Orbaneja del Castillo: the secret is out…

Somewhere on the road from Burgos to Santander in Northern Spain, we decided to take a random turn. We left the main road, curious to see where the panoramic, hairpinned road would take us. And then there it was, nestled in the rocky banks of the El Ebro valley: the adorable tiny village of Orbaneja del Castillo. The town is very little-known to outsiders, so time to let the secret out.

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Hidden gems are hard to find while traveling, but every now and then, you get lucky. We had three travel guides with us for our trip through the North of Spain: the ‘Insight Guide’ spent four short lines on the town, the ANWB Guide and Trotter guide didn’t mention Orbaneja del Castillo at all. Unlike other ‘traditional villages’ in the area that are mainly there to attract tourists (you’ll recognize them by the huge parking lot nearby), Orbaneja is as real as it gets.  The houses are rustic and old but not neglected, the traditional architecture is charming without too much of an effort and the views are, well, incredible to say the least. From the town you have a clear view over the edge of the Ebro gorge, covered in curious shapes. With a bit of imagination, the most striking figures show two camels kissing each other. We spent two arounds walking around in the little village, and every now and then you just have to turn around and look at those whimsical forms and surroundings.

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The El Ebro valley

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The village with the kissing camels on the other side of the valley
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The town centre. The river Ebro cuts the village in two halves, which normally delivers a fairytale like waterfall that disappears in deep rocky cliffs, but when we were there (September), the river was pretty much dried up.

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The village is built on the rocks of the El Ebro valley.

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According to Wikipedia, there were 47 people living here in 2010. An older man came up to us while we were walking around and said that there used to be much more inhabitants before, but the younger generations left Orbaneja to work and study in the cities.
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The old castle serves as a hotel.

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The kissing camels carved in wood, as a window shutter

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Another cool formation in the rocks!
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One of the paths leading to a cave (we didn’t complete the walk)

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How to get there?

If you’re going north from Burgos to Santander via the N-623, you’ll come across a small intersection. The road straight ahead continue to Santander, but turn left instead, following the sign that says ‘Escalada, Orbaneja del Castillo and Polientes’. The next 5 kilometers of hairpins and gorgeous scenery will take you right through the ‘El Ebro’ gorge. First you’ll come across the village of Escalada and next is Orbaneja del Castillo.