Spanish Gems: Monasterio de Piedra

Every country has attractions that don't always make the list of blockbuster sights (thankfully).  One magical, marvelous place we discovered before a visit to Spain several years ago was Monasterio de Piedra.  It is a Parque Natural in the province of Zaragoza, near NuĂ©valos.  As the name suggests, not only is it a natural park, but also a monastery (and hotel, too).  We stayed in the monastery, which is full of long, tile-floored hallways and austere but not-uncomfortable rooms.

There is also a small exhibit on monastic life there (a little bit cheesy), but the real wow-factor is in the natural park itself.  My poor husband was under the weather with a case of the flu, so I took off to tour the park alone.

Never have I seen more waterfalls in one place than here.  Incredible does not even begin to describe this place.  I took a copious amount of photos, hoping to share with him what he'd missed seeing (thankfully, he was able to go himself the next morning).

The waterfalls start out lovely, even sedated.  I took paths that meandered along creeks and the woodside.  It was easy to imagine this as a place where monks could wander the grounds and meditate; I sure could.  Then gradually, I  began to get hints of more amazing things.

A stairway alongside this beauty.  My oh my.  (Of course, I need to re-visit as some of my images were blurry).

Water seems to be tucked into every little nook and cranny of this place.  Sometimes even the unassuming hillsides made me pause and marvel.

Then I started to get a sense of something really big.
I began to descend a bit, and walked behind the biggest waterfall, Cola de Caballo, which I could only glimpse through openings in the rock.

I kept winding down stairs, with occasional glimpses outside, and then emerge in a cave.

 Cool and lovely, damp and lots of mist.  Slightly anti-climactic.  But then once I realized just what I was behind, and emerged from the cave, and walked just a little way along through the park, I was  rewarded with this amazing view.

See the little folks there at the left, and the steps, and the tiny windows looking out over the falls?

We have traveled all across Spain, almost from one corner to another, over the last decade.  But Monasterio de Piedra remains one of the places closest to my heart that we have visited there.

This park is an absolute gem.

It was an interesting experience for me doing some solo sightseeing.  I hadn't done that for years, maybe since I took a bus to Birmingham, England once while my husband was working in a town not far away.  I'm sure I paused longer at some things than I would have otherwise, but then I also am sure I missed seeing things he would have pointed out.

What under-the-radar places  have you discovered traveling?  Have you done solo sightseeing before?