The Cascada de Orbaneja del Castillo (I've also seen it called Cascada de Merindades) was an example of how a waterfalling motive to visit a particular area could yield hidden surprises. In this instance, we were treated to an attractive waterfall tumbling through and below the town of Orbaneja del Castillo, which was near the border of the region of Castilla y Leon and Cantabria. Further adding to the atmosphere and enchantment were the cliffs and rock walls surrounding the town, where at least one of the formations atop the rock walls (overlooking the town and gorge below) contained an impressive natural arch. And by the way, the rural town itself was charming with its historical-looking stone buildings along with other incidental attractions that I'll get into shortly.
The waterfall was essentially a roadside attraction. After parking the car in one of the pullouts just past the bridge fronting the waterfall (see directions below), we then walked along the road back towards the falls and immediately got the most contextual and impressive views of it from there. That said, we were also able to scramble closer to the base of the main cascading portion for a closer and more intimate look. The buildings perched amongst cliffs provided that unique backdrop where waterfall and civilization mixed (but not in a destructive way like what tends to happen around urban waterfalls). Moreover, we also scrambled further downstream from the bridge and saw other travertine cascades and pools that reminded us of a mini-Plitvice experience.
The difficulty rating you see above pretty much reflected the roadside property of this waterfall. That's because for all intents and purposes, the waterfalling portion of a visit here was essentially this falls and the cascades further below. However, since we were also interested in checking out the town as well as pursuing a better view of the natural arch along with the cliff formations above, we spent more time here than what was required just for the waterfalling aspect of the excursion. In order to do that, all we had to do was to walk up the steps alongside the main waterfall, which passed by an accommodation then some kind of valve or waterflow control contraption (implicating that the falls could be turned off), before we were deposited essentially in the center of the town of Orbaneja del Castillo.
Just upstream from the center of town, we saw a water cave that seemed worth visiting. But it wasn't open during our visit. However, we did continue walking steeply up the town's main road until we were able to look back over the tiled rooftops of the buildings of the town with the enchanting rock formations (as well as that natural arch) as the backdrop. It appeared that there was a trail that branched off this road that continued climbing higher up the neighboring cliffs, but we didn't go there so we can't say what's up there nor what it's like.
Overall, our visit here took nearly 90 minutes, but the waterfalling part of the visit could've easily taken less than 20 minutes. When we showed up in the morning at around 10:15am, it was pretty quiet. But when we returned, there were already some local tour groups along with several more families and individual visitors as well. So while going into our trip, we thought Orbanejo del Castillo might be a hidden secret, it wasn't necessarily a "secret" to the Spanish or well-researched tourists in the know.
Perhaps the ideal visit here would be to linger as long as we did for the visit. But in addition to that, it would've been worthwhile to visit the Cueva del Agua (Water Cave) and maybe have a lunch here. The understated and non-commercial feel of this rural town certainly made it attractive to do so.
From Burgos, we drove north on the N-623 for about 60km. Then, we followed the sign and turned left onto the narrow CA-275 (formerly Bu-613) road, which continued for about 6km as we crossed the bridge fronting the Cascada de Orbaneja del Castillo. We pulled over at a pullout at a hairpin turn just beyond this bridge. There were more parking spaces further along the road. Overall, this drive took us about 70 minutes.
For some geographical context, Burgos was 185km (under 2 hours drive) east of León, 159km (over 1.5 hours drive) southwest of Bilbao, and 249km (2.5 hours drive) north of Madrid.
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