Las Médulas

/Discover/Las Médulas

Las Medulas are said to be the largest open-cast mines of Roman times, and were declared World Heritage. They are of singular beauty, surrounded by chestnut trees dating back hundreds of years, lakes, peaks, and galleries, one of the greatest works of engineering of bygone times.

    The need for gold, due to a change in the monetary system (Aureo) and for other causes, made the Romans conquer this territory, until then occupied by the 'Castro' villages, the Asturs, who would then be forced to work in these mines for 2 centuries (I and II A.D).
    In the exploitation for gold in Las Medulas, the ore was found in separate particles. For this reason it was necessary to blast the mountain and wash the conglomerate to obtain the gold and eliminate the waste outside the mine. All this activity required great quantities of water which was drawn from the highest mountains (ice-caps, river heard-waters...) through a complex network of channels, cut totally or partially, into the rocks as far as the mine. Once there, the water was stored in deposits until needed. There are more than 400 km of channels, some of which are over 100 km long.

    Nowadays, some of this infrastructure has been made available for visitors who wish to stroll through them and appreciate 'in situ' this impressive work of Roman engineering. The possible routes through the Aquilinos mountains are in the Cabrera district (Llamas, Pombriego...).
    The Archaeological Area is very extensive and there are many places to visit and discover. Most of them are due to this mining activity. The lakes (Carucedo or Somido) are the results of the washing and excavation of the gold, and have become interesting marsh-lands where today, we can enjoy the important ecosystem.

     The Senda de las Vallinas provides us with an interesting walk in a forest of chestnut trees , hundreds of years old, intermingling with a labyrinth of peaks and galleries, visible remains of the mining exploitation in the area the Ruina Montium.
    From the Orellán viewing-point and its gallery, we can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the excavations, not to mention those of Pedrices, Chao de Meseiros, or Frisga...

    In Carucedo we come across the Casa del Parque dedicated to nature, to sustenance. If we wish to refer to history and archaeology we can find the Aula Arqueologica and the Visitors´ reception center, good choices to make for a guided tour allowing us to comprehend the work that other peoples carried out in this marvellous place.

Tourist information
Centro de recepción de visitantes de Las MédulasVisitors´ reception center in Las Médulas
Visitors´ reception center in Las Médulas
987 420 708 / 619 258 355.
Domus RomanaDomus Romana
Domus Romana
Aula arqueológica de Las MédulasArchaeological classroom Las Médulas
Archaeological classroom Las Médulas
Aula arqueológica de Las MédulasPark house
Park house
Visit cave
Mirador de OrellánViewpoint Orellán
Viewpoint Orellán
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Maps & guides

Romans channels to Las Médulas

/Discover/Romans channels to Las Médulas

Las Medulas are said to be the largest open-cast mines of Roman times, and were declared World Heritage. They are of singular beauty, surrounded by chestnut trees dating back hundreds of years, lakes, peaks, and galleries, one of the greatest works of engineering of bygone times.

    These canals supplied water uninterruptedly, but not simultaneusly, to the mining site of Las Medulas for nearly 200 years. Indeed, they were a fundamental part of the operating system of the mine, providing the energy needed to break down and remove hundreds of millions of cubic meters of alluvial sediment rich in gold.
    This is one of the largest hydraulic systems of the ancient world, according to the significance of the mine to the Roman Empire. One detail serves to illustrate this statement: the existence of the second longest canal of the Antiquity within the hydraulic network of Las Medulas, as it is the so-called C-3 canal with 143 km in length.

    The Roman canals of Las Medulas are very uniform in terms of design and dimensions. Indeed, the width of the box is between 1,20 and 1,30 m in most of its route, although it may vary between 1,20 and 1,60 m in different sections of the same canal.

The shape of the canal was achieved by cutting the rock and digging the substrate as well as by building masonry walls, whose use was widespread in the outer side of the conduction (the side hanging over the slope).

One feature that draws more attention on field observations is the gentle slope of the layout of the canals, usually between 0,2 and 0,3% (± 0.05%).

    The hydraulic network of Las Medulas got to reach more than 600 km in length divided into 9 main canals, although not all of them worked at the same time. In fact they were built and used successively as the evolution of the mine demanded water delivery at higher altitudes.

