Worth a Trip: Road Trip: North of Ciudad Rodrigo

One of the most dramatic landforms in Castilla y León, the Parque Natural Arribes del Duero is a little-known gem. This road trip takes you through some of the most picturesque country and villages.

The quiet SA324 north from Ciudad Rodrigo gives no hint of what lies ahead. At Castillo de Martín Viejo, 17km northwest of Ciudad Rodrigo, take the turn-off for Siega Verde, the Unesco World Heritage–listed archaeological site with 645 prehistoric rock carvings of animals and ancient symbols – it's one of the richest such collections in Europe. San Felices de los Gallegos, 40km north of Ciudad Rodrigo, has a pretty Plaza Mayor and a well-preserved castle. After Lumbrales, a further 10km to the north, the road (now the SA330) narrows and passes among stone walls and begins to buck and weave with the increasingly steep contours of the land. The Mirador del Cachón de Caneces (lookout) offers the first precipitous views. The road then drops down to the Puerto de la Molinero before climbing again to Saucelle (24km from Lumbrales) and then on to Vilvestre (31km), with pleasing views out towards the Río Duero and Portugal.

But it's at Aldeadávila, around 35km to the north, that you find the views that make this trip worthwhile. Before entering the village, turn left at the large purple sign. After 5.1km, a 2.5km walking track leads down to the Mirador El Picón de Felipe, with fabulous views down into the canyon. Returning to the road, it's a further 1km down to the Mirador del Fraile – the views of the impossibly deep canyon with plunging cliffs on both sides are utterly extraordinary. This is prime birdwatching territory, with numerous raptors nesting on the cliffs and griffon vultures wheeling high overhead on the thermals.

For an entirely different perspective, return to Aldeadávila, and at the eastern exit to the town follow the signs down to the lovely Playa del Rostro, from where 1½-hour boat journeys follow the canyon to the base of the cliffs. There's also a solar catamaran that operates from the Portuguese side of the water.

Other options for exploring this area are the brilliant kayaking tours offered by Zamora Natural or birdwatching detours with Wild Wolf Experience.