Torres do Oeste is a defensive enclosure located at the head of the Rio de Arousa in the Caldas region of Galicia. Located on a rocky promontory on the banks of the river Ulla and surrounded by marshland, it used to serve as a strategic defense post against Viking attacks.
King Alfonso III of Leon ordered the built of the castle in the 9th century so the river Ulla could be protected from attacks. Where the river Ulla was an important natural entry into Galicia, the castle went through strengthening works.
The 2 remaining Pre-Roman style towers are from the 9th Century. In the 12th Century, bishops ordered the strengthening of the castle in order to protect the holy site of Santiago de Compostela.
Located nearby Torres do Oeste is the Torres do Oeste cultural centre which is housed in a modern building designed by the award-winning architect Cesar Portela.
The ground floor houses a tourist office and a spacious exhibition hall designed like a Viking longship. The exhibition tells the history of the towers, Viking attacks in Galicia,... Many artefacts are on display in the exhibition, ranging from swords to statues to armour,....
Within the basement is an audiovisual room where they screen videos of the annual Viking Festival of Catroina.
The Viking Festival of Catoira is an annual festival which has been celebrated every first Sunday in August since 1961. It is held to commemorate Catoira's role in defending against the Vikings who were trying to plunder the treasure held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. During the festival, they re-enact the Viking invasions that took place using 3 replica longboats.
These longboats are moored nearby the Torres do Oeste and are fairly reliable reproductions based on longboats that are kept in museums in Denmark and Norway.
Where Catroina is off the beaten path and not frequently visited by tourists, it is worthwhile taking the detour .
Arcos de la Frontera (www.turismoarcos.es) is a typical Andalucian hilltop town. Where I arrived by bike, it became apparent that you have to be prepared for some steep hills.
The old town which sits on top of a dramatic cliff is reached by small steep historic streets that seemingly become narrower and narrower the further you head up the cliff.
Strangely enough, local cars seem to navigate effortless between the historic houses taking sharp turns narrowly avoiding the many tables and chairs of the few restaurants.
I made my way up to the historic town along the slope of Bethlehem. It was here that the Jerez gate was located, one of the three gates into the city during Moorish times.
In those days, there was a fortification wall of double thickness, a moat and a drawbridge making it as good as impossible to take over the city.
On the lintel was the coat of arms of Arcos which nowadays can be found on the facade of the townhall. The gate was demolished in 1852.
Where Arcos de la Frontera is a lesser visited town by the many tourists visiting Andalucia, , it should be on your travel bucketlist.
With many things to do and see, it makes for a worthwhile detour.
Minor Basilica of Santa María de la Asunción
The Gothic-Baroque church is one of Andalucia's more beautiful churches, built over several centuries on the site of a mosque. Where the original bell tower was toppled by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, a neoclassical replacement was built , but never completed.
Since 1931, the building has been declared a National Monument
Palacio del Mayorazgo
The Palacio del Mayorazgo is a noble 17th Century building that is currently used as an exhibition center. It now houses the Municipal Department of Culture. The various rooms are dedicated to temporary or permanent exhibitions, such as the “Room of the Miller’s Wife and the Magistrate” and the “Room of Antonio the Dancer”, the “Poets and Writers Corner” or the “Victor Marín Foundation Room”.
In the lower part of the Palacio are the Municipal Art Gallery and the Andalusian Garden .
Iglesia de San Pedro
This stunning church was built on the remains of a Muslim fortress. The church went through a few expansion projects adding a total of 6 chapels during the 16th and 17th century.
The impressive facade was made in the 18th century by Manuel Gómez and Pedro de Silva in Baroque style. Structured in three sections, the first one being the entrance which is flanked by twin columns, the second one with a statue of San Pedro and the third part containing three bells.
Where there are more historic buildings in Arcos de la Frontera which are worthwhile a visit, I ran out of time to cover them all. So a return trip is definitely on the cards.
Where there are many hotels in Arcos de la Frontera, I stayed in the old historic part of the town. With a great selection of restaurants on your doorstep and magnificent historic buildings in the vicinity, it is highly recommended to stay a few days in Arcos de la Frontera
It was Saturday 16th June, and I was on my way to Dublin airport. I had excitedly counted down the days to this particular day, the day where i would commence my 9 day cycle through Spain which would see me cycle from Santander to Malaga.
