There are many things to do in Zamora, despite it being one of the lesser-known places of Spain. It has so much to offer that it deserves a dedicated visit that will undoubtedly reveal some absolute wonders.
Zamora has one of the best examples of Romanesque towns in Spain. It has four natural parks of great beauty, the winding road of Duero and the calm of the Vía de la Plata, the largest lake in Spain. It also has deer, wolves, many birds, an immense gastronomy and some exquisite wines. There is much to discover in Zamora. Here we highlight just seven features.
Puebla de Sanabria, the most beautiful town of Zamora
The truth is that this subheading may not meet with everyone’s opinion because competition is tough, but the reality is that Puebla de Sanabria has just been included in the list of “The most beautiful villages in Spain” and is the only one in the province of Zamora. This seal of quality is an award at national and international level of prestige in rural tourism and conservation of heritage. Any town that bears this brand meets high standards of quality, beauty and tourist accessibility that will appeal to any visitor.
Its castle dates from the last quarter of the 14th centuryand is accompanied by the Parrochial Church of Our Lady of Azogue, the Hermitage of San Cayetano in neoclassical style and the Town Hall – the standout building of the town with its well-preserved civil architecture protected by walled enclosures, the houses emblazoned with royal families like Los Losada, Los Ossorio, Aguilares. These can be enjoyed by day or night as part of a long but gentle stroll. This harmonious architecture is due in no small part to the town’s mayor, José Fernández Blanco, who has been in office for several decades.
Stunning hotels and hostels
All the towns in the area, given their tourist nature have numerous hotels, rural cottages or hostels in which to stay. In Puebla, despite there being only 1,500 inhabitants, there are thirty places to stay – some really spectacular. For example, La Carteria, with spacious rooms, stone walls and wooden beams. It even offers a small gym and spa. Or there is the Posada de las Misas, at the top of the village, next to the Town Hall and the parish church. To stay here is to enjoy the silence and history. From the windows of its 14 rooms you can admire the wonderful adjoining buildings, the Rio Castro flowing into the Tera, the mountains of the Sierra de la Culebra and the peak of Santo Toribio. Then there is the Posada La Pascasia. Its rooms have an idyllic atmosphere for couples seeking a romantic break: round hydromassage bathtubs, table fruits, subdued lighting, twinkling leds, translucent glasses, mirrors, designer furniture, cheeky bathrobes and various addons perfect for bringing out the romantic in us all.
Diving a thousand meters above sea level
Of all the places to experience, without doubt the most impressive is the glacier-formed lake of Sanabria – a scene bound to wow the hardest of hearts. More than three kilometers long and one and a half wide it occupies an area of almost 320 hectares and a maximum depth of 51 meters. It is the largest glacier-formed lake in Spain and since 2015 has had the status of Unesco Reserve.
The landscape and the lake are spectacular, but what makes it unique is the International Biological Station and its main inhabitant, the world’s first wind-solar powered catamaran, which was sponsored in 2011 by Pierre-Ives Cousteau under international ecotourism standards and for environmental education. A trip on this catamaran is a scientific experience alongside scientist-divers who can be questioned about fauna, flora, geology and ethnographic-archaeological remains – using radiocommunication and cameras – with enough room for 80 passengers. It includes a wind-solar technology classroom, collection of plankton for examination via the onboard microscope, sonar equipment and hydrophones that allow the kiddies to explore the search for aquatic dinosaurs. The trip ends with a local cider tasting.
Arribes del Duero, nature as an architect
The tenacity of the Duero, intent on boring for millions of years the granite mass of the region of Sayago, has given rise to the dazzling spectacle of the Arribes, a cleft up to 200 meters deep on the border with Portugal.
An almost dramatic spectacle for its beauty, the great Duero contours form cliffs full of vegetation.
The view from the numerous viewpoints or its banks is spectacular, but even more so when crossing the river in one of the boats that makes the river cruise from Fermoselle, a beautiful town that stands out especially for its popular and well preserved architecture. Along its steep and winding streets you will discover old houses and the most picturesque corners of the locality.
