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In the pantheon of climbing meccas, Spain is king. I had the privilege of calling the country my home for the past 4 years, getting out every weekend—and many weekdays—to sample it all. If you are looking for the best Spanish climbing areas, look no further. Whichever type of climbing is your thing, I offer you my selection of the country’s finest, covering all corners and styles of this official kingdom.
Two Seconds to Say ‘Yes’ to Spain
I’m a rock climbing addict. When in 2017 I got a job offer in Spain, my decision process lasted for the entire two seconds it took me to pronounce, “Yes, I am interested!” While they were talking trivialities—salary and such—I was contemplating: Can I send Era Vella in Margalef given the length of the contract?
Soon Barcelona was my new home where I did a postdoc at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine. Using my machine learning background, I was trying to work out the intricacies of cancer. Equally eagerly, I was processing the nuances of Spanish climbing during my free time. Every weekend for four years I was hitting the crags and squeezing in mid-week visits to the amazing local cliffs around the city. Imagine the privilege of catching the train at dawn, sending your project at 10, freshening up in the ocean minutes later, and being at work before noon.
Spain Is the Climbing Capital of the World—Vamos!
Modern rock climbing was forged during the 80s and 90s in France, Germany and the UK. In the 21st century, Spain took the bulls by the horns. Spaniards can be a passionate bunch, and when it comes to climbers they are some of the most motivated you will ever come across. Once they unleashed their vibrant energy and started bolting routes, the world did not stand a chance.
Today, Spain is home to mega rock climbing spots with thousands of routes, which is easy for a place bursting with walls and cliffs that stretch as far as the eye can see. Since the world’s best crushers, led by Chris Sharma, switched their focus to Spain, the result is a concentration of hard climbs that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
Sure, it’s difficult to compile a best of list among so many amazing climbing areas, but after four years of roaming the land, I think I can give it a fair shake. (And if you’re wondering, no, I didn’t send Era Vella, even after extending the contract two times).
1. Siurana, Catalonia
Pros and cons
The tiny, ancient village of Siurana sits on top of a flattened hill. Sheer cliffs drop down on all sides, like fortress walls in reverse. It is one of the most remarkable locations I have ever seen, and it’s no wonder would-be conquerors had such a tough go in the past. Siurana was the last Muslim enclave in Catalonia, only falling to the Christians in the 12th century.
The story goes, when climbers discovered the place in the late 70s, the village was about to go extinct with a mere 8 or 9 inhabitants. What a gem they discovered! Fast forward, this is now one of the world’s premiere climbing spots. With thousands of climbers and tourists every year, the village is far, far, far from extinction.
A place for climbing history nerds
I visited most of the major crags in Spain, however Siurana, with its magical atmosphere and rich climbing history, left the biggest impression on me.
Perhaps I have an itch for places from classic climbing movies. That gives Siurana a leg up for being on the old school side; its technical routes on slight overhangs have no mercy for sloppy footwork—just like the routes you’ll see in those erstwhile favorites of mine, the Masters of Stone. Crimps, pockets and body positioning are the name of the game here, though you can also find some short steep powerful routes and occasional tufas. Siurana is the place to be if you enjoy interesting routes that will force you to be a better, smarter, and humbler climber.
The more than 60 sectors and 1,500+ routes are enough to keep you busy for a lifetime (if your surname is not Ondra). While the grades are not super stiff, you will rarely find an easy tick. If you do, count on a downgrade in the next guidebook. Be aware that most of the sectors are south facing with few places for shade when the sun gets strong, which makes it a good winter spot and a very sunny summer area (not recommended). With great conditions, beware of the holidays (especially Easter and Labor Day) when it can be impossible to find parking. During these days or packed weekends, you can escape to Arboli, Montsant or many other crags nearby that offer equally amazing climbs.
Siurana is a piece of climbers’ heaven in the heart of Catalonia.
