The unique Spanish town with two time zones

The unique town that celebrates New Year twice

Rihonor de Castilla/Rio de Onor. Credit:

Rihonor de Castilla, nestled in Spain’s Zamora province, and its Portuguese counterpart, Rio de Onor, is a unique time-twinned town.

Residents of the community find themselves in the unusual position of navigating two time zones, an intriguing phenomenon that arises from the town’s straddling the Spanish-Portuguese border.

This bizarre detail allows them to ring in the New Year twice, an eccentric tradition that underscores their extraordinary situation. Despite this, the Spanish clock is the one that the townsfolk adhere to in their daily lives.

Twin times and languages

Together with the time oddity, Rihonor de Castilla boasts a rich tapestry of linguistic and cultural heritage. The intertwining of Spanish and Portuguese in everyday life has led to a bilingual, bicultural community.

This blend of cultures is epitomised in ‘Rihonores’, a local dialect that weaves together elements of Leonese, Spanish, and Portuguese. Although it’s falling into disuse, it stands as a symbol of the region’s unique cultural melting pot.

Historical charm

The town’s allure extends to its historical and natural offerings. Set against the Sierra de la Culebra backdrop, Rihonor de Castilla offers stunning landscapes and a quiet escape away from city life.

Its heritage, clearly visible in its stone houses with slate roofs, a traditional communal mill, and the Church of Santa Marina, captivates the towns visitors. The Casa do Touro museum gives further insights into the community’s past, enriching the visitor experience.

Like many rural areas, Rihonor de Castilla has its demographic challenges. At the last count the population had dwindled to 32, sparking concerns for the community’s long-term survival.

However, it is hoped that its recognition among Portugal’s seven wonders and a growing tourist interest could herald a revitalisation, safeguarding its cultural and natural legacies.

Rihonor de Castilla/Rio de Onor stands as a living testament to the harmonious coexistence and integration of two nations.

Its geographic peculiarity, shared cultural heritage, and bilingualism offer a unique glimpse into how communities can overcome national divisions and at the same time remain united to forge its own unique identity.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.