It was my good friend Maru who suggested we head to Arribes del Duero and go on a river cruise. Always ready to explore somewhere new, I immediately said yes!
Arribes del Duero Natural Park
Arribes del Duero Natural Park or Parque Natural de Arribes del Duero is an expansive river-canyon nature reserve in Spain. For today, our plan was to explore just a small part of the park.
Finding Our Way
We were travelling from a little village called Pozos which is in the province of León, Spain. Google Maps said the drive would be 3 hours. We both love driving the back roads, Maru had her maps and I was driving, no GPS for us!
We left the village of Pozos early – 6:30 AM. We missed one turn on our back road adventure and we were now back on the main highway! Signage on the secondary roads in Spain is sparse, sometimes it is by guessing the direction and a gut-feeling that you have chosen the right way, is all that you have.
Having reserved our seats on the boat for a specific time, we decided to stay on the main roads. A bit disappointing, but better to get there on time.
It was a hair-raising drive down to the river and the boat launch. I happened to be following a tour bus down and figured if he could make it so could we. Thankfully no one was driving up as we were driving down! The Playa del Rostro is also near the boat launch. In the summer this would be a great picnic and swimming area.
Is There Parking?
Yes, there is a large parking lot right near the boat launch. And public bathrooms if you need but, as so often happens in Spain, there was no toilet paper – so be sure to bring your own tissue and hand sanitizer.
We arrived early enough to pick up our tickets and explore the beach area and eat our packed lunch before making our way over to the line-up for the boat. There are no food facilities here so be sure to pack something.
If you want a window seat line up early; seating is not assigned. The windows on the boat fully open which would be spectacular in the summer. It was a chilly autumn day while we were there, but the windows were washed and it was easy to see out.
Cruising Down the River
The first part of the trip takes us downriver to the gravity fed Salto de Saucelle Dam. Straddling the Spain-Portugal border, this dam is operated by Spain's Iberdrola. The boat is operated by a husband and wife team – he pilots the boat and she keeps us entertained with history, facts, and stories in Spanish - for this leg of the journey.
If you do not speak or understand Spanish I highly recommend taking this opportunity to go to the back of the boat and stay outside. The Spanish speakers will stay inside to listen to the guide and you will probably have the back of the boat to yourself!
On the journey back from the dam there is no commentary and the back of the boat fills up with everyone trying to get a perfect photo. This is a good time to sit inside near a window and enjoy the scenery!
Back on Land
After the cruise we drove to Aldeadávila de la Ribera for the Menu del Dia. Always a good choice, it includes a starter, main and dessert for a set price. Usually wine or bottled water is also included.
We ate at Bar-Restaurante Tia Maria. Great service, english speaking and filled with locals!
It was already late afternoon but we couldn't leave the area without going to a couple of the observation decks. We chose the Mirador de Iberdrola which is right above the dam! It was hard to believe we had been in a boat down there just a couple of hours ago!
The canyon is well known for bird watching. Home to Cigueña Negra-Black Stork, Garza Real-Gray Heron, Guitre Leonado-Griffon Vulture, Agila Real-Royal Eagle and the Búho Real-Royal Owl are a few of 200 different bird species inhabiting the canyon.
On our way home we also stopped at the Lookout of Chapel of Nuestra Señora Castillo. The views of the canyon weren't quite as spectacular but with a Ermita close by and the drive through the village of Pereña de la Ribera to get there; made it worth a visit. It would also be a good place to stop for a picnic.
Because this canyon is a natural boundary between Portugal and Spain it would be easy to continue your back roads adventure and drive into Portugal. Having a car is a must for this area. The look-outs over the Canyon are usually side roads of a few kms off the main roads.
The closest main cities are Zamora and Salamanca. The park area is huge and we only saw a small corner. We will go back to explore this amazing area and its villages, look-outs, hikes and waterfalls very soon.
Booking Your Cruise
To book your cruise and for more information contact Corazón de las Arribes.
Corazón de las Arribes also has a hotel and restaurant. We have not stayed at the hotel or eaten at the restaurant. It seems to cater more to bus tours than the individual tourists.
Here is a map showing how to get to the boat launch from Salamanca: