An easy scenic drive and day trip from Valencia or Teruel
Surprises happen here. Life has been going on here since before Christ’s birth and so, as with any old country, little treasures just appear here and there without warning. Today was one of those treasure hunts, a drive without a destination, an idea that turned out to be better than expected.
Part 1: Getting to Montanejos
Between the A-23 and Montanejos, you’ll be driving on the CV-195, a curvy road through a gorgeous landscape. It’s a bit hard on the stomach if you’re sitting in the back of the car or get car sick easily, so be aware of that if taking children.
You’ll pass through both Caudiel and Montan. It’s in this section betwen the two villages that you’ll find this old fountain and several places to pull off the road and take pictures of the views.
Montanejos is a small village known for the warm mineral springs that surround it. A spa town, there is an abundance of senior tourists here partaking in the therapeutic/healing baths.
It is evident that the town once enjoyed a bit of prosperity. Large orchards (masias) still exist on the plateau above the town which is littered with the bedraggled remains of palacial homes. The tranquil Mijares river runs around it, clear and shallow with large schools of fish visible from the bridge.
The town itself is fairly quiet, but pretty. Here you can visit the 18th C. Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apostol, the 17th C Chapel of the Virgen de los Desamparados, and enjoy some of the fountains and ceramic plaques hidden among the streets of the town.
Walk across the old San Jose bridge that leads from the old part of town to a path continues up the mountain to an old castle ruin. The bridge was built in 1803 over what was then the Montan river. Now a dry bed, the bridge still stands connecting the two hills. It’s called the San Jose Bridge-Aquaduct because a small irrigation channel within takes water to the small pueblo of La Alqueria nearby. Two ceramic panels in the center show paintings of the Virgen of the Dispossessed on one and San Jose on the other.
The hotel Rosaleda Del Mijares on the right as you leave town serves decent food in its bar. I had this sandwich there with steak, ham, and caramelized onions. It’s simple food, but really quite delicious.
Part 3: The Mijares river views
When leaving the pueblo towards the north, the road splits. Take the CV-20 to the left following the signs towards the Embalse and La Fuente de los Baños.
This is the section of road that hugs the Mijares river at various altitudes providing spectacular views. If there’s a place to park along side the road, stop and look. It’s bound to be amazing.
There’s a small green sign here that says “La Fuente de los Baños“with a scribble of graffiti over it. A little trail leads down the hill and a small sign on the side of it points to where Arab baths were in the 13th century. At the bottom of the hill there’s the fountain, the rock walls, and a shallow pool of crystal clear aqua water.
This is the most beautiful swimming hole I’ve ever seen. The water is shallow fairly warm coming from a natural thermal spring that remains at 25 ºC all year. Almost 150 years ago in 1863, these thermal waters were declared a public utility by a royal order.
There is no food permitted here in this area, but just beyond is a small playground for kids and a water slide. Just a bit further near another pool of water is a small area with picnic tables.
The road elevates from the fuentes winding up the side of the mountain while the chasm below gets deeper. There’s a turn-off just before this one with a dam up ahead, but the trail is blocked and leads nowhere. This turnoff just before you enter the tunnel is stunning, but a bit dangerous. I wouln’t let small children out of the car nor adults who are terribly afraid of heights. The view from the edge is worth it, but the drop-off is sudden with no fences to block your misstep.
If your car is small enough, you can park two more times inside the tunnel itself to admire the view from there or you can just jog there from this place and wave from the tunnel.
There are a couple small docks at the water’s edge, but nothing else on this side of the lake to suggest recreational usage.
This village, Puebla de Arenoso, is the first in a string of quaint mountain villages strung along the tiny highway from here to the A-23. Some of the villages are nothing more than a tight collection of houses clumped together on either side of the road. Many homes look so run down that only a small kitchen light and a newer car in front give them away from my first assumption that they’re abandoned ruins. It’s a different life here where people rely more on themselves growing what they need and using the elaborate water systems set up here centuries ago that deliver fresh cold spring water all year.
Between here and Olba, you’ll drive through Los Cantos, La Monzona, Caserto las Lucas and Los Ibanez Bajos. All are easy to access and very small. You’ll enjoy the terraced hills, the river running nearby, and wild pomegranate trees on the side of the road. Watch for old aquaducts and fountains.
Sitting above the town of Olba right off the main road, is its cemetery, a typical Spanish cemetary encircled by a stone wall. Inside are boxes lining each side carved with the name and date, inset on some with a photo and with others a vase for flowers fresh or plastic. They’re very clean and stark here in comparison to the old French cemeteries with the crumbling carved headstones from eons ago.
Continue straight here. If you turn to the right as the road forks, you’ll end up at another small village, Fuentes de Rubielos which leads to Mora de Rubielos, another great day trip in Aragon.
Just past Olba where the river Rubielos meets Mijares, is this dramatic view and a small turnout just past. Here are two aquaducts, the older from the middle ages and the newer finished in 1905 and still functioning today to help transport water throughout the chain of villages in this valley. A path leads behind it to a tiny little paradise, as tranquil as it is picturesque with clear reflective waters and this tiny “Fountain of Health” nearly hidden under a rocky overhang.
The road continues up along the side of the hill overlooking the towns of Pertegaces, Los Ramones, Los Villanuevas, Planuevas, Los Giles and Las Ventas before straightening out. The entire valley is picturesque, a little stream running through the center with tall aspen trees on either side whose golden leaves float on the wind like New Year’s confetti. Each village is pretty and quaint in these surroundings and the photo opportunities from little stops along the road are plentiful.
Part 7: Bare countryside and a couple herds.
Between Las Ventas and the A-23, the road levels and straightens. It’s a easy drive now to the highway, but not necessarily without surprises. In this area, it’s common to see herders of sheep and goats moving their herds from one place to another. Watch for them as they do cross the roads.
This goat herder had over 300 goats with him many with old tin bells hanging from their necks.
Once you get back to the A-23, it’s about 30 minutes back to Segunto.