Patones de Arriba

Patones de Arriba

Patones de Arriba, Spain – July 30, 2011

My Spanish instructor suggested I travel to the small village of Patones de Arriba. To get there, one must first go through the slightly larger town of Patones. The city of Patones is on a valley floor, right next to some relatively large hills. Up in those hills is where one can find Patones de Arriba. It is difficult to see one of the villages from the other town due to the difference in terrain.

Guadarrama Mountains in the distance.
A portion of the town of Torrelaguna on the way to Patones.

The road from Patones to Patones de Arriba is even more narrow than the way in the French Pyrenees to get to the Col d’Aubisque! I was delighted there was not much traffic.

After leaving Patones, I made my way up to Patones de Arriba. The narrow road rises about 400 feet in little more than a kilometer (0.62 miles). On my way up, I did not encounter any downhill traffic.

In the town of Patones, looking up the draw toward Patones de Arriba.

At Patones de Arriba, looking back down toward Patones.

When I first arrived, I found myself in a dirt parking area.  I stopped and parked there because I saw a do not enter sign up ahead.  It stated that only authorized residents’ vehicles could enter the village.  So, I got out and began my walk into Patones de Arriba.  After maybe a couple of hundred meters (656 feet), I noticed another, smaller, cobble-stoned parking area.  I turned around, retrieved my car, and moved to this new-found parking area.  It was directly next to the el Chiscon Restaurant, so I could not have gotten much closer to the start of the village.

Only authorized residents’ vehicles allowed in town.
The village limits of Patones de Arriba.
The valley rises away from the village.
The front of El Chiscon Restaurant.
The Saint Joseph Church.


As is the norm, I was there very early, probably about 09:00. The streets were empty. It is a tiny village. As best I can tell, the population is 378; however, that figure most certainly included the town of Patones on the valley floor below. If I had to guess, I would put the village population at around 75.

I walked uphill along Calle Azas to the east. The street, as well as all the houses and buildings, consist of stones from the local area. That gives the village a unique appearance. Within about 200 meters, I was on the outskirts of the town. Looking to the north and east, across the small arroyo, I could see the ruins of several houses and buildings. That early in the morning, the sun was starting to come over the nearby hill. The lighting was perfect for the many photos I took.

Calle Azas climbs up from the town square.
The view back down Calle Azas toward the town square.
The tiles relate the story of the invasion of Napoleon in 1808.
Some tiles representing a king.
The sculpture of a head in a niche along one of the streets.
A panorama of a portion of Patones de Arriba. On the left are village houses. On the right are ruins of older structures.
Buildings in the village.
Some of the buildings almost blend completely into the surroundings.
Trail markings along the path.
A rounded home made of stones.
The path climbs up and up.
A tree as seen through an old window.
One of the last homes on the upper side of the village.
More trail markers.
A 1976 inscription of love in a rock.


I hiked over to the ruins. About mid-way through the ruins, there is a sign that talks about the landscape of the Patones region. It also marks the trail-head of several trails that head north, some of which go to the Atazar Reservoir. I continued a little higher, maybe 100 meters (328 feet) or so along the trail. There I turned around and sat down on the walls of one of the ruins. The view, once again because of the light, of the small village and valley floor, much farther away, was excellent!

As I understand it, when Napoleon invaded Spain, he captured the small village of Patones. However, he did not win Patones de Arriba because he did not even know it was there. It is tough to see from Patones on the valley floor.

As I walked through the village on my way to the ruins, I did not see any other people except for one couple out hiking the ruins as well. Other than that, the streets were empty. As I look back at my photographs, I am amazed that there are no people in any of my shots. That is very unusual for my travel photography. I always like to try to capture the life of the place I am visiting by capturing the people in their regular routines. The residents must have slept in that day.

From the ruins, one can see Patones de Arriba and Patones.
Detail of some walls at the ruins.
From the ruins, one can see the Saint Joseph steeple.
Yet more trail markers.
The lower valley stretches out in the distance.
Looking along one of the stone walls at the ruins.
A bush with red berries.
See if you can spot the ants carrying seeds.
Another view of one of the last homes on the upper side of the village.
A narrow street in the village.
Grapes growing at the side of one of the streets.
A relaxing gato.
Signs for an antique ceramic store and a restaurant.
Believe it or not, this is the entranceway to a hotel.

