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Enciso and the Dinosaurs Trail,
(Sergi & Yolanda)
Five-day getaway, in the long weekend of May, to this area of La Rioja. It is a place of historical value worldwide thanks to its deposits of ichnites
(dinosaur footprints). The visit is very entertaining and highly recommended for travelling with children. To move around the area it is essential to
have your own vehicle.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Casa Tahona, a charming rural house located in Enciso. It is the dream place for anyone who likes rural tourism: spacious and impeccable rooms, friendly service, and yummy homemade breakfasts.
Ricardo, the owner, provided us with maps and very useful information about all the places to visit in the surroundings,
including both archaeological sites and villages in the area.
In Enciso there is only a small shop and there are no bakeries.
To get money or other services, you have to go to Arnedo. There are also several supermarkets and a pedestrian area with many bars and restaurants of all kinds.
In Arnedillo, we recommend the Cervecería Campus, where you can eat menus and delicious typical dishes at a good price.
Points of Interest
Enciso's castle dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries. The circular tower, the watchtower and the remains of the wall have been preserved. From the castle, you can continue climbing the mountain by a well indicated path towards the Las Losas Site, at about 1300 metres distance. It has many traces of numerous theropod footprints. In one of them you can see the change of direction of the animal. The site can also be reached by climbing up the other side from the road.
Going along the national road, passing Enciso, you will reach a bridge where you turn left to find the Barranco Perdido (Lost Ravine). There is a parking lot where you can leave your car. In this theme park there is a small museum and you can also take the Multiadventure Circuit or the Paleontology Circuit (the latter is for children). There is a 10% discount with the youth card. The Multiadventure Circuit starts with three simple Tibetan bridges, followed by a climbing wall, a zip line, and three more difficult Tibetan bridges. There is also a big slide and it includes an archery game. In the museum, there is an entertaining but short (10 min) 3D audiovisual and a small exhibition with explanations, small dinosaur figures and some fossils and footprints.
From the parking lot of Barranco Perdido, you can start the route to several archaeological sites. Throughout the route there are signs that make it easier to find your way. Taking the path that goes up, you will soon reach the Virgen del Campo site, which has more than 500 footprints. From far away you can already see the figures of dinosaurs, which simulate a hunting scene. The footprints on the left side of the site show the chase of the carnivore Allosaurus to an Iguanadon. On the right side of the site, excavated more recently, there are traces of crocodiles and a swimming dinosaur.
The path is still well marked and passes several viewpoints with signs explaining the local flora. Along the path you will reach a recreational park and going up on the right you will find the Senoba archaeological site, with ten traces of carnivores and two of bipedal herbivores, making a total of 130 tracks. It is believed that a herd of carnivores passed through there and today some of their tracks can be seen very well. At the same site there is a viewpoint to the abandoned village of Garranzo.
A little further on, the path turns left and you have to cross a small meadow to reach the old brickyard of Garranzo, hidden in a bend. This is where the tiles and bricks of the village were built. Next to it there is a zip line and then you have to follow the path down, which has some slides for children and includes viewpoints of the landscape.
Finally, there is the Valdecedillo archaeological site, which can also be reached by road. It includes 10 traces of bipeds, 6 carnivores and 4 herbivores, which make up a total of 168 tracks. As a curiosity, you can see the trail of a baby Iguanadon flanked by two adult tracks. In the enclosure there are reconstructions of a large herbivorous quadruped, probably a Brochiosaurus; a family group (two adults and a calf) of Iguanadons and a bipedal carnivore.
To return to Enciso, you must turn left on the road. On the way you pass through the Dehesa Boyal.
If you go along this road in the opposite direction from Enciso, you can find the El Villar-Poyales site, just on the side of the road, beyond the village of El Villar. One part of the site, with 84 tracks, is covered by uralite and the other is not covered. In "Icnitas 3" there are 4 traces of carnivores. There you can find the footprints of one of the smallest dinosaurs in La Rioja, the Theroplantigrada Encisensis. In "Icnitas 4", there are 20 footprints of a bipedal and semi-plantigrade carnivore, as well as some marks of a dinosaur that started swimming.
