Burgos is known for being one of the coldest places in Spain. The province of Castilla y León is famous for being cold, for the capital’s cathedral, a major stop on the Camino de Santiago Frances, and for its many pueblos (villages and towns). It is said to have more villages than any other province in the Greatest Peninsula in the World. In my experience from crisscrossing the province on the bus and train over the years, it happens to have some of the most beautiful villages too. It has a ton of mountains and a ton of plains. Peregrinos (pilgrims) get a special discount to enter the cathedral by the way. (It normally costs 7€ to enter. I’m not paying that money to enter a House of God, sorry! Even if it is said to be one of the most impressive in the world. I’m not sure they’d be happy with my Credentials going from Zumaia to Burgos with no stops in between either! So I didn’t try to use them.)
El Cid, Rodrígo Diaz de Vivar is a real (yet more known for the important Spanish literature El Cid) was born in Burgos in the village Vivar del Cid. He was very important in the fight against the Moors. I keep meaning to read this Spanish work of literature but have never got around to it. (I have read Quijote in Spanish if that counts for anything.)
In 2013, on a cold three-day weekend I had in January, I finally got the chance to visit the capital city. I fell in love with the Cathedral and the Arco de Santa María, the Río Arlanzón, the Cartuja Miraflores (a Carthusian monastery) and the views from the Parque de Castillo (Park of the Castle) of the city and surroundings. I tried tapas de morcilla (blood sausage, black pudding, whatever translation works for you), which is so much better than the English name makes it sound (Reason #928392 why Spanish is better than English) and experienced the city. I had come wanting some snow, but it was 10ºC/50ºF. On Sunday, going back to Madrid, I stopped in the town whose bus station serves as the “parada de 20 minutos” in the bus from Bilbao to Madrid. It had looked so beautiful from the road. And it was really beautiful to walk through the streets, but the good weather ran out on me. It started to rain a cold rain/sleet, and I had a bit of time to kill before the next bus to Madrid. I’m glad I got to see Lerma, but I wish I would’ve had better weather.
Later in 2013, during my move from Madrid to Bilbao, I rented/hired a car and drove through the province, stopping in Aranda de Duero. I was running late, so I had no time to really explore it, but I did get a chance to see what the town was like (very typical small city of Castilla y León). I took the back roads to avoid the too-high toll roads and saw some incredibly beautiful mountains. I stopped at a roadside café to have one last café before crossing the Euskadi border (something like that scene in Ocho Apellidos Vascos, only rainier). I love small-town Spain in the summer evenings.
In 2014, I returned to the province once again, this time to work at an intensive-English course. I regret that my ankle was still healing from the sprain as there were so many beautiful trails to hike nearby.
On the backroads, on the old highway, there is an incredibly beautiful village in the mountains known as Pancorbo.
And I just got back from another trip to the capital city. This time, I was greeted with snow flurries, a nice change from the torrential rains that have plagued the Basque Country since November. Most of the weather was sunny, though. I stayed at the same hostal I had before, which is by far one of the best hostal (cheap hotel) I have stayed at in Spain. Happy Corral Hostal will give you a good night’s stay at a cheap price, and the front-desk clerk knows a lot about Burgos and is willing to inform you about anything the province and city has to offer.
I sort of wanted to relive Burgos before writing about it, and I was also hoping to cross a few more places in the province that I wanted to see off my list. Unfortunately, without a car, a lot of the weekend transport leaves a lot to be desired (IE, not a lot of bus options). One day, when I have a car, all these Set Meravelles that I list that I haven’t been to yet WILL be crossed off, I promise.
Any trip to Burgos is a well-deserved trip, though. Without further ado…
Catedral (UNESCO World Heritage Site) y el Casco Viejo de Burgos
Even though I haven’t seen the inside of it as I am a
cheapskate don’t feel that one should pay money to enter a House of God, the outside alone of the Cathedral of Burgos is impressive enough. The construction of the Gothic cathedral began in 1221. Nearby is my fave, the Arcos de Santa María, the medieval gate to the city. There are a ton of tapas bars nearby, and the Plaza Mayor is also quite stunning (and yes, has relaxing cafés con leche.) Two great nearby bars/cafes are Cafe de España (opened in 1921) and Viva La Pepa, right in the cathedral square. The Cathedral and city are best contemplated from high above, from the Parque de Castillo in front of the Burgos Castle ruins (there aren’t much, honestly). I write all about the capital city in one shot because there is so much to be discovered in this province. The city capital is 180,000 habitants, by the way, with another 20,000 in the metropolitan area.
Lerma, population 2800, is more than a “parada de 20 minutos” on the Madrid-Bilbao ALSA line. It has many buildings designed by the Duke of Lerma, Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, a close friend of King Felipe III, including the Ducal palace. The Ducal palace was a prison during the Spanish Civil War and today is a parador, one of those castles or palaces turned into a hotel. There are also various churches and a medieval feel.
Atapuerca (to be discovered)
The Atapuerca Mountains has a ton of caves and secrets of the past. In the mountains lies the important archaeological site of Atapuerca where human remains from the Bronze Age were found in 1964 while digging out a railway tunnel. The excavation site is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Covarrubias (to be discovered)
Covarrubias, population around 650 habitants, is a beautiful medieval village located in the Río Arlanza valley. It was declared a Cojunto Histórico-Artístico in 1965.
Frías (to be discovered)
Frías, population 275, is an offical Pueblo Bonito in Spain and the smallest population to be called a city. Yes, 275 people can constitute a city (remember, Bilbao, capital of the world with its 350,000 citizens is a villa, not a city). But it was made a city in 1435 and has been one ever since. It has a castle, medieval bridge and some hanging houses. Skyscanner recently named it one of the 17 Most Beautiful Villages in Spain.
Santo Domingo de Silos (to be discovered)
The Benedictine Monastery and Abbey named for Dominic of Silos dates back to the Visogoths of the 7th century. Fernando I (Fernando the Great) had Santo Domingo renovate it, hence the current name. It’s considered one of the most beautiful and important monasteries in Spain.
San Pantaleón de Losa (to be discovered)
The Valle de Losa is located in the north of the province. The”ermita de San Panteleón de Losa” (hermitage/small church) was consecrated in 1207 and is said to have the blood of San Panteleón and figures into the search for the Holy Grail (it’s in Valencia!!!). For me, it’s the scenery that gets me. Like I always say, God is always a better architect than man.