Bad Tourist: Ignoring a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In some other universe, on some other trip across northern Spain, I would have stopped off at the UNESCO world heritage site at Atapuerca. I would have enjoyed exploring this historic spot, where the archeological dig is ongoing and the human activity is more than 1,000,000 (yes, 1 million) years old. Oh yeah, and I would have loved the opportunity to learn more about how our early ancestors were cannibals!

I’m not making it up. You’ll find more info here: Archaeological Site of Atapuerca.

On my camino walk from Villambistia, I have to admit that the tourist activities of Atapuerca held no appeal.

It’s not every day that one gets to visit a site where human activity dates back a million years. And I was a tourist in Spain, so you’d think I’d have jumped at the chance to dip into the history of the area, learn a bit more, take some time out to explore the sites a bit – right?

Right….but I had *zero* interest. Honestly, you could have lined up Sean Connery, George Clooney, and Brad Bitt in a line in front of me and I would have had the same response as I did to the prehistoric caves….hmmm…..yeah……whatever! (eye roll)

Ordinarily I like to think of myself as being a bit more cultured but ordinarily, I know where I’m sleeping at night and I don’t have to spend hours walking to find such a bed. So, I have a bit more head space and generosity about exploring the sites and having fun.

There were days on camino when some competitive streak kicked in – one I didn’t even know I had – and securing a bed, a meal, and a shower, became my entire mission in life. It surprised me but everything else was secondary. It makes sense in a way. I mean, if I couldn’t secure a bed in Atapuerca, I would have to walk on to the next village and maybe even the next one after that. I’d have to walk in the early afternoon sunshine and it was around 100 degrees F, which felt even hotter with a full backpack on my shoulders.

So the poor prehistoric cannibals didn’t stand a chance….and it never even crossed my mind to walk 3km off trail to the UNESCO site, and then walk 3km back. I didn’t know I was so goal-orientated in life but frankly, those extra 6km weren’t bringing me any closer to Santiago so there was *no way* I was walking them! I’d walked over 270km by then and had another 520km to go. I would walk to a pharmacy, a bathroom, or a bar…but otherwise I wanted to walk only towards Santiago.

The caves would have to wait for another time.

But what about you: did you go visit the historic site when you passed through Atapuerca?

Or have you ever been somewhere and didn’t do the *must do* tourist thing for that place? Is it really a wasted opportunity or is it just something that everyone does but no one admits to?





9 thoughts on “Bad Tourist: Ignoring a UNESCO World Heritage Site

  1. I try to visit sites of recommended interest, if it interests me. In the early days, I would have visited a dig. But now I don’t as it’s hard for me to see what’s goingbon beyond the mud and the construction-looking site.

    You seem to mention a lack of beds, as do others. Is it really that bad? I would have thought that there would also be options for private hotels/accommodations to fill demand. I’m not planning to be competitive but I would very much like a bed to sleep in. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, having a bed to sleep in is certainly nice! Before my camino, I read some online forums & was scared by the amount of people commenting on the race for beds. I made a mental decision to not worry about beds and just let things unfurl as they may. I didn’t book anything in advance but I was never stuck for a place to sleep.
      So have a little faith in the goodness of the people around you and in the overall process…I’m sure you too will be fine. Buen Camino!


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