On the same road, at the entrance to the village of Navalsaz there are signs to the right towards the Navalsaz site. Here you will find one of the largest footprints in La Rioja, measuring 75 cm, belonging to a herbivorous dinosaur whose leg must have measured 4.2 metres.
Leaving Navalsaz, there is a detour to the left to the Cuesta de Andorra site. Take the track to a parking lot and walk down for 5-10 minutes to a sign for the site, which is in the other side. You can go down to access it. There is a trail of 21 footprints (of which 3 are clearly visible) of a large bipedal herbivore (probably an Iguanadon), in a 30-metre strip.
Returning to the road, when you reach a roundabout you can take the detour to Los Cayos site. Follow the dirt road by car for about 2 km and park at the first sign of the site, from where you can walk to the icnites, in a covered space. In "Los Cayos A" there are many tracks of bipedal carnivores. We did not find "Los Cayos B" nor "Los Cayos C". Following the dirt road, you return to the road.
In the village of Cornago, there is a beautiful castle, some rocks with ichnites, and an ancient cooler.
On the way to Igea, on the left side of the road, there is a well indicated path up to the fossil tree. It is a fossilized trunk of a conifer, Dadoxylon riojense, 10 m long and 40 cm in diameter at one end and 20 cm at the other. There are remains of fossilized tree ferns on the trunk.
Following the road, you enter the village of Igea. A very good complement to the visits to the sites is the Paleontological Interpretation Centre. It is in the main square and it is not advisable to get up very early to come here, as they open at 11. The entrance fee of 3 euros gives access to the guided tour of a small museum and an audiovisual about the traces of the area. Other points of interest in Igea are the Palace of the Marqués de Casa Torre, from the 18th century and in a Florentine style; the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, a baroque building from the 17th and 18th centuries where storks nest; the Medieval Bridge over the river Linares, and the Route of the Shields, on the facades of some houses.
In the village there is a detour to the left to the La Era del Peladillo archaeological site. It is easily reached by following the signs, and you can leave your car in the car park. This site is the first in Europe and third in the world in number of registered tracks with a total of 1700 icnites from sauropods, ornithopods, and theropods. There are recreations of a Hypsilophodon, a very fast herbivore; and of Baryonyx, a fishing dinosaur of which only two specimens have been found in the world.
Following the road towards Arnedo and taking a detour to the left to the area of Turruncún, you can leave the car to approach this abandoned village. It is a pity to walk among ruined houses in streets which not so long ago were full of life.
On the road from Arnedo to Préjano is the Monastery of Our Lady of Vico. This monastery is still in use, so you cannot visit the buildings. From the shop you can access the ruins of an old church with ancient paintings. On the outside there are some stairs that lead to a hermitage from the 9th century. It was built by a Muslim king to whom the virgin appeared. It is closed, but its interior can be seen from the outside.
When you arrive at Préjano you will find some indications to the Valdemurillo site but it is better to ask for directions. You have to follow the "vía verde" (green track) to a parking lot. Then you can walk to a small waterfall and some replica footprints. Further on there are signs that say that the site is 5 minutes away, but you don't have to cross as indicated, but keep going along the river, until you reach a meadow. There, on the right, you can see the signs of the site just below. It is tough to go down to the footprints and even worse to go up again.
In the village of Arnedillo, very close to Enciso, there are some hot spring pools by the river. It is very pleasant to relax there at any time of the day and their temperature makes the bath perfect even if it is cold outside. To get there by car, take the detour to the spa at the exit of the village. There is a car park and along the Senda de las Aguas Termales (Hot Springs Trail) you can easily go down to the pools. You can also walk along the Vía Verde, which passes through a dark tunnel and continues by the river.
On the road from Enciso to Arnedillo there is a detour to the left towards Munilla and Zarzosa. At the entrance of Munilla, there is a detour to the right
that indicates the sites. You can get there by car on a dirt track. At the site of Peñaportillo there are traces of herbivores and some
curious marks of the body and the dragging of the tail. There is a statue of a Stegosaurus. Just in front is the La Canal site,
with the longest trail found in La Rioja, consisting of 31 tracks of an Iguanodon. There are also two recreations of dinosaurs.