Ponferrada’s Templar castle is one of the best-preserved examples of its kind and offers a glimpse into what castle life must have been like in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The Iglesia de Santa María de la Encina is named for a Templar legend according to which her image was found in the trunk of an Oak tree. It is located in the oldest part of town, near the castle.
Saturday is market day. The Fiesta de La Encina begins on September 8th and celebrates the patron Saint of El Bierzo, La Virgen de La Encina (oak), and lasts a week.
Ponferrada was at one point one of the most important of the Roman settlements due to its location at the junction of two rivers (The Sil and Boeza) in a valley both fertile and rich in minerals. Its name derives from the construction of its original bridge. Built in 1082 it was one of the first to be decorated with iron and so ‘Pons Ferrata’ became Ponferrada. The original bridge no longer exists.
Exiting Ponferrada takes you past the castle and briefly through the old town before crossing over the río Sil. At the end of that bridge turn right. The way curves left and at the next large intersection turn right. Keep straight through the first roundabout, and turn right at the second. From here the camino follows temporary signage through construction.