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Spain's Top 10

Simple...a series of lists rating Spain's top 10 in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

Top 10 Geological sites in Spain
15 December 2014

Spain contains some of the best exposed outcrop geology in Europe. The Iberian Peninsula contains rocks from every age from Ediacaran to Recent, and almost every kind of rock is represented. The core of the Iberian Peninsula consists of an Hercynian cratonic block known as the Iberian Massif. In the northeast this is limited by the Pyrenean Fold Belt, and in the southeast it is limited by the Betic Foldchain. These two fold chains are part of the Alpine Belt. The western peninsula is delimited by the continental boundary formed by the magma poor opening of the Atlantic ocean. The Hercynian Foldbelt is mostly buried by Mesozoic and Tertiary cover rocks on the east side, but nether the less outcrops through the Iberian Chain and the Catalonian Coastal Ranges. here are 10 of the most important geological sites in Spain:

 

1. Sobrarbe, Huesca


 

Sobrarbe, in the Aragonese province of Huesca, is home to some of the most striking landscapes in the entire Pyrenees, from the calcareous summits of Treserols to the canyons of Ordesa and Añisclo (pictured), the valleys of Pineta and Escuaín, the Posets massif, the valley of Chistau and the Sierra de Guara mountains. 

 

2. Molina de Aragón and Alto Tajo, Guadalajara


A new Spanish member joined the European Geopark Network in March of this year: the Molina de Aragón and Alto Tajo geopark in Guadalajara province. Its 4,000 square-kilometer area includes the Gallo River Gorge, the fossil forest of Aragoncillo and the pit of Alcorón. The park’s symbol is aragonite, a variety of calcite that crystallizes in hexagonal prisms and was first described thanks to samples found in Molina de Aragón.


3. Cabo de Gata-Níjar, Almería


Dating from 10 million years ago, the formations at Cabo de Gata on the Almería coast are one of the largest magma-derived mountains in Europe. Old lava flows, volcanic domes, craters and fossilized beaches make up a landscape that, despite looking like a semi-desert, is home to a variety of ecosystems, including more than 1,000 endemic plant species and some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. 


4. Sierra Norte, Seville


Seville’s Sierra Norte mountains stretch from the mine at Cerro del Hierro (Iron Hill) to the spherical granite rocks of El Pedroso and Real de la Jara. In between, visitors can find the Los Covachos cave, the Huéznar River waterfall, the fossilized jellyfish of Peña Escrita, and over 170,000 hectares of cork oak, holm oak and olive trees. 

 

5. Central Catalonia, Barcelona


Around 36 million years ago, Catalonia’s interior was covered by a sea that disappeared as a result of the great folding process that gave birth to the Pyrenees. Among the products of that geological process are the Toll and Salnitre caves, the serrated peaks of Montserrat (pictured) and the Catalan potassium basin.

 

6. Sierras Subbéticas, Córdoba


The collection of limestone massifs extending southeast of Córdoba province, along the border with Jaén and Granada, show the effect of water over the course of eons. This is a chaotic landscape filled with pits and sinkholes, karst formations such as the limestone pavement of Los Lanchares, the Bailón River Canyon and the Bat Cave, near Zuheros. The area is also known for its ammonite fossils – the remains of cephalopods that ruled the seas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. 

 

 

7. Basque coast, Gipuzkoa


Fossils trapped for over 50 million years in the pastry-puff rock formation – technically known as flysch – along a 13-kilometer stretch of land on the western coast of Gipuzkoa have earned this place a spot in the European Geoparks Networks. Like a book written in stone, each stratum of flysch contains a 60-million-year-old chapter in the history of the Earth, from the Upper Cretaceous period (around 100 million years ago) to the Eocene (40 million years ago). 

