The Ebro reservoir was finished by Franco in 1945 to provide better water supplies to areas downriver.  The remains of 9 villages lie beneath the waters, although some were relocated to shore level.  It is a drive of around 60km and around an hour to circumnavigate the lake, and an interesting trip with many things to stop off and see.  The roads are good and relatively fast (there are often speed traps in the villages on the north side), although the section in Burgos is not as new as that of Cantabria.  This guide starts from Reinosa, takes in the north side, and then the south side.

North Side

Starting from Reinosa, coming off the A67 motorway, the CA171 along the north side first passes through the village of Orzales, famous for its dense round loaves of bread.  This village also has a bridge linking it to the peninsular of La Lastra, great for fruit picking in the autumn!  The next village, Monegro, is home to be the small chapel of La Virgen de las Nieves above the village, with fantastic views across the lake, a great picnic spot and a great festival, La Fiesta de la Virgen de las Nieves, with free paella for all on 5th August every year.  Further round still is the village of La Población with its modern bridge over an inlet.  On the west side of the village there is a a free bird centre (signposted from Reinosa – Centro Ornitológico), which shows the wide variety of native and immigrating birds to the reservoir.  hey also run walking tours at certain times of year.  In the village of Lanchares, further on past the bird centre, is one of the nicest hotels on the circuit, the Mirador de Lanchares.  Also in La Población are several restaurants and bars, including the lovely Puerto de la Población, which additionally has its own floating jetty with canoe, SUP and pedalo hire in summer.  Continuing round, there is a lovely picnic area between La Población and Corconte, in amongst the pine trees at the water’s edge.  In the next village of Corconte, the last before heading into Burgos, there is another visitors centre, the Centro de Visitantes del Embalse del Ebro.  This is another free visitors centre, with information about the reservoir, some interesting hands-on exhibits and an observation platform on the top floor with great views.  In Corconte there are also restaurants and bars, and several activity centres, such Nosopla Kiteboarding centre.  Next to Corconte, just in Burgos, is the Balneario de Corconte, a spa complex since 1922, famous for its bottled water (produced for the public since 1883).  It looks slightly dated, but does have great facilities and very pure water.  After Corconte, the CA171 joins the N623 main road.  To the left this leads over the Puerto del Escudo (great views) down back towards Santander, through some lovely villages, but to continue round the lake, turn right towards Burgos.  This takes you almost immediately through the rather unexciting hamlet of Cabañas de Virtus, often with some interesting snow clearing machinery on display at the side of the road, and also with a bar/shop, and another kitesurfing and SUP school, Northwind.  On a windy day this end of the lake is very popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers, they make quite a sight!  To get to the BU642 along the south side of the lake, follow signs to Arija.

South Side

Along the south side of the lake, the first place of real interest is Arija, the largest town on the lake, with a campsite, youth camp, some shops, and a natural beach (just before Arija there are sand extraction plants, which extract the natural sand found here), which is popular in summer.  Arija is also the first place along the southside which has a FEVE rail station.  This railway used to be a major coal route from La Robla near Leon to Bilbao, and is now served by a couple of trains a day in each direction.  It runs along this side of the lake, with a changeover to the main Santander-Madrid RENFE line possible at Mataporquera.  Heading back into Cantabria, with the road changing to the CA730, there is an interesting reminder that this was once a valley home to villages.  At Las Rozas, turning right and passing under the narrow railway bridge is the remains of church, now flooded.  Only the church tower still stands and can be reached by a wooden walkway (or on foot when the water level is low).  On reaching the town of Arroyo, you have to cross the dam, built by political prisoners under the orders of Franco.  Driving through Arroyo the large buildings used to house the officials of this project can be clearly seen.  There is also another adventure centre in here in Arroyo, H2UR, which offer a large range of activites, including canoeing on the lake and rafting down the Ebro from the dam.   Along the winding newly resurfaced road along here glimpses of Cantabria’s as of yet only wind turbine can be seen on top of the hill to the left.  The last place of interest along this side is actually above the lake, in the village of Retortillo.  Again, signposted from the road, are the Roman ruins of Juliobriga, with an interesting Romanesque church and several areas of clear ruins either side (walk down the track past the church for the best ones, and great views over Reinosa, Campoo and the lake).  There is ample parking here, and a visitors centre with a small fee.  Again, this is a great spot for a picnic.  The road then leads back to the A67 and Reinosa, although if desired it is possible to go back to the otherside of the lake via a new road in Bolmir, which connects with Requejo on the other side.

Swimming in the lake

As commented above, there is good swimming with natural beaches at Arija on the south side of the lake.  Swimming is possible at many other points, however swimming anywhere should be done with extreme caution, as the water levels rise and fall drastically at different times of year, exposing cables and plants and trees which otherwise cannot be seen.  Be aware that over the last decades people have drowned from swimming without due caution.  Many locals do, many never would.

Boating in the lake

Until recently it was prohibited to bring boats to the lake, only windsurfers, rental canoes and kitesurfers.  Now the rules have changed slightly, hence the new provisions for hire at La Población. 

Services around the lake

Most of the villages around the lake have very few services, relying on Reinosa and Soncillo.  On the northside there are no cashpoints, although there is a small bank in La Costana.  There are also no real shops to speak of, although bread can often be bought in bars (and of course Orzales).  On the southside, Arija has some services, with another bank, but there is little else.