No trip to Spain would be complete without a visit to Extremadura, a combination of old Spain, rich culture and foodie paradise
The region is known as ‘the land of conquerors’. Exploring Extremadura is a journey into the heart of old Spain, from the country’s finest Roman ruins to mysterious medieval cities and ancient villages.
Don’t miss the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Mérida, Cáceres, the Guadalupe Monastery, Monfragüe National Park, Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark and Tajo/Tejo Biosphere Reserve), as well as some of Spain’s most beautiful towns such as Trujillo, stunning landscapes and, of course, delicious gastronomy and superb wines.
- Lying in southwest Spain, Extremadura is bordered to the north and east by Castile and Leon, to the south by Andalucia, and to the west by Portugal.
- It has a typical continental climate with cool, damp winters and hot, dry summers. July is the hottest month of the year, when temperatures routinely exceed 40 degrees Celsius. Extremadura enjoys 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.
- With a population density of just 42 people per square mile (compared to the Spanish average of 148 people per square mile, and the UK’s 660 people per square mile), Extremadura is one of the least populated areas of Spain and boasts plenty of open countryside, featuring mature olive groves, flower-filled meadows, magnificent forests of ancient chestnut trees, woodland with great evergreen oaks, majestic mountains, stunning gorges and unspoilt natural pools. It offers many wild swimming options along its 930 miles of freshwater coastline, not to mention sailing and windsurfing.
- While it remains one of Spain’s best-kept secrets, millions of people around the world are familiar with some of Extremadura’s most stunning locations – they were used in the seventh series of The Game of Thrones, screened in the UK last summer. The amazing medieval city of Cáceres, the unusual rock formations of the Natural Monument of Los Barruecos and the picturesque walled town of Trujillo were all featured.
- The Jerte Valley, in the Cáceres region, boasts more than 2 million cherry trees; visitors flock from all over Spain to see the trees’ explosions of white blossom in spring, to eat the juicy red fruit in summer and to admire the vivid ochre leaves in autumn.
- The region is famous for its gastronomic delights. Extremadura is synonymous with world-class acorn-fed Iberian ham. Other celebrated local dishes include Migas (a rustic creation of breadcrumbs, garlic, bacon, chorizo and peppers), lamb stew and internationally-recognised sheep and goats cheese – Torta del Casar, La Serena and Ibores. Pimentón de la Vera paprika (sweet smoked paprika) – an essential ingredient in any truly authentic Spanish dish – also comes from Extremadura.
- For a chance to see the night sky at its awe-inspiring best, a visit to Dark Sky accredited Monfragüe National Park is a must. Due to its cloudless skies and minimal light pollution, it has been designated a Starlight Tourist destination and is considered one of the best places in Europe to observe the shimmering night sky – a feast of constellations rarely visible in most of the UK.
- In Roman times, Extremadura was an important part of the Iberian Peninsula. The Via de la Plata – the Silver Route, a major trade route for the commerce of silver, tin and copper – still forms the backbone of the region, running from the north to the south. Full of history and life, and surrounded by beautiful natural landscape, the Silver Route is an excellent long-distance hiking route that connects to the St James Way; it is one of the most ancient pilgrims’ ways, cutting across the Peninsula towards Santiago de Compostela.
- Mérida is Extremadura’s capital city, and one of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has Spain’s finest collection of Roman remains. The Puente Romano is the world’s longest surviving bridge from ancient times and there’s also a magnificent Roman theatre, an amphitheatre, a Roman stadium, and the remains of two Roman aqueducts, all dating from 25 BC.
- Cáceres, another of the region’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, was home to prosperous families in the Renaissance period. They built magnificent palaces within the walls of the old fortifications dating from Muslim times. Little seems to have changed since then, and it’s still a traffic-free maze of small streets, with squares bordered by magnificent Renaissance town houses, with family coats of arms carved in stone above their doors.
- The Guadalupe Monastery, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates from the 14th to 17th centuries AD. Christopher Columbus came to this isolated spot in the hills to thank God after discovering the New World, and the Virgin of Guadalupe is highly revered throughout Latin America. There is also a museum with works by great Spanish masters including Zurbaran, El Greco and Goya.
- No visit to Extremadura would be complete without a visit to Trujillo, a small town in the east of the region. It’s the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, the ruthless Conquistador who claimed Peru and other parts of South America for the Spanish throne. His family palace still sits on the stunning main square, with its arcades and fine houses. The town is topped by a striking fortress, including Moorish parts dating from the 9th century.
- Monfragüe National Park (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a real treasure, a Mediterranean forest full of millions of encinas (evergreen oak). The area is rich in wildlife and popular with ornithologists who come to see the majestic Iberian Imperial eagle – one of the most threatened birds of prey in Europe, and among the rarest birds in the world.
- There are many ways to travel to Extremadura. The nearest airport is in Badajoz, with regular flights to Madrid and Barcelona. Extremadura is served by trains from major cities such as Seville and Madrid and has a very efficient road network of almost 9,000 km, with several toll-free national motorways that enable motorists to cross Extremadura easily and efficiently.
- A wide range of specialist tour operators organise trips to the region, incorporating gastronomy, city breaks, the natural world, cultural tours and sporting activities.
For more information, visit http://turismoextremadura.com/en