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Learn Spanish in Wild Spain! - La Montana Palentina

Tour Code: ESP22

An 8-day opportunity for aspiring Spanish speakers to improve their Spanish and enjoy the birds, mammals and other wildlife in La Montaña Palentina, a wild and beautiful corner of northern Spain.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £150


The ancient villages in the rugged Palentian Mountains are today largely deserted, this wild region left for reclamation by Wolves, Brown Bears, Wild Boar, and numerous Chamois, Red Deer and Roe Deer, not to mention a host of smaller mammals. Our base for this week-long exploration of this wildlife haven is in one such village, where our guide Tino and his wife Rosa have sympathetically restored three terraced farm cottages. From these, we will explore the mountains with Tino, spending the majority of each day on foot, either walking from our base or accessing remote valleys by minibus or 4WD, before returning each evening to a hearty meal, freshy prepared by Rosa. Throughout, we aim to speak Spanish – mostly!

  • Practise your Spanish with our Spanish-speaking guides
  • This is a Naturetrek ‘house party’ in Spain – a fun & unique week!
  • Tino & Rosa’s charming rural cottages are our base
  • Enjoy Rosa’s hearty local cuisine & wines
  • Raptors, Middle-spotted & Black Woodpeckers
  • Chance of Wolf, Brown Bear or Wildcat
  • Good walking opportunities
  • Expert guidance from Tino, & Naturetrek’s Byron Palacios

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Three old terraced farm cottages, beautifully restored.

Expert guides and Naturetrek group (Byron Palacios)

Expert guides and Naturetrek group (Byron Palacios)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly to Santander; drive Aguilar de Campoo

Day 2/7 Daily programme of natural history walks and excursions from our base

Day 8 Fly London

There still remain corners of rural Spain, far from the reality of this fast-developing and increasingly urban-dwelling country, that have been forgotten by time, largely abandoned by all but the older generation, and which are being reclaimed by a wildlife no longer so persecuted by man. The Montaña Palentina — the Palentian Mountains — is one such place: a wild, unpopulated region of high and chilly ridges, rounded summits, sweeping valleys and magnificent panoramic vistas extending southwards to the great plains of Castile and Leon. Nestling in the shadow of northern Spain’s Cordillera Cantabrica, not far from the jagged limestone peaks of the Picos de Europa, the Palentian Mountains are dominated by the majestic Sierra de Pena Labra, essentially a high mountain ridge boasting a handful of 2,000-metre summits. The ancient Palentian villages of the region are largely deserted, with hardly an occupied house in each. For this reason, so too are the Palentian Mountains left for reclamation by Wolves, Brown Bears, Wild Boar, and numerous Chamois, Red Deer and Roe Deer, not to mention a host of smaller mammals such as Iberian and Brown Hare, Beech Marten, Pine Marten, Wildcat and the elusive Genet.

We will be based in one such village during this week-long Spanish-speaking exploration of this little-known mountain wildlife haven, guests of our guide and friend Tino and his charming wife Rosa, who have sympathetically restored three terraced farm cottages in a remote and tumbledown hamlet. Tino speaks almost no English, but his clear Spanish and extrovert and bubbly personality make him the perfect travelling companion. Leading the tour with Tino will be our own Byron Palacios. Byron became known to Naturetrek through his expert leadership of our birding groups in his native Ecuador. Now settled in Dorset, Byron has a great rapport with Tino and this promises to be, above all, a fun week of wildlife, food and wine that provides the perfect environment in which to practise and improve your spoken Spanish (although Byron will use English with you when stuck!).

Situated not far to the north of Aguilar de Campoo, the cottages lie on the doorstep of a truly wild landscape, comprising high mountain ridges rich in alpine flora, jagged crags and cliffs, and vast oak and Beech forests which support a high percentage of the endangered eastern population of the European Brown Bear. Much maligned, these magnificent creatures are notoriously difficult to see, roaming elusively over vast tracts of difficult terrain. Nevertheless, we do stand a chance of a sighting if we put in the effort at dawn and dusk, when the Bears are most active. We will be made to feel very much at home by Tino, who will share a rich passion for, and knowledge of, these mountains ... as well as regaling us with tales and photographs of his close encounters with both Bears and Wolves. Tino is an expert in finding and interpreting animal tracks and signs left by Brown Bear, Fox, Wolf, Beech Marten, Badger, Wild Boar and deer, and will give us a masterclass in tree identification. We’ll also learn about the medicinal, culinary and other uses the various plants and fungi that we shall see are put to.

The cottages are very much central to our daily outings, with the majority of each day spent on foot, either walking from our base, or in quiet locations accessed by minibus. A range of habitats can be found in close proximity, with a full suite of raptors present, including resident Golden Eagle and Peregrine, and both Griffon and Egyptian Vultures. Middle Spotted Woodpeckers breed here and are easier to see in this location than throughout much of the rest of their range. Another highlight is the Wallcreeper which, although usually elusive when at high altitudes during this season, drops to the dam walls of the region’s reservoirs at the onset of colder weather, and from then on can be seen quite easily.