Waiting for my flight to Santander, i was hoping that my bike would arrive in Santander in one piece.
I had paid Ryanair an additional €60 each way to transport my bike, a bike which I had wrapped in bubble wrap and then placed in a bike bag.
We boarded the flight early and took off on time. After a great chat with Pedro, a teacher from Cantabria who had just spent the last 10 days in Dublin with a group of students, we started making our decent into Santander.
Flying above the coast in our approach to Santander, you can't but admire the beautiful landscape. The green fields, the fabulous beaches and in the distance the Asturian mountains which would be my playground during day 2 of my cycle.
Upon touchdown, I was welcomed by the sun and temperatures of around 20 degrees. The small airport of Santander (Seve Ballesteros airport) is easy to navigate and it didn't take long before i was reunited with my bike.
Where the bike bag is large, it wasn't large enough to take the entire bike. So the next hour was used to put the bike back together and getting everything ready for my adventure. And I must say I was delighted to find my bike in 1 piece.
Rolling out of the airport at 5pm, I knew that the cycle on day 1 was the easiest one in the saddle. With a total distance of 36 kilometers to the coastal town of Suances, I would take the smaller countryside roads to reach my destination.
As Seve Ballesteros airport is in a quieter area of Santander, navigating my way towards Suances was never a big issue, but what became apparent was that the countryside in Asturias isn't flat at all. Climbing up the first hill leaving the airport behind me, it gave me an immediate impression of what to expect on this adventure.
Navigating my way around another turn, I was greeted by the clanging of bells. Cows in Asturias have bells around their necks, and it is their movement which filled the green pastures along my route with a continuous clanging noise. But cycling through the Asturian Countryside is fun, especially mixing tarmac with gravel, and the time in thwe saddle passed quickly.
The last 5 kilometers of the day was a cycle along a designated cycle path along the river Saja, a brilliant location for birdwatching.
Walking from the hotel direction town is beautiful. After a short stroll, i decided to eat in one of the local restaurants where I enjoyed Scorpion Fish pate, steak and a chocolate mousse, all washed down with a bottle of white wine.
The entire meal and the bottle of wine came to €12 , not bad for a great meal.
After the meal, it was an uphill stroll back to the hotel where i turned in for an early night with in mind all the cycling which had to be done on day 2.
After a great sleep in Hotel Miralba (https://hotelmiralba.com/) , I was woken up by the sound of goats outside my bedroom window.
Sliding the curtains away, blue sky and a fabulous sunrise welcomed me to my third day of cycling. Breakfast was prepared by my host who made me a fabulous toasted sandwich with smoked ham, fresh coffee and a nice slice of cake....
After having said my goodbye, I took off for another long day in the saddle.
Cycling early in the morning at 1325 meters under a blue sky was just fabulous, admiring the beauty of parque natural de Fuentes Carrionas y Fuente. The natural park was in full bloom, the many yellow flowers standing in stark contrast with the dark blue of the lake below me.
By lunchtime, I reached the town of Cistierna where I enjoyed a picnic under the heat of the Spanish sun. To be honest, my legs were getting sore, especially after the tough cycle from the previous day where I had climbed approx. 4000 meter through the Cantabrian mountains. And today wasn't any different, turning onto the L 4606 I started progressively climbing again. The roads were quiet, and it was a pleasure to cycle along these roads enjoying the scenery. The weather started changing and by the time I reached La Robla, the rain made an appearance. Climbing steadily out of the valley towards Riello, my mindset wasn't in the right place.
I hadn't put enough training in as preparation for this cycle, and with every push on the bike, I felt my muscles burn.
I arrived at my hotel for the night at around 8:30pm, the beautiful Gran Hotel Pandorado located at 1100 meters. With an empty car park and a closed door, I feared the worst , trying to work out where I could find another place to stay in this remote part of Spain.
A note on one of the windows had a telephone number on it, so i decided to ring it and got talking to the owner (Carlos) who arrived 10 minutes later and opened the hotel for me.
After getting shown around, a retreated back to my room where I enjoyed an hour long bath relaxing my sore legs and went to sleep at 9:30pm tired but relaxed.
