Las Medulas and Bierzo: a destination unlike all others
In the rugged mountainous landscape of El Bierzo in Castille and Leon, travelers can find high rocky peaks and verdant forests, picturesque medieval villages, rolling vineyards, and one of the most unique and impressive of all ancient Roman remains – the gold mines of Las Médulas, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The ancient Roman mines
For many visitors, the mines of Las Médulas are the highlight of a journey through this region. The dramatic red mountains, covered by chestnut forests, were altered by the Romans when they built a gold mine in the 1st century AD. They came up with an ingenious system called « ruina montium », which used flowing water to erode the soil and expose the gold.
After two centuries of mining, the peculiar landscape of Las Médulas was formed, with red clay gullies, towers, and underground galleries. Soaring peaks lead to huge caves at the center of the gold mine, while the viewpoint of Orellán offers a birds-eye perspective over the whole place. In the town of Las Médulas, an archaeological learning center provides all kinds of information about the history of this incredible Roman site. Near the mines, there are also ancient metallurgical villages such as Orellán, and even Asturian iron age settlements like Castrelín de San Juan de Paluezas and Borrenes.
El Bierzo villages and nature
Along with the gold mines, the region of El Bierzo boasts countless other destinations, like the picturesque village of Villafranca del Bierzo, and the monastery of Santa María de Carracedo. The regional capital of Ponferrada makes a perfect base for exploring the surrounding area, and is home to some stunning sites like the Knights Templar castle and the Roman Catholic basilica. However, it is especially known for its lively social scene, and its many bars and restaurants make it a great place to sample the excellent local cuisine and wines.
In addition to its culture and heritage, the El Bierzo region is also blessed with pristine nature, and is ideal for hiking and cycling. There are various routes to follow: for example, a stroll along the Burbia River leads to Campo del Agua, which contains some of the last remaining pallozas, Celtic homes that are typical to the area. Serious hikers will want to climb the Catoute, one of the highest peaks in the area. Wildlife is abundant throughout the region, including some rare bird species and more commonly sighted wolves and brown bears.
One tip: El Bierzo is beautiful at any time of the year, but it takes on a special charm in the fall, when the forests change color from green to fiery oranges and golds.
Touring El Bierzo
The ancient mines of Las Médulas and the region of El Bierzo can offer your group an authentic experience that is well off the usual touristic track. It’s an ideal journey for lovers of history, nature, culture, and great food and wine – so get in touch with us today to start planning your perfect itinerary!