On one day we will drive further afield to explore the steppes and plains of the meseta, home to Great Bustard, Stone Curlew and other grassland birds, and a large (depending on rainfall) reed-fringed lake which supports good numbers of ducks, geese, waders and such interesting passerines as Penduline Tit and Moustached Warbler. Completing the picture in these wonderful mountains are the stone carvings of ancient Romanesque churches, the old rock hermitage of San Vicente, interesting old dovecotes and dwellings at Guaza de Campos and the historical centre of Aguilar de Campoo. There really is something here for everyone.

Flexibility will be the key to this tour and, whatever time we arrive back at our cottages, we can be sure that a hearty meal, freshly prepared by Rosa, will be waiting for us on our return each day from the wilds of this forgotten corner of Europe. It will be hard to leave!

Outside view of the accommodationOutside view of the accommodationBedroom, Casa MontesBedroom, Casa del ArcoDining area and lounge, Casa MontesPalencia (Andy Tucker)Chamois (Nacho Zabelzu)Watching Iberian Wolves!! (Byron Palacios)White-spotted Bluethroat (Byron Palacios)Naturetrek group (Byron Palacios)Preying Mantis (Byron Palacios)Las Tuerces Geological Reserve (Byron Palacios)Las Tuerces Geological Reserve (Byron Palacios)Wildcat (Nacho Zabelzu)Dipper (Byron Palacios)Fire Salamander (Nacho Zubelzu)Eyed Ocellated Lizard (Nacho Zubelzu)Palencia scenery (Thomas Mills)Palencia scenery (Thomas Mills)Apollo (Nacho Zubelzu)Pulsatilla vulgarisSpanish Festoon (Thomas Mills)Learning Spanish in La Montana PalentinaAlpine Toadflax (Nacho Zabelzu)Eurasian Griffon Vultures (Nacho Zabelzu)La Montaña Palentina (Nacho)White Storks and Spoonbills migrating (Byron Palacios)Alpine Accentor (Nacho Zabelzu)Cordovilla de Aguilar (Thomas Mills)DecorationsSunset (Andy Tucker)
A.G.B
September 2015
I found this to be one of the very best trips I have ever undertaken with you or any other wildlife tour operator. In terms of its main focus - learn Spanish through a programme of focusing on wildlife - it is outstanding, and I congratulate you on developing this programme.
B.M.
September 2014
I enjoyed every bit of this holiday! It was lovely (and relaxing) being in one place for the whole week and the cottages were comfortable, practical and beautifully decorated. Having one cottage as our main base worked well. All the guides were brilliant - their local knowledge and wider naturalist knowledge was outstanding and their ability to communicate it was also very good. The range of habitats we saw provided a new interest every day - and again, local knowledge led to some great sightings. The Spanish element was excellent. All the leaders were very helpful. The food was fantastic! I really had a great time. Thank you!
N.H.
September 2014
Your blurb described it as a ‘Naturetrek House Party’ ... could have been a damp squib, but it actually was! Great ‘craic’ all round. Byron, Tino and Tono are particularly good comrades and obviously work extremely well together, and with with us.
A.S.
September 2014
The leaders, Byron, Tono and Tino, were passionate and very knowledgeable about the area. The range of habitats and the flora, fauna, geology, history and politics of the area were very interesting.
L.D.
September 2014
Relaxed atmosphere in spite of busy programme. Great opportunities to learn and practise Spanish.
K.A.
September 2014
Highlights were the Wildcat (near where Tono and Yolanda lived), their and Tino’s enthusiasm for the area, and my fellow Naturetrekkers; being in an almost 100% Spanish-speaking environment whilst being in a beautiful and nature-rich environment.
S.O.
Suffolk
Byron was very knowledgeable and helpful. Tino and Tonio were very helpful and cheerful - willing to show us things. I enjoyed the trip and came back with lots of happy memories. We were a jolly bunch. I liked the pace of the trip - not rushed at all. We could even have a snooze at lunchtime. I showed an interest in churches and the local guides would stop and show me some beautiful churches. I liked the format of lunch, put on a table. The free wine was a good gesture.
G.M.
Hertfordshire
A very good trip for improving my Spanish and its pronunciation.
B.H.
Devon
I have enjoyed all our Naturetrek holidays, but this was the best!
H.M.
Clackmannanshire
More trips in Spanish please!
A.B.
Surrey
Several things came together which made for an excellent holiday: really good leader, two very friendly local guides who did not know much English therefore encouraging us to speak Spanish, a group who all got on well and excellent weather!
M.K.
Northumberland
Could not be any more real Spanish - trip leader had excellent local knowledge, spoke to us in Spanish and helped us with the language.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Tue 18th September 2018 - Tue 25th September 2018

YES

£1495

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

I found this to be one of the very best trips I have ever undertaken with you or any other wildlife tour operator. In terms of its main focus - learn Spanish through a programme of focusing on wildlife - it is outstanding, and I congratulate you on developing this programme.
A.G.B, September 2015