Route Las Médulas, Ponferrada y Astorga

We leave the Ribeira Sacra in Galician lands and we go to an unheard of and peculiar spot, Las Médulas en León. We will continue our trip to El Bierzo, where we will visit the monumental Ponferrada and we will finish this route at another jewel of Spain, Astorga.

Route followed between Castro Caldelas and Las Médulas.

Through truly nice roads, where we see that there are zones where the landscape is the true protagonist, we reach late in the day the spot known as las Médulas in the vicinity of the town known as


, province of León.

Sleep at Las Médulas.

Parking spot of Las Médulas.

We park in its large parking lot, located at the entrance of the village of Las Médulas, free and with no services.

GPS of the parking lot at Las Médulas:

42 27 40.74 N 6 46 02.37 W

Las Médulas.

After spending the night with just the company of one camper and in complete silence, we get going to see this peculiar place.

The possibility exists of hiring a guided tour in the visitors center, but said tours start too late for us and we do not want to waste part of the morning, so we venture forth on the road that will take us to the heart of the ancient roman mines.

Scenery of Las Médulas.

For those who haven’t heard of this place or don’t know exactly what it is about, we will tell you that these are ancient mines where gold was extracted, especially in roman times and it is considered as the largest open air gold mine.

Typical scenery at Las Médulas.

All of the engineering work that had to be performed in the times when these mines were exploited, resulted in an alteration of the landscape and what we can enjoy nowadays is a series of sand formations reddish in color dotted with oaks and chestnuts mostly.

Las Médulas.

Map of the different routes.

One of the galleries.

The possibility exists of taking several routes on foot to this set declared as a World Heritage Site, according to where each wishes to tread.

We reached the heights of a lookout from where one can see beautiful sights of the entire zone and then we backtracked and followed the same trail we were following since we began.

Interior of a gallery.

It seems these mines were exploited for around 250 years in roman times and according to calculations they moved around 500 million cubic meters of dirt, which provides an understanding of the magnitude of said mines. According to Plinio el Viejo who was an administrator of the mines they employed up to 60,000 slaves in these works.

Las Médulas.

One gets goosebumps imagining such an amount of people working in very precarious conditions and where life had very little value. It’s a shame that the remains of the ancient settlements that must have existed in the vicinity of the mines did not survive to the present day.

Las Médulas.

These are lands of floods with gold dust and there being an abundance of water it was used as hydraulic force to drag the gold.

To this end the system the roman engineers used consisted of channeling and damming the mountain streams. Then they bored the mountain with steep galleries letting the water flow through them.

Las Médulas.

The strength of this water unraveled the mountain and dragged the dirt along with the gold to the sinks. Part of these channeling’s have been preserved and can only be visited with a guide.

Paths of the itinerary.

Without a doubt, the most impressive and costly works that had to be performed for the exploitation of these mines had to be the network of channels, galleries and deposits to carry the water to the mountains of the mines, there being an estimate of this network being 300 kilometers in length.

Las Médulas.

Cueva Encantada, Las Médulas.

Some of these galleries or caves have been named, la Cuevona, la Encantada, etc and at their entrances there are explicative panels about the processes that have led to their formation.

Church of Las Médulas.

The thing is we spent the morning looking at part of the tour since we can’t do everything and much less so in just one day, but when we arrive to the town once again Mati claims to have read about there being another route to a lake from which there are some nice sights of Las Médulas, so we headed there.

Las médulas from el lago sumido.

El lago sumido and Las Médulas.

We finished taking a look at this curious and unique location and we headed towards Ponferrada, capital of the comarca leonesa del Bierzo.

To know more:

Las Médulas

Route followed between Las Médulas and Ponferrada.

Place where we stayed overnight at Ponferrada.

Parking spot at Ponferrada.

Parking spot at Ponferrada.

We arrived at midday to Ponferrada parking in a large free parking lot without services.

GPS of overnight parking at Ponferrada:

42 32 37.48 N 6 35 13.80 W

Tourist map of Ponferrada

We go to the center of the town in search of a restaurant to eat in and when we find one with food that entices us, in we go.

Town Hall of Ponferrada.

