Where the Duero borders Portugal and is boxed in forming the deepest and most extensive canyons, more than a hundred kilometers, of the entire Iberian Peninsula, is the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, extending through the southwest corner of the province of Zamora and the northwest of the province of Salamanca, in the autonomous community of Castilla y León. The relief of this privileged natural area, which highlights, in addition to its rugged and granite landscape, a rich and varied flora and fauna, was formed in the Paleozoic. Millions of years of geomorphological formation and the power of erosion of the waters of the Duero River and its most important tributaries, the Agueda, the Esla, the Huebra, the Tormes and the Uces have given rise to this immense canyon through which they flow. Canyon of vertiginous walls, arribes, that in some points reach 400 meters of almost vertical unevenness, main characteristic of the park.
Two countries, España and Portugal, sharing an area of identical geographical, climatic and environmental conditions, whose protagonist, the Douro, is both a natural border and a link between a territory and one of the largest protected areas in Europe. The Arribes del Duero Natural Park on the Spanish side and the Duero International Natural Park on the Portuguese side were declared by Unesco in 2015 as a cross-border biosphere reserve, due to their environmental quality, under the name of Iberian Plateau. Paintings and especially cave sanctuaries are some of the vestiges that this land had population settlements since prehistoric times; from the Vetons, a Celtic people, has come to our days numerous castros, steles, fibulas, brooches, rings and ceramics, although the most representative of this people are the verracos, stone sculptures in the shape of a bull, which gives an idea of the importance of livestock in this culture. Romans, Arabs, the Reconquest, the struggles between the different kingdoms, repopulations... have marked the cultural, historical and artistic heritage and values that, together with their natural and landscape assets, have forged the identity of the inhabitants of the arribes.
The Arribes del Duero Natural Park is a spectacular territory where the peneplain, cliffs, ravines, waterfalls, villages... combine perfectly, offering the visitor a wide variety of activities to be carried out by car, boat and on foot, each with its own charm but none of them exclusive of the others. The course of the waters of the Duero and its tributaries, embedded in the deep canyons that have been sculpted throughout the park, offer spectacles as impressive as they are admired, dams such as Almond, Aldeadávila de la Ribera, Saucelle, Villalcampo, the dam of Castro. ... waterfalls of which the main and most famous protagonist is the Well of the Humos, without forgetting or failing to see the equally beautiful but less well known Well Airón or the Lastras waterfall of Aguas Bravas.
A long list of viewpoints, Picón de Felipe, El Fraile, Las Barrancas, El Salto... will make us go, as if it were a game of The Goose, from one to the other surprising us with the vertiginous and magnificent landscape that they offer; in the deep, the zigzagging flow of the waters and in their arribes it can surprise us the flight of the tawny vulture, the golden eagle, the alimoche, the royal owl, the black stork... that have made of them their habitat. Small and easy hiking routes and long-distance trails such as the Gr-14, Path of the Duero, and its variant GR-14.1, Path of the Agueda, cross the park from north to south along 200 km making us visit the villages and places of interest that unite; towns and places of interest that keep a rich historical, cultural, natural and architectural heritage as well as gastronomy.
There are pilgrimages such as the Viriatos, which is held on the first Sunday in June and is considered to be one of the most traditional processions in the Sayago region of Zamora and, in general, in the Arribes del Duero Natural Park. The eight villages of the Sayaguesa region take part in it, and the flag bearers carry the image of the Virgen del Castillo from the Fariza parish church to the hermitage in the same locality.
Many are the traditional fairs that are organized in the towns belonging to the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, fairs in which craftsmen and traders exhibit their products, such as the one in the town of Trabanca where the Arribes del Duero International Food Fair, the Arribes del Duero International Crafts Fair and the International Wine Fair are held annually. The Fair of Crafts and Typical Products of the Region of Sayago and Tras-os-Montes in Moralina, the International Fair of Cheese in Hinojosa de Duero, the Cross-border Multi-sectorial Fair of Lumbrales, the Fair of Wine Denomination of Origin of Arribes in Villarino de los Aires or the Cross-border Fair of Olive grove in Vilvestre.
The Arribes del Duero Natural Park is a protected natural area because of its characteristic orography of beautiful landscapes, deep valleys nestled between vertical cliffs; because of its rich biodiversity, botany, geology, climate; because it is one of the most important ecosystems in Europe where fauna on the verge of extinction feel safe to nest and make the place their habitat; and because of its rich historical heritage and cultural and architectural tradition.
You can hear the local people telling how many, many years ago, when the Muslims occupied the peninsula, in one of their raids they reached where the convent of La Verde was located, now the Salto de Aldeadávila and its hydroelectric power station. The people, frightened by the imminent attack, fled. Among the group was a girl called Marina, who stood out for her beauty, which caused a Moor to take notice of her and pursue her in order to make her his slave and concubine. Marina, seeing that she could not outwit him in her escape, took refuge in a hollow formed by some rocks. The Moor felt that he had already cornered her, but what was not his surprise was that when he approached the rock, it opened and after Marina passed through it, it closed to the amazement of the pursuer. The years went by, and it was never known about Marina until one fine day, while hunting in the area, Infante Don Sancho, Lord of Ledesma, with his retinue, found the remains of the girl, now the relics of Saint Marina, and wanting to take them to Ledesma, they found that the further they went from the place, the heavier they got, and they thought that the saint did not want to leave her cave, so they decided to build a hermitage there, that of Saint Marina, and to bury the body of the girl.
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There are numerous routes that we can follow to access the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, as it extends from north to south along the provinces of Zamora and Salamanca. From the N-122 that links Zamora capital with Tordesillas on one side and with the Lusitanian town of Braganza on the other. We can also arrive from Salamanca itself through Ledesma or Vitigudino or equally, in the south, from Ciudad Rodrigo passing through San Felices de los Gallegos and Lumbrales.
Once in the park there are countless roads linking the different towns and places of interest that make up this natural area.
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