Part of the extinct La Val de Zafán railway, on the Puebla de Hijar to Tortosa line. An itinerary following crystal-clear watercourses as far as the mighty Ebro River, passing through the regions of Matarraña, Terra Alta and Baix Ebre featuring spectacular landscapes full of viaducts and tunnels. Protected areas, history, culture and scenery along an exceptional route dotted with restored stations that now have new uses. Experience Teruel!
This Camino Natural - Greenway has been implemented within the framework of the Caminos Naturales Program of the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente. More info>>
The Puebla de Híjar-Alcañiz section of this Greenway has been developed by the Town Hall of La Puebla de Híjar and Samper de Calanda, by the Association for the Integral Development of Bajo Martín and Andorra-Sierra de Arcos.
Mediterranean farmland featuring olive trees, almond trees and vines, as well as pine forests and shrubland. Valleys of the Martín, Matarraña/Matarranya and Algás/Algars. From the greenway you can enjoy views of the mountainous massif called Puertos de Beceite/Ports de Beseit. The Bajo Martín region features numerous Special Protection Areas (SPAs): Saladas de Azaila, Barranco de Valdemesón, Parque Cultural del Río Martín, Las Planetas-Claverías, Martín River gorges.
Churches, castles, viaducts, archaeological sites, bridges and manor houses, portals, prisons and town halls in the different municipalities
La Puebla de Híjar:church of the Nativity of the Virgin, Chariff Square and hermitage of the Sorrows
Samper de Calanda:church of El Salvador, Chapels-arch of San José and Santo Domingo, hermitage of Calvary, Sanctuary of Santa Quiteria and Carlist Fort
Valjunquera:cultural house-Lonja, chapels of the Virgen de la Piedad and Santa Barbara, parish church of San Miguel
The Val de Zafán Greenway begins in La Puebla de Híjar Station. We start our journey along a section of asphalt road for about 600 metres. We then take an agricultural road, also used by vehicles, for two kilometres that connects with the greenway’s original route.
Two railway structures stand out in this section, giving the itinerary an air of adventure. The bridge known as “Puente de la Torica,” which is called after an old steam engine that used to travel along this line, rises up imposingly 3.5 km from the start of the route. It is a viaduct built at the end of the 19th century to bridge the profound trench through which the railway runs. A few metres further on, the greenway enters the tunnel known as “Túnel del Montecico,” which was built to go through the hill that takes us as far as Samper de Calanda.
After coming out of the tunnel, we pass under the viaduct on the Madrid-Barcelona railway line and then over the viaduct crossing the Martín River, which is called “Puente Negro” or “Puente de San Carlos.” The GR-262 road, which accompanies the Martín River on its way to the sea, passes under the viaduct. Right after the viaduct, we come to Huerta de Samper Station, which is currently in a state of abandonment.
We continue on our way and go over several bridges and the viaduct on an agricultural road, as far as the crossroads between the current Madrid-Barcelona railway line and the abandoned Andorra-Escatrón steam railway. Two more bridges and we arrive at Puigmoreno Station (km 18.7).
Then, from Puigmoreno to Valdealgorfa via Alcañiz, there is another 30.5 km section that, although it is passable, has not yet been prepared as a greenway and is used by motor vehicles. Hopefully, this Alcañiz section, which is currently at the planning stage, will soon become part of the greenway.
Since the kilometre signs posted throughout the Val de Zafán Greenway originate in the city of Tortosa (although people normally start the itinerary at La Puebla de Híjar Station), this description begins at km 83 and ends at the border with Catalonia, around km 49.
This greenway starts in the old Valdealgorfa Station, located in the surroundings of this small locality. Its Aragonese Neo-Mudejar style stands out and we will see more of this style in some other Aragonese stations. The village, with its traditional houses on high ground, is a source of food supplies. The first metres of the greenway bring us to the Equinoccio tunnel, which is more than 2 km long and reflects a special magic. Only twice a year, on March 26 and September 17, you can see a slender, mysterious and ephemerous beam as the light of daybreak penetrates this straight tunnel. A truly unique experience.
On leaving the gallery, the landscape changes, which we appreciate now that we are starting a gentle climb –it is a rugged and wooded Mediterranean landscape dominated by a pine forest accompanied by kermes oaks, holm oaks, junipers, rosemary and mastic trees; the small valleys, on the other hand, feature terraces dotted with olive and almond trees. In such rugged terrain, the railway had to level the route through continuous watercourses and hills with tall embankments and deep trenches. This section features another curiosity: at around km 80, travellers will cross the Prime Meridian, which means that they will have one half of the planet on either side of them, while standing on this imaginary line.