 

8. Villuercas-Ibores-Jara, Cáceres


Extremadura conceals unexpected landscapes, such as the one to be found at the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara geopark in Cáceres, where deciduous forests sit alongside olive groves, holm oak and fields of rockroses. It is a rocky place of jagged-peaked mountains that rise above the oak forests like dinosaur backbones. And beneath it lies a striking world of karst formations inside the cave of Castañar de Ibor, which was declared a natural monument in 1997 thanks to its eccentric calcite stalactites, arboreal shapes and delicate aragonite “flowers.” 

 

9. Island of El Hierro, Canary Islands


The eruption of an underwater volcano off the Canary island of El Hierro in 2011 is just the latest chapter of an epic geological journey that began 100 million years ago, when the seabed opened up and released the magma that formed the isle. The smallest and wildest island in the archipelago, its 278 square kilometers contain over 500 volcanic cones and nearly 70 lava-made caves such as Don Justo, whose galleries span over six kilometers. 

 

10. El Maestrazgo, Teruel


From the heights of Gúdar down to the border with Lower Aragón, the Guadalope River crosses a network of mountains, peaks and canyons that were once home to the Sea of Tethys and monsters such as the Elasmosaurus. Its tracks, and those of other dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras, are on display at nearly 70 paleontology sites inside the El Maestrazgo geopark. 



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Top 10 Most Beautiful Villages : Rioja
08 December 2014

La Rioja is the smallest region in Spain, but the territory is home to a range of landscapes and locations typical of a continent. The Mediterranean essence appears in the vineyards, the alpine climate take shape in the snow-capped mountains, and the rain-fed land creates moonscapes. But, above all, water steals the show. Seven rivers are born in the region and crisscross through it, decorating the landscape. Every step opens onto a new world, without ever leaving the region. Staying at a country guesthouse in a unique natural environment and enjoying a starry night with the Starlight reservation are some of the experiences you can enjoy when you visit La Rioja.  Here are 10 of the most beautiful villages in the region worth visiting during your stay...

 

 

1. San Millán de la Cogolla 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the middle of the Cárdenas river valley sits San Millán de la Cogolla, a Rioja town founded by the saint of the same name and linked for centuries to the Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela. The deep-rooted monastic tradition of the town can be seen in the beautiful collection of historic buildings it houses, where the Monasteries of Suso and Yuso, both declared World Heritage Sites, are outstanding. The importance of San Millán de la Cogolla is also due to its status as the cradle of the Spanish tongue, since the first documents written in this language are preserved here.

 

 


2. Nájera 


Situated 27 kilometres from Logroño, Nájera is one of the towns on the Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela, thanks to King Sancho III, who in the 11th century modified the route so that it became a staging post for passing pilgrims. The town is divided by the river Najerilla and an exceptionally important monument stands on its banks: the monastery of Santa María La Real. Built in 1032, it underwent a number of modifications in the 15th century. Its fortress-like external appearance constrasts with the ornamental beauty of the cloister of the Caballeros (knights), so-called because of the great many nobles buried here. The church houses a magnificent piece of carving in the choir, a brilliant high reredos with a Romanesque image of Santa María La Real, the Royal Pantheon, bearing the tombs of some thirty monarchs; the mausoleum of the Dukes of Nájera and, in the crypt, the cave where according to legend the Virigin appeared before King Don García, who ordered the construction of the site. Facing the monastery is the Nájera History and Archaeological Museum, with sections on prehistory, the Romans, the medieval period, ethnography and painting, as well as material from the Nájera region. Also of interest is the Santa Cruz parish church and its lantern resting on pendentives, situated in Plaza de San Miguel.

 

 

3. Santo Domingo de la Calzada


One of the Rioja towns most deeply marked by the Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela is Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Its network of medieval streets, declared a National Historic Interest Site, store a valuable heritage, particularly its walls, the Cathedral and the old Pilgrims' Hospital. La Rioja's gastronomy, and above all the famous wines of the region, are some of the attractions the area offers, where it is also possible to visit the cradle of the Spanish language and the monasteries of Suso and Yuso, in San Millán de la Cogolla.