Whilst on the cruise you can observe eagles, vultures, mallards and black storks, as well as the typical vegetation of Arribes. From the river or in the viewpoints, you can enjoy the agricultural landscape, the traditional riverside architecture, the contrast of the Duero valley of its Portuguese and Spanish sides, or the natural waterfalls.
The call of the deer
When the summer ends and until the middle of the autumn (2017 is delayed due to lack of rain) it is the time of deer bellowing in the province of Zamora and the ideal place to witness this is the Sierra de la Culebra. The pure environment in which the deer reside and their season of zeal mark a moment of great concentration of animals. It is then that the stags compete for the power and the hierarchy before the attentive eyes of the females.
In order to appreciate it fully, it is necessary to be accompanied by expert local guides and high-end optical equipment, especially at dawn or dusk. During the activity you can also observe other species of fauna that move around the place, such as the wild boar, roe deer or Iberian wolf. The spectacle is almost always observed at a distance, although the husky and long bellows of the males in heat are heard perfectly, and the blows of their horns resonate throughout the Sierra, during their struggle to gain control of the herd. The winner of the multiple skirmishes between the males will be the one that will take care of the herd and the one that will claim the females that by this time will also be in heat.
From wolf to bee
Deer are not the only animals that populate these lands. The Iberian wolf lives in the Regional Reserve of Mountain range of the Culebra and contains the largest concentration of these wolves in Spain, which has given fame to the Zamorana region. The wolf fights for land that it shares with wild boars, roe deer, foxes, otters, wild cats and badgers. The fauna of the Sierra de la Culebra is one of the richest in Castilla y León.
The Iberian Wolf Center is an educational resource and socio-economic project linked to the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in Castilla y León. It allows its visitors to see Iberian wolves in conditions of semi-freedom, as well as to learn the characteristics of their life, environment and habits. The Center is located in the town of Robledo, just 10 km from Puebla de Sanabria, municipality to which it belongs. Robledo is a small but charming village bedecked by oaks and chestnut trees.
Not far from the great wolf is the tiny bee. The Sagallos Honey Thematic Center, opened in 2016, providing a didactic expositive and interpretive tour of one of the main activities of the area: beekeeping. The tour includes the traditional processes of harvesting and treatment of honey and the whole process of beekeeping, from the formation of hives to its management, as well as the work of bees, the habitat of the Sierra de la Culebra and the organization social development of the hive.
From octopus to cabbage
After such interesting and invigourating tours, it is time to stop and enjoy the rich gastronomy of these lands… and the excellent wines. From the generous vegetable gardens that form part of its landscape, the habones and the berzas that fill the sanabresas pots are obtained, being the base of the Sanabrés broth or cabbage soup.
The Sanabrés octopus, very similar to the one of its Galician neighbors, is part of the culinary traditions of the region, being typical in the romerías. The trout of its rivers and the cod share a place of honor in the Sanabreses stoves.
From basics such as bread are born the farinatos, mixed with the best of the meats of the region. Cattle are bred in the local pastures , from which you can enjoy the chops and the ribeye steaks. Pork delicacies that formerly were found in the traditional winter pantry have given rise to the chorizo sausages, the mondejo and picadillo, the main ingredients of one of the most popular local stews.
From the meadows, on the roadsides and in the pine forests of the region, a great number of mushrooms are collected, among them the Boletus Edulis de los Pinares and the Macrolepiota Procera, popularly known as “cucurril”, which are appreciated for their quality and high culinary value.
Among the most characteristic desserts in the region are roasted fried donuts, roasted apples and cooked or roasted chestnuts. Also note the torrijas and the fritters, traditional sweets of Lent, the fried milk, or the rice with milk. Cider from the region has gone from anonymity to fame, quoted as having “excellent soul and a good endurance.” Additoinally the area has for years been producing quality wines of strictly Sanabrian origin.