To me, Aragón is many things.
To most people, Aragón = Mountains & snow sports.
Let’s be real, I big heart the Pyrenees more than anything else on this great Peninsula, however, Aragón is full of magic that often goes unlooked or unrecognized. After living in Barcelona and Bilbao, I was resistant to move to the pueblo permanently; I dismissed the high desert-like landscape before even giving it any attention or consideration. Turns out that south of the Pyrenees, Aragón is an endless treasure trove of secret nooks and wondrous surprises that will tickle every visitor’s fancy. And as the cherry on top, the people of this great province are some of the most special in all the land. Inviting, inclusive and great conversationalists.
Should you find yourselves on the A2 Madrid-Barcelona motorway, passing through Calatayud (Zaragoza), I strongly suggest you stay a day, or at least an afternoon so you can enjoy some fanciful hours swimming your heart out and rejuvenating yourself from the outside-in. I strongly suggest you take a pit stop at Europe’s second largest thermal lake, Lago Termal Alhama de Aragón.
2 hectares of thermal, spring water which maintains a temperature between 28ºC and 32ºC (80-90ºF) all year round. Swim, float, dangle those exhausted tootsies in the crystalline waters and let the fish feast on your dermis–because you like the feeling or because it’ll make a great Instagram post. Either way you can’t go wrong. Take a stroll around the perimeter (1 km circular path) of the lake at sunset, enjoy the contrasts of green, green and more green.
The lake opens in the morning, I think at 10 am! And in summer closes at 8 pm. You can’t picnic inside but here are my three suggestions for food: The easiest and eco-friendly option is to take a stroll through town and eat wherever feels right for you. Another typical option is head back towards the motorway and eat at “Los Conductores” an inexpensive menú del día option with decent home cookings. 12€ per person. My favorite option is the true Spanish experience. BBQ. And you don’t even have to lift a finger. All you have to do is order a drink and magically, BBQ’d pancetta, chorizo, sausage, black pudding or wings will appear. OK, you have to buy the meat ahead of time. Let me explain: a short 20km drive from the thermal lake there is yet another (public) lake, called “La Tranquera”. And on its shore sits a picnic and BBQ bar, “Merendero Los Cañizos.” They fire up the embers and will BBQ your meat for you so long as you order drinks. They offer shaded, outdoor seating and it’s truly a lovely experience. You can find it on the map here. If the group wants beer, be sure to order a “porrón” and pass that sh*t around!
Back to the lake, it’s open year round, and words cannot even begin to describe its beauty in winter. Cold air, hot water, epic combo. But summer is not to be outdone so easily. There are two islands connected by bridges where you can lay out all day.
It’s not free. But there are options for every wallet.
Full day = 20,50€
Half day = 11€
*half day starts at 3 pm
BUT! If you purchase your tix online, you’ll save 11€ on the full-day fare if you go with a friend. There are various discounts on the page, the 30€ for two persons lake-only entrance is the last option (Bono Regalo, Lago Termal, 2 personas sin alojamineto).
There are various hotels surrounding the lake and garden areas. And again, with options for every wallet. Behind the Dorne-like gardens, there is a refurbished 5* hotel which is usually booked with an entrance to the spa (apart from the lake), and nearby there is a 3* option.