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Valleys of La Rioja Baja

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Valleys of La Rioja Baja

Río Cidacos.

Vultures merge into the dun-coloured south-western landscape of La Rioja. Among rosemary and thyme shrubs, the footprints of long-disappeared dinosaurs run from the River Jubera to beyond the River Cidacos, among Enciso and its villages. Follow these footprints and they will lead you to a very different La Rioja, one of medicinal waters and Celtiberian, Arab and Roman remains. And as if that was not enough, the unique ecosystems of its valleys have been designated a Biosphere Reserve

The River Cidacos runs in a narrow channel to Arnedillo, where you can bathe in its medicinal waters and view the vultures close up with modern cameras from the Buitre Lookout Point.

This entire region has a highly concentrated bird population and encompasses Peñas de Arnedillo, Peñalmonte and Peña Isasa, as well as the Alcarama Range and the River Alhama, where limestone escarpments provide shelter for owls and, especially, griffon vultures. Why not climb up to the abandoned, mysteriously beautiful town of Turruncún, and watch these magnificent birds in full flight?
  
Vultures also tend to accompany rock climbers on their ascents, since in Arnedillo alone there are more than 200 climbers’ routes. If you have not yet learned how to scramble up sheer walls, you can train at the public climbing facilities in Alfaro and Autol.

This landscape is bordered to the south by Sierra de Alcarama, the highest mountain range in La Rioja Baja, standing 1,500 metres above sea level. Beneath its shadow lies a crumpled carpet of small hills crossed by the River Alhama, known as ‘the hot river’ by the Moors due to its medicinal waters. This landscape offers many interesting plays of light and shadow during the sunset hours. And where better to enjoy this spectacular show than the fascinating Celtiberian city of Contrebia Leukade.

The reservoir on the River Añamaza, a beautiful enclave nestled between high mountains, is well worth a ramble, as is the nearby Fuentestrún del Cajo Gorge.

Trees? In Sierra de Yerga you will find the Villaroya oak grove, an ideal place for enjoying a walk among sturdy holm oaks and the odd gall oak. This grove is an oasis in the otherwise arid landscape of the region, as are the oak and beech groves of Sierra de la Hez. You can find others for yourself, either on foot or by bike, along the GRs or the green trails in Cebollera, Arnedillo and Cidacos
 

Talk to the locals who will be happy to show you many more paths and trails. And keep your binoculars and magnifying glass handy at all times - you will need them to appreciate the perfect cubic pyrites at the open-air Navajún site, the most important of its kind in the world.

 

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