On day# 4, I was welcomed by a fabulous breakfast of bread, cake, cheese and honey and even received a surprise lunch pack from my host. After having said goodbye to my friendly host, I cycled downhill into Riello. Riello was still asleep, so I carried on my cycle towards Portugal.
Day#4 was going to be the longest day of the trip, in the end I would cycle 230km in total over hilly terrain. One thing I learned quickly in Spain is that Spain isn't flat at all, so after approx. 10 km into the cycle I was already climbing again to a height of 1300m ... But then it was all gradually downhill leaving the Cantabrian mountains behind me heading towards my first destination of the day, Astorga.
Astorga is located in the province of Leon and is a gateway for anyone walking the French route, the most popular path and via de la plata route. Astorga is the European birthplace of chocolate, and the chocolate museum is worth a visit. The town is also famous for the 19th century Episcopal palace which was designed by the Spanish Catalan architect Gaudi.
After having admired the buildings, I climbed back in the saddle for a cycle through the rolling hills between Astorga and the Portuguese border. These hills became gradually steeper and steeper, and the milage of the day was taking it's toll on the legs, but the scenery kept me going. One thing which mesmerized me was the amount of butterflies which were all sitting on the warm tarmac, all flying away just in time when I got to close for their own good. But butterflies were not the only animals which crossed my path, the area north of the Portuguese border has many deer, all of them enjoying the wild landscape of this region.
The air was filled with the smell of flowers, cars were almost non existent and the views were fabulous, ... and to top it all off, the sun was providing me with a pleasant 23 degrees.
When you select your route in this region, you have to be very careful... a lot of the roads are untarmacced and can get very rough at times slowing your progress down to a snail pace, especially when you are trying to cover a decent distance.
When I arrived in the village of Brandilanes from where I would cross into Portugal, i discovered that the road was blocked for traffic. My next best option was a 20km detour in order to cross the border which as it turned out was my only option.
Crossing the border into Portugal, the sun started to set in the distance. A goat herder was gathering his goats together with his dog who decided it was more fun to run after a lonely cyclist while ignoring the calls of his owner.
The lonely cyclist, me in this case, started to cycle a good bit faster as the dog was the size of a small horse. Escaping the dog, I pushed myself out of the valley up the last climb of the day. I had forgotten that there was an hour difference between Spain and Portugal, and by the time I arrived at my accommodation for the night (Casas Campo Cimo da Quinta) it was 8:30pm.
I was welcomed by a friendly girl who showed me to my room which turned out to be a 2 bedroom apartment.
When i walked into the breakfast room of Casas Campo Cimo da Quinta, I was welcomed by the same friendly girl of the evening before. She showed me all the food on offer which was to be honest a spread fit for a king. You could get absolutely anything under the sun, from cakes to a fry, from fruit to yoghurts, it was a feast fit for a hungry cyclist.
Day# 5 was one of the shorter days, so i only left around 10:30 am on my cycle through Parque Natural de Arribes Del Duero, a fabulous park which stretches along the Douro between the Portuguese and Spanish border.
First stop of the day was the beautiful town of Miranda Do Douro, a gem located high above the Douro valley. The town has many preserved buildings of its medieval and renaissance era, all of them well kept.
The town is popular with tourists who are travelling through the Portuguese Tras-os-Montes region, but it also attract locals from the countryside.
After having played the tourist for a while, I carried on my cycle... After a few miles, I knew it would be a difficult day in the saddle. My legs felt like jelly and every rotation of the pedals hurt as bad as the previous one. But what do you do if you have a planned itinerary, you just carry on and absorb the beauty of the region.
And this region is beautiful... it is marked by steep cliff edges and sleepy hamlets, all of them to be reached by small rural roads which carve themselves up and down the steep cliffs and hills.
which meant that I had to climb up and down a lot, especially the latter part of the day.
Especially the afternoon was tough, climbing higher and higher under a pleasant 26 degrees which made for a relaxing afternoon in the saddle.
By 7pm, I reached the Douro again. As my B&B was at the river bankement of the Douro, i had to make my way down into the Douro valley which has carved itself through the rocks over 1000s of years.
A 10 minute descend into the Douro valley trough a series of hairpin turns was scary, and I was thankful I had disc brakes on my Trek gravel bike. Salto de Saucelle is a very small town which is overlooked by a dam , and on either side 300m high cliffs. Where i descended in a record time, i wasn't looking forward starting the next day with a steep climb out of the valley.
