In Spain, the drought brings back sunken monuments

11th century church, megalithic complex: the significant drop in the level of water reservoirs in Spain has caused the reappearance of monuments usually covered by water, attracting tourists wanting to take advantage of a “unique opportunity”.

Due to a lack of rainfall, the water reservoirs, built to secure the supply of cities and agricultural plots in a very dry country, were at around 36% of their capacity at the end of August, according to official data.

A level so low that the church of Sant Romà de Sau in Catalonia (north-east), a village engulfed by the construction of a reservoir in the 1960s, has resurfaced almost entirely when we usually only see the end of its steeple out of the water.

Attracted by the publication of photos on social networks, curious people have been coming for days to practice “drought tourism” and see this 11th century church up close, invisible in normal times.

“We said to ourselves: + let’s take a closer look +” because “it’s been a long time since [le réservoir] has not been so low”, says Nuria Ferrerons, 45, who was influenced by photos seen “recently on social networks”.

Oars in hand, two tourists pass quietly in a canoe under an arch of the church. Around the walls, fences have been erected to prevent the curious from getting too close, as these ruins can represent a danger.

“Usually, we only see the bell tower,” enthuses Sergi Riera, who also came to see with his own eyes “something that hadn’t happened for years.”

In the Valdecañas reservoir in Extremadura (west), it is a megalithic complex – called “Spanish Stonehenge”, in reference to the English prehistoric site – which has resurfaced on an islet.

The standing menhirs also attract tourists there, some wishing to meditate there, transported by boat by several private companies.

“People leave enchanted” after the “guided tour” of the megalithic complex, explains Ruben Argenta, owner of a leisure company based in the reservoir.

Manuel Mantilla is one of them. This sexagenarian, who came especially with his wife from Cordoba (south), explains that he learned “through the press” that the complex “was exposed because of the drought”. “We saw this as a unique opportunity,” he says.

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