Salinas de Añana – Gesaltza Añana

A Surprising and Historic Villa

This village is home to extraordinary salt mines that have been famous since ancient times and now form an unusual salt valley.

Plan Your Visit to Salinas de Añana

The visit to this surprising town must begin at its Interpretation Centre, and end with a walk around the salt flats. In the summer months this experience has the additional attraction of showing the artisan work of the salt workers. There are also some very interesting buildings that we detail in the section What to See in Salinas de Añana. Getting the full experience of this town could take half a day. For lovers of hiking, your excursion can continue through the little-known and charming Valderejo Natural Park. As this is the txakoli producing area of Álava, another option is to visit one of the wineries and buy this popular product. Lovers of history and legends will enjoy the nearby town of Villanañe, with its Torre de los Varona. Since it is not a touristy area, it is necessary book accommodations in advance; for this reason we suggest our specialized pages on where to sleep and eat in Salinas de Añana.

Do you want to visit this place?

The salt flats that give the town its name have been active since early times. They seem to be the reason why the ancient pre-Roman name of the place was Salionca, although the first documented reference in the history of Salinas de Añana is from the year 882. In his study of Basque place names, Julio Caro Baroja proposed that Añana derives from the Latin Annius (Annio), its possible name during the Roman occupation. As a village, it was founded in 1126 by Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre, and its jurisdiction was confirmed in 1140 by the Castilian monarch Alfonso VII. At this time its salt flats– which constitute the famous Salt Valley– continued to be its main source of wealth. In fact, during the Middle Ages (especially in the 14th and 15th centuries), an important salt market flourished, which allowed the town to grow both in terms of urban development and economy.

Salinas de Añana a finales del siglo XX

In the time of Philip II, the Crown took over the salt monopoly and introduced a series of changes in the production process. The salt makers were forced to change their artisan methods to more modern ones, which are still in use today. Salt from Salinas de Añana was exhibited during the 1851 World Exhibition in London, where it was awarded an honorable mention and bronze medal. A century later, the salt flats were abandoned but are currently in the process of recovery due to their ethnological and tourist potential. They have been declared historical monuments in Spain.

Salinas de Añana-Gesaltza Añana is, together with Atiega-Atiaga, one of the two villages that make up the Álava municipality of Añana, 30 km from Vitoria-Gasteiz. The old salt mining activity was the cause of the town’s past splendour, which has left its mark on the church, its convent and several civil buildings. The village, which is irregularly distributed and adapted to the terrain, grew around two main centres: the medieval walled enclosure on the hill and the area of expansion during the Baroque period on the southern slope of the hill. Hardly any remains of its walls remain today, although the Temple-Fortress of San Cristóbal, dismantled after the War of Independence, is a lasting testimony to this defensive character.

The first thing that calls the attention of the traveler who arrives at Salinas de Añana is the Monastery of Religious Comendadoras de San Juan de Acre. Of Templar origin (as the various crosses on the walls of Malta bear witness to), it was the last active convent of the Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. With a slightly rectangular floor plan, it has a small courtyard open to the outside, to the east. Its Baroque chapel houses an eighteenth-century altarpiece dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. From the convent you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Salt Valley.

The monastery is linked to the village by the Terrazos stone bridge (1762), which is above the river of the same name.

In the lower part of the town centre stands the Church of Santa María de Villacones, an interesting building built between the 13th and 15th centuries, although it was later renovated. It has a rectangular floor plan and a polygonal front, and was built with stonework. Inside, the main renaissance altarpiece (16th century) is noteworthy because it houses the medieval image of the saint, of the Andra Mari type, which is common in the Basque Country.

In the Plaza del Mercado, where commercial transactions took place in the Middle Ages, you can find a display of the coat of arms of the Sarmiento family. In the column crowned with an iron cross, the criminals were executed for a long time, and the punishment was publicly displayed for exemplary purposes.

The Palace of the Ozpinas, in the square of the same name, is a building to be seen in Salinas de Añana– built of ashlar and surrounded by gardens and orchards. The iron works on its façade are worth mentioning. It is currently a restaurant and hotel.

Iglesia de Santa María de Villacones

The Town Hall, in the Plaza Miguel Díaz de Tuesta, represents a perfect ensemble of Álava’s Baroque style. The the clock tower, which formerly marked the working times in the salt flats, is an example of this. In the same area is the Herrán Palace (1695), the main focus of the Baroque town. The mansion was built by Pedro de Zambrana, the royal administrator of the salt flats. In it, some ornamental motifs stand out, such as several dog heads that show the figure of a woman, the two coats of arms on its façade and the elaborate blacksmith work on its balconies and windows.

In Salinas de Añana, on Easter Sunday, as in Moreda de Álava, the popular festival of the Burning of Judas takes place.

The main attraction of Salinas de Añana is its salt flats, one of the most spectacular and best preserved cultural landscapes in Europe, with more than 1200 years of documented history. The salt flats are formed thanks to springs from the Muera River, which flow through underground salt channels. The water is channelled through wooden ducts to salt pans between twelve and twenty square metres in size. Once there, water is evaporated by the sun, leaving the salt. Throughout the valley there are more than 5000 salt pans, of which about 200 are currently in use. These accumulate and adapt to the topography of the place both in shape and height, creating a unique landscape.

There is the possibility of getting to know the salt flats through a tour of about an hour and a half, during which you will pass through several points of information. The site also has an Interpretation Centre where you can learn about the history and architecture of the place, as well as the salt production process. It is necessary to make an appointment in advance in order to visit, which can be arranged on the Salt Valley website.

If you travel between the months of June and August, the months of greatest sunshine, it is common to see staff at the salt extraction sites. It is recommended to do the visit when the sun rays do not fall vertically so that the salt does not dazzle and become hard to look at. Therefore, the best hours to see the salt flats  are at dawn or dusk, when they are covered with bright blue-white tones.

Must see

Vista de la localidad
Salinas

Basic Facts

Coordinates

42° 48′ 7″ N, 2° 59′ 11″ W

Distances

Vitoria-Gasteiz 31 km, Bilbao 68 km, Madrid 338 km

Parking

No problem in the municipality

Altitude

586 m

Population

154 (2013)

Our Lady of the Rosary (first Sunday in October)

Burning of the Judas (Easter Sunday morning)

Other Places to Visit

Comentarios Facebook

About the author

Simple Share Buttons
Simple Share Buttons

Utilizamos cookies de terceros para mejorar la usabilidad para dispositivo de usuario. Si usted continua navegando, consideramos que acepta su uso. Puede cambiar la configuración y obtener más información

Los ajustes de cookies de esta web están configurados para "permitir cookies" y así ofrecerte la mejor experiencia de navegación posible. Si sigues utilizando esta web sin cambiar tus ajustes de cookies o haces clic en "Aceptar" estarás dando tu consentimiento a esto.

Cerrar