One plus of spending 26 days working in a rural “English camp” this summer was seeing a part of Spain I never would have otherwise. We took a lot of hiking and camping trips with the kids, in which I experienced a lot of nature (which I love) and also allowed me to explore some of the pueblos in Las Merindades.
Las Merindades is the name given to a group of pueblos scattered through the region of Burgos in Castilla y Leon. Near the border of Cantabria, the region is a mixture of montes y valles. It’s really a beautiful place. The villages are so small and remote that they get snowed in during the winter! However, in the summer, the villages are full of people visiting their relatives and vacationing in their summer houses.
One of the hidden gems of this region is the Hermitage of San Bernabé located near Merindad de Sotoscueva. The hike from Butrera took several hours, but that could be done quicker without a group of 50 kids. The route is filled with fields of sunflowers stretching into the outlying mountains.
Once we arrived, we set up camp among some park benches for lunch. In our free time, we had the chance to walk down the Sumidero del Rio Guarena. This is a small stream coming from the Guarena River that actually drops straight into the caves.
As you lower down to the riverbed, the temperature drops rapidly… about five degrees each 10 steps, which is pretty cool. The creek is tranquil, cool, and extremely green. If you feel adventurous, step across the moss-covered stones to peek down into where the stream falls into the cave.
The hermitage itself is accessed through the outside doors, but there is also the option to tour the caves. The tour begins with a cheesy actor pretending to be San Bernabé conjuring spells and seeing the future through a pool of water. The interesting part to me is seeing the cave formations and remains of ancient people who took shelter there.
Entrance to the Hermitage and Caves:
– 2,50 for students under the age of 25
– 3,50 for individuals age 17 to 65
Open hours April – September:
– 10:30am – 1:30pm and 4:30pm – 6:30pm
– Hours vary in early spring and late fall, closed December – February
The walls of the hermitage are covered in paintings of Christian martyrs and saints, along with scribbled writing in castellano antiguo.
If you aren’t into a religious hermitage or caves, I think the hike (or drive) there is worth it just for the views of the Montes del Somo, that mark the border of Cantabria. Go ahead and step off the beaten track in Spain!