Siurana, Catalonia - Good to Know
Good for 6s and above, amazing for 7s and 8s. Offers grades up to 9b. There are routes in the 5th grade but not that many
Crimpy vertical and slightly overhanging limestone
Fly to Barcelona, rent a car there and drive 1.5 hours to Siurana
Generally it is good to have a car to access all the sectors and commute to and from Cornudella de Montsant, even though many sectors are accessible by foot from the camping site
Between 5 to 20 mins hike
From autumn to spring, during the coldest winter days it can be too cold to climb
Chatting with the locals in local bars with beers and tapas. For active rest days, there are many hiking trails and via ferratas around. Siurana is in the Priorat region which is famous for its wines, so wine tasting in one of the local wineries is a must do
Note that there are no shops in Siurana, most of the infrastructure is located 15 min away in the town of Cornudella de Montsant
2. Margalef, Catalonia
Pros and cons
Just on the other side of the Montsant mountain, some 45 minutes away from Siurana, lies Margalef. Yet another sleepy Spanish village revitalized by the climbing community, Margalef consists of several beautiful gorges littered with pocketed gray and orange conglomerate bulges and walls.
In 1996 the ‘climbing father’ of the area, Jordi Pou, entered Margalef in a search for a new climbing paradise. It was immediately clear that his quest was complete and new mission was about to begin. Margalef quickly became one of the most recognizable names on the world’s climbing map, evidence of the astonishing quality there.
You’ll need to pull a few tricks out of your pockets here
Margalef is the antidote to Siurana’s tricky technical climbs. On most of the routes here, you will battle deep three and two finger pockets and jugs. Body tension and strong biceps is what gets you up the routes. If you spend most of the time honing your climbing skills in the gym rather than outdoors, you’ll definitely feel more at home here. It may take you some days to get used to the specific forearm pump induced by open-hand holds, so don’t get discouraged at the beginning of your trip—it’s a lesson I am constantly re-learning!
Surprisingly beginner friendly
You’ve probably seen videos of pros pulling heinous tendon-wrecking pockets here, and concluded that this place is reserved for the elite. True, there is a ridiculous amount of hard climbing, but out of all the major areas around, Margalef is by far the most beginner friendly.
There are many well-bolted 4s, 5s and low 6s on the gray slabs, for example. Even if routes tend to be somewhat alike (pockets, pockets, pockets, and more pockets), there are sectors to mix it up: Catedral holds some of the finest Rodellaresque tufa climbs, while out-of-this-world rock formations in Racó de la Coma Closa are a must see.
Margalef, Catalonia - Good to Know
Good selection of routes up to 9b+
Pocketed conglomerate of all angles, from slabs, vertical faces, to overhangs and roofs
Fly to Barcelona, drive 2 hours to Margalef
It is good to have a car, since the sectors are spread around a large area
From 5-30 min hike
There are two campsites, El Pont and La Presa, a
refugio, and apartments to rent in the village
From autumn to spring. During the dead of winter it can be too cold to climb
There are only a couple of bars in Margalef, therefore, you will meet climbers there easily
Margalef is within Serra de Montsant Natural Park, there are many beautiful hikes around
Make sure to visit the only local grocery shop
La Botiga with its adorable owner, Anna
3. Rodellar, Aragon
Pros and cons
When you arrive at Rodellar, a picturesque village in the middle of nowhere, you would hardly suspect that you are about to enter a climber’s dream. At first glance, it seems like many other Spanish villages: sleepy and peaceful with cute stone houses lining the streets, a few bars with typical red ‘Estrella’ chairs, and stray cats spying on you from a safe distance.
What is not obvious at first is the deep canyon hiding behind the town, courtesy of the Mascun river. “This is not fair”, I thought when I first went in 2010. We are so proud of our best crag back in Croatia, yet there are thirty of equal quality down here (and twenty more still to be bolted). Little did I know that ten years later I would get to call Rodellar my home crag.
Overhangs at their finest
Rodellar is home to the finest steep, long, athletic climbing on decent holds and tufas. Pure power alone will not get you to the chains though. The trickery of steep, such as heel and toe hooks, drop knees, and kneebars, combined with a good dose of endurance and power endurance, are the ticket to a send.
Rodellar is one of the rare places that offers decent climbing conditions during the summer heat. Still, it can be quite hot and the rejuvenating river makes for a perfect summer-time accompaniment.
Bring your kneepads!
I know, I know, the endless debate: are kneepads legit or not? Well that question is quickly over in Rodellar. Trusting your jeans (or God forbid, your skin) to do the job will raise some eyebrows, not to mention make for some unpleasant climbing. Many of the routes offer bomber kneebar rests or hide sneaky power-saving knee scums, so if you are not already friends with these precious skills, you soon will be.
