A-1, what you cannot miss on the road to Burgos

Of the large Spanish radial highways, the A-1 has the task of connecting the capital with Irún, in the province of Gipuzkoa. A key link to facilitate access to the Basque Country, Navarre and La Rioja. This is why it is also known as the Autovía del Norte (“Northern Highway”). However, its first main section ends in Burgos. An almost straight ascent of more than 230 kilometres that ends at the junction with the AP-1 in Rubena, shortly after the capital of Burgos. A route that is the heir to the N-I, with no shortage of attractions. Wines with D.O., roasts, castles, Romanesque or ducal complexes await you along the way.

Mapa de lo mejor de la A-1, la carretera de Burgos

The reservoirs between El Molar and Buitrago de Lozoya

Kilometres from 50 to 75

The motorway begins in the interior of Madrid to exit through Alcobendas, San Sebastián de los Reyes and San Agustín de Guadalix. It is here that the dual carriageway between the N-I and the A-1 begins. The project to link Burgos and Madrid took from 1968 to 1992, although for decades the section to San Agustín, today at kilometre point (pk.) 34, was the only one. About ten minutes later, El Molar is reached. From this village to Buitrago de Lozoya there are several marshes to be seen.

Buitrago de Lozoya en la A-1

Buitrago de Lozoya. | Shutterstock

The first is that of Pedrezuela, between El Molar and Venturada. If the plan is not to leave the Community of Madrid, you can choose to take exit 50 (pk.50) and the N-320 to get to Torrelaguna, a typical town in this area, in less than ten minutes. In this way, you can continue along the M-131 to El Berrueco, next to the Atazar reservoir. The A-1 is taken again in Lozoyuela. In total, this detour is about 27 kilometres long.

Once in Buitrago de Lozoya, one of the most beautiful areas of Madrid and which stands out for its medieval atmosphere, the Riosequillo reservoir to the east of the A-1 and the Puentes Viejas reservoir to the west of the town complete the offer. Any of the mentioned offer walks and bathing areas are frequent. For this reason, this section of the motorway is very popular in summer.

The A-1 Mountain Ranges

Kilometres 91 and 252

On the A-1 there is a mountainous environment that stands out from the rest. The Somosierra pass is one of the hot spots on the Burgos road. It is an area of historical passage between the two halves of the Meseta Central, its surroundings were frequented by bandits for centuries. With a lot of heavy traffic, it is convenient to be careful in it during the storms. The Morón García tunnel, on pk.91, crosses this point which divides the Sierras of Ayllón and Guadarrama. It was opened in 1992 and closed the main phase of construction of this infrastructure. Before that, it was necessary to take on a more complicated ascent along the N-I.

Before crossing to Segovia, at pk.85, the detour to Montejo de la Sierra allows you to see this beautiful place and the Montejo Beech Forest. In autumn this beech forest is one of the most outstanding in Spain and you only have to travel 18 kilometres to reach it.

Ruta por la A-1 Hayedo de Montejo

Montejo beech forest, in the surroundings of the Lozoya valley. | Wikimedia

Meanwhile, having reached Santo Tomé del Puerto, a small detour of about ten minutes along the N-110 allows us to get to the cave of Los Enebralejos, on the Segovian side of the Sierra de Guadarrama. It is one of the most important caves in the province. Prehistoric remains have been found there and it has interesting geological formations. Meanwhile, it takes a similar time to reach, also by the N-110 but in the opposite direction, the colourful Riaza.

Vista general de Riaza

Overview of Riaza. | Shutterstock

Further on, at the end of the route and next to Burgos, is the Sierra de Atapuerca. The village of the same name is less than 10 kilometres from the pk.252; where the motorway becomes the N-I. It should be noted that the AP-1 to Miranda del Ebro is no longer a toll road and forms an extension of the A-1. The archaeological site, the place of the medieval battle, the mountain viewpoints or the Way to Santiago that runs through it are its main attractions.