    The network consists of 9 main water conductions, of which only 3 ran through the northern side, which looks at the El Bierzo basin. The remaining 6 main and 2 auxiliary canals go through the southern slope of the mountain, in the side of the Cabrera river valley.

    To lead preferentially the water conductions to the course of the Cabrera river and subsequently to the Eria river, indicates an apparent insufficiency of the intermediate streams to ensure the water supply of the mine, and to cover the flow capacity of the canals, at least for long periods of spring, summer and fall. Therefore, a direct supply from the main fluvial currents with stable flow throughout the year became absolutely necessary.

    The main trail is named GR 292. It is a long distance footpath linking the place of Campo da Braña, in the boundary of the archaeological site of Las Medulas, with the small village of Llamas de Cabrera, located in the west hillside of the Pico de la Cruz.

This trail is divided into 3 stages, with intermediate waypoints in Pombriego and Santalavilla, including different detours and derivations that enhance the trail providing access to sections and points of great interest, representative of the canal network.

Stage 1 Campo da Braña - Pombriego
Stage 2 Pombriego - Santalavilla
Stage 3 Santalavilla - Llamas de Cabrera

Two short trails:
-The PR-LE 61 is a less physically demanding trail connecting the village of Llamas de Cabrera with the Virgen del Valle chapel. Along its track, it runs two separate sections of the C-1 and C-3 canals that stand out because of their archaeological remains and great scenic landscape.

-The PR-LE 62 is a very short path that communicates a recreational area of Llamas de Cabrera, located in the left banks of the Cabrera river, with the Moyabarba´s pool where the Romans opened a stunning cut into the rock to divert the current of the river in order to let the panning of the gold-rich sediments accumulated in the riverbed.

    The Aquilianos mountain landscape, and specifically the southern slope of this range belonging to the Cabrera´s watershed, is dominated by Mediterranean shrubs, with a mixture of heather and rockroses covering large areas and leading to very dense and tight formations.

Tourist information
Centro de recepción de visitantes de Las MédulasVisitors´ reception center in Las Médulas
Visitors´ reception center in Las Médulas
987 420 708 / 619 258 355.
Domus RomanaDomus Romana
Domus Romana
Aula arqueológica de Las MédulasArchaeological classroom Las Médulas
Archaeological classroom Las Médulas
Aula arqueológica de Las MédulasPark house
Park house
Visit cave
Mirador de OrellánViewpoint Orellán
Viewpoint Orellán
Mapas y guíasMaps & guides
Maps & guides

St. James'Way

Faith moves mountains. This could have been in the thoughts of the first pilgrims on their way to Santiago, a religious act, the completion of a promise.... which would end up being in the presence of the Sepulcre of the Apostle Santiago (James) of the IX Century, a massive pilgrimage in the XI, XII and XIII centuries with the creation of hospices, shelters, monasteries, villages... which would aid the pilgrim to achieve his goal.

Cruz de FerroCruz de Ferro

    Near to Foncebadon at the entrance to the Bierzo we come across St. James' hermitage and the 'Cruz de Ferro' (Iron Cross) where custom has it that by throwing a stone onto the the pile will ensure luck on his journey.
St. James'Way runs through 20 towns in the Bierzo.

    On his descent along twisting roads between mountains and valleys the route crosses villages like Manjarin, Riego de Ambros, and Molinaseca, a Jacobean village, a stopping-off place for pilgrims.
    Acebo was a medieval village which enjoyed royal privileges in return for the fact that his neighbours placed 800 sticks in the St. James´Way to guide pilgrims in winter from the hostelry of Foncebadón to this village.
It ended up having 300 neighbors, judge, hospital for pilgrims, jail and school, which gives us a vision of the importance of this village in the past.
1  El Acebo
  • San Miguel Arcángel Church
  • Former schools
  • Real Street
  • Hermitage of the cemetery

    Riego de Ambrós. It is located 6 kilometres southwest of Molinaseca. It is the last point of the trekking route between Molinaseca and Malpaso bridges. It should be noted Santa María Magdalena Church with its steeple in three sections (declared protected feature), San Sebastián hermitage, and the streets full of traditional houses with exterior stairs, corridors and masonry.
2  Riego de Ambrós
  • Santa María Magdalena church
  • San Sebastián hermitage
  • Real Street
  • Santa María Magdalena fountain