My accommodation for the night was Posada Real Quinta de la concepcion, a fabulous B&B overlooking the Douro. The swimming pool looked inviting, but I decided to give it a miss as I had booked myself in for dinner.
The dining room was full, and it wasn't hard to see why. There was only one set menu, but the food was just fantastic. After a fabulous meal and a bottle of wine (yes, it was a night where I spoiled myself), a went to bed to recover my legs.
After a great sleep, I woke up early in the morning and took a refreshing shower. Afterwards, I headed to the breakfast room where the owner delivered another feast, again a set menu delivered directly to your table.
After saying my goodbyes, I was welcomed by blue skies and the warm morning sun. And as predicted, the first hour of the day was a long climb out of the Douro valley
Climbing higher and higher out of the valley, i reached Mirador de la Puerta de las Arribes where I took a well deserved rest while admiring the fabulous vista.
Next destination was the city of Cuidad Rodrigo, a sleepy medieval walled city off the beaten track away from the popular tourist routes.
So far, day# 6 was turning into my favorite day of the trip, the legs were in great shape, the sun was beaming down and i had for the first time wind pushing me along rather than the headwind I got accustomed to during the first few days.
Cycling towards Cuidad Rodrigo, i could see the mountain range of Las Batuecas - Sierra de Francia Natural Park which would be my playground for the afternoon.
The roads were in brilliant condition, and before I knew it I had reached Cuidad Rodrigo which I left soon afterwards. My plan was to push along knowing that the toughest climbs of the entire route were ahead of me. And I also wanted to arrive early enough at my destination as I had booked dinner.
The meals were really important for me during this cycle, this as they were key to replace the 1000s of calories I burned during this cycle. During the cycle itself, I just tend to snack as I find it difficult to eat lunch and then carry on the cycle. So my preference is to snack and then replenish calories during dinner and breakfast.
The barren landscape soon made way for evergreen forests, lizards running right in front of my wheels oblivious about my presence , the scent of pine trees filling the warm summer air.
The road gradually climbed higher and higher into the mountains, and my water ration was fast depleting. I always carried about 5 liters of liquid with me, and believe me, staying dehydrated was a task in itself.
When I reached the village of Serradilla del Llano, it was time to replenish my water supply which i did in one of the local shops. This rural shop didn't have any till, the owner just calculated the overall price on the countertop. In the village, I got in conversation with a local man who explained to me that the next 10km would be tough climbing non-stop out of the village. And he was right, under a blistering sun, i made steady progress and entered an undiscovered part of Spain off the beaten path.
When I turned onto the EX366, a desolate road which brought me through miles and miles of pine forests, I knew this was one of my favourite parts of Spain. When I reached the almost deserted village of Riomalo de Arriba, I was surprised to find an elderly couple seated along the road enjoying a quiet life.
Following the river towards Las Mestas, I reached this pretty village with it's river swimming pool. This would be the place where I would stay for the night, and I must say that I didn't expect to find a fabulous hotel like Hospederia Hurdes reales in these remote parts.
Sitting under a tree drinking another bottle of water, I was experiencing the hottest day so far. The streets of the village were deserted, most people choosing the comfort of their own home rather than walking the streets in 36 degree heat.
In the morning, I had left Las Mestras bright and early after a huge breakfast, and after some tough climbs the landscape had turned more hilly rather than mountainous. Eagles were circling around looking for their next prey, olive trees were now a regular feature in the landscape and the lakes were missing a lot of water. It was definitely hot, but that was to be expected in this part of Spain.
And I had watched the weather forecast, a heatwave was on the way from the south (Sahara) which resulted in a constant warm headwind.
It was Saturday, and I was looking forward to a night in the town of Caceres. When I reached the Tagus, it was obvious that this region doesn't receive much precipitation. The roman bridge which once crossed the river was well visible. Carrying on, i slowly started to climb towards Caceres, a Roman city located in Extremadura, a Unesco world heritage site. The city retains evidence of many different cultures.
Reaching the suburbs, modern flats are the main buildings, but getting closer to the old town, Ciudad Monumental, a mix of gothic and Renaissance architecture is widely represented.