Eating at the A-1 grills

On the road to Burgos you can eat wonderfully. After passing Somosierra it becomes clear that the agricultural sector is the driving force behind most of the towns and villages around the motorway. This defines the menu. There are traditional sweets provided by several monasteries and convents, as you will see later, products such as the well-known Burgos morcilla (blood sausage) and excellent breads. Thus, the options focus on classic Castilian recipes. However, roasts stand out from the rest. The star dishes are Segovian suckling pig and lamb.

Lechazo de Castilla Y León en la A-1

Castile and Leon suckling lamb.

There are grills both within walking distance of A-1 and close by that deserve a stop. For example, the service area of Boceguillas is located on pk.115. It has become quite well known by those who regularly travel on the road. Meanwhile, you have to take exit 133 if you want to stop at Las Campanas de Miliario. In the surroundings of a rest area, the piglet stands out in the menu. Furthermore, from there it takes just 20 minutes to reach the Hoces del río Riaza Natural Park. Some 13 kilometres further on, in the area of Burgos and also next to the road, the Lagar de Milagros is famous for its lambs.

Once past Aranda de Duero there are still excellent alternatives for eating a Castilian roast. Although it is at the height of pk.188, you have to pay attention to go to the Parrila de Fontioso. The service road leading to the restaurant is taken differently depending on the direction you go. In the centre of Lerma, only half an hour from Burgos, Casa Antón is a safe bet. Finally, with the road coming to an end, the Landa restaurant, which is also a five-star hotel, should be highlighted. Its lamb is one of the highlights of the route.

Castles very close to Aranda de Duero

Kilometre 150

The passage from Segovia to Burgos takes place between kilometres 140 and 141 of the Autovía del Norte. Only 10 minutes later you will reach Aranda de Duero, one of the large towns on the Burgos road next to Lerma. However, it is now time to make the decision to go east or west.

Castillo de Peñafiel A-1

Peñafiel Castle.

If you follow the first direction 35 kilometres you can visit Peñafiel. This impressive National Monument overlooks the whole town. Its curious longitudinal layout, with a tower towards the centre, is due to the 15th century renovation. However, the fortress was expanded from the 10th century onwards. Alvar Fáñez, Almanzor, Ferdinand III and Peter the Cruel are some of the most important figures linked to its history.

Peñaranda de Duero muy cerca de la A-1

Peñaranda de Duero.

If you turn east, you will reach Peñaranda de Duero in less than half an hour. With a very similar style to the previous one, the fortress began its construction in the 11th century. Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar passed through the town during his wanderings, so it is part of the route of El Cid.

The Aranda de Duero-Lerma axis

Kilometres 160 and 200

Between Aranda de Duero and Lerma there are about 45 kilometres to be covered in about 25 minutes if there are no traffic problems. Both are the most interesting stops on the section of the A-1 between Madrid and Burgos; the cities that serve as the starting and finishing points.

Iglesia de San Juan de Aranda de Duero

Church of San Juan in Aranda de Duero. | Shutterstock

Aranda de Duero (pk.150-163) is an area of great winemaking importance. It has many wineries, both underground and on the surface. Many of them are attached to the D.O. Ribera del Duero. The region has been active since pre-Roman times; although the Christian repopulations laid the foundations of what can be seen there today. In the conflict with the Arabs, this area became almost a desert. The church of Santa María la Real, which is Gothic and dates from the 15th century, is its most outstanding monument. The shrine of the Virgen de las Viñas, on the outskirts but still in the urban environment, is also particularly noteworthy.

Palacio de Lerma A-1

Lerma Palace. | Shutterstock

Lerma (pk.199-203), on the other hand, is inextricably linked to the duchy to which it gave its name. The grandiose ducal complex can be seen from afar and completely defines the image of the place. Its four towers are a rarity, as usually the dukes could only put up two of them. However, legend has it that a ruse by the first duke, when the Herrerian complex was erected as soon as the 17th century began, served to double the number. In addition to numerous convents and noble houses; the most noteworthy landmarks are the main square, the collegiate church of San Pedro or the monastery of San Blas.

