the province of león 
Essential Information
  • Official name: Province of León.

  • Area: 15,468 square kilometres.

  • Population: 492.720.

  • Population density: 33.8 per square kilometre.

  • Capital: León (150,000 inhabitants).

  • Other major towns:
    Ponferrada, Astorga, La Bañeza, San Andrés del Rabanedo, Valencia de Don Juan, La Robla.

  • Number of municipalities: 211.


Caín, in the northernmost tip of the province, is only 30 kilometres from the Cantabrian Sea, while La Braña in the extreme south-west is only 30 kilometres from Portugal. Madrid, the geographical centre of the Peninsula, is 275 kilometres from the boundary with Zamora, so León is definitely more a part of the north-west than of the northern Meseta.

With a perimeter of 741 kilometres, León has boundaries with seven other provinces: the Principality of Asturias to the north, the Autonomous Community of Cantabria to the north-east, Lugo and Ourense in the Autonomous Community of Galicia to the west and the provinces of Zamora, Valladolid and Palencia of Castile and León to the south. It has an area of over 15,000 square kilometres. Within the province there are seven enclaves that are physically separated from their municipalities, including one belonging to Mayorga de Campos, in the province of Valladolid.


The altitude of the province ranges from 300 to over 2000 metres, making for a varied climate. Cold winters are common in the foothills of the mountains, on the Asturian boundary, the coldest places including Villamanín, where the temperature has been down to -18ºC, Huergas de Babia and Riaño. The villages of the Teleno area, such as Molinaferrera and Prada de la Sierra, are not far behind.

Cold is a commonplace in the province and is basically the product of altitude, sub-zero nights occurring normally at any time between November and May, with frost often spoiling fruit harvests in moorland areas and near rivers. The harshest part of winter in the mountain areas, December to February, usually brings snowfalls. The spring is usually short and often marked by late frosts and snowfalls (as late as May at Pajares and San Glorio).

The summer is short and sometimes doesn’t seem to come at all, snow not being unknown in June in the eastern mountain areas. The hottest part is from mid July to mid August, when the period of evening winds is usually considered to begin in the mountains, with fog in the mornings. Summer temperatures easily reach 30º but only make it to 40º a couple of times each decade. The autumn is long, temperatures falling and frosts getting harsher and harsher. Generally speaking, most of the province has an average yearly temperature somewhere between 10 and 20º.


Mountain Pass at Valdeón

León is clearly divided into three more or less equal-sized areas: the mountainous part in the north and part of the western third, the plain in the south and eastern third, and the depressions of El Bierzo and La Cabrera in the western third.


A large part (250 kilometres long) of the southern slopes of the Cantabrian range includes a number of heights of over 2,000 metres: Peña Prieta, Peña Urbina, Penouta, Torre Llambrión and Torrecerredo (2,700 metres), while the height above sea level of the Sella basin in the Sajambre valley is only about 300 metres. In the Cantabrian mountains there are over thirty passes leading to Asturias, which are kept open in winter by 32 snow ploughs and 13 snow blowers based at Riaño, Ponferrada, San Isidro, Cármenes, La Magdalena, Villablino and Villamanín.

The Montes de León are a lower range than the Cantabrians, formed earlier but very much eroded, hence their rounded tops. They form the watershed between the Douro (or Duero) and the Miño, running south from Laciana in the Cantabrians. A first massif separates Laciana in the north from Omaña in the east and El Bierzo in the west, the highest summits being Mts Nevadín and Catoute, at over 2,000 metres each. Further south, the area of the Manzanal and Foncebadón Passes has been known as the Montes de León since the Middle Ages, and these mountains divide the Maragatería and Cepeda districts in the east from El Bierzo in the west. A third part is El Morredero, which has two branches: the Aguiana range (1,849 metres), running westwards into El Bierzo, and the Teleno range (2,185 metres), running in a south-easterly direction to form a natural border with the province of Zamora to end at the Carpurias range between San Esteban de Nogales and Castrocalbón.

Cares Gorge

In between the Cantabrian Mountains to the north, the different parts of the Montes de León to the south and east, and the Ancares, Piornal, Caurel, Encina de la Lastra and Eje ranges to the west, there lie the so-called depressions of El Bierzo and La Cabrera Baja, both of which have natural boundaries with Zamora and Galicia. The Galician province of Lugo is connected to El Bierzo by several passes. La Cabrera Baja takes up the south-west corner of the province, sheltered to the north by the Morredero and La Aguiana ranges, to the east by the Teleno range, to the south by the Cabrera range and to the west by the Eje mountains. A number of passes link Galicia and Zamora, while La Cabrera Alta (Upper Cabrera) is joined to La Cabrera Baja (Lower Cabrera) by the Cabrera and Carvajal passes (1,500 and 1,346 metres, respectively). 

A third of the area of the province is water meadow, watered by the middle stretches of the rivers rising in the Cantabrians: the Cea, Porma, Esla, Curueño, Torío, Bernesga, Luna, Omaña, Órbigo and Tuerto form the main north-south basins and drain into the Esla. The dryness of some areas between basins in the south of the province has led to the overuse of the streams, mainly by means of irrigation canals. Rivers like the Duerna, Bernesga and the Torío practically dry up in the summer, as do such minor streams as the Cea and the Valderaduey. 



Tierra de Campos

The flatlands of León are high, between 800 and 900 metres above sea level, and generally badly drained, and the natural dryness of some districts is borne out by such names as Páramo, Sequeda, Oteros and Tierra de Campos. In recent years, two major processes have been at work: the practical elimination of wetlands, which have gone down from several hundred to about a dozen, and the conversion to irrigation farming as a result of the water dammed up in the mountains.


Ayuntamiento de León, Av. Ordoño II nº 10, 24001, León         Tlfno centralita: 987 895 500       Atencion ciudadana: 010
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