Having booked into my accommodation, I walked the cobbled medieval streets and admired the fortified palaces and houses. The town is encircled by 12th Century Moorish walls, but the town is also known for it's 30 towers, each of them having nesting storks on them.
It was busy in Caceres, many families enjoying an evening out on this sunny Saturday. I found a great place for pintos , placed myself on the terras and watched the hustle and bustle of this busy city.
Leaving Caceres behind me, it was 7am and already getting hot. The heatwave had arrived and it would make for a tough day in the saddle.
With another 5 liter strapped to the bike, I cycled along long straight stretches of dusty roads in between fields of grain, sunflowers,...
The hills were gone and good progress was made along the flat roads of this region, but I was consuming a lot of my water which meant I had to top it up on a few occasions.
Reaching the foothills of Parque Natural Sierra de Hornachuelos, the climbing in 35 degree heat was tough. When I reached the beautiful town of Guadalcanal, I decided to take a break and seek out some shade. A small festival was just starting and I enjoyed watching the parade,...
Leaving the comforts behind me of the shaded village square, I took the long road towards Cazalla de la sierra. After a quick decent, it was uphill all the way towards Cazalla.
The odd car which passed me gave me a friendly supportive beep, one driver even stopping and offering me some water. I was delighted when i reached the outskirts of Cazalla, a lively town where I checked into my accommodation.
Daylight was just breaking through the morning clouds and the birds were waking up.
It was day# 9 of my cycle through Spain, and on this fresh morning I found myself cycling through the hills of Parque Natural de Hornachuelos. I was on my way to Osuna on a short 110km cycle and I was super excited. Today, I would meet up with my parents and oldest son in Osuna and stay with them for 2 days. I was looking forward to the break and spending some quality time with my parents and son. I reached the town of Constantina in record time and from there it was downhill towards Lora Del Rio.
Lora Del Rio is a bustling rural town along the Genil and Guadalquivir rivers.
From here onwards, i was cycling between fertile fields as far as the eye could reach. The roads were significant busier, especially with trucks carrying the many vegetables, grain and sunflowers which were grown in this region. Cycling towards Ecija, I noticed a very bright light which turned out to be the solar tower plant Gemasolar where they capture and focus the sun’s thermal energy with thousands of tracking mirrors.
The road from Ecija to Osuna was the straightest road UI had ever experienced. Along the route, I was able to see Osuna in the distance which was still 17km away. Roadkill along the road was mainly snakes and rabbits, and knowing my youngest son would be interested in the snakes, i decided to snap a few pictures of the larger ones.
By 2 o'clock, I reached the town of Osuna, This beautiful town was a film location for Game of Thrones, but has remained unchanged and is a sleepy rural town which is worth a visit due to the many architectural treasures which can be found in the town. Navigating the small streets, I reached the house where my parents stayed in and was welcomed by a refreshing drink and a fantastic BBQ.
On an overcast evening, I rolled into the charming seaside village of Rinlo in Galicia. Where Rinlo is only a short distance from Playa de Las Catedrales (https://www.outdoorfitnesssligo.com/destinations-further-afield-travel-blog/playa-de-las-catedrales), it is a popular with visitors who are on their way to admire this natural wonder.
But Rinlo is also know for its culinary specialty "Arroz Caldoso", a hearty delicious soupy rice full of seafood which brings in a lot of culinary visitors to Rinlo.
And as the village is right on the coast, it isn't difficult to see why seafood is a staple amongst the community of Rinlo. For such a small village, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
The village is the perfect base to discover the many coastal paths along the rocky coast, it is also this rocky coast which provides the village with another specialty, Percebes or Goose Barnacles.
Known as the most expensive seafood in the world, it isn't difficult to see why. Sometimes costing up to €200 per kilo, this extraordinary price results from the extreme circumstances in which the rare barnacles are harvested from these rocky cliffs. Along the coast, you see people collecting these Percebes while clinging onto the rocks while being battered by the constant waves.
Walking to the harbour, you can admire 2 beautiful wall paintings of these Percebeiras collecting these tasty barnacles. Every year during the summer months, the town hosts the Festa Do Percebe. Centered around Percebes, it is a feast where you can sample all kinds of fresh seafood in the main marque.
The colourful houses in the village are arranged along narrow streets protecting the village from winter storms. Even on the particular day I visited Rinlo, the weather gods had decided that a blustery breeze would provide me with the perfect background to this charming village.
