The bilingual village in Spain that uses two time zones

Many Spanish villages are popular thanks to their monuments, gastronomy or traditions. However, Rihonor de Castilla, a tiny village in Zamora, isn’t known for any of these reasons. It’s one of those villages near Portugal that speak Portuguese and Spanish and use two different time zones. But it’s the only one that belongs to both Portugal and Spain.

The Spanish village of two faces

Rihonor de Castilla.

Rihonor de Castilla. | Shutterstock

This place is actually two municipalities joined together by a beautiful Roman bridge: Rihonor de Castilla in Spain and Río de Onor in Portugal. The first one is its official name because its administration sits in Zamora’s Sanabria comarca.

In order to distinguish these areas, people refer to them as the povo de cima and the povo de abaixo, which literally mean the ‘upper village’ and the ‘lower village’. It used to be a Spanish village involved in the Portuguese Restoration War, but nowadays there isn’t any difference between them for the people.

A bilingual village

The border between Spain and Portugal is popularly known as ‘La Raya’. Every day, it is crossed by many people who travel to the neighbouring country to work or study. This relationship between cultures leads to linguistic interchange. For this reason, two languages are spoken in Rihonor de Castilla. Both Spanish and Portuguese are spoken indifferently.

The village is divided by this frontier.

The village is divided by this frontier. | Wikimedia

It should be noted that another language was spoken here in the past: the Rihonorés. Influenced by Leonese and the two languages above mentioned, it is basically extinct now. The only traces of Rihonorés are found in the oral tradition and popular culture of the oldest residents.

Why are two time zones used in this village?

Portugal uses a different time zone than Spain. This means that whoever visits the neighbouring country should set their clock back one hour, as should those who visit Rihonor de Castilla because of its location. Its inhabitants are used to the time zone changes, so it doesn’t affect them at all. They usually prefer the Spanish time zone since the local administration belongs to Spain.

What to do in Rihonor de Castilla and its surroundings

Rihonor de Castilla has so much more to offer than these two peculiarities. This is why it should be included on every route between Spain and Portugal. Since this area isn’t very well known or touristic, this place allows you to enjoy the tranquilly that can only be found in nature.

Exploring the municipality

Santa Marina Church.

Santa Marina Church. | Shutterstock

Rihonor de Castilla might not be the richest Spanish village regarding architectural heritage, but taking your time to explore it is a good idea. You should visit its Santa Marina Church, a Christian temple that resembles those of Puebla de Sanabria and its outskirts. It is made of the traditional local quarried stone, a building material that was also used to build the village’s houses.

Wolf sightings

A wolf in the Sierra de Culebra.

A wolf in the Sierra de Culebra. | Shutterstock

The Iberian wolf is an indigenous species of the Iberian peninsula. These animals are extremely evasive, but they can be found almost every day in areas away from people, such as this spot in the heart of the Sierra de la Culebra. Rihonor de Castilla is one of those villages near Portugal that allows us to connect with nature in its purest form.

Guided excursions and jeep tours are offered by a few local companies if you’re interested in looking for these graceful animals. For this reason, Rihonor is one of the best destinations for travelling with kids and teenagers. It is an enjoyable experience for the whole family that brings the opportunity to teach important values to the younger members of the family, such as respecting and taking care of the local flora and fauna.

Active tourism in Zamora

Arribes del Duero Natural Park.

Arribes del Duero Natural Park. | Shutterstock

This is a perfect area for those who want to rest while trying new things. Zamora’s active tourism offer is wide due to the diverse natural parks and hidden treasures that can be found in the province. Some of them sit a couple of kilometres away from Rihonor de Castilla, so you can stay in the village and travel by car to these spots.

Hiking routes and a boat ride at the Arribes del Duero Natural Park are some of the options this place offers. It attracts many tourists, both Spanish and international. The local administrations of the two countries work together to create different and attractive activities. The Iron Road, or Camino de Hierro, is one of them, a recently inaugurated route that runs through Spain and Portugal.

Besides being a bilingual village and using two time zones, Rihonor de Castilla and its surroundings are full of options. To wander through its streets is, without a doubt, to walk through the histories of both countries, to hear the beginnings of Spanish and Portuguese, and to remember those words that get lost with time. It reminds us of the importance of keeping alive our intangible heritages so future generations will be able to enjoy them like us.

You can also read this article in Spanish here.


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