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(2021 - Spring/Summer Issue)


Most of southern Europe was once ruled by the mighty Roman Empire. Innovative builders and civil engineers with a rich, sophisticated culture, you can still immerse in the wonders of this ancient civilization following in the footsteps of the Romans in Hispania by exploring modern-day Spain.

From thermal baths and amphitheatres to the ruins of chariot-racing sites and the arrow-straight Via de la Plata route, it may be more than 1,500 years since the Visigoths drove out the Romans, but the Romans over six centuries of occupation in the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) left plenty to explore.

Roman Baths, an Ancient Lighthouse and the Islands of the Gods

Galicia, on the Atlantic coast of Spain, holds a treasure trove of Roman Empire-era goodies.

Bathing was hugely important in Roman times as a social activity so head to the Lugo Roman Baths and take a dip. Built around 15 BC, the Romans believed the local thermal hot springs (44 degrees Celsius) held healing powers. Located within the Hotel Balneario de Lugo, you can use the original Apodyterium (changing rooms) and see vestiges of arches and the Frigidarium (cold bath).

An hour east from Lugo, the bustling port city of La Coruña is home to the Tower of Hercules, the world’s oldest operating lighthouse. Built in the 1st century and renovated in 1791, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has superb 360-degree views of the bay.

For an ultimate sunspot it’s time to rejuvenate at the Roman favourite “Islands of the Gods.” One of Galicia’s lesser-known treasures, the Cies Islands are accessible only by boat. Each day 2,200 people are permitted on Spain’s treasure islands to explore the white sand beaches, rugged cliffs and hiking trails.

Outdoor Adventures

Make like a centurion and boost the cardio scouring the vast green space around the Roman Gold Mountains in León. Home to a unique man-made landscape sculpted from the biggest open pit gold mine built by the Roman Empire, Las Médulas is rife with chestnut, oak and cherry trees that have softened the deeper scars from the old mining days. Now visitors come to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park to hike the trails and tunnels surrounded by glowing terra cotta hills. Start early in the morning to beat crowds on the Senda Perimetral trail with its highlight, the Mirador de Orellán, which offers awe-inspiring views over the whole park.

For more healthy exercises why not challenge yourself on the Silver Route (Via de la Plata), the longest of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages. While it’ll take nearly eight weeks to walk this Roman-built road, which links Mérida to Astorga through Hispania, prepare for a much-lauded highlight in the spa town of Baños de Montemayor. Amid storied Roman ruins pamper your-self at a spa with an inscription to the Caparenses nymphs; and check out milestones from Hadrian and Trajan, and a Roman-era bridge with part of the arch and pillars still standing.


Revel in the enduring majesty of Roman architecture in Mérida, once capital of Hispania’s Lusitania, which boasts more Roman sites than anywhere else in Spain and—unlike Rome—is relatively tourist-free. Marvel at the soaring columns of the Temple of Diana, walk across the two-millennia-year-old Puente Romano, and at 790 metres, the longest surviving Roman bridge.

Book early to score a seat at the Teatro Romano de Mérida, which still hosts summer performances. Meanwhile, Mérida’s National Museum of Roman Art is bursting with wonderfully preserved Roman relics from vases to statues and mosaics.

In the sleepy hamlet of Villar de Domingo Garcia in Cuenca, visit an archaeological exploration in progress at the recently discovered Villa de Noheda. Home to the largest figurative mosaic in the entire Roman Empire, researchers have already found a massive collection of marble sculptures in Roman Hispania there.

Located near Seville, Game of Thrones fans will recognize the vast amphitheatre of Italica from its appearances as the Dragonpit. Built by Emperor Hadrian, the ancient Roman arena was one of the largest in the Empire that regularly hosted gladiator shows and bloodthirsty fights with wild beasts. 

You can also unleash your inner gladiator at the vast amphitheatre in Tarragona. Built in the second century, the ancient entertainment complex crammed 15,000 spectators to watch popular gladiator performances.


For travel information and COVID-19 guidelines see Tourist Office of Spain, spain.info

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