So whenever you find yourself in the vicinity of Rinlo, put it on your itinerary and visit this cute fishing village where life passes by at a slower pace.
It's always worthwhile getting up early, and on this particular morning in June, it was no different. Where i had stayed for the night in the small fishing village of Rinlo which is located a stones throw from the the popular Playa de Las Catedrales.
Being one of Spain's must see natural monuments, Playa de Las Catedrales is a must see when you find yourself travelling along the Galician Coast.
The beach, which officially is called Praia de Augas Santas or beach of the holy waters, is famous for the presence of majestic natural arches which have been formed by the sea and wind. These arches reach heights up to 30 meters and look like the arches of a Gothic Cathedral, hence the nickname given to the beach.
The best time to stroll along these giants is at low tide, but also early or late in the evening or early in the morning when the bus loads of tourists have disappeared.
When the waters recede, the imposing arches once again reveal themselves to the many tourist who flock to this area. But there aren't just the arches, there is a whole selection of sea caves within the cliffs waiting to be discovered.
Between all these rocks are patches of sand and rock pools which all quickly will disappear again when the tide comes in. A watchful eye needs to be kept on the tide at all times so that you can make a safe return before all traces of the cathedrals disappear again under the water only to return again a couple of hours later.
Looking at the rocks, here and there you can discover some Goose Barnacles which are consumed in Portugal and Spain, an expensive delicacy known as percebes.
After a day in the saddle, I jumped of the bike on the outskirts of the beautiful fishing village of Cudillero. After an effortless check-in and a refreshing shower, I walked into the village.
Where I had opted to stay in a small hotel on the outskirts of the village beside de Palacio de los Selgas, a 1 km walk along a quiet country road brought me to the top of the village nearby the lighthouse.
Overlooking Cudillero, it isn't hard to see what the attraction is to the many tourists who visit this idyllic fishing village. The tiny port has stayed unchanged, its many pastel-coloured houses clinging to the steep hillside. The amphitheatre shaped town overlooks the main central Plaza de la Marina where the many restaurants await the hordes of tourists.
Where it was Saturday evening in early June, I had expected Cudillero to be busier than it really was. But the changeable weather was probably the cause why on this particular Saturday, most of the terrasses were only half-filled with customers.
At the slipway, 2 kids were playing in the sea. The many houses against the steep hill are connected by a labyrinth of ancient narrow streets and stairwells which offer various routes across the town. Each of these roads provides an abundance of photo opportunities.
A worthwhile climb out of the village is to Mirador de la Garita and Mirador de la Atalaya from where you can enjoy the magnificent views across the village and towards the Atlantic.
Hungry after a day of cycling, I decided to order the fish soup followed by Calamares. To be honest, the €8 fish soup would have been more than enough. The metal pot which contained the soup resulted in 6 full plates of soup which was literally full of prawns, crabmeat and fish.
The evening was concluded with a few glasses of wine after which I walked back to the hotel. One thing to keep in mind is that the way out of the village is steep, so keep some energy to climb the 100s of steps towards the lighthouse.
On a sunny day in June , I arrived by bike at the Jardín Botánico Atlántico de Gijón (www.gijon.es/es/directorio/jardin-botanico-atlantico-de-gijon) . This Atlantic botanical garden opened to the public in 2003 with as main focus to study and conserve the flora and vegetation of the North Atlantic.
It is the first Botanical Garden in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula covering an area of 19 hectares, although the plan is to expand it to approximately 25 hectares.
Its design took advantage of the existance of the historic Garden of La Isla and two magnificent natural forests that had survived the urban expansion of the city of Gijón: Aliseda del Río Peñavalencia and La Carbayera de El Tragamón, an exceptional forest of centuries-old oaks.
The collection of plants which now stands at 30,000 different plants from 2500 species provides a green oasis away from the hustle and bustle of Gijon.
Within the gardens are exhibitions which are laid out in various buildings, including a traditional Asturian farmhouse (the Quintana de Rionda) and the exhibition pavilion dedicated to Carlos Linneo, as well as a beautiful children's area (El Bosque del Cuélebre) and a fun labyrinth of laurel.