Rodellar, Aragon - Good to Know
From 6a to 9b, with the highest concentration around 7a
Overhanging limestone with tufas and good holds
There are several airports nearby including Zaragoza (1 hour), Barcelona (2 hours) and Rues (1.45 hours). A car is required to get to Rodellar from the airport
While climbing sectors are walking distance from the village, it is good to have a car for shopping because there are only a few small shops in the village. The main place for food shopping is Huesca
Climbing sectors are accessed from the village and are up to 30 min hiking. And bring flip flops! Many times you will be forced to criss-cross the river
There are two two campsites both of which include bungalows (camping Mascun and camping
From spring to autumn. Summer is the high season. Autumn is arguably the best, while in the spring there is a high danger of seeping tufas
There are only a couple of bars in Rodellar. Each campsite also has one. The Kalandraka refugio is a popular option after dinner
The canyoning around Rodellar is supposedly among of the best in Spain. There are also some amazing hikes and via ferratas around the village. Some parties and concerts are often organized in the Kalandraka refugio
4. Chulilla, Valencia
Pros and cons
Chulilla is a limestone paradise hidden 60km north of Valencia that features some of the most sustained climbing you will find in all of Europe. The vertical and slightly overhanging walls stretch for miles and are home to 1,000+ routes that regularly surpass 30m (i.e., bring your 80m rope!). You will encounter holds of all shapes and sizes, and make sure to check the Chorreras sector with its crazy oversized tufas!
Many climbers happily return from Chulilla with new personal bests, especially for onsights. While I agree that the grades are not the stiffest around, the climbing style itself is also very friendly. You will rarely find hard stopper moves, which means sending a route is more about finding good rhythm and flow—and having an extra dose of endurance. On the plus side, this is much easier to obtain than the raw power needed to unlock bouldery cruxes. Still, I would warmly suggest training for endurance before coming here (unless your stay will be measured in months, in which case you will have enough time to adapt on-site).
Prior to my first visit to Chulilla, I was almost exclusively doing indoor bouldering and short power endurance routes. Oh boy, did I suffer on these mega pitches! I could hardly focus on the beauty of the routes thanks to the excruciating pain in my forearms. Luckily, urging my arms and hands to not let go is my forte and I managed to rack up a decent amount of onsights nevertheless. Endurance or no-endurance, remember to climb the Spanish way and fight, “a muerte!”.
The limestone paradise of sustained climbing.
Chulilla, Valencia - Good to Know
From low 6s to high 8s, even though many consider Chulilla a 7c heaven
Vertical and slightly overhanging limestone
Fly to Valencia and drive 1h to Chulilla
Climbing sectors are generally within walking distance from the village, however, it is good to have a car to reach supermarkets in nearby towns. There are only a couple of small shops in the village
Climbing sectors are a 10-30 min hike from parking (or up to 1 h if you do not have a car)
Chulilla 2020 guidebook by Pedro Pons
El Altico (one of the most beautiful refugios in Spain), and many apartments for rent in the village
From autumn to spring. Winters are generally warm and mild, making Chulilla a good alternative for Siurana and Margalef on the coldest days
Climbers gather in the Goscanos bar at the entrance to the village
Sightseeing in Valencia, make sure not to miss the largest aquarium in Europe
5. Albarracín, Aragón
Pros and cons
Albarracín has the best bouldering in Spain. Located in the eastern province of Aragon, the area is often referred to as the Spanish Fontainebleau. If the course of history was different, we might be calling Fontainebleau the French Albarracín. That’s how good the bouldering is.
The pine forest just outside of the town is full of red sandstone boulders of all shapes and sizes. If you’ve ever bouldered on sandstone you know that it creates some of the most esthetic holds and forms—and can be darn tricky to climb too.
In Albarracín, you will get to enjoy the ergonomically moulded holds while being able to capitalize on your athletic indoor climbing skills. This land is full of incredible roofs and overhangs, a rare treat when we talk about sandstone bouldering. There are also plenty of Font-like, impossibly smooth boulders too, which will make you question what is even considered a hold. Fair warning: there are plenty of hard top outs, so the powerful athletic roof will oftentimes hide a techy “present” for you at the top.
