A Guide to the Amazing Historic Mining Site of Las Médulas

Las Medulas, Spain
Las Medulas, Spain | ©Jonathan Pincas / Flickr
Esme Fox

Las Médulas is an amazing ancient mining site in Northern Spain, which completely changed the landscape two thousand years ago. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top sites in Castilla y León, visited by hundreds of tourists each year. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Where is it located?

Las Médulas can be found near the town of Ponferrada, in the region of Castilla y León and not far from the border with Galicia. You can choose to stay in the few rural lodgings in Las Médulas village itself or in the nearby Orellan, or stay in Ponferrada and travel the one-hour journey to the site.

Ponferrada, Spain

What is it?

Las Médulas is a historic gold mining site, which was established in the first century A.D. It completely changed the landscape of the region – the once rolling green hills were sliced in half leaving a scarred scene of red pinnacles. It resembles the Wild West or desert landscapes of Arizona, more than anything you’d expect in northern Spain.

Las Medulas, Spain

What makes them so special?

This is not just any mining site, this is a Roman mining site, which left its mark on the area over 2,000 years ago. It is considered so significant that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It is believed that over two centuries, the Romans extracted more than 800 tons of gold from these mountains.

Las Médulas, Roman goldmine, Spain

How were they created?

In order to mine the gold, the Romans built seven ginormous aqueducts to force the water from the nearby river into the mines, creating a series of channels, tunnels, chambers and craters within the clay mountains.

Las Medulas, Spain

How to visit?

To get a spectacular view over the whole landscape, visit the Galerias at Orellan. Alternatively, you can explore Las Médulas by either hiking, mountain biking or horse riding through the ancient channels. Look out for marks on the walls created by Roman miners here over 2,000 years ago.

Galerias at Orellan, 24444 Orellán, León, Spain

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