The ascent comes to an end at the abandoned Valjunquera Station. Made of masonry, with an abundance of ornamental brick tops, it reflects the same Neo-Mudejar style –these first two stations stand out from the others, which have a plainer appearance.
After passing the dividing line between the Guadalope and Mantarraña basins, the greenway starts going down towards the latter river, surrounded by the same rugged, solitary scenery. A long descent featuring the uninhabited village of Mas del Labrador, on the left, the abandoned, simple Valdeltormo Station, the turn-off to the Iberian settlements of Torre Cremada and Tossal Montañés, and a long curved tunnel. From the station, a small road leads to the village of Valdeltormo 2 km away.
The turn-off to the Iberian settlements is signposted on the left (km 70.4), followed by the eighth tunnel (km 69), which is illuminated. The descent, which has a lot of bends in its final section, ends at the impressive viaduct over the Matarraña River (km 67), which features an extensive fertile plain. The concrete structure, supported by four 20-metre sections and four arches, features a magnificent view of La Fresneda, a locality on high ground crowned by the remains of a castle. It is worth stopping to visit this village and contemplate the Chapel of Santa Bárbara and the Church of Santa María la Mayor.
Having reached the bottom, we now come to Torre del Compte Station, which has been restored as an evocative four-star hotel with a restaurant. The greenway will start ascending again through mountainous terrain. Above our heads, the solitary belfry of San Pedro Apóstol gives way to a view of the locality of Torre del Compte. A little further up (km 64.3), there is the flyover of the TE-V-310 road, which is the best way of reaching this village.
At km 60, terraces of almond and olive trees and vines cover the heart of the Regall. The deep ravine and its enclosing walls gradually give way to a plateau featuring fields of vines, fruit and olive trees, and wheat.
The greenway, bursting in spring with colours and floral aromas, reaches Valderrobres Station. We cross the dividing line between the Matarraña and Algars basins and then start a gentle descent featuring open horizons, with views of the mountainous massif called Puertos de Beceite and the hamlet of Cretas, crowned by its church. Starting from Cretas Station (km 55.3), which has been restored as a youth hostel, the greenway does down through rolling terrain, surrounded by crops and pine trees struggling to occupy marginal spaces. The descent ends at an impressive concrete-and-stone viaduct over the crystal-clear Algars River (km 49.7), which is very similar to the one crossing the Matarraña with its five 20-metre sections and four central arches. Finally, on the other bank, there rises up the ruinous station of Arnes-Lledó. We are now in Catalonia. From here on, you can continue for another 23 km along the Terra Alta>> section and another 26 km through the Baix Ebre>>region, as far as Tortosa. You can even connect with the Ebro Natural Path, as far as the mighty river’s delta
The Val de Zafán railway is a project that was never completely finished. The first attempt to build a railway linking the port of San Carlos de la Rápita with Puebla de Híjar, in Teruel, dates from 1863. In relation to the genesis of this railway, we have to take into account a highly curious consideration. According to an old military hypothesis, in the context of a potential conflict, Spain would be in danger of invasion from beyond the Pyrenes. After overcoming these mountains, the next natural barrier would be the watercourse of the Ebro River. It would therefore be interesting to have a railway line on the river’s southern banks, in on order to supply this hypothetical battle front. The military therefore gave its blessing to this railway project.
Even so, the railway’s birth was long and painful, with the official start of its construction being continuously announced without anything actually happening. In 1891, Compañía del Ferrocarril del Val de Zafán began levelling work on the route. However, it was not until 1895 when the 32-km-long section between Puebla de Híjar and Alcañiz was opened. For decades, the trains turned around in this Teruel station.
The line’s extension as far as Tortosa did not come about until 1942, being operated from the beginning by Renfe. Sadly, the Spanish Civil War was what favoured the construction of this section, with the railway line playing an important logistical role in the Battle of the Ebro. On the other hand, a large part of the workers that completed the last phase of the railway’s construction were prisoners from the Republican side.
This railway, known locally as the "Sarmentero" (“vine shoot” in English, since it ran through an area of vineyards), had a languid existence during its short lifetime -barely 31 years. In all of this time, the last section (between Tortosa and Sant Carles de la Rápita) was never completed, even though all the levelling work had been carried out. On September 19, 1973, a collapse in the tunnel between the stations of Pinell de Brai and Prat del Comte was the perfect excuse for the final closure of this railway line, despite successive attempts at reopening it.