More than just Spain’s best bouldering
Did you know that Albarracín holds another “the best” title? This medieval town was voted as the country’s most beautiful! Believe me, in a country packed with them, this really means something. Be sure to reserve a rest day to explore the narrow streets and ancient walls of the village.
Albarracín, Aragón - Good to Know
Anyone, from beginners to pros
Sandstone boulders of all shapes and sizes, from slabs to roofs
Albarracín is 2 h inland from Valencia or 4 h east from Madrid, which are the best options to fly-in
Sectors are spread over a large area, therefore, having a car is recommended
Approaches to sectors are from 5 to 20 mins. Climbing in some sectors is forbidden, consult signs at parking spots for exact information
Autumn, winter and spring. Even though it is possible to climb shady sectors in summer, boulder problems will feel much harder in higher temperatures
La Zahora is popular among climbers for nice cheap after-climbing meals
Stroll through narrow streets of Albarracín, visit the Cathedral and ancient walls surrounding the city, check prehistoric paintings in the forest, or hike in Sierra de Albarracín or in Pinares del Rodeno
Albarracín is a victim of its success due to the stress climbers put on the environment, therefore, strictly respect the rules: night time climbing is forbidden; pack out any litter or human waste; use chalk sparingly and brush off tick-marks; stay on the obvious paths. Consult the local climbing shop Sofa boulder for updates on access issues
6. El Chorro, Andalusia
Pros and cons
El Chorro is one of the oldest sport climbing venues in Spain. In the 1980s and early 90s, the legends of the sport, such as Barnabé Fernandez, forged the country’s hardest routes there. In recent times, the area dropped out of the spotlight as the world’s climbing elite turned their focus to Catalunya. El Chorro, however, never ceased to be what it always was: one of the best winter climbing destinations in Europe. The warm sun and stable weather of the deep Spanish south provides a perfect winter sanctuary. Heck, in the middle of the summer my hometown in northern Croatia doesn’t have such nice weather!
In El Chorro you can feed your appetite regardless of your climbing taste. Single pitches, short or long multi pitches, or more adventurous trad or sport lines, Chorro provides for climbers of every level (well, if you plan to send 9b, then you will need to look further). Climbing styles range from easier techy slabs and vertical faces on gray limestone to challenging endurance fests on orange-laden overhangs.
Welcome to the real Spain
When I moved to Barcelona, my friends told me if you want to experience the real Spain, you have to hit the south. The “postcard” image you have of the country? It’s all there in Andalucía, the southern province: flamenco, sun, olives, wine, cheap food and drinks, laid back lifestyle, blend of European and Arabic styles, and much, much more. Within the province, the sleepy village of El Chorro represents the true quintessence.
When you arrive, you have a feeling of going backwards in time. While we are all hyped about the climbing, remember to pay respect to local customs—go to the bar and order a “caña”, embrace the Spanish tranquilo, and remember that mañana is the keyword for all that is bothering you.
El Chorro, Andalusia - Good to Know
El Chorro offers a good selection of routes of all grades, from easy 4s, up to 9a
Single and multi-pitch sport climbing on excellent limestone, ranging from technical face climbs to athletic overhangs
Málaga is the closest airport, about 1h drive from El Chorro. It is also possible to reach El Chorro by train from Málaga
El Chorro is probably the best climbing area in Spain if you do not have a car as most of the crags are within walking distance from the village. Still, I recommended having one in order to reach some of the excellent distant sectors
After the reconstruction of Caminito del Rey, most of the sectors in the gorge are closed for climbing. Check the guidebook and consult staff at La Finca or The Olive Branch for the latest information on access issues
There are two hostels with campsites, The Olive
Between the middle of October and beginning of May
The bar at the train station is a go to place for beers and sandwiches at the end of the day. La Garganta restaurant is an option for fancier meals
Obviously, the famous via ferrata, Caminito del Rey, is a must do. Dedicate some rest days to explore nearby cities Málaga, Granada, Sevilla and Cordoba, they are hubs of Spanish culture and history
7. Mallorca, Balearic Islands
Pros and cons
Mallorca is an embodiment of the Mediterranean spirit. The island’s turquoise waters and golden beaches attract millions of tourists each year (for perspective, the airport had 28 million passengers in 2017!). As one of the most popular sunny retreats in Europe, summers are quite hectic. Luckily, other people’s off-seasons are climbers’ in-seasons.
