If you’ve already dipped into The Silence of the White City, the first installment of The White City Trilogy, you know that one of Eva García Sáenz’s specialties is masterfully weaving her thrilling plot into the historic landmarks and mythologies of the Basque region. Today, we’re taking a virtual tour of a handful of the key spots in The Water Rituals. From coastal towns and rock formations to mountain ranges and a monastery, let’s take a glimpse into the history and character of Northern Spain, where a tortured but devoted detective tracks down a criminal mastermind committing brutal and ritualistic murders that are linked to Basque mythology. There are no spoilers here—only a quick peek into the notable landmarks that are themselves part of this gripping story.
CANTABRIA lies along the northern coast of Spain. The capital city, Santander, is known for its elegant homes, unique architecture, and white sandy beaches all set before the backdrop of a lush and green landscape. Both mountainous and coastal, this region is rich with natural resources, history, and just over one hundred municipalities, including Cabezón de la Sal where Vitoria’s most famous detective Unai “Kraken” Lopez de Ayala met his first love Ana Belen Liano aka Annabel Lee on their first day of summer camp back in 1992. Now, Annabel is the victim of a murder that Kraken must investigate, and the clues to the killer might be linked to the summer camp in Cantabria all those years ago.
THE SIERRA OF AIZKORRI-ARATZ, where the body of Ana Belen Liano was found, is a mountain range in the Aizkorri-Aratz nature park between the provinces of Álava and Gipuzkoa. Here, you can scale the highest peak in the Basque country, Aitxuri, or walk alongside the grazing Latxa sheep in their natural habitat. According to local lore, the mythological goddess Mari still abides in these mountains, as well as other cultural landmarks such as dolmens, ancient caves, and Roman roads.
THE SAN ADRIAN TUNNEL AND CHAPEL are in the Aizkorri-Aratz nature park and are part of Saint James’ Way. This pathway, carved through the middle of a mountain and home to some of the most beautiful views in the entire park, lies on the border between the villages of Zalduondo and Zegama. It boasts of a rich history, where pilgrims, merchants, and kings traversed over hundreds of years and was a significant source of communication for centuries past. The tunnel is only about seventy meters long with a chapel nestled inside, where Unai and the rest of the forensic team find shelter from the hail storm.
Valle de Villaverde, which literally means Green Town in English, is a small village in the Basque country and a municipality in the community of Cantabria where Kraken lives with his grandfather. Villaverde is considered an enclave, meaning it is surrounded entirely by Biscay territories but is governed by Cantabria. Regardless of its unique political situation, it is a beautiful, peaceful, and rural area in Northern Spain, with the headwaters of the Aguera River to the south.
El Urro del Manzano is an iconic rock formation in the Cantabrian Sea, off the coast of the Cantabrian town of Liencres. Also known as the Gate of Math and beloved for its beautiful sunset and seaside views, el Urro del Manzano is one of the most photographed places in Europe. In The Water Rituals, this famous landmark is also where teenaged Kraken swims out to save his fellow camp friend, Marian, after she falls (or is pushed?) into the sea.
The Monastery of Santa María de Toloño contains the ruins of a Spanish monastery near Labastida, Alava. Originally constructed by the Catholic religious order of the Hieronymites between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, this Baroque chapel had twenty-two rooms and five kitchens with additional meeting rooms and privates rooms for the chaplain and servants. It was destroyed by fire during the First Carlist War in the nineteenth century, and only a few walls still stand today. This is where The Water Rituals ends, and where we find Kraken and Alba fighting for survival.