Spain was as much a victim of Roman totalitarianism as any other country, especially because of its close proximity to Italy. Although the evidence of Roman occupation is far less evident today there are still some shining examples that solidify the history of the Roman’s exploitation of the Iberian Peninsula and one such site is Las Medulas, the now defunct Roman gold mine in the north of the Leon region.
Situated near the town of Ponferrada, El Bierza, the mines have now become a major tourist attraction which provides several good walks and an epic slice of history to boot.
A local tourist information office provides maps and background essentials, and the staff speak very good English which was a major boon to a semi-no-proficient Spanish speaker like myself.
After leaving the little village with its gaggle of cafés, restaurants (some with dogs on roofs and rowdy cockerels), knick-knack shops and the especially excellent little homemade honey shop at the back of a old lady’s house, we walked past the church into the centre of the red stone peaks of the Las Medulas mines.
A horseshoe walk takes you all the way round the mines which are cordoned off for safety reasons; 30-40 metre high ceilings which still drop chunks of rock on occasion can be considered ‘risky’ to one’s health.
The topography is stunning here; tall spires of red stone rock loom up like desert tombstones for a once thriving community which was effectively put to the sword in 77AD when the Romans introduced their hydro-mining technique which employed aqueducts and the nearby streams of the La Cabrera region.
As a UNESCO Heritage site the mines and their accompanying Walnut trees are a protected segment of a fascinating historical moment which is made even more attractive by the beautiful location of Las Medulas.
Although a little bit of a trek to reach, especially via nearby Yeres from which you need a 4×4, Las Medulas is well worth a day of exploration, especially with the local wildlife which includes deer, eagles and boar, so willing to entertain.
Please let us know if you found this guide to Las Medulas helpful by leaving a comment or talk about it on our forums by clicking here.