Unique, precious, out of this world! This is how I dare to describe Las Médulas, in Spain. Yet, it falls short of well-deserved recognition.
Maybe you’re asking why this place is so special, and I’m not capable of answer. In my opinion, you should see yourself, and draw your own conclusions. For me, it's the beautiful reddish landscape, which beautifully contrasts with the green shades of the vegetation, it's the centennial chestnut trees that gleam in Autumn, and it's the history behind the red formations.
Here’s a little preview for you to get the necessary inspiration.
Las Médulas is located in El Bierzo, nearby the town of Ponferrada, in the region of Castilla y Léon. It’s one of the most incredible places in Nothern Spain and, due to the unique cultural landscape, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in 1997.
The landscape of Las Médulas is the inheritance that Romans leave us, after their journey through the Iberian Peninsula. During the 1st century AD, the Romans established a gold mine in the area, through an ingenious system called “Ruina Montium”. They guided the water from the nearby river, and they used the force of the water to create a series of channels, tunnels, and chambers in the mountain. This system completely changed the landscape, and where once existed beautiful green hills, emerged a peculiar scene of red peaks.
Las Médulas was one of the largest open-air gold mines in the Roman Empire and, over two centuries, Romans could extract more than 800 tons of gold from these mountains.
I believe that the destination is outstanding no matter when you decide to visit but, if you allow me a hint, in the Autumn is marvellous. There are countless chestnut trees in the area, some of them are centennial. These trees were planted here to provide food to the Asturian people, and Romans, as well. Before the introduction of potatoes, chestnuts were the basis of European food. Therefore, you can realize the importance of these trees.
There are three information centers in the region, and if you want to learn more about the destination, I highly recommend you visit them.
The Archaeological Information Center provides an understanding of gold mining in Las Médulas and how Romans’ work has influenced the area. Also, you can find the Visitors Reception Center, right in Las Médulas, and the Information Center of Puente de Domingo Flórez.
These places are a good starting point.
If you are a hiker, you will love to walk around the area, there are so much to discover and, I’m sure, you will fall in love with the peaks, some of them more than 100 meters higher. Unfortunately, on my last visit, the Cueva Encantada (Enchanted Cave) and Cuevona (the huge cave) were closed due to the danger of collapse.
No visit to Las Médulas would end without visiting the Orellán Viewpoint. The panoramic view is pretty mind-blowing: the reddish shades, the green foliage. Yes, the view is breathtaking.
After centuries of mining inactivity, Las Médulas is a treasure! It has become a desirable destination, and it receives hundreds of tourists every year.