Photo of Las Medulas

Visit Las Medulas

Las Medulas is an extraordinary site of Roman gold-mining activity which has left behind a landscape of rocky peaks of red rock and green valleys in the Leon province of Spain.

Las Medulas is near to the town of Pontferrada with Ourense to the east and Léon to the west.

Explore Las Medulas

Las Medulas is a beautiful area of red rocks created in Roman times by a mining technique called 'ruina montium' or 'wrecking mountains'. It consisted of undermining a mountain using huge amounts of water.

To provide this water seven or more aquaducts were built to transport the water to the area. The mines in question were gold mines and Las Medulas was once the largest open-pit gold mine in the Roman Empire.

Las Medulas

The mountains were first mined by open-cast methods which often involved building fires in the rock and then dousing these with water to put the rock under extreme pressure and make it easier to hack away lumps of the rock.

Once everything that could be achieved by open-cast methods was done the rock would then be mined by tunnels and Pliny the Elder, a Roman author describes how men could spend months at a time in these tunnels and many died.

Once completed the tunnels would be connected to the resevoirs of water via the aquaducts and water allowed to rush in and collapse parts of the mountain.

In Las Medulas Pliny estimated that over 6,500 kilograms of gold were extracted each year by around 60000 workers. The area was mined for 250 years and probably fed 1,640,000 kilograms of gold to the Roman Empire in that time!


The resulting "ruined" mountains of red rock are very beautiful and the area has been made into a Cultural Park managed by the Las Medulas Foundation. As well as the beautiful rocky landscape there are the remains of some of the aquaducts to discover and the remains of Roman and pre-Roman settlements.

There is also a museum providing detailed descriptions of the gold mining activity that took place here at Las Medulas.

Las Medulas is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At the site the closest parking is near to the village of Orellan and from here a 10 minute walk takes you to the lookout point where you have stunning views over the area as a whole.

Certain times of the year and day are better than others to enjoy the sun shining on the red rocks but it is an impressive view whenever you go.

Once at the lookout point you will be given hard hats and torches to take a self-guided tour of the mines. Be sure to wear suitable footwear for your visit. There are various longer walks through the stunning landscape that you can do if you wish.

Las Medulas

Places to visit nearby

Nearby Ponferrada is a pleasant town which is one of the last towns on the Way of Saint James pilgrimage before reaching Santiago-de-Compostela. It is home to a 12th century Templar castle.

Castrillo de los Polvazares is classified as one of Spain's most beautiful villages.

Astorga is another of the principal towns of the Way of Saint James and has both an attractive cathedral and palace designed by Gaudi. It also has an attractive main square.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Leon guide and the Castile and Leon guide.

See also: 

Map of Las Medulas and places to visit


Las Medulas places to visit



Ponferrada is a town on the Camino de Compostela that is home to a Templar castle.

Ponferrada guide
Castrillo de los Polvazares

Castrillo de los Polvazares

Castrillo de los Polvazares is one of Spain's most beautiful villages. It was built in the 16th century in a lovely reddish stone.

Castrillo de los Polvazares guide


Astorga has a fine cathedral and a multi-turreted palace the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace) designed by Gaudi.

Astorga guide


Verin is a town with 17th century houses. The imposing Castillo de Monterrei stands above the town.

Verin guide


Lugo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of its Roman wall which circles the city and has ten gateways.

Lugo guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Castile and Leon