This is the place where the mountains mark the end of a world, and hidden forests hide the secret of forgotten trails. Here they lead us to bask in the sounds of silence. The murmur of the streams flowing down the Oza stops time.
The sound of the wind, humming through the leaves, turns it into a wonderland. The valley holds the magic of the forest, of its people and a culture that seems but a memory; everything soaked in the stillness of silence.
One reaches the Valle del Silencio from Ponferrada, on the LE-158 road, going over the bridge over the river Boeza, which leads to the road to San Esteban de Valdueza and ends in Peñalba de Santiago. The Tebaida Berciana area is a place for hermits. Fructuoso and Genadio, who founded the monasteries in Compludo, San Pedro de Montes or Santiago de Peñalba, are its first signs of identity. Spiritual places inhabited for centuries.
The tour showcases one of the most beautiful landscapes of the region. A virgin valley covered in lush oak woods, rivers, natural waterfalls, and dotted with small villages that blend into the scene. The traditional stone architecture and slate roofs of San Esteban or the quaint, steep town of San Clemente de Valdueza, are both worth a visit.
The narrow road continues up to Peñalba de Santiago. On the homonymous hill, stands a village, declared National Historic and Artistic Monument, which mesmerizes visitors with the medieval charm of its narrow, cobbled streets. One must forego their car at the entrance parking, but you won’t need to go far, to discover why it is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.
Right in the center of the town stands one of the jewels of Mozarabic art in León, the church of Santiago de Peñalba. Despite being built in the 10th century, it is a well-preserved architectural marvel. Fray Prudencio de Sandoval described it as “the most curious and worthwhile thing to see among the antiques that Spain has.” With good judgment, no doubt!
From there, the trip continues to the cave of San Genadio, where the saint used to retire to meditate. The path is easy and offers beautiful views of the village and the valley. Inside, the image of the saint and a signature book testify to the numerous visits that have witnessed such beauty. Legend says that the water drops in the cave don’t make a sound, so they don’t disturb the quietness of the silence.
Parador on the land of pilgrims
At the entrance to Villafranca del Bierzo, a beautiful town of churches, convents, and noble buildings surrounded by hills full of cherry and fig trees, chestnut trees, poplars, and orchards, stands the Parador de Villafranca. Through the windows of its rooms, enjoy views of the northwest of the region and the south of the Sierra de Ancares.
A tour along the Jacobean route or a simple walk around the Parador is enough to discover noble stately homes bearing coats of arms, wooden corridors, and slate roofs. With every step, the aroma of the most authentic local cuisine. There is no need to search. The Parador restaurant condenses the essence of the rich gastronomy of El Bierzo: trout, sausages, empanada, peppers, chestnuts, and, of course, botillo. All washed down with the famous wines of El Bierzo.
And if the experience requires rest and more silence, the Parador offers several charming spaces to enjoy the tranquility. The heated swimming pool, as a complement to another magnificent one outside, and a suggestive reading room with beautiful views of the Vilela Valley will end up giving the most demanding traveler a taste of it.