 

 


4. Ezcaray


 Sitting in the Sierra de la Demanda mountains, on the banks of the river Oja, the town of Ezcaray and its surrounding area are as ideal for those who seek rest and peace and quiet as they are for mountaineering fans. Outstanding in the town centre is the church of Santa María la Mayor, built between the 12th and 14th centuries and declared a Historic-Artistic Site. Its Aragonese Gothic style is unique in La Rioja. The cylindrical towers of the church, which reinforce the corners, give it the appearance of a medieval fortress and palace. On the outside, you will see a beautiful row of balconies, carved on which are the coats of arms of the town's former noblemen. The carved wooden door of the main entrance is plateresque in style and dates from 1532. The west door is mannerist, from the mid-16th century. Inside, you will find a church of a single nave with ogival vaults and medallions. Also of interest is the group of buildings which form the Royal Cloth Factory of Santa Bárbara, from the 18th century, and the dyeing house popularly known as “El Fuerte”. The area around Ezcaray is made up of striking mountain scenery, with streams, forests and peaks over 2,000 metres high.

 

 

5. San Vicente de la Sonsierra


 It was created in the 10th century as a fortress for the people of Navarre and together with the Davalillo castle it formed a line of defence. The town inherited the chains depicted on the shield from the kingdom of Navarre, which was the ruling power. Since the 16th century, the Vera Cruz Guild has organised traditional processions and flagellations during Easter, on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, during the Cruz de Mayo spring festivities and in September. The most important of these is the «picaos» procession, which is when the guild's penitents whip themselves in public. This is an ancient tradition that has not been seen in the rest of Spain for centuries.

 

 


6. Sajazarra

The village is a historic and artistic fortified ensemble with ogival arches on its walls. The impressive castle dated 14th century is one of the better renovated in La Rioja. The Church of La Asunción, from the 12th and 13th centuries, has different styles and is next to the castle. Its interior stores an image of the Virgen de La Antigua.


 

 


7. Viniegra de Abajo 



Viniegra de Abajo is one of the 7 Villas in the autonomous region of La Rioja. Viniegra de Abajo is between Camero Nuevo and the Demanda Mountains in the area known as the subdistrict of Upper Najerilla. It stands 881 metres above sea level and is 74 km from Logroño and 50 km from Nájera. The River Urbión crosses Viniegra. The river begins in the Picos de Urbión Mountains which are in the same municipal area as the village.

 

 

8. Casalarreina 


Casalarreina is a municipality and town in the autonomous region of La Rioja. It is in the northeast of the province. The district is under the local jurisdiction of Haro. It is predominantly a farming town: wheat, barley, beet and fruit, particularly apples. In the last few years, the number of poultry and pig farms has grown and as a result, there are more sausage businesses. The Dominican Convent of La Piedad in Catholic Monarchs and Plateresque styles is very interesting. This historic and artistic monument was established in 1508. The church has a five section nave, clover chancel, and chapels between the buttresses. The portal is very decorated. The monastery hosts a Plateresque reredos dated from the beginning of the 16th century, a reliquary cross in gold-plated silver from the same century and several Baroque reredos with Baroque images.

 

 

9. Briñas 



Briñas is a municipality in the autonomous region of La Rioja. It is in the northwest of the province between the Toloño Mountains and the left bank of the River Ebro. The district is under the local jurisdiction of Haro. The Parish Church of La Asunción, dated 17th century, has a single nave with chapels between buttresses, a transept, and an octagonal chancel.

 

 

10. Uruñuela

Uruñuela is a farming municipality in the autonomous region of La Rioja, just 23 km from the region's capital, Logroño, and 3 km from Nájera. Uruñuela covers 10.4 km2. Today the municipality's surface area measures 13.9 km2, as on the 10 March 2010, the La Rioja government passed Law 3/2010 modifying the municipal areas of Torremontalbo and Uruñuela. Under this ruling, Somalo left the first of these municipalities and became part of the second. The town is 499 metres above sea level and is part of the district of Nájera. The current population is around 950, although this figure increases considerably in summer. Over the last century, the population decreased by 25%.

 



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