    Molinaseca. Is a medieval villa of the St. James´ Way, to which one accedes through the well-known Main Street, which combines a well preserved architecture and emblazoned noble houses. It offers the visitor all its beauty and tranquility. Traditional gastronomy and wines can be tasted in its restaurants and inns.
3   Molinaseca
  • Nuestra Señora de las Angustias Church
  • San Nicolás de Bari Church
  • The Pilgrims Bridge
  • Real street
  • Balboa Mansion
  • Malpaso Bridges

    Campo. It is a late Roman village with lots of hostelries in the past. Nowadays several 17th century constructions made in masonry are preserved. It should be noted the Santa María church with three naves covered with groined vaults.
4   Campo
  • Santo Cristo hermitage
  • Santa María church
  • Plaza Mayor/ Main square
  • 17th century housings
  • Real street

    Ponferrada.     In the 11th century, the Bishop Osmundo ordered to build a bridge for pilgrims over the River Sil called Pons- Ferrata which gives its name to the town.
Visitors can enjoy walking through the Templar Castle or visiting Nuestra Señora de la Encina Basilica and the museums.

    Columbrianos. San Esteban church (16th century) and San Roque's hermitage (17th century) and some other 17th buildings are examples of the architecture that we can visit.

    Fuentesnuevas. It has got a crossroads with a column, a base, a shaft and a capital, which tells the pilgrims they are on the right way. It is also important to visit its 17th church, which has got a rectangular floor plant and only one nave.

    Camponaraya.In the Middle Ages, there were two hospitals called Soledad and San Juan de Jabero. This village is characterised by little geographical relief. There is a plain in the south part whereas the north zone presents a waved relief with low hills.

    Cacabelos. Is located in the very center of Bierzo where the land is more fertile. With landscapes full of vineyards, fruit trees and riverbank vegetation. Cacabelos was a important villa along the St James´Way so that it preserved its monuments and buildings of that era of high splendour.

    Pieros. The slope to Pieros leads us to the Celtic settlement in Castroventosa, which shares territory with Villafranca. It is situated on a 638 metres high hill. The settlement Berguidae was located here.

    Villafranca del Bierzo. .     It is also called The Little Compostela. Santiago Church receives the pilgrims. It is said that ill pilgrims could obtain the same indulgences as in the St. James Cathedral when they couldn´t reach Santiago de Compostela.     Crossing the river Burbia, the pilgrim will find the detour to Corullón where he/she will contemplate its castle, and a spectacular view of the Burbia Valley from its viewpoint.

    Pereje. It is Hidden between leafy forests of chestnut-trees and walnuts. You can feel the freshness and hear the endless rushing of water. The still alive, simple culture transmits tranquility, serenity and harmony.

    Trabadelo. It is a obliged way to Santiago. The path will lead us to Trabadelo through the Valley of the river Valcarce. On the way, you can find small bridges and beautiful big paths as well as thousand-year-old chestnut trees and oak trees which are used as shelter for pilgrims.

    La Portela de Valcarce. It is the first village in the municipality. Its name means " narrow step between mounts " or " tightening of a valley or of a river ". It is placed by the N-6 road and it has lots of services available. A restored church and a blacksmith´s are preserved on the banks of the river Valcarce.

    Ambasmestas. It is located on the confluence of the river Balboa and river Valcarce. Pilgrims entered the village through the old bridge, but nowadays only the columns are preserved which are part of the current bridge.

    Vega de Valcarce. It occupies most all of the plain that the river formed. There two castle, one on each side of river basin, but only one is preserved, Sarracín Castle. During the Middle Ages, the powerful archbishops of Compostela possessed and controlled all the valley. They also named other feudal lord to control all the shire.

    Ruitelán. It is thought to be Roman in origin. All its entire history revolves around the church, which is Romanesque.

    Las Herrerías. According to Elías Valiña SamPedro, its name was different during the Middle Ages, probably “Villa US”, “Villaus” or “Fumeterre”. Later, they changed the name because there were some industries related to the iron ( “hierro” in Spanish).

