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To get off the beaten track, follow the herd

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To get off the beaten track, follow the herd
Always wanted to be a shepherd? Photo: Courtesy of Soria Vacaciones
08:50 CEST+02:00
Tourists bored of the usual beach holiday are seeking out something very different. In the hills of Soria this week, they can be found tending a flock of sheep, sleeping under the stars and hiking through the countryside.

Desiring peace and quiet, perhaps somewhere in the countryside to go on holiday is understandable, but some travellers are prepared to go way off the beaten track to seek out a real pastoral experience.

This week will see a group of tourists join sheep herders along a centuries-old grazing route to learn about the local traditions of shepherding

"It is a unique experience," said Ana Maria Romera, the director of Soria Vacaciones in north-central Spain which runs a "Certified Shepherd" package once a year.

"You have time to meditate, to talk to new people. There is a sensation of freedom in the middle of the countryside and you realize you don't need a lot of material or superficial things," she told The Local.

The travel experience is called "Somos Trashumantes", or "We are transhumance herders" - referring to a form of shepherding where herders continually move with their livestock from fixed summer pastures to winter pastures.

Romera said the tourist package, which is in its third year, revolves around a tradition dating back to the 13th century where shepherds would begin their trek back to their village with their sheep after being away during the winter.

The roughly 30 km trek lasts three days and at the end participants come to the town of Los Campos, where they celebrate the traditional Fiesta de la Trashumancia.

The three-day package includes meals, transportation, one night in a hostel as well as a diploma for shepherding, and costs €175.

"It's exactly like being a shepherd, but within the adventure there is a bit more safety," Romera told The Local.

This type of low impact eco-tourism is growing in Spain and marks a real break with the past.

"How history has changed," noted green campaigner Cesar-Javier Palacios, on his blog in 20 minutos. "As a child, when I came home to some kind of inevitable suspense, the threat was always the same. If I didn't study well, I would end up as a shepherd."

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