We’ve known there was a Durango Spain for quite a while, but we never thought we would visit it. It’s pretty far from everything, and it didn’t look like there was that much to really see there. This whole trip was mostly to eat pintxos and to see Dragon Stone. But being this close, of course we had to spend a few nights there, come on. But we almost didn’t, because when you look at travel guides for Basque Country, everyone has lots to say about everything, except Durango. It’s not exactly shunned, but…well, it’s not popular either.
We were excited to leave the big city bullshit in Bilbao behind, and Durango promised to be a quiet town (we were really excited for this). Also, since we are from Durango Colorado, we thought it would be a neat thing to do.
Before we talk about what we did, here are some quick facts!
What does “Durango” mean?
Urango was probably an old Basque word that meant ‘Watery Place” in reference to the rivers that meet up there. The D got added on at some point, but nobody seem to know why or when.
Why is there a Durango all the way over in Colorado?
Sadly, Durango CO did not get it’s name directly from some intrepid Duranguense explorer.
The story starts with a Spanish explorer named Ibarra. Ibarra was born somewhere in Basque Country, Wikipedia says his place of birth was Durango, but the tourist office in Durango, Spain says that it was his mother who was from Durango. In any case, he sailed to Mexico shorty after Cortez conquered it, and took charge of a new province. He named this province Nueva Vizcaya (New Basque Country), and named the capital city Ciudad de Durango because it was a well watered city.
Fast forward to 1881 (or so).
The governor of Colorado was off in Durango, MX for some reason when he got a telegraph notifying him that a newly founded city in Colorado needed a name. Apparently he thought that the two areas looked similar, so he put forth the name “Durango”. If you Google “Durango Mexico” you can see that he had a point.
How do the Three Durangos differ?
Here is a handy chart to explain it.
What did we do in Durango?
Besides taking pictures of every sign, dumpster, and police car that said “Durango” on it, we also visited a pretty interesting museum about the history of the city. The only other teal thing to do in town is to just walk around and enjoy the medieval-ness of it all.
All of the buildings are gorgeous, but especially the town hall
And of course we also went for a monster hike.
Durango is situated right outside the Urkiola Natural Park, and it’s a very easy walk to get into the mountains.
So we downloaded a hiking route onto Chris’ phone, and off we went. Normally we use a dedicated GPS (thanks uncle Dan!), but for whatever reason we forgot the GPS on this trip. (This is relevant later).
As soon as we got out of town, the road angled steeply up, and just kept climbing. We say this often, but this was one of the prettiest hikes we’ve ever taken.
Our hike turned abruptly onto a logging road that was mostly washed out, overgrown, and wicked steep. We seriously considered turning back because it was just too much uphill walking. But we kept telling ourselves, “maybe at the next clearing”, “maybe at the next bend”, “maybe blah blah blah”. We kept going and then came face to face with the last leg of this trip.
It looked awesome, but intimidating. And after some lunch we decided to brave it.
The trail we had been on hadn’t been well marked, but it had been obvious. This next part wasn’t marked at all, nor was it obvious. The trail led off into some tall grass, and then abruptly forked about 15 meters later. My phone is just not as accurate as the GPS, and probably contributed to us getting turned around. The direction we chose at the fork was almost definitely the wrong direction, and by the time we realized it we had half hiked, half climbed up a treacherously overgrown steep-as-hell grass face. And the trail stopped looking like a human trail, and more like a goat trail. We were genuinely afraid to descend down the steep slope with the thick grass pulling at out ankles, so we resolved ourselves to bushwacking our way out of our mistake. Eventually we came upon some horses, and flatter terrain, and eventually made it back to the trail, but it had been a bit freaky.
And apparently this whole mountain was an open range, just not with cows. With horses. These horses had bells around their necks so they couldn’t get too lost, and they just went wherever they wanted. They were the stumpiest, stoutest horses either of us has ever seen, but I guess given the local terrain that was to be expected.
We continued climbing, but any thought of turning back had been forgotten, but not because the path back was confusing and treacherous… but because it was freaking gorgeous.
Some clouds came rolling in and obscured out view, but I think that only made it more amazing. But those clouds were also cold, and they threatened rain. As exposed as we were we had ZERO wish to be caught in rain.
Our downloaded route told us to continue onwards and upwards, but the clouds were enveloping everything around us, so we followed a logging road all the way down the mountain (our legs were really killing us after all this downhill) into the village of Mañaria. From there we walked on a sidewalk next to a highway all the way back to Durango.
For dinner we wanted something exciting, so we went to an asador. Asadors are very common throughout Spain. They mainly sell rotisserie chicken and french fries along with different kinds of salads.
This particular asador (Las Brasas) was owned by a Peruvian lady, and they had tons of Peruvian dishes to go. So we got a potato stuffed with meat and veggies, and a salchipapas. Salchipapas is a combination of hotdogs (salchichas) and french fries (papas) doused in ketchup and mayo. We also got a cup of aji amarillo which is a common Peruvian hot sauce.
We slept really well this night.
The next day we had to check out, so we got some tostada from our hotel cafe before going to the tourist office to buy some special Durango post cards and a Durango tote bag.
Durango is just awesome. The hike we took was only the easiest to get to from Durango on foot, if we had had a car or if the busses had been running we would have been able to take dozens of hikes.