We finish eating and we get going on the route. The first place we visit is the Square of the Town Hall and its building which dates to the year 1692 being of a Baroque style.

Clock Tower, Ponferrada.

We go on by the Road of the Clock and we can see the Clocktower from the XVI Century, it being an ancient city gate and located above one of the arches of the ancient medieval wall that protected the city

Likewise we pass by the museum of Bierzo, situated in the ancient Palace of the Counts of Toreno, which in turn was an ancient jail in more modern times and is situated next to the Clocktower.

Radio Museum, Ponferrada.

We pass next to the Radio museum, a building sponsored by the journalist Luis del Olmo a native of Ponferrada, though since it was closed we didn’t stop by to see it.

Panoramic of the Castle of Ponferrada.

Next to the radio museum we find the imposing and majestic silhouette of the templar Castle.

Main façade of the Castle of Ponferrada.

To be honest the castle is of extraordinary proportions and it is very nice. Built around the year 1178, having been rebuilt in the year 1340, it mixes stone, shale and masonry in a brilliant manner.

Main gate of the Castle.

Currently it has been refurbished and part of its facilities have been adapted to host a cultural center. Specifically we can now see there is an exhibit called Templum Libri, where copies of documents from the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well as a templar library.

Church of San Andrés, Ponferrada.

Unfortunately the Castle is closed right now, it seems they only open in the mornings, we would have liked to visit it, so we go onwards by the zone that’s next to the river.

To know more:

Templar Castle of Ponferrada

Templar Castle.

We crossed the river over the Bridge of the Castle and from this perspective the profile of the castle with the hillside full of green vegetation is indeed prettier.

Another perspective of the Castle.

Ponferrada from the Cubelos Bridge.

We cross over the bridge


again on the other side of the city and we see this part is somewhat deteriorated, one can tell there is a lack of investment to refurbish the houses of this zone, true old district of Ponferrada.

Once we have visited the landmarks of Ponferrada, the idea is to go towards

Peñalba de Santiago 

to see this typical town of Bierzo. Upon leaving Ponferrada we see a sign that sends me straight to the


, but the navigator tells me to turn to the


. I listen to the navigator and upon reaching

Villar de Los Barrios

We see that it is to narrow a path it is sending us down to, the car barely fits, so we decide to return to Ponferrada and follow the route the sign pointed us to.

We do this and we see from the start the road is better than the one before, but the moment comes when things get complicated, slopes, curves, narrower roads, etc. We go through


and Mati thinks she sees a sign of width limit, but she isn’t sure. When we arrive to

San Clemente de Valdueza 

our fears are confirmed, upon entering the town the street becomes narrower and also becomes curved. We stop the car and we get off to see if maneuvering we can go through. There is no one around to be seen, at night and evidently, it seems we are in another epoch. Mati maneuvers around and I manage to get half a car inside, but the time comes when one cannot fit a finger between the walls and the metal of the motorhome. We decide not to risk scratching it or crushing it and however we can we manage to leave that mouse trap.

This is the first time it happens to us that we cannot go through a place and that we are forced to turn back.

Templar castle of Ponferrada.

Therefore, the lesson is that to visit Peñalba de Santiago, the only place we have been unable to access, one must not take this route, even though I don’t dare recommend the alternate route because the place the navigator sent us through was quite complicated.

Castle of Ponferrada.

We returned still feeling the fear in our bodies, but with the peace of mind of having avoided greater evils and after going around to see the illuminated castle of Ponferrada we went to bed in the parking spot we had previously used here.

Illuminated castle of Ponferrada.

Route followed from Ponferrada to Castrillo de Polvazares.

Parking at Castrillo de Polvazares.

Before visiting Astorga we will visit a small and curious town located just 7 kilometers away.

Castrillo de Polvazares.

We park in the town’s entrance in an ample free parking lot without services.

GPS of the parking lot of Castrillo de Polvazares:

42 27 50.49 N 6 07 31.06 W

Castrillo de Polvazares.

This town belongs to the district called La Maragatería and it is considered as a Historical-Artistic Set.

Castrillo de Polvazares.

Castrillo de Polvazares.

The main economic activity of this town is rural tourism with a rich gastronomic offer, the Cocido Maragato being their main and most well known dish.