Exterior de la Colegiata de San Pedro, Lerma, en la A-1

Collegiate of San Pedro in Lerma.

A-1 Wines

Kilometres 139 to 170 and 199 to 230

Although the usual image associated with the Autovía del Norte in Castile and León is that of fields of cereal crops; the vineyards are also of great importance. Thanks to this, excellent wine-growing areas can be enjoyed. The best known is that corresponding to the Ribera del Duero D.O., especially associated with Aranda del Duero, where cava is also produced. From Segovia’s Honrubia de la Cuesta (pk.139) to Gumiel de Izán (pk.170), on both sides of the motorway there are villages attached to the Designation of Origin.

Bodega en Aranda de Duero

Torremilanos Winery in Aranda de Duero.

On the other hand, the D.O. Arlanza is the other notable brand that passes through the A-1. Lerma is one of its main centres, together with Burgos. It is much more recent than the previous one, with its origin in 2005. Covarrubias, 20 kilometres from Lerma, is another of the outstanding production points for these wines.

A route through the Castilian Romanesque

From kilometre 57 to the end of the route

Throughout the section between Madrid and Burgos there is a lot of Romanesque to see on the A-1. Before crossing the Somosierra tunnel there are a couple of stops on the way. The convent of La Cabrera is about two kilometres after taking the exit of pk.57. Originally Benedictine, it has undergone many reforms since its creation in the 11th century. Near the aforementioned Riosequillo reservoir, ten minutes from the motorway at Buitrago de Lozoya, the church of San Mamés preserves an apse that also has Mudejar features. Inside, there are frescoes of its first stages.

Iglesia del Salvador en Sepúlveda románico A-1

Church of El Salvador in Sepúlveda.

In Segovia, Sepúlveda boasts a myriad of Romanesque temples. Both in the old town and in the attached villages such as Duratón or Perorrubio, there are extraordinary examples of this artistic style. Special attention should be paid to the church of San Salvador, the dean of the region, or the church of the Virgen de la Peña.

Románico en la A-1

Cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos.

Once in Burgos, 15 minutes from pk.185 is located the church of San Andrés Apóstol, in Terradillos de Esgueva. Its apse is the most remarkable element. Meanwhile, in Lerma you can take the BU-900 towards Santo Domingo de Silos, one of the most popular monasteries of the national panorama. Another detour of 20 minutes almost in Burgos leads by the A-62 to Villavieja de Muñó and its church of San Adrián Mártir; of the 11th century. It retains elements of its original Romanesque style and is believed to have been the seat of a bishopric in the Middle Ages.

The ancient monasteries on the Burgos road

From kilometre 60 to the end of the route

Santo Domingo de Silos is not the only monastery near the Autovía del Norte. In a broader sense, the monastery of El Paular is the first, dating back to the 14th century. It is a delightful place that combines styles and has a valuable art gallery. To get there, you must turn off at Rascafría, some 30 kilometres from Lozoyuela.

Monasterios cerca de la A-1

Monastery of Santa María de El Paular.

It takes less than 20 minutes to get from Aranda de Duero to Santa María de la Vid monastery; and its Romanesque origin is linked to the discovery of a polychrome carving of the owner of the monastery. However, what is most striking is its Baroque belfry. Then, half an hour west along the BU-904 from Lerma leads to the monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza. Ruined since the disentailment of Mendizabal, its roots go back to the 10th century. It mixes Romanesque and Gothic features.

San Juan de Ortega, cerca de la A-1 y Burgos

San Juan de Ortega, near A-1 and Burgos.

There are at least two other monasteries near the Autovía del Norte that are worth a visit. Therefore, a few minutes from the old A-1/AP-1 junction is San Pedro de Cardeña; with segments from Romanesque to Baroque. Meanwhile, from Rubena, the end of the motorway section, to the monastery of San Juan de Ortega it takes 15 minutes. It was promoted by the disciple of Santo Domingo de la Calzada who gives it its name and is therefore closely associated with the French Way to Santiago.

About the author