Aceredo: The Spanish Village That Re-Emerged 30 Years After It Disappeared Below Water

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: CARMELO ALEN / AFP / Getty Images

Located in the northwestern Galicia region of Spain, near the country’s border with Portugal, sits the Alto Lindoso reservoir. Home to a 630-megawatt hydropower plant, it powers homes across the area. A drought in February 2022, however, uncovered something many forgot was beneath the water: the abandoned village of Aceredo.

Flooding of Aceredo

In 1968, the Spanish and Portuguese governments signed a deal, which would see the construction of a reservoir near the border. While it would provide much-needed power to the area through the Alto Lindoso dam, it also meant the nearby village of Aceredo would need to be flooded.

Aerial view of Aceredo
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Water pouring out of the rusty pipe of a water fountain
Photo Credit: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP / Getty Images
Remains of a house in shallow water
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images

At the time, the Spanish government attempted to pay residents to willingly leave, and while about half accepted the money, others refused to move. They staged protests against the construction of the reservoir, which included a 10-day hunger strike and numerous demonstrations.

Aerial view of people walking on a bridge
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Buildings in various stages of destruction in Aceredo
Photo Credit: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP / Getty Images

In the end, the remaining residents lost their fight and were forced to leave. The majority left facets of their life behind, but a few important things were relocated. This included a historic church, which was moved to a nearby town, and the bodies of the deceased who were buried in the village.

Aceredo emerges from the water

For months, Europe has been suffering from a severe drought, which has not only led to a number of large forest fires, but also a decrease in the amount of water available for farming and to produce hydroelectricity.

Lone dead tree sticking out of the mud
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Aerial view of Aceredo
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Exterior of a building covered in etchings
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images

The lack of rain in Spain and Portugal led the Portuguese government to order six dams, including Alto Lindoso, halt water use as of February 1, 2022. The water levels in the reservoir had dropped to near-historic levels – 15 percent capacity – which people attributed to both climate change and the “quite aggressive exploitation” by Portuguese power company EDP.

Crates of beer outside of a building in Aceredo
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Wooden barrel buried in the mud outside of a roofless building
Photo Credit: Goncalo Fonseca / Bloomberg / Getty Images

The low water levels revealed what remained of Aceredo. While the rooftops of the surviving buildings had been noticeable during the dry seasons of years prior, this was the first time the entire village had emerged from the water. Almost immediately, locals and former residents began to converge on Aceredo, as did international tourists looking to catch a glimpse of Spanish history.

Darkened interior of a building
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Buildings in various states of decay in Aceredo
Photo Credit: Adri Salido / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Rusty car parked beside a pile of tree branches
Photo Credit: Adri Salido / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

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Many of the buildings were washed away when the reservoir was flooded, but others appear to have survived relatively unscathed. Among the wreckage were partially collapsed roofs, a rusty car, crates of empty beer bottles in what used to be a café, wooden debris from doors and beams, and a drinking fountain with water still streaming from an old pipe.

This was the first time in decades visitors were able to walk through Aceredo, and they were certainly treated to one of the most spectacular (and unexpected) views in the area.