Coming down from the ruins, I made my way back to the main square, Plaza del Llano. There is a beautiful old church there, Saint Joseph, which dates from 1653. It is no longer a functioning church. It is now an education center, Centro de lniciativas Turisticas, Educativas, Culturales y de Ocio (The Center of Tourism, Educational, Cultural, and Leisure initiatives). It cost 1.50€ (US$1.83) to go through the center. Inside, one can get a map of the village that delineates some of the things to see in the town. I thought the center was undoubtedly worth the cost.

While I was waiting for the center to open, the la Barra del Rincón (Corner Bar) opened. It is directly across from the center. I sat outside and enjoyed a café americano and a tarta de chocolate! The tarta was so rich that I could not eat the entire thing. The cost was only about 5€ (US$6.10), and believe me; it was worth every centimo!!

Saint Joseph’s Church.

A sign for The Witch Tavern.
Relaxing with a coffee.
Some of the items offered by the Rincón Bar.
Chasing the coffee with chocolate.
Another view of The Witch Tavern.


Once I obtained my village map, I began to explore. The first stop was the old washhouse and a new fountain. These are both on the southwest edge of the village. It was interesting to imagine the scene in years gone by, of the activity that would have been at the wash house as part of the daily life of the village. Next, I found the “bread oven.” It is still part of an occupied home but is typical for what would have been in virtually every home in the past. I imagine the bread that would come from such an oven would taste great.

I did find a couple of small shops; however, I did not find anything I wanted to buy. The village seems to be dominated more by restaurants than shops. I did not eat there. I had lunch later in the day in the town of El Atazar.

Several houses in the village.
A panorama of several of the houses and the nearby hill.
View across a rooftop.
Model of the village of Patones de Arriba and Patones.
A model of the villages and reservoir.
The fountain by the old laundry area that is under the roof.
Interior of the old laundry area.
A rock bridge near the old laundry area.
A wider view of the fountain and the old laundry area.
The light-colored structure is the exterior portion of a bread oven. The opening to the oven is in the house.
A street heading toward the town square.
Part of the very tiny chapel at Saint Joseph’s Church.
The stations of the cross.

Departing Patones, I did not pay close attention to the GPS. I ended up in the town of Berrueco, Spain. I turned around and got on the correct road to the small village of El Atazar. It is literally at the end of the way. Regardless, the drive of roughly 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) was beautiful. For about half of the distance, the road passes through the forest, well above the el Atazar Reservoir. Periodically there were stopping areas from which I could take a photo or two.

Atazar Reservoir.
The Atazar Reservoir dam.
Some stone ruins visible on the point of land.
The village of El Atazar in the distance.
The Atazar Reservoir dam.


Arriving at the dam end of the reservoir, I drove across the dam and on toward the village. I made it to the town at about 14:20, the perfect time for a Spanish lunch. I parked by the church at the main square and seated myself at an outdoor table at el Bar-Meson el Athazar. The server brought me a small bowl of olives (typical at most any restaurant in Spain) and asked what I wanted to drink. I ordered a vino tinto, of course. When she returned with my wine, I ordered some calamari. I must say, I think it was the best calamari I have ever had! It was piping hot. I added a little salt and then just sat there, enjoying life. It was a very comfortable 85 degrees outside.

After I ate my calamari and drank my wine, I walked around town just a little. There was not much to see. Regardless, this day of small villages was one of the best travel days I think I have had in Spain.

A typical street sign in El Atazar.
Refreshing with a vino tinto and olives.
A dog licking up something at the café.
A portion of the church across from the café.
The other side of the remnants of the steeple.
Detail of the typical construction in El Atazar.
A small street in El Atazar.
A name below a residential mail slot.
Another of the street signs.
A panoramic view of the reservoir.
Above the far side of the dam, in the distance, one can see El Atazar.
A portion of the valley near Patones.

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