Spring and autumn are the best time to climb, when the island transforms into a peaceful oasis. The largest of the Balearics is littered with superb limestone crags, ranging from sea cliffs to mountain perches, and reminds one a little of the climbing at Kalymnos. The greatest concentration of routes in the southwest and northwest. For trademark Mallorca climbing go for the orange overhanging walls full of bulbous lumps and tufas, my favorite type of terrain to climb. Come here to exploit all the goodies of sport climbing, like heel hooks, toe hooks, deep drop knees, and knee bars.
Sport climbing on the island warrants a trip to Mallorca any time, however, clipping bolts is usually not what climbers come for. The east coast is the best and most developed place for deep water soloing (DWS, or, psicobloc, as Spainards call it) on the planet. The psicobloc masters call it the purest form of climbing: just you, rock, and deep sea to “cushion” your fall.
Deep water soloing is far from carefree. You’ll see when you find yourself high above the ocean, too pumped to climb up and too scared to drop. Falling into the sea from heights is no joke, though, and requires practice. If you are new to this discipline, take baby steps and work on shorter climbs first. Once you get comfortable it gives you a sense of freedom you will find nowhere else in the sport. Adrenaline rush ensured!
One more thing: you’ll also need to rent a boat to access many of the areas. If you find DWS is your jam, sailing and climbing around Sardinia should be on your list too.
Mallorca, Balearic Islands - Good to Know
From beginner to expert
The best quality steep limestone
Fly to Palma which is one of the largest airports in Spain and well connected with many European cities
Having a car is mandatory. There are plenty of car rental companies in Palma
Some deep water soloing areas are accessed by down climbing an easy route which can be intimidating
Rockfax sport climbing and deep water soloing
Villas or apartments for rents in areas such as Port de Pollenca, Soller, Inca, and around Palma. Prices are cheaper outside of the main tourist season
From late September to May. Summers are very hot, but it is possible to climb in shady mountain crags
Spending days on the beautiful beaches or hiking in the mountains. Sightseeing in the city of Palma
8. Tenerife, Canary Islands
Pros and cons
A rock climbing trip to the Canary Islands always makes me feel that I’m in a special place. For one, you are deep in the Atlantic, geographically closer to Africa than the European mainland. And the exotic vegetation will remind you of this. Palm tree forests, cactuses and other plants are things I haven’t seen anywhere else in Spain.
The climbing itself is nothing like on the mainland as well. Rock here consists of reddish basalt and volcanic, dotted with pockets, crimps, and cracks—and has a slicker texture than limestone. I found it very flowy to climb, requiring just the right mix of technique, strength and endurance. There is also excellent bouldering and trad.
Climbing on Tenerife is not (yet) mainstream. Some call it Europe’s biggest undiscovered climbing gem. So, do not expect big international crowds at the crags. Rather, you are more likely to meet local crushers. Word on the street is that venga bicho!, the unmistakable way Spanish climbers cheer each other, spread from the Canaries to the rest of Spain. It literally means “Come on, bug!”, and apparently only climbers use it. I discovered that by earning some strange looks from my non-climbing friends.
I received incredible kindness from the local climbing community during my visits. People whom I never met before took us to an amazing new crag that was not yet in the guidebook, and even cut their climbing day short to bring me to the airport on time. The Island’s constant warm climate also adds to the appeal, it is never too hot or too cold. In fact, it is said to have the lowest temperature difference between winter and summer in the world.
Tenerife, Canary Islands - Good to Know
From 4s, up to 8c
The red and black basalt and volcanic rock
Fly to one of the two airports, Tenerife North and Tenerife South
Car hire is mandatory for getting to the climbing areas
Some crags, such as Guaria and some within Teide National Park, require registering and a permit to climb
Escalada en Tenerife guidebook
All year around
Meet climbers at the Tenerife Climbing House bar and restaurant
There are a plethora of activities to enjoy on the island, such as surfing, hiking, canyoning, diving, etc.
9. Picos de Europa, Cantabrian Mountains
Pros and cons
I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “dude, you have to go there!”, from climbers and non-climbers alike. The Picos de Europa national park is located at the crossroads of three Spanish regions, Asturias, Cantabria, and Castile and León, and indeed, this vast area of verdant landscapes and limestone peaks is a sight to see. Or even better, to climb on!
