Twenty kilometres southwest of Ponferrada lie Las Médulas, the jagged remains of hills ravaged by Roman strip-mining. Nine hundred thousand tonnes of gold were ripped from the hillsides using specially constructed canals, leaving an eerie, mesmerizing landscape reminiscent of Arizona, peppered with caves and needles of red rock. Just outside Carucedo (on the N536), the road splits, with the right fork leading 3km up to the village of Las Médulas. This is a pretty place of restored stone houses, climbing roses and spreading chestnut trees set behind the largest rock outcrops, with a gaggle of studiously rustic cafés and bars that caters for day-trippers.

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