Another chance for a 24 hour getaway – and we had a plan. We’ve been having horrible weather here recently, snow, rain, cold – brilliant for one thing at least – waterfalls! And especially vital for one waterfall in particular, in fact, the highest waterfall in Spain, the Salto del Nervión – the river which later runs through Bilbao. It’s located in the Parque Natural de Monte Santiago in Burgos, but falls into Alava, Basque Country, and it’s rare for the water to actually be falling – 2/3 days of intense rain are needed beforehand – and of course a bit of snowmelt doesn’t do any harm either! We’ve been before and it was dry, but we fancied our luck this weekend.
We set off late, drove a couple of hours through the dark evening rain to a spot we’d seen on Park4Night, and also on Furgoperfectos. The park itself is closed from 9am to 10pm, and overnighting is strictly forbidden. However, there is a car park and picnic area next to the road at the entrance to the park, which was where we were heading. We were pleased to see another van there on arrival, and parked up no problem (lots of space for van overhang behind). The road is rural and pretty quiet, although a few cars did pull in and out during the evening. However, things took a turn at 6.30am when we were woken up with a bump – literally, a car had reversed into Berta and then drove off (quickly, after Gonzalo leapt up and beeped the horn). No damage was done, it was a light bump, but it was a bit random, unnerving, and needless to say that was the end of our good night’s sleep! The following morning we spoke to the couple in the other van (and apologised for the beep!), who had thought maybe we were being robbed, but luckily it was just a scare – maybe to teach us to ensure we sleep around other vans. Anyway, we weren’t going to let that ruin our weekend!
The next morning after 9am we drove on down the track into the park to the most central car park of Monte Santiago – next to the Casa del Parque visitor’s centre. There were also hikers setting off from our original overnight car park for a longer circuit – maybe a better place to stay parked for bigger vans. It was certainly a VERY good idea to get to the inside car park early, and we were able to park with the idea of being to get out easily and without having to make crazy maneuvers later on. Obviously, it was not just us who figured that this would be a good weekend to find water in the falls! The rest of Spain had the same thought it turned out. By 10am after we’d finished our breakfast the car park was full, and people were already starting to park along the sides of the road.
We started out with a visit to the Casa del Parque – all Parques Naturales in Castilla y León have a Casa del Parque visitor’s centre with maps, information and displays, and they’re a good idea to start a visit. We bought the map of the park for 1€, and there’s a great network of marked walking routes. We decided to do the one which wasn’t on there of course, but we’d seen it on the main notice boards – part of a GR marked route (in red on the photo map).
First we joined the motorway of people along the main track which leads to the falls, and checked out a curiosity in the beechwoods on the way – as advised by the guide at the Casa del Parque, there are strange natural limestone areas of rectangular cut rocks, which almost look like a Roman road.
If you’re just coming to go to the falls and back, then this main track is well surfaced, and not muddy, so doable in normal footwear. Of course, when the water’s falling, it’s because it’s rained, so if you’re intending to walk anywhere else in the park, you’ll need good grip, waterproof boots, as it was very muddy and slippery – we did rather wish we’d brought our walking poles. In fact, the detour we took following the GR round to the right, over a cattle grid, involved crossing the river on partly submerged rocks. It was worth it though, for the fabulous views back across the canyon to the falls and hoards.
We did then walk back round and see the falls from the official viewpoint, where there’s a nerve-wracking overhanging platform (more nerve-wracking with 30 people on it!).
There are several options for walking back to the car park, one which goes right around the cliff to the left (which we did last time), but we chose one which goes back through the lovely beech woods, past a curious cave, and we were all on our own, bliss!
On getting back to Berta, we realised quite how well we’d parked. We were able to get straight out, which was a miracle considering how many cars were parked everywhere. This would NOT be possible with a bigger van on a busy day like this (which I imagine is every weekend there’s water in the falls).
We then headed down towards Orduña, stopping first at the Mirador del Puerto de Orduña overlooking the valley and scary road down.
We stopped briefly in Orduña itself at the bottom of the valley, and had a wander around. Driving past the huge church actually made us turn around and go back to check it out, and it’s a pleasant town, but nothing to knock your socks off, neither were the pinxos we had on the plaza to be honest.
After that it was home time, heading back past the town of Artziniega which looked like it had potential, and over into the Mena valley. I like this valley, it has a very impressive long rock ledge towering over it, and a few waterfalls and churches in it to explore. We headed for a siesta and late lunch spot to Siones, parking up on a flat bit next to its Romanesque church.
Post siesta we headed on home, stopping on the way to change waters at the private AC Areain Santelices, 2€ for services.