The Atlantic Botanical Garden has six main collections. The living plant collections are organized into four thematic areas that use the Atlantic Ocean as a common thread:
In addition, there are also two biodiversity collections: the Germplasm Bank and the Herbarium.
The Cantabrian environment:
In the Cantabrian Environment, ecosystems typical of the Cantabrian Sea are recreated, such as forests, high mountain habitats and other typically coastal ones.
The plant factory:
The collections of the Plant Factory are dedicated to the plants present in our daily lives, such as food, medicine, fabrics or religious symbols. In this area, you find a lovely vegetable garden, but also stone labyrinth. Contained within its winding walls are toxic plants such as nightshade, wolfsbane, henbane, oleander, and mandrake. It’s hypothesized that some of these plants may have been used in ancient European witchcraft.
The Island Garden:
The Historic Garden of La Isla, is a romantic garden from the end of the s. XIX that integrates the beauty of the ornamental flora with the symbolism of water.
The colour of the water is just fabulous, sometimes almost being as green as the plants themselves.
The Atlantic Itinerary is dedicated to the plant landscapes (Biomes) of both shores of the North Atlantic. Currently, the Temperate forests of Europe and the recreation of the Boreal, European and American biomes can be visited.
Another noteworthy feature is that the gardens are overlooked by the impressive Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura. Originally built as a learning center for orphans, it currently hosts several cultural institutions. Built between 1946 and 1955 by the Ministry of Labour, it is considered the most important architectural work built in the 20th century in the Asturias region and, with its 270,000 m2, the largest building in Spain,
With a prepaid ticket in my pocket, I left Santillana del Mar (Blog: visiting Santillana del Mar) behind me and cycled slowly up the hill towards the cave of Altamira .
The short 4 km cycle was completed in no time, still i managed to be well soaked by the time I reached the gate of the visitor center as the roads were still wet from the nightly rainfall. Yes, Northern Spain is green for a reason.
By the time the gate opened at 9:30 am, many cars and buses were already waiting to enter the site. The cave of Altamira is famous for its prehistoric paintings and engravings, hence the reason the cave was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985. The good thing about booking your ticket in advance is that you can bypass the ticket office and go straight to the main building where you obtain your ticket from the information desk.
The actual cave is closed to the general public, this to safeguard the environmental conditions within the cave which are so important to keep the prehistoric rockart in pristine condition.
The cave, which is 296 meters in length, has an entrance hall , main gallery and side hall, and contains some of the worlds finest examples of prehistoric rockart.
The drawings which are dated back some 14,480 years ago show bison, deer, boars, horses,... They are painted using natural, red-coloured ochre and outlined in black using charcoal.
But even when you can't enter the actual cave, there is a Neo-cave in the museum which took years to complete and even has the paintings painstakingly reproduced using the same old painting techniques.
When you visit the cave, you get a designated time to enter the museum. First of all, you get to see a short 5 minute movie which explains how the cave evolved over time showing the collapse of the entrance at the end.
After the movie, you get to enter the Neo-cave which looks just like the real cave with all its paintings.
After the cave, you enter the museum where the first exhibition explains the discovery of the cave. Teh cave was discovered by a local man (Modesto Cubillas) in 1868. Accompanied by Cubillas, Marcelino Sanz de Sautola visited the cave for the first time in 1875 when he discovered a large number of split bones and some black wall paintings.
His 12-year old daughter who accompanied him during a later visit first sighted the famous coloured ceiling paintings in a side cavern which came regarded as the Sistine Chapel of prehistory.
Within the second part of the exhibition are the many tools made by prehistoric people used for hunting, day-to-day tasks,... For example, the Antler harpoons were used to catch fish. Many different types were developed, some of them having a hole in them so a cord could be attached to it.
Another part of the museum shows many replicas of the different cave art which has been discovered around Northern Spain. There are many caves around the area, where some of them can still be entered, many have restricted visitor numbers.
Another spectacular tool on display is the curved tip of a deer horn with a stag engraved on it. This tool was used to straighten spears or antler in order to eliminate the natural curve so that they could be used as spearheads.
The cave of Altamira is worth a visit, one which will educate you on the life of prehistoric man.
About the Author
We are Peter & Dolores De Bie. We love the great outdoors, discovering new parts of the world and writing about our adventures along the Wild Atlantic Way and further afield