    La Faba. It is a village between Bierzo and Galicia. During the Middle Ages, it was named “Allefaber” and “Fave”. We can distinguish the San Andrés church ( 18th or 19th century) in which main gate we can find a shell in the stone of the lintel.
19  La Faba.
  • San Andrés Church
  • Roman Bridge
  • Roman road
  • Traditional housings

    La Laguna de Castilla. It is the last village of Castile and Leon. Castilla was added to its name because there is another village with the same name in Lugo (Galicia).
20  La Laguna de Castilla.
  • La Laguna Celtic Settlement
  • Former School
  • Hórreo
  • Traditional Housings

    CAMINO DE SANTIAGO DE INVIERNO Surge como una alternativa al Camino Francés cuando en invierno al peregrino se le planteaba la dificultad de subir al Cebreiro o cruzar los caudalosos ríos. Esta variante abandonará el Camino Francés en Ponferrada y sin cruzar el río Boeza se desviará para seguir dirección Toral de Merayo, Villalibre de la Jurisdicción, Priaranza, Santalla, donde podrá admirar una de las mejores vistas del Valle del Sil, continuando su camino para ascender a Villavieja y visitar el Castillo de Cornatel, antiguo castillo de Ulver, muy vinculado a los Templarios. Seguimos bajando dirección Borrenes, Las Médulas (merecen una parada), y desde aquí, hacia Puente de Domingo Flórez donde terminará esta primera etapa de 35 km que continuará ya en tierras gallegas.

Biosphere reserve of León Ancares

"A visit to Ancares is to return to bygone times where the present blends with tradition. Ancestral summits, deep valleys and gently sloping mountain sides alternate in rugged harmony, and turn into endless white blankets in winter. Small thatched dwellings, chats round the fire, legends and festivals. Brooks and rivers with the purest of water. Ancares where time sleeps on, where the forgotten comes to life, where the silence of the valley is always with us."

    Declared a Biosphere Reserve in 2006, Ancares is one of the most symbolic, unknown spots in our country.
    The notable valleys, Candin, Peranzanes, Vega de Espinareda, Villafranca del Bierzo, Balboa with their rivers Ancares, Burbia and Valcarce respectively.

    Profound valleys are converted into natural gateways towards neighbouring Asturias and Galicia where bears, 'urogallos', mountain goats, deer, wolves.... make their homes in the immense forests of oak, holly, beech and chestnut trees, hundreds of years old,and the deep rose of heather, the magestic yellow of broom; of saffron, liquorice, cranberry or gentian....all of which cover the uncountable hillsides,as far as the deepest parts of glacier valleys scored by twisted rivers of cold, crystaline water in which renowned rainbow trout and otters, their principal predators, abide.

    Castle ruins, bridges, hermitages, monasteries and above all, small thatched dwellings related to age-old activities, crafts, cattle rearing or agriculture. This along with the preservation of the traditional culture, which has brought past and present generations together and which transport us to vivid territories which confer an important cultural patrimony, material and immaterial alike.
     Candín, Balouta, Campo del Agua, (Of cultural interest since 2008...) Cantejeira, Balboa are important names, which can be found in this Biosphere Reserve.
    The Palloza was a construction of Pre-Roman times which was still used upto the beginning of the XX century. Circular or oval in shape between 10 and 20 metres in diameter, walls of stone (slabs of slate) and a conical thatched roof where humans and animals lived together taking advantage of the warmth of the animals to stave off the long, cold winters. Pallozas, often had beside them small huts, grain stores, and other auxiliary buildings which lent to the whole a self-sufficiency, above all, on the many occasions when one could become cut off because of heavy snow or adverse weather conditions.
Tourist information
Casa de las Gentes de BalboaCasa de las Gentes de Balboa
Casa de las Gentes de Balboa
Turismo Villafranca del BierzoVillafranca del Bierzo
Villafranca del Bierzo
Vega de EspinaredaVega de Espinareda
Vega de Espinareda
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Highlands of El Bierzo

Deep Valleys, leafy forests and little hidden villages form part of the landscape transformed by the work of the extraction of coal. The Higher Bierzo is watered by two rivers, thus dividing the area into two valleys: The Sil and Boeza. The peak, Valdeiglesias in Palacios del Sil, and the Catoute in Sierra de Gistredo are the summits of the Bercian district reaching a height of over 2,000m.

