Route along the longest river in Spain

Long road trips, either inland or along the coast, through mountains or valleys, have a special charm, and more people seem to enjoy them lately. For instance, it would be nice to arrange a route along the longest river in Spain. It is certainly inviting to just get on the road and follow its flow, discovering cities, monuments and landscapes we would not visit otherwise. Here we go.

The longest river in Spain

When we talk about the longest river in Spain, there can be some disagreements. The Tajo, with a length of 1092 kilometres, might be the longest one in the peninsula; however, only 857 kilometres are actually in Spain. On the contrary, the Ebro starts and ends in the country, flowing through seven different autonomous communities. Therefore, its 930 kilometres make it the longest river in Spain.

The source of the Ebro and its journey through Cantabria

A statue on a river surrounded by trees

The source of the Ebro. | Shutterstock

The Ebro is born in Cantabria, in a setting that perfectly suits this giant. The interpretation centre of Río Ebro, resting among ash trees and poplars and guarded by a small statue of Virgin Mary, provides all the information the traveller needs to understand it all about the longest river in Spain.

Shortly after we set off, the road will lead us to Arroyo, a small village on the bank of the river’s reservoir. Some villages disappeared as a consequence of the reservoir’s construction, hence these waters were seen as the enemy for a long time. Nowadays, Arroyo displays an undeniable beauty that is nonetheless haunted by its painful past.

The river flows into a setting inhabited by buildings from another time. It is worth pulling over and visiting the windmill of La Renegada, or the ones in Barcena de Ebro, which is quite a charming village, as well as the church of San Cristóbal or the chapel of La Virgen de Otero. These interesting buildings make up one of the most beautiful landscapes one can find on the route along the Ebro. Actually, the surroundings of the municipality of Valderredible as a whole are absolutely worth a visit.

We will also find some amazing temples carved into the rock. For example, the necropolis of San Pantaleón, resting on a limestone peak, displays a series of ancient tombs. There is also a church whose floor plan still remains next to the building. We will have to slightly divert from our path to visit other temples that are carved into the rock, like the chapel of San Acisclo and Santa Victoria. However, there are others, like the church of La Virgen del Carmen, that rest on the bank of the Ebro.

The Ebro and its journey through Castile and León

A waterfall flowing down a slope among houses

The waterfall of Orbaneja del Castillo. | Shutterstock

The most popular sight of the Ebro in Castile and León is probably the landscape it creates in the gorgeous village of Orbaneja del Castillo. The deafening sound of water and the view of the river dividing the village into two sections is just impossible to forget for anyone who has the chance to admire it. We have already talked at great length about Orbaneja del Castillo, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, and definitely worth visiting.

Once we leave behind the lookouts that allow us to enjoy the Ebro’s impressive canyons, our next stop will be the monastery of Santa María de Rioseco. Despite being in ruins, time and decay have not extinguished its beauty nor its grandeur. It was inhabited for hundreds of years, and it was only in the early 19th century that it began to experience decline.

The art route of Valdivielso perfectly blends in nature with art. There we can see 15 pieces by sculptor Carlos Armiño, never losing sight of the giant river. Lastly, far from this area but still in Castile and León, beautiful Frías awaits us. The smallest city in Spain is more like a 300-inhabitant village. Rising over a cliff, Frías guards the Ebro from the heights, gifting us one of the most beautiful sights on this route pursuing the longest river in Spain.

The Ebro and its journey through La Rioja

A village on a hill next to the river

San Vicente de la Sonsierra. | Shutterstock

On its way through La Rioja, the Ebro passes by such interesting spots as Briones or San Vicente de la Sonsierra. Briones rests on a smooth hill, and it was declared a Conjunto Histórico-Artístico (“Historic-Artistic Grouping”) thanks to its medieval skeleton and the good state of some buildings of great architectural value. San Vicente de la Sonsierra on the other bank of the Ebro watches from the top of a hillock, and it stands out in the typical landscape of La Rioja with such interesting monuments as the church of Santa María la Mayor.

Later on, the Ebro winds between La Rioja and the Basque Country, shaping the border and eventually coming back to the former. This way, the river reaches Logroño, a key stop on the French section of the Way to Santiago. Some of the spots of the city we should mention are the crowded street of Laurel, the co-cathedral of Santa María de la Redonda, or the park of the Ebro, which allows us to enjoy a fantastic view of the river. 

La Rioja is a land of vineyards; hence, on our way to Navarre, we can stop in one of the many wineries that make it such a special wine-producing area. Right at the border with the adjacent autonomous community, the natural reserve of Los Sotos del Ebro in Alfaro is the perfect condiment for the abundant stream that beautifully shapes the landscape.

Navarre and the Ebro, a short romance

Panoramic view of a city next to a river and guarded by a statue

Tudela. | Shutterstock

On its way through Navarre, the Ebro passes through one of its most popular cities: Tudela. Here, the traveller shall come across one of the oldest bridges over the river, which dates back to the 11th century but was rebuilt afterwards. Before we leave Navarre, and despite having to divert slightly from our main route, we should definitely take a chance to visit the extraordinary landscape of Bárdenas Reales.

The Ebro in Aragon

A city with towers and a bridge over the river

Zaragoza. | Shutterstock

Once in Aragon, the Ebro will lead the travellers through all kinds of landscapes until they reach Zaragoza, one of those corners that are doubtlessly shaped by the river. Needless to say, the capital of Aragon is one of those cities that invite you to stay at least for a couple of days, leisurely walking through the streets that border the stunning cathedral-basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

The Ebro splits Zaragoza in two and then follows its own path, passing by small towns like Velilla de Ebro. Here, the river divides into two streams, curving just as if it were trying to get closer to the town and this way creating a lovely picture. Other lovely pictures in the area include the chapel of Magdalena, on the island of the same name, in the reservoir of Mequinenza, which is also known as “the sea of Aragon”. At this point, the Ebro shapeshifts into a giant snake. It slowly slithers towards the castle of Mequinenza, resting on top of a hill, watching over the junction of the rivers Ebro, Segre and Cinca.

The Ebro’s deathbed: disgorging into the sea of Catalonia

The banks of the river and a white boat in front

A landscape in the estuary of the Ebro. | Shutterstock

Even though it might be tempting to explore other branches, we will follow the river’s flow to Catalonia, where it eventually dies. The traveller will be surprised when they see Miravet for the first time: one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, not only in the distance, even though its panoramic postcard is the most popular view. Its medieval streets are just lovely, and they are crowned by a gorgeous Templar castle.

The Ebro’s death is getting closer, but it still has a last gift for us. Its last section encompasses the natural park of Delta del Ebro, the largest wetland in Catalonia and one of the most important aquatic habitats of the Western Mediterranean. We will end here this route featuring several landscapes, cities and monuments; and of course, starring the longest river in Spain.

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