, watch towers and rowing boats, water sports, and of course there's beaches. There's more beaches up and down the coast from there as well - there are several nice spots to relax and go for the day (or half a day) at less than an hour from here.
Places to visit
When visiting the area, don't expect big museums or impressively decorated Scottish castles - we're quite remote so everything is a bit different. The castles are just as big though; we have Valderrobres castle nearby (15 mins), and a ticket to the castle will also give you access to the church and museum. The old town in Valderrobres also has a lovely town square with bars... sit down and have some tapas with local vermut or a nice cold beer.
The castle of Miravet is a bit further (30 mins - this town is also known for its pottery) and last but not least there's the fortress and surrounding old town of Morella which makes for a wonderful excursion (1h from here).
Horta de Sant Joan is a cool place to visit, and not only because it's got such a beautiful old town centre (and plenty of cosy bars) - it has a Picasso Center (as Picasso lived there for a while), the San Salvador convent on the Santa Barbara mountain is a nice place to visit, and you can also hike up the Santa Barbara while you're there (it's got stunning views). Lo Parrot is the eldest olive tree around here - it might be the only one left of its species.
There are many more small spots to discover, in and around the many beautiful villages. We think Cretas is the prettiest village around here, but Valderrobres and Calaceite seem to make it into the "prettiest towns in Spain" lists quite often.
Bars & Restaurant
There are so many bars and restaurants around here, it would just be too much to list them all - or even to list all of the ones we like. Here's a shortlist of mostly the ones close by; of course we can advise you when you're looking for something in another village.
Most restaurants offer a "menu del dia", comprised of a Primero (mostly veggies), a Secundo (mostly meat or fish) and a dessert. Wine and water are always included; sometimes soda and coffee are as well. If you're vegetarian, you can ask your waiter to prepare you 2 primeros without meat nor fish. Menu del dia often costs around € 11,- on week days, and around € 18,- during weekends.
Our favourite restaurant in Cretas is Kiku's living room restaurant Ca La Serreta. His wife Christina prepares local dishes (sometimes with a twist) to perfection, and the atmosphere is so good we keep coming back. At La Era, we love the terrace (the view is astonishing) and the service is lovely, and there's a variety of menus. Cretas also has several bars (including the old train station and the hipica, both of which are outside the village center); all have a different atmosphere and tapas menu.
Lledo is the smallest village around here; it does have a tiny restaurant though. There's also a bar (it just opened last summer) with a sports field next to it, and so far we've enjoyed going there. It's the perfect spot to stop for a drink after a swim in the river.
Horta has countless bars, and quite a few restaurants. We like eating at Hotel Miralles; it's big, but service is always excellent, and the cook certainly knows what he's doing. The family of our favourite butchers in Horta also have a restaurant on the way to Prat de Comte; Venta la Parra works mainly with local and fresh produce, and they have traditional dishes that are worth tasting.
Valderrobres (being the capital of the Matarraña region) has plenty of bars and restaurants. We like Baudilio, Fonda Angeleta and Fonda la Plaza, or a "plato combinado" (just a quick meal) at Pipin's. For tapas, we love either Casino or La Cabaña.
Fiestas & Ferias
The locals sure know how to party... every village has its week of fiestas (village celebrations) - from bull running to late night (or early morning) ballroom dancing, from the Disco Movil to foam parties, from firework devils to dressing up, from concerts to competitions, the fiesta week is filled with fun things to do. Most of those are between July and September.
Outside of the high season, there is a feria (a festival or market) somewhere every other weekend. Take your pick between the Aguardiente (moonshine) Festival in Prat de Compte, where every villager with a still invites you in for a taste (second weekend of October); the medieval market & wine festival in Cretas (weekend before Easter); the artisans festival in Rafales (in November), the yearly fair in Valderrobres (early May), the Mushroom festival in Beceite (end of October), the Garden & local produce fair in Fuentespalda (1st of May); the Most festival in Horta (end of September); and I'm sure there are many more worth going to.
There are other events as well, like the Rally of Catalunya that comes through Arens de Lledo each year (middle of October), the MotoGP in Alcañiz (end of September). Then there's regional or national "saint days" that are celebrated in almost all villages, like San Jordi (characterised by the book and flea markets), San Anton (with a big fire to roast stuff on, and special wintery beverages), the Fiestas del Pilar in and around Zaragoza, Santa Agueda (women's day) and many, many more.
Click here for a list (and dates) of the upcoming fiestas & ferias in the region!
If you've had enough of small villages and long hikes, you can always count on a city trip for a change. Tortosa and Alcañiz with their churches and pretty buildings are less than 45 minutes drive - or you could take the bus there. Our favourite city around here is Tarragona (1h30); it has many Roman buildings (temples, forums, a circus, an amphitheater, an aquaduct, and lots of underground excavations and museums) and a great atmosphere. It's also on the beach, and very close to Reus; we sometimes stay in Tarragona if we have an early plane to catch in Reus. There's Zaragoza as well (1h45); the church of Pilar is impressive and the city centre is quite pretty - we go there for the mega shopping center which features our "local" Ikea, Cortes Ingles, Leroy Merlin and many other mega stores. Barcelona, Valencia and Teruel are both a little over 2 hours by car from here; it can be a destination for a 1 day city trip (although it's probably more relaxing to stay overnight).
Stay at "home"
To us, the ultimate vacation is to just stay at home. You can stay here all day, sitting on the balcony, lounging in the galeria or sitting against a tree with a good book or an iPad (we have free and unlimited wifi). We can provide you with a lunch package, as we only serve hot meals at night (6 nights a week in summer). We have a honesty bar, which means you have access to all kinds of drinks (and some fruit) for a fair price all day.
If you'd like, we can offer you the chance to experience life on the farm; from helping out in the vegetable garden or with the chickens to a visit to a nearby petting zoo with goats, pigs, ponies, more (fancier) chickens and sheep - or maybe even a wine making workshop or some wine tasting. More information about workshops and immersion holidays can be found on the Simple Living Holidays page.