The multitude of rock offers routes in nearly any length, style or difficulty. The most prominent peak, Naranjo de Bulnes, is one of the most famous mountains in Spain and a symbol of the park. The 500m wall is home to some of Europe’s hardest big wall routes. To get a feel of this mighty wall, check the video of the legendary Hermanos Pou (Eneko and Iker) opening Orbayu (8c). Whoa boy!
Looking for adventure?
The alpine ethic is respected and maintained here, so you will rarely find over-bolted multi pitch routes. On the contrary, prepare for a full-blown big wall experience: approaches that can take a few hours, big run outs, encounters with bad rock, route-finding troubles, and unannounced bad weather. This is a proper outing for you adventurous souls out there! For less committing adventures, the area is full of amazing sport climbing that offers a perfect escape from summer heat.
Let’s not fail to mention that the breathtaking nature is worth the effort in coming on its own. Picos de Europa carries a distinct alpine feel that would never allude to the beaches of the northern Spanish sea just around the corner. This part of Spain must be one of my favorite landscapes ever—it has the greenest of grasses and forests literally touching the sea.
Picos de Europa, Cantabrian Mountains - Good to Know
From 4s up to 8c
Bulletproof limestone on everything from 15m sport climbs up to 700 m big walls
The closest airports are in Bilbao or Santander
Car rental is highly recommended. Getting to the crags is easier with your own transport
Depending on the crag or the wall you are heading to, approaches can take from 5 min to a few hours of hiking
Escalada En Roca En Los Picos De Europa (in Spanish), Escaladas Fáciles En Picos De Europa (easier routes, in Spanish), some digital photos are available here. For sport climbing there is the Rocaverde guidebook
There are a number of campsites, guest houses, and hotels around the national park. There are many mountain huts within the Picos with Refugio
Julian Delgado Ubeda, located just below Naranjo de Bulnes, being the biggest
From June to September
Towns and villages at the base of the mountain are full of excellent bars and restaurants
There is a network of great trekking paths in Picos de Europa. The northern Spanish coast, famous for its surfing beaches, is only 30 min away
10. Riglos, Aragon
Pros and cons
Nowhere else will you find big-wall climbing with easier logistics. You can literally walk from the bar to the base of the huge conglomerate towers that rise 300 m above the picturesque Spanish village of Mallos de Riglos. Once you descend you’ll be almost directly back where you started for a well-deserved beer.
You know how pumpy it can be to climb a sustained overhanging 30 m route? Now imagine doing that for 300 m, pitch after pitch. Your biceps will cry for help! The name of the most classic route here says it all, La Fiesta de los Biceps. By the way, Alex Honnold onsight free-soloed that route. If you ever get on it, just try to imagine that without freaking out.
And if you do want to try that route, or any of the 100s of others, there are over 300 sunny days per year. Try to find another multi-pitch venue with such stable weather!
Ready to get pumped?
In Riglos, you will fight your way up pebbles and stones that stick out of the rock. As is appropriate for such big walls, the holds are bigger than you usually find on conglomerate, with the average size being that of a small watermelon. These so-called “potatoes” tend to be rounded too and will give you ridiculous forearm pump. Fun times!
Even if the routes or pitches may look alike from the ground (you are climbing on “potatoes” after all), they can be quite different in character, ranging from stamina pushes to bouldery bulges. Note that wearing a helmet is highly recommended as the rock can be crumbly, though the well traveled routes are free of loose parts. You can also encounter runouts, so a small rack of trad gear comes in handy (you’ll want some medium nuts and cams, and some slings). And with all that great weather, Riglos is popular among locals, so weekends tend to be busy.
Riglos, Aragon - Good to Know
From 4a to 8a
Barcelona and Zaragoza are the closest airports (3.5 and 1.5 h drives from Riglos, respectively). From both destinations you can also reach Riglos by train
Once you are in Riglos, a car is not necessary
From 5 to 30 min walk to the base of the wall
Riglos Vertical Rock Climbing guidebook
Spring and Autumn
Bar El Puro offers typical Spanish dishes. You can also eat in the Refugio
Hiking around the towers. Rafting in the Gallego river (available during hotter months). Visiting the Loarre castle. Bird watching