About Cascadas del Monasterio de Piedra
The Monasterio de Piedra (Stone Monastery) was a natural park that featured countless waterfalls.
In fact, we were so overwhelmed by the sheer number of waterfalls that were flowing throughout the park, that we ended up with waterfall fatigue by the end of our visit.
Indeed, we thought of this place like a mini-Plitvice, where we’d encounter one waterfall after another.
Some of the waterfalls (like the one you see pictured above) were so impressive that even if the park didn’t feature so many waterfalls, we could’ve been satisfied just with one or two of the major ones.
Of course, overdelivering on waterfalls wasn’t the only thing this place had going for it.
It also featured an extensive garden, a mirror lake flanked by red cliffs, deep and dripping caves, and let’s not forget the namesake monastery giving this place some historic credibiilty!
It even had some playgrounds for the little ones (like our four-year-old daughter) to be occupied!
This place seemingly had it all!
Waterfalls Galore at the Monasterio de Piedra
Thanks to the sheer number of waterfall sightings at Monasterio de Piedra, Julie, Tahia, and I wound up spending nearly four hours at the park (much longer than we had anticipated).
Unfortunately, we had neither the time nor the energy to keep the visit going with a tour into the monastery here.
Probably the biggest reason why we knew so little about this place going into this trip was that none of the major guidebooks adequately covered the Monasterio de Piedra.
Prior to our visit in early July 2015, it wasn’t in LP nor Rick Steves, and it only got a generic paragraph or two in DK with neither a photo nor a map.
That said, we’ll describe how we did the visit just to give you an idea of what a typical waterfalling visit here might entail.
Our route pretty much followed the tourist map included with the admission, which numbered the sights in the order you should do the self-guided tour.
Experiencing Monasterio de Piedra – Waterfalls at the Garden Area
After paying for our admission tickets, we then followed a paved walkway downhill into a garden area called El Vergel de Juan Federico Muntadas.
We passed through this garden and headed right towards our first waterfalls, which were actually a lower tier of something larger.
It was the Baño de Diana (Diana’s Bath), which was at the base of a pair of segmented waterfalls.
Just upstream from these waterfalls, we could catch a glimpse of a much larger waterfall mostly hidden between trees.
As we walked along the stream to our left, we would pass by a bridge that would take us right to the lookout for that larger waterfall called the Cascada La Caprichosa (the waterfall you see pictured at the top of this page).
However, the self-guided tour had us continue walking upstream along the stream past the Lago de los Patos (Lake of the Ducks), then cross before the Cascada Trinidad, which had a graceful characteristic about it.
Beyond the Trinity Waterfall, we then passed by a series of grottos called the Gruta de la Pantera, Gruta de la Bacante, and Gruta del Artista.
Just before climbing up the steps nearest to the last cave, we then spent some time at the lookout for the Cascada La Caprichosa.
Apparently, just about every visitor to the Monasterio de Piedra would be compelled to check out this well-developed lookout area, especially given the size of this falls.
After climbing up the series of steps alongside the Cascada La Caprichosa and above the grottos, we were then deposited at a lookout at the very brink of the Cascada La Caprichosa.
It was difficult to get a clean look at the waterfall from up here given the overgrowth, but the view downstream at the tree-clad garden below was impressive.
Then, we followed the trail upstream before crossing the bridge spanning the width of the creek at a series of cascades called Los Vadillos.
On the other side of the bridge, we then followed the creek downstream towards Los Fresnos Altos and Los Fresnos Bajos.
These were cascades with grace that tumbled alongside the descending path.
It was almost as if one side of the descending steps always featured a waterfall wall throughout most of its descent!
At the very bottom of the descent was the Cascada Iris.
It appeared that the Fresnos and the Cascada Iris might have gotten some help from a little water channeling so they weren’t totally natural from what I could tell.
I had observed that their watercourse seemed to be “well-behaved” in that the stream never crossed the footpath unless it was under a bridge or along the aforementioned water channel.
Anyways, once we were at the base of Cascada Iris, we were at a junction where it seemed like we had a choice of where to go next.
However, in sticking with the numerology on the map, we next went to the Gruta Iris.
Experiencing Monasterio de Piedra – a Horse’s Tail, a Cave, and a Mirro Lake
The Gruta Iris route skirted the top of the Cola de Caballo (Horse’s Tail), which was a gushing waterfall.
The trail then went on a descent alongside the drop of the waterfall before entering a cave right behind the waterfall.
The travertine steps were along a combination of dark grotto lit up by artificial light and partial alcoves lit up by natural daylight.
Once we made it to the bottom of the descent, we were literally behind the misty base of the Cola de Caballo in a rather damp and dripping cave.
There was a spur trail that went further back into the cave where it took us to a ledge that looked back out towards the base of the Cola de Caballo for a very surreal photo opportunity (provided you can do long exposure shots).
We then left the cave along a long tunnel that ultimately deposited us in a calm garden area.
Keeping right along the stream, we then crossed a bridge where just on the other side of it was a mirador peering back at the entirety of the Cola de Caballo.
It seemed like this waterfall was at least 60m or taller in height.
Since the canyon at the base of the falls was confined, the waterfall’s mist had nowhere to go but out towards the mirador.