    In the Boeza valley, Bembibre is a reference point, being the capital of the Highlands of El Biezo, and we can pay a visit to the little old part of the village,the Town Hall Square, St.Peter's parish church, the Highlands Bierzo museum, and the Ecce Hommo Sanctuary (neoclassic).

    Near to this village a monastery of medieval origin San Miguel de las Dueñas and the Sanctuary of Congosto are to be found, from which a spectacular view of the Barcena reservoir way to be seen at the foot. If we follow the river Boeza to its source, we come across villages like Folgoso de la Ribera, famous for its artesan Nativity, Igüeña, Colinas del Campo de Martin Moro Toledano (A historical artistic complex which boasts the longest name in the province of Leon).

     Those who love mountains can enjoy different routes. The best known are, the climb up to St.James' plain (the source of the River Boeza), the climb to Catoute (2,112m) to healing waters of Noceda and to the cork tree forest in Cobrana.
     In the River Sil valley, we could set out towards Toreno with its famous medieval spire or justice pillar. Close by this village we can visit the Sanctuary of San Miguel de Langre (containing an excellent Barroque church) and the village of Libran whose mountains harbour cave drawings. Following the course of the River Sil which is the most important river in this area, villages such as Matarrosa, Paramo and Palacios del Sil, villages built by the mining companies to house the miners alongside the coal washing bays form part of the real mining landscape. This, however, is not all the area offers, as we make our way, we are able to contemplate spectacular forests, impressive landscape, thus arriving at the summer pastures of Seita, Zaramedo, and Degollada.
     The most ernest hiker will enjoy climbing to the peaks of Valdeiglesias (2,136m) the Catoute and will also discover the Sierra of Gistredo.
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Noceda del BierzoNoceda del Bierzo
Noceda del Bierzo
Palacios del SilPalacios del Sil
Palacios del Sil
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Valcarce & Selmo

Leafy forests and numerous meadows watered by rivers of crystaline water originating in heights which give the name to this valley. These surrounding mountains are rich in minerals which is testified by the abundant ruins of blacksmiths, the remains of past splendour which established the development and wealth of the population.

    The Valcarce Valley follow St.James' Way for 14 km before this reaches Galicia. The village of Balboa, well known for its Noche Magica (Night of Magic – St. John) its chestnut bonfires, its Casa de las Gentes (House of the people), its thatched dwellings and with its castle on the high ground controlling the surroundings. St. Marina's Church-of cultural interest- with a Roman sanctuary, shelters an altar-piece of Renaissance appearance. From here we can approach the village of Canteixeira to admire its thatched dwellings or to 'lose' ourselves in the woodlands. The Peña del Seo (1,560m) famous for the 'black gold' tungsten extracted during World War II, gave birth to the novel by Raul Guerra Garrida, '(El año del Wolfram – The year of Tungsten)'.

     The district of Barjas is ideal for hikers. Routes like the beech forest of Busmayor (spectacular in autumn) Campo de Liebre or heading up to Capeloso (1,603m). In the village of Barjas we can still see an occasional 'horreo' (a construction used to store food, safe from animals and damp) and the Serviz forge.

     Valle del Selmo. The river which gives its name to this valley carries abundant water which was employed to power numerous forges. Villages like Sobrado, Friera, Oencia, Castropetre, well-known for the medicinal qualities of its waters- clinging to the mountain sides and perfectly adapted to the land,make good use of as much arable land as possible.

     This valley offers spectacular views to the traveller such as from Penoucos, the chalk headlands of Santo Tirso de Cabarcos, the Cabeza de Alba convent and the leafy chestnut-groves. whose trees give a great importance to the area and surrounding district.

     Barjas has the largest beech forest in northern Spain, here we will find holly, birch, maple and rowan.
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The Aquilinos mountains - La Tebaida berciana

This is a mountain range situated to the south-west of the province of Leon with lofty heights, some of which are over 2,000m. The beauty and solitude of these mountains with narrow, leafy valleys harbour sheltered hermitages from the V century until the Middle Ages, becoming a first order spiritual nucleus,such as testifies the Montes Monastery or Peñalba church.

