- Region: Castilla y Leon (Leon)
- Declared a biosphere reserve in 2004
- Protected area: 38.107,60 hectares.
- Towns and villages: Cabrillanes – (La Cueta, Huergas de Babia, Lago de Babia, Mena de Babia, Meroy, Las Murias, Peñalba de Cilleros, Piedrafita de Babia, Quintanilla de Babia, La Riera de Babia, San Félix de Arce, Torre de Babia, Vega de Viejos). San Emiliano – (Candemuela, Cospedal, Genestosa, La Majúa, Pinos, Riolago, Robledo de Babia, Torrebarrio, Cubiechas, Torrestío, Truébano, Villafeliz de Babia, Villargusán, Villasecino)
Points of interest.
The Babia biosphere reserve is located in the in the Babia region, northwest of the province of León. The protected area covers around 38,000 hectares in the municipalities of Cabrillanes and San Emiliano.
At some point in the future this area may be combined with other protected areas and biospheres such as the Parque natural de Babia y Luna and the Omaña-Luna biosphere to form the recently proposed “Great Cantabrian Biosphere Reserve”.
To the north, the peaks of Peña Ubiña, Alto Rosapero and the Picos Blancos stand out due to their altitude of more than 2,000 meters whilst on the southern edge, La Cañada peak at 2,154 meters is just as impressive.
The land between these two mountainous areas has been shaped by humans and agriculture for many thousands of years and livestock farming using the various altitudes allowed year round food supply.
Population decline, a reduction in livestock farming and the opening of open cast coal mines in the area during the 20th century has also affected the landscape. There are still coal mines open in the area but it is logical to assume that they will close in the near future as renewable energy becomes the mainstream and fossil fuels are left behind.
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Carved by Glaciers
From the high peaks of Babia de Peña Ubiña (2,417 m), Peña Orniz (2,193 m), Montihuero (2,180 m) or Alto de la Cañada (2,157 m), you can observe the mountainous landscape of the Biosphere Reserve of Babia and among the most important glacial features, you can see several lagoons such as Las Verdes in Torre de Babia, Laguna Grande in Lago de Babia or Lake Chao in Riolago de Babia. You can also see remains of glacial modeling and moraines in the valleys of La Cueta, Torre de Babia and Torrestío.
Star Park (The Starlight Foundation)
In 2013, the Babia Biosphere Reserve started a project to publicize and protect its night skies and without doubt, this is one of the best places in Spain for stargazers. Quite a recent developement, in Spain, a Star Park is a territory that protects its night sky enough to develop observation, educational, cultural or recreational activities, linked to astronomical events (passage of comets, eclipses of the moon and sun, alignment of planets, meteor showers, etc.
The Starlight Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2009 to promote the protection of the night sky and the development of “astrotourism” and there is an ever growing list of starlight destinations in Spain to visit.
There is a sporadic but constant presence of the Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos) in the area which acts as a corridor for individuals from the eastern and western nuclei of the Cantabrian populations. (Hence the plan for the “Great Cantabrian Biosphere Reserve”).
Ornithological interest is also high, highlighting the excellent populations of birds linked to alpine environments such as the wall creeper (Trichodroma muraria), grey partridge (Perdix perdix), alpine accentor (Prunella collaris), alpine chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) and white-winged snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis).
Also present (depending on the time of year) is a diverse population of raptors such as the European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus).
Although there is no evidence of its current presence in the area, the Cantabrian grouse or western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) deserves a special mention since there is recent historical data and the area is home to a habitat suitable for this species to flourish.
Walking routes in the Babia Biosphere Reserve
- Camino Real de Prégame – This route of about 8 km runs through a section of the old Camino Real de Prégame. The old path linked the town of Quintanilla de Babia with Huergas de Babia. The terrain is quite flat and this route can also be made by bike.
- El entorno de Ubiña – This route, of about 14 km starts from either Torrebarrio or Pinos de Babia. The slope from Torrebarrio to Collado del Ranzón is quite steep. The route passes through a high mountain landscape, dominated by grasslands of great beauty. The panoramic views of the entire Babia Biosphere Reserve, as well as the surrounding territories are impressive. From the hill, and for the more adventurous, you can access the peak of Peh.
- Lago Chao – This 6km route starts from Riolago de Babia towards Lago del Chao and Laguna del Lago, at the foot of Alto de la Cañada (2,157 m).
- Laguna Las Verdes – The 11 km route to the Las Verdes lagoon starts from the town of Torre de Babia. Glacier modeling can be observed at various points along the path showing lateral and frontal moraines formed by the glacier that covered the valley.
- Las Fuentes del Sil – The 11 km Fuentes del Sil route starts from the town of La Cueta, and runs along the first section of the Sil river to its source at the foot of Peña Orniz (2,191m).
- Majúa – Torrestío – This 12 km route joins the towns of La Majúa and Torrestío runs around the Morronegro peak (2,152 m). From the Col de Queixeiro there are panoramic views of a large part of the Babia Biosphere Reserve including the peaks of Peña Ubiña, Alto de la Cañada and Montihuero.
Casa del Parque de Babia y Luna y sede de la Reserva de la Biosfera de Babia
In the village of Riolago de Babia and located in the stunning palace of the Quiñones (who were once the powerful landowners in the area), this information centre has information panels and exhibitions detailing the human presence in the area and the areas long history of livestock farming. There is information about geology, fauna, flora and the best places to visit in the area.
- From the A-66 take exit 93 towards Villablino. On the CL-626 continue to the town of Huergas de Babia turning left to Riolago de Babia
- From Villablino take the CL-626 towards León to the town of Huergas de Babia, turning right to Riolago de Babia
Official website for the Babia Biosphere Reserve: https://www.babiabiosfera.es/
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