Spain which hosts innumerous natural beauties is visited by tens of millions of foreigners each and every year. Among spots worth seeing Canal de Castilla is considered a must for nature lovers.
This canal which is in the north of Spain was constructed during the last half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century.
It ran through the provinces of Burgos, Palencia and Valladolid, in the autonomous community of Castile and León and the purpose was to ease the wheat grain transport from Castile to the northern harbours and to other markets from there.
In time, railroads were built in northern Spain after which the canal turned into the spine of a huge irrigation system as it was not very efficient to use it for transportation any more.
The Canal was an ambitious engineering work that begun in the mid 18th century and was completed one century later thanks to the imagination and the efforts of an enlightened group of people who had the idea of building an outlet to the sea for the cereals grown on the fields of Castile.
Today its use as an irrigation channel is combined with its recreational function, in benefit of the visitors, day-trippers and hikers who come to enjoy all its cultural and natural attractions. The route of the Castilla Canal is a natural tourist destination which has enjoyed a spectacular boom in recent years. The route has stretches which are practically flat, making it ideal for the whole family.
The Canal is divided into three stretches, or branches, which are all connected; these are known as the southern stretch (Ramal del Sur), the field stretch (Ramal de Campos) and the northern stretch (Ramal del Norte). It covers a total distance of 207 kilometres. The way to follow the route is along the old towpaths which line the Canal, designed so that the beasts of burden could pull the barges along by means of ropes.
Today this route can be done on foot (about eight days, walking an average of 20 to 30 km a day), by bike (about four days, at double the walking speed), and even by kayak, for which a permit is required. The best time to do the route is in spring and summer: the climate is pleasant and the natural surroundings are at their most spectacular.
There are two main tourist attractions to be seen along our route. In the first place, the fauna and flora. The Canal often runs through areas of riverbank forest, which provide a welcome coolness in summer, as do the pools and wetlands in this ecologically valuable ecosystem. It also is home to a varied fauna: birds such as the purple heron and the marsh harrier, water mammals such as the otter and water vole, reptiles and a wide variety of fish.
In second place, the constructions, buildings and engineering works along the Canal form an ethnographic collection of singular interest and great variety. A never-ending succession of docks, aqueducts, locks, irrigation tanks, milestones, workers’ dwellings, flour mills and factories, dams, bridges and storehouses.
There are three tourist boats which make trips and excursions up and down the Canal, based in Herrera de Pisuerga, Melgar de Fernamental and Medina de Rioseco.