    Ponferrada, the capital of the Bierzo district, is the place where we must start off for these mountains. By crossing the medieval Boeza bridge we arrive at the village of San Esteban de Valdueza. Taking the left fork and following the course of the river Oza we come across tiny villages which still conserve their popular zest such as Valdefrancos and San Clemente.

    The Valley of Silence or Tebaida Berciana as Father Florez called it, was a refuge for those hermitages in the Middle Ages, those seeking shelter in these mountains, the silence, and the verdure of their valleys.

     Saint Fructuoso and Saint Genadio founded their monasteries here. St. Peter of Montes Monastery (Montes de Valdueza) which originated in the 7th century and the Santiago de Peñalba (Peñalba de Santiago) historic, artistic complex of which only the church remains is a real jewel of Mozarabic architecture of the 10th century. The frontage will leave nobody indifferent.

     Here an indicated path leads to the mythical cave of St.Genadio where the saint retired to pray. Besides all this, these mountains conceal beautiful walks for lovers of mountains.
The Campo de las Danzas is possibly the place of worship of the Asturs. From this point we are able to reach the village of Ferradillo or the peaks of Aquiana or Guiana mountains, the latter, one of the numerous viewing-points in the Bierzo.

    The Morredero is one of the peaks. The twisting road takes us there with numerous turn-offs but is worth the effort.
In Otero we can visit St. Maria de Vizbayo Church which is probably the oldest in the Bierzo. The villages of Campo, Lombillo, Salas and Villar de los Barrios each boast several manor houses and heraldic churches, viewing-points and hermitages.

    In San Cristobal, at the entrance to the village next to an ancient hermitage a Yew-tree dating back over a thousand years is to be found,an outstanding specimin in the Bierzo. After this, we come to the Morredero, at the top of which, we come across a small ski-station which is very popular and can be enjoyed by ski-lovers.

    Compludo. Another valley situated in these mountains is Compludo which shares its name with the villages of which it consists. Espinoso, Carracedo, Palacios... All of Compludo. This is a place of numerous monasteries although nowadays none are conserved. The most famous feature in the valley is the blacksmith's, declared a National Monument since 1968, a faithful witness to the mining activity in the Middle Ages.
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PonferradaEaster week
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The Bierzo district which is surrounded by mountain ranges, is a land, rich in minerals. We are able to discern the traces, which the search for these in the mountains, has been made all through time.

    Here the Romans left behind the biggest gold mine of all the empire. Centuries later the abundance of rivers started off great mining activity which was at its height in the nineteenth century.

    The metal Tungsten attracted interest in Germany as well as with the allies in world war II. This produced the Black gold fever, of which, only remain the ruins of the settlement 'La Piela' (Peña del Seo) in the midst of woods and beautiful valleys.
   The most important predecessor of the archaeological industry in the district is connected to the extraction and transformation of coal into energy. The MSP (Minero Suderúgica de Ponferrada) was founded in 1918 to mine the carbon deposits in the district ,and, of the neighbouring Laciana. For this purpose, the railway line which joins Villablino to Ponferrada was built. This marked a before and after in the industrialism of the Bierzo.

     El Pozo Julia in the mining settlement in Fabero, belonging to Antracitas de Fabero ,has been turned into a museum where we can appreciate the effort needed for the extraction of this mineral.
   MUSEO NACIONAL DE LA ENERGÍA has its base in the former MSP power station, which originally operated from 1920 until 1971. Its purpose is to demonstrate the historical and industrial patromony and to help with the economic development of the district.

The complex is made up of four adjacent buildings. A different stage in the transformation of coal into electricity can be seen in each one.
A steam engine can be seen (Baldwin nº8 built in 1919) which was used to transport the mineral,the combustion of which, generated the steam necessary to move the turbines to generate electricity.
     This Museum is original in its exposition as there are enormous screens distributed throughout the power station. On these screens, former workers explain what their work consisted of, and some of their experiences, taking the visitor back in time.
Tourist information
Ene.Museo 987 40 08 00
Ene.MuseoM. de la Radio
Ene.Museo 987 40 08 00
Ene.MuseoAlto Bierzo
Ene.Museo 987 40 08 00
Fabero 987 55 02 11
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