Church of Castrillo de Polvazares.

What stands out of this town is how its houses are constructed. Reddish stone is omnipresent and prominent and also doors and windows of an intense green color.

Square of Castrillo de Polvazares.

Typical architecture of Castrillo.

All over the place one sees rocks everywhere, even the streets are paved with rocks, truly marvelous.

In little over an hour one can comfortably visit this town, and if the weather isn’t as cold as it is now one can find more entertainment, but now a cold wind blows from the north that chills to the bone, so we leave for Astorga.

Typical house of Castrillo de Polvazares.

Parking spot in Astorga.

We stop on the side of a store where they sell products typical of these parts.

GPS of the parking spot at Astorga:

42 27 29.11 N 6 03 45.55 W

We make the last purchase of sausages and typical candy at the store where they have good prices.

Cathedral of Astorga.

We leave the car parked and walk to the center of Astorga. We immediately arrive at the Square of the Cathedral, where majestically arises this temple from the XV century.

Detail of the doorway of the Cathedral

Despite the beginning of the works of this Cathedral being from the XV century, they weren’t completed until the XVIII century, combining due to this the late gothic style, Renaissance and Baroque. Truly it is imposing and we will leave it for later, we are now going to see the Episcopal Palace.

Episcopal Palace, Astorga.

Right next to the Cathedral is the Episcopal Palace, work of the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí, greatest exponent of catalan modernism.

Episcopal Palace, Astorga.

To see the Episcopal Palace we buy combined tickets which will give us the right to see the Palace, the Cathedral and the Cathedral’s Museum, at the price of 5 euros per ticket.

Episcopal Palace, Astorga.

Episcopal Palace.

This place truly is something out of a tale, we had never visited a place like this and it seems to us very unique and nice.

Stained glass windows of the Palace.

With lots of light everywhere and with nice stained glass windows.

Basement of the Palace.

In the basement area one can witness plenty of remains of the roman era so important in Astorga, funerary details being abundant here.

Seating of the choir, Cathedral of Astorga.

After looking for a while at this peculiar monument we went to the nearby Cathedral to admire it and to allow ourselves to be surprised by its magnificent proportions.

Altarpiece of the Cathedral of Astorga.

It looks really nice, the lighting is magnificent so we can admire every detail of this impressive monument.

Columns of the Cathedral.

The funny moment comes when I approach one of the impressive columns and I tap on it a little admiring its sturdiness, to which Mati can’t contain some laughter because of what I did.

Detail of the Cathedral’s Museum.

And to finish the joint visit and next to the Cathedral we venture into the magnificent Cathedral’s museum, where there is an amount of works of art sufficient to spend all day admiring them.

Cathedral’s Museum, Astorga.

Cathedral’s Museum, Astorga.

Town Hall of Astorga.

We leave the museum, since it is almost lunchtime and we wander over to the zone of the Main Square where we see the maragatos of the clock’s bell tower


We find a nice restaurant where we eat the typical maragato cooking, it being a place of passage of numerous pilgrims who do the camino de Santiago. We engage in a lively conversation with the curious and likeable owner of the restaurant and we leave the place feeling as if we had eaten for three days, people are great around these parts.

Detail of the mosaic of a roman house.

We visit some dig sites of a roman village where the best thing to find there are their mosaics.

There is a possibility of going down a route through Astorga’s underground, to see the ancient roman city, as well as to visit the roman museum.

Detail of the roman village, Astorga.

It must be very interesting, but visits start at five o’clock and what we crave is to rest a little and to digest the maragato cooking that we just had, so we leave it for another time we pass through here.

To know more:


Detail of the car area of Astorga.

We go back to the car and we approach the Astorga area to rest a while and to empty up since the journey is reaching its end.

GPS of the Astorga area:

42 27 04.79 N 6 03 57.05 W

Situated on the outskirts of the city and with free loading and unloading.

Car area, Astorga.

Area of Astorga situated next to the Plaza de Toros.

We set out for home after enjoying these intense days through a part of our geography that has both captivated us and filled us, a trip we will cherish in our memories in a very special and gratifying manner.

Until the next route.

Detail of the route back home from Astorga.