Castile and Leon
Nestled among the highlands of Soria, close to the region of La Rioja, the little village of Oncala offers visitors a glimpse of past splendour.
This mountain village of just 57 registered inhabitants is located in the Rodadero and Alba mountains (Mount Cayo: 1,709m). Its climate is harsh, especially in winter, but its natural environment, dominated by meadows and gently rolling pastures, is rich in plant and animal species. The river Mayor (also known as the Linares) rises in the nearby Puerto de Oncala (1,454m) and flows into the Ebro, while streams rising on the opposite slope flow into the river Duero via the town of Soria.
Transhumance and the wool trade
In previous centuries the mountain regions of this part of Spain, halfway between Soria and La Rioja, enjoyed moments of true splendour linked to Merino sheep breeding and wool production.
The practice of transhumance, regulated by the Honourable Council of the Mesta (founded in the 13th century by Alfonso X, known as the Wise), thrived until well into the 18th century before entering a slow decline. After a winter in the warmer regions of Extremadura and Castile-La Mancha, flocks of Merino sheep would be brought to the highlands of Oncala in search of fresh, verdant pastures. While here, the shepherds would shear the sheep for their prized Merino wool – the raw material for the looms of a rural textile industry that thrived in places such as the nearby Tierra de Cameros in La Rioja. The Oncala Shepherding Museum bears witness to this aspect of the village’s past, offering insights into a tradition that by now is dying out.
Places of interest
Other highlights of this picturesque village are the church of San Millán (late 18th century) with its collection of Flemish tapestries, a chapel that also dates from the 18th century and several manor houses with coats of arms still emblazoned on their facades. The village’s traditional festival is held on 8 and 9 September, coinciding with the feast days of the Virgin of Espino and San Roque.
Oncala Town Hall
Calle Real, s/n
42172 - Oncala
Telephone: +34 975 381 149