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“Roman engineering at its most remarkable” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Las Medulas

Las Medulas
El Suroeste del Bierzo | Province of Léon, Spain
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Type: Historic Sites, Cultural
Attraction details
Madrid
Top Contributor
140 reviews 140 reviews
86 attraction reviews
Reviews in 51 cities Reviews in 51 cities
87 helpful votes 87 helpful votes
“Roman engineering at its most remarkable”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 5, 2013

This place is pretty much out of the way (the nearest large town is Ponferrada), but it is certainly worth going to see. It is the most remarkable testimony to the effects of the Roman occupation of Spain. An entire mountain was blown apart over two and a half centuries to extract the tiny amount of gold in the rock (about 6 grammes per tonne of rock): it is an extraordinary story

Plan to spend several hours at least there to make it worth the trip and enjoy the area and the countryside.

There are morning and afternoon guided tours (1200 and 1630 the Friday that we visited) that cost a ridiculously cheap 3€ for a two hour amble around the site.

A typical itinerary might be to arrive at midday and take in one of the walks (the Visitors' Centre will suggest suitable itineraries): down to the lake, up to the viewing point where you get an amazing view from the mountains in the north around the whole mining area. The walk up to the "mirador" (viewing area) is a four and a half kilometre round trip on wide, easy paths, with one steeper section that will leave the less fit out of breath, but can be handled easily by anyone in reasonable shape. Take photos at the top and enjoy the magnificent view before walking back down.

Almost every other house in the small village around the mine seems to be a restaurant or a gift shop (WATCH OUT! Internet access in the village is sporadic at best, so shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards) so then sit down and enjoy a relaxed meal and a look around the gift shops before going to the Visitors' Centre for the 1630 tour.

The tour takes you on a loop through the milllenary chestnut trees and the mined area, taking in couple of caves and galleries. However, although the public are allowed to enter the cave and the tunnels, it is very much at their own risk. The cave is not deep, but is an obligatory stop for a photo. The galleries are a later stop and require some gentle climbing that requires care and sensible shoes. Go up and you will find two short tunnels cut into one of the few remaining sections of mountain that come out above where the group is waiting below: children especially will love this.

The final section of the walk, which is around 3km with plenty of stops, is a short, steeper downhill section over a much rougher path: one family had a pushchair with them and struggled a bit on this segment, although it is doable with a bit of effort.

Visited May 2013
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Okehampton, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
95 reviews 95 reviews
45 attraction reviews
Reviews in 57 cities Reviews in 57 cities
73 helpful votes 73 helpful votes
“Amazing Roman mining landscape”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 5, 2012

A wonderful place to visit, right on the edge of the Montanes de Leon, not far from Ponferrada. The site was recommended by a Portuguese colleague, as worth driving some miles for, and we agree with his assessment.

Go to the village of Las Medulas first, go to the museum, where they explain how the mining of the entire mountain worked using just the pressure of water. The remains of the mining landscape covers a large area with many walking trails though some great terrain with weird ridges of remaining orange snadstones. We took a walk up to the Caves and then headed back to the village which was a nice 1-2 hour walk around the site. The village has many different small cafes and eating places (except on a Fete day!). Try the local honey, with it's rich taste of the Chestnut flowers. Sample some of the locally produced jams including Quince Marmalade. The local ladies will explain how they take the bee products and use them.

In the heat of the summer, an afternoon visit will be challenging due to the heat, but in September it was fine. We finished off with a great meal sampling some of the local dishes in the Hotel at Las Medulas, with a terrace overlooking the lake.

Then at the end it's well worth driving up to the view point and looking down on the remnants of the mined mountain, with fabulous Chestnut woods, when you can see the scale of the Roman mining efforts. It's a worthy World Heritage site!

Probably best done on a good day, as you need good visibility to appreciate the scale of the mining.

Visited September 2012
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Stockholm, Sweden
Senior Contributor
45 reviews 45 reviews
10 attraction reviews
Reviews in 35 cities Reviews in 35 cities
38 helpful votes 38 helpful votes
“Unforgettable”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2012

It is located a few kilometres from Ponferrada, beyond the lake Carucedo is Las Médulas, natural wonders indeed - created by the Romans, who dug gold. 60,000 slaves for 250 years had produced 1,650,000 kg of gold (5,000,000 Roman pounds). They led the water through canals, which were dug up and hence arose incredibly bizarre landscape of jagged mountains, caves and ravines.
It is wonderful, incredible to see it. But more incredible is that it is the people who made it, poor slaves, but diligent Romans and theirs architects :).
I must confess that we never were coming up to have all the view before us, because it was so warm and unfortunately I had my sciatica and therefore a little difficult to go. But I want to come back some day and do this trip at finish :).

Visited August 2012
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Illinois
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“Eerie place, but spectacular in its own way”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2011

As Medulas is a small town outside Ponferrada located right at the site where the Romans let loose with a ton of water and blew the insides out of mountains as they searched for gold. The town is dedicated exclusively to tourism surrounding the site. There is one ugly modern box hotel and one "rural hotel" Agoga which is pleasant, quiet, surrounded by green yards and flowers. (single room with breakfast about 45 E).
There is a nice, but small visitors center, which is very informative. Without it, I would have had no idea where all these strange formations came from. Some artifacts, some models, some short movies.
The prime attraction is walking around the area. There are well marked, car-free paths that lead up and down, both through the maze of "leftover mountain innards" and up to some incredible, spectacular even, viewpoints over the entire site. I have never seen anything like this and I understand how it made its way onto the UNESCO world heritage list.
Though it's well off the beaten path, it is worth a trip for anyone who is visiting the Bierzo or lower Galicia.

Visited May 2011
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hamburg
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
“ghosts of mountains”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 30, 2011

After having eaten a big menu of cocido in the medieval town Castrillo de los Polvazares, we overcame our sluggishness and decided to drive over to see the legendary Medulas hills.
In Roman times, the area was the most important gold mine. Already then, a river had been diverted, and transformed into a powerful jet, that could cut up mountains. I did not believe the story.
In spite the time being already four pm, we chose the country roads along the pilgrims path.
Missing the turn offs, we almost gave up, but just made it at dusk and did not regrett the drive: Reddish hills some shaped like dromedar backs others like stalagmites. most of them with one side overgrown. Various Panorama platforms are avaiable, but the roads require a four wheel drive, so we decided not to ruin our rental car. Go there if you are in the area!

Visited January 2011
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