Hidden treasures under the Valdecañas reservoir

Sara Rodriguez Romo | Live the World

November 23, 2022

In the northeast of Extremadura, not very far away from Madrid, there is a huge water reservoir: Valdecañas. It is situated at the heart of the Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Totally worth the visit! Plus, this region has been inhabited for millennia. Every summer, like a spell, under the water comes up the place's most precious treasure: the Guadalperal dolmen, with 144 menhirs. Care to find out more about this place?

The Valdecañas reservoir

In the 60s, this spot was chosen to build a great reservoir, according to Franco’s policy. The river Tagus, the biggest of the Iberian Peninsula, crosses these lands, and it would ensure a lot of water suppliance. The only problem was that there were some villages where people actually lived - an old Roman city and this huge dolmen. Two Roman temples were saved, and everything else went under the water without second thoughts. 

© Sara Rodríguez Romo

The Spanish Stonehenge

In the summer of 2019, the draught of the reservoir revealed on the surface something that had been completely forgotten for more than 50 years: a vast ensemble of menhirs (144), a true cromlech. It was baptized the “Spanish Stonehenge,” and then somebody realized that there had not been any in-depth studies about it. In the past, a German scholar excavated the place (a century ago) and concluded that the remains could be 7,000 years old - 2,000 years older than the Pyramids! The scholar also stated that the dolmen had been so rich that even the Romans had already plundered it — not much more information. 

The oldest map of the world carved on the main menhir

Nowadays, there is a much more interesting theory: the main menhir has possibly carved on it the oldest map of the world! It would be a map of the Tagus River, faithfully designed on the rock. As a matter of fact, until the Roman period, this spot was the only natural ford (and the Tagus, as I said, is the longest of Spain). So you can imagine how important this place was. 

© Wikimedia Commons / Pleonr

Augustobriga and the two temples

Because of its strategic situation, the Romans also built a huge city here: Augustobriga. Great Roman writers had already mentioned it, so the European scholars looked for it for centuries. However, when it was finally found, again, the excavations did not last long: the place got immediately drowned. Its remains can still be seen when there is a draught. Luckily, someone was wise enough to at least save two temples: “Los Mármoles” and “La Cilla" - in Spanish, "warehouse," because this one ended up being used as such. 

© Sara Rodríguez Romo

They were placed over the reservoir: this spot has a great view. If you look up, you will probably have some huge vultures flying above your head. And the best part is the easy access: coming from Madrid, you have to leave the motorway a few kilometers later. The temples are just by the road, with a free parking area just beneath them. The access to the dolmen is a bit trickier, but if you talk to the locals, you can even get there by boat - more beautiful than driving your car through a dusty road!

Valdehuncar, the village of the witches

Finally, if you are into paranormal phenomenons, not far from there, you can drive to Valdehúncar, the village of the witches. Since so many different civilizations lived here, the place has kept many stories and traditions that are really interesting. For instance, the 30 prehistoric rock carvings are believed actually to be magic spells. There is a haunted house and some crazy stories about a witch that used to turn into a pig a hundred years ago. Talk to the elderly, and you will not believe the stories they can tell you! 

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