Thus, we could even feel the spray from Cola de Caballo even though we were a fair distance downstream of it!
Next, we followed the stream downhill towards what appeared to be trout ponds at Las Pesqueras Centro de Piscicultura.
There were numerous trouts in these ponds, and we wondered if they were there to be raised and cultivated for food, or if they were just for show or education.
Just beyond the ponds, we then followed the stream some more as we found ourselves at the Lago de Espejo (Mirror Lake).
As the name suggested, the lake featured an incredibly calm and reflective lake surrounded by tall red cliffs.
One side of the cliffs was actually a tall mountain called Peña del Diablo, which provided a colorful contrast to the clear green water below.
This part was definitely a photographer’s dream due to the reflections, but it also served as a refreshing contrast of silence since we had been inundated with the sound of rushing water throughout our visit until now.
The Lago de Espejo stretch then started to give way to a garden area as it curved back around towards an ascending trail that would eventually lead back up to the exit of the cave at the head of the Cola de Caballo.
Prior to the ascent, there was an old house that was said to be from the 1870s that was still in the process of being restored.
There was also the Fuente del Señor, which was a spring.
The next part of the trail involved some uphill walking, but just before we had to do that, there was a Zona de Descanso (Rest Area).
At the rest area, there was a playground that thrilled our daughter while Julie and I got to relax for a little bit.
Experiencing Monasterio de Piedra – The Remaining Waterfalls
Next, we ascended alongside more cascades weaving through dense vegetation until we would eventually get up to the Cascada de los Chorreaderos.
This seemed like an extensive fern-fringed waterfall stopping short of spilling onto the trail.
Actually, it was tumbling towards the trail before flowing alongside and then under it.
It appeared as if this was another act of water engineering for the trail to coexist with the falls (similar to what we saw at Los Fresnos Altos and Los Fresnos Bajos earlier on).
Once we passed across this waterfall, we then passed through a long tunnel that eventually deposited us back to the base of the Cascada Iris and the entrance to the Gruta Iris again.
Finally, we passed before the Cascada Iris and followed the path past the Gruta de la Carmela.
Then, we passed before the lone Cascada Sombria before climbing back up past the Cuatro Calles area where we could partially see the hotel and monastery exterior.
Ultimately, beyond the Cuatro Calles, we then returned to the park exit and quad area, where the strategically-placed cafes and restaurants were waited to accept tired souls having just completed this walk.
Reflecting on the Monasterio de Piedra Experience
Since we didn’t do the monastery, we can’t comment more on it.
But just the fact that we took four hours to visit just the natural part of the Monasterio de Piedra, and the map showed there was still a bit more to explore in the monastery part of the complex, we very easily could’ve spent an entire day here.
In fact, this could be the reason why there was a hotel and spa here.
After all, it would be possible to experience this place at a more leisurely pace.
We saw something similar to this at the Alhambra in Granada since that complex was so extensive that it probably made sense to spend the night just to more fully appreciate the place without the long drive to get here eating into the visitation time.
Speaking of peaceful conditions, while the Monasterio de Piedra park was busy, it didn’t feel like an overwhelming crush like other popular tourist spots in Spain.
In fact, it seemed like we were one of the few non-Spanish foreigners in the park, and I suspect this might have something to do with the relative lack of coverage from the major guidebooks.
Still, it was well known amongst the Spanish and tour bus routes so certainly this place was not like a hidden secret.
The Monasterio de Piedra resides near the town of Nuévalos near the city and province of Zaragoza, Spain. It is administered by the Monasterio de Piedra. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Although the nearest major city to the Monasterio de Piedra was probably Zaragoza, we actually drove up here from Madrid.
In both cases, the key was to first get to the town of Nuévalos before continuing onto this attraction.
Driving from Madrid to Monasterio de Piedra
We’ll start with our route from Madrid since that was how we went here.
First, we found our way out of the maze of city streets in Madrid until we got to the A-2 (Autovía del Nordeste).
We’d follow the A-2 for about 186km, where we then took the offramp to get onto the N-IIA towards Alhama de Aragón.
Once we passed through the town, we then took the A-2502 for the next 8.5km before keeping right to go onto the A-1501 by the Embalsa de la Tranquera (a reservoir).
We then followed the A-1501 for about 2km before keeping left to go onto the A-2503 towards Nuévalos.
After about 4.5km, we’d get into the town of Nuévalos, where we’d then follow the A-202 for the last 3km (by now there were signs pointing the way to Monasterio de Piedra) to the car park.
Overall, this drive took us about 2.5 hours.
Driving from Zaragoza to Monasterio de Piedra
If we were coming from Zaragoza, we would take the A-2 west towards Calatayud (roughly 72km).
Once in Calatayud, we’d then take the A-202 for about 26km towards Nuévalos, then keep on the A-202 for the last 3km to the car park for Monasterio de Piedra.
For overall geographical context, Zaragoza was 314km (over 3 hours drive or about 90 minutes by AVE train) northeast of Madrid, 312km (about 3 hours drive or 2 hours by AVE train) west of Barcelona, 303km (about 3 hours drive) southeast of Bilbao, and 308km (3 hours drive) north of Valencia.
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