Searching for Dinosaur Footprints in La Rioja

When we visited the famous wine region of Northern Spain, I didn’t expect that we would spend half a day searching for dinosaur footprints in La Rioja.  I didn’t even know there were dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, until we saw a short paragraph in our lonely planet guide.  But in the interests of worldschool, we like to look for some alternative activities in our destinations.  So off we went on our quest for dinosaur footprints.

I say Searching for dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, because it really was quite a hunt.  There is a ‘Dinosaur Route’  but it isn’t very well signposted and can be a bit confusing at times.  I suppose this contributed to the feeling of being explorers!

Where to find dinosaur footprints in La Rioja

The place to begin the search is the tiny village of Enciso, in the Southern part of La Rioja. We were camping in Haro and it was a about 1 1/2 hours driving through some striking countryside to get to Enciso.  They have recorded 1400 dinosaur tracks in the municipality of Enciso.

From Enciso on the route to Navalsaz, there is a dinosaur route with 7 sites.  The signposts are confusing at times and we didn’t manage to find them all. Some places are off road and you need to park and walk to them.

We visited the Valdecevillo Site, considered one of the most interesting in La Rioja.  It has has explanatory panels to make things a bit clearer for amateurs like us!

Dinosaurs were here!

There is a path that allows you to get very close to the footprints.  The first set are 4 theropod tracks.  These were carnivorous dinosaurs that measured between 7 and 10 metres in length.  The information described them as pigeon-toed with feet ending in powerful claws and we could clearly see this from the prints.

Another set of prints is from a family of iguanodons, consisting of two adults and a baby.  This family is shown in life sized sculptures.

The model dinosaurs in the area are made to scale, based on the information paleontologists have about the dinosaurs that made the footprints.  We could visualise how the dinosaurs looked and their size through looking at these models.

Dinosaurs in La Rioja
Iguanodon sculptures

Walking down the tracks we really could imagine the dinosaurs stepping in the same spot millions of years before us.  It was quite incredible to think the landscape is so old.  Sometimes dinosaurs can feel like fantasy creatures.  Seeing their footprints makes them very real.

We were blown away by how clear and easy to see the footprints were. I guess we expected something a bit obscure.  Perhaps we’d have to squint and use our imagination a bit!  But it was very easy to see many of the prints.  As well as footprints some sites have skin marks, tail drag marks and scratches made by swimming dinosaurs.

Where to find more info

For information about how to find the dinosaur sites I found this website useful (although not perfect).  If you are a serious dinosaur footprint hunter, you might like to hire a guide.  There is no cost to visit the sites.

For accommodation options in La Rioja visit Agoda.

Mission successful, dinosaur footprints in La Rioja found.  Next stop Logrono for a very late tapas lunch. 

Our next post, the real reason people visit La Rioja, wine tasting!


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