The Silver Route and its surrounding areas on its way through León
We have some recommendations for you as you explore the Silver Route on its way through the province of León, in northern Spain, in the region of Castile and León. The Silver Route or Vía de la Plata was once an important Roman road, running from northern to southern Spain in the days of the Empire. It was the main trading route then, and today is the starting point for a major hiking and sightseeing route, linking the northern province of Asturias with Andalusia in the south. To find out more about the route, please consult the official website of its network of towns.
Here are some of the must-sees on the Silver Route and the surrounding area in the province of León. The provincial capital is León, just two hours from Madrid by high-speed train.
- 1 La Bañeza
- 2 Astorga
- 3 León
- 4 La Pola de Gordón
- 5 Maragatería
- 6 Villafranca del Bierzo
- 7 Ponferrada
- 8 Las Médulas
TOWNS OF THE SILVER ROUTE
Towns on the tour: La Bañeza, Astorga, León, and La Pola de Gordón. Distance: about 115 kilometres, on the A6, AP71 and N630.
La Bañeza is in the south of the province, with some interesting Art Nouveau buildings. There is a street market every Saturday. One of the high points of the year is Carnival, with an exciting motorcycle race through the town. Astorga is well-known as a stop on St James’ Way and on the Silver Route. It is a beautiful walled town with a notable Cathedral and a Bishop’s Palace designed by Antoni Gaudí. Its Roman past is also visible in many places in the town. León is the provincial capital. It is a delightful city to explore on foot, and we recommend visiting the Cathedral, the Basilica of San Isidoro, and Casa Botines, an Art Nouveau building by Gaudí. To enjoy the atmosphere like a local, take a stroll in the Barrio Húmedo district, and stop in one of the many restaurants. La Pola de Gordón is a municipality including several villages in the natural setting of the Alto Bernesga Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is home to birds of prey like golden eagles and peregrine falcons, as well as Iberian wolves and brown bears.
MORE TO SEE NEARBY
Maragatería and the Gold Route: there are several places around Astorga that were once Roman gold mines. The most popular to visit are Castrillo de los Polvazares, Rabanal del Camino, Turienzo los Caballeros and Val de San Lorenzo. They are all within 25 kilometres of Astorga. El Bierzo, in the north-west of the province, is a great area to visit, with interesting small towns like Villafranca del Bierzo and Ponferrada, traditional stops on St James’ Way, with important heritage buildings. This area is about 100 kilometres from Astorga and boasts strikingly beautiful landscapes, such as Los Ancares and Las Médulas. The World Heritage site of Las Médulas is considered to be the largest open-cast mine of the Roman era. It is accessible from the village of Carucedo, about an hour’s drive from Astorga, and the mix of natural and man-made landscape is spectacular.
TIME FOR LUNCH
The province of León is famous for its cured meats and sausages, its apples and pears, and its local wines and spirits. One of its best cured meat products is cecina: smoked and air-dried beef or horse meat, similar to cured ham. Local dishes tend to be hearty, such as the much-loved cocido maragato, a hefty stew, and botillo, a kind of spicy, overstuffed sausage, rather like a haggis. The local Reineta apples and Conference pears are known for their quality. Meanwhile, the Wine Route of El Bierzo offers tourists plenty of interesting activities, and the chance to sample the region’s flavoursome and expressive wines.