New Zealand might be off-limits to international visitors for the foreseeable future, but you can now get a taste of Middle-earth on a brand new hiking route inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in central Spain.

In the Sierra Norte mountains near Madrid, the cleverly named El Camino del Anillo – the Ring Road – is a 122km-long circular walking trail that’s divided into eight sections and can be walked over the course of a week, making it an attractive alternative to Spain’s other pilgrimage paths, such as the famous Camino de Santiago. The trail meanders through mysterious landscapes of jagged peaks and ancient forests meant to evoke the fantastic scenes from Lord of the Rings books and films. El Camino del Anillo starts at an interpretation centre in El Molar before heading off into the wilds, passing by Buitrago del Lozoya (said to take after the Middle-earth village of Bree), Horcajuelo de la Sierra (the Elven valley of Rivendell) and the ‘White Tree of Gondor’ in Torrelaguna.

This rural route was established here in an attempt to bring awareness and breathe new life into this remote area with a shrinking population that could be revived through tourism. El Camino del Anillo is a project that’s been five years in the making and was developed by the Laudato Si Foundation, a nature conservation charity with connections to the Archbishop of Madrid, but walkers of all types – believers and nonbelievers – are welcome on the trail. 

High Angle View Of Landscape
El Molar, Spain Steve Race/EyeEm/Getty Images

Trekkers are allowed to hike through independently but are encouraged to contact the El Camino del Anillo foundation to secure accommodation, some of which is in shelters and bunkhouses owned by the church. The organization offers accommodation, guides, and talks on Tolkien and stargazing, as well as the option to complete some of the route by canoe, which costs €275 for the weeklong adventure.

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