Nuestra Señora de la Hoz monastery in the Duratón River gorge, Castile and León, Spain
© Arco Images GmbH/Alam
A gorge-ous spot for a monastery
Lace up your walking shoes and let’s head into the Hoces del Rio Duratón, in the Spanish region of Castile and León. This imposing 17-mile-long limestone gorge boasts towering vertical walls that can reach up to 328ft (100 metres) high. The Duratón river which carved it meanders through a landscape rich in history and archaeological treasures.
Inside the cliffs are several caves with ancient paintings dating back to the Bronze Age, and a dark Visigothic grotto which is thought to be the first Christian temple in the region. Above one of the bends in the canyon sits a 12th century Romanesque church, just a few miles away from the ruins of the long-abandoned and isolated Franciscan monastery you see in our homepage image.
While you don’t need to be a hermit to enjoy this spectacular landscape, you may well spend hours walking alone with only the slightly unnerving company of huge griffon vultures circling above your head. It’s nothing personal - this gorge is home to one of the largest griffon vulture colonies in Europe, with more than 600 registered pairs nesting here.