It’s not often that the opportunity presents itself to walk alongside dinosaur footprints but when you’re in northern Spain the reality is real. Most people who come to Spain visit Madrid and Barcelona, or maybe they venture south to Andalucia but head to the northern coast for something completely different. The region of Asturias is diverse and one of its claims to fame is millions of years old.
In early June when the weather has just started to turn warm enough to brave the beach, families from nearby come to the beaches and coastline that stretches from La Griega Beach to Arenal de Moris. It was here in 1969 that Jose Carlos Garcia-Ramos first noticed unusual holes on the cliffs of the beach. Later these were deemed to be actual dinosaur tracks from the sauropod. Later research uncovered that the tracks stretched from Ribadesella to Gijon and were 140 to 160 million years old. Visiting these beaches today is much different than it must have been millions of years ago.
Getting to this area of Spain is more of a challenge. There are some smaller regional airports and the countries national bus line, ALSA runs regularly and is affordable. But renting a car may be the best way to explore. The villages along the northern shore are small, sandwiched between Gijon on one side and San Sebastian on the other. Asturias bumps against Basque country. The ocean views are contrasted by towering mountain tops and miles of forested land.
You can walk the 12km trail from La Griega Beach to Arenal de Moris but pay attention to the length of time you’re walking. The tides in this part of Spain can be very dangerous and the cliffs themselves are prone to crumble and collapse with no advance notice. There are some guided tours that can be taken however many of the fossils have been marked so that visitors can easily find them. Care should be taken to preserve and protect the integrity of the specimens.
Once you’ve walked in the steps of dinosaurs, a visit to the city of Lastres should be next. The Museo del Jurasico de Asturias (MUJA) is arguably the most extensive dinosaur museum in Europe. The building itself was designed to replicate a dinosaur footprint when viewed from the air. The entire known history of dinosaurs is on exhibit, from the Triassic to the Jurassic and Cretaceous period. Over 3,500 million years of dinosaur history is on display including replicas of over twenty dinosaurs and a collection of footprints and fossils found from ten different archeological digs in the region.
But, that’s not all! Before you catch your flight home, there’s time to see the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid. The museum was founded in 1771 and is dedicated to minerals, fossils, and the evolution of man. You can see exhibits that include fossils and dinosaur skeleton casts as well as hundreds of other specimens related to the natural history of Spain.
Are you ready to walk with the dinosaurs?