Spring in Extremadura: Planning Your Next Best Trip
This is Secret Spain. With only 1.5 million tourists in 2015, of which less than 250 000 are foreign visitors, Extremadura is virtually unknown to the outside world.
And even though Game of Thrones has contributed to making this Spanish province a little better known, Extremadura still remains a hidden gem.
Located in the South-west of Spain and bordering Portugal, Extremadura translated literally, means ‘the land on the outskirts of Douro’ river that crosses Portugal and Spain.
Shhh. It’s a Secret. Although, the region is starting to get more and more visibility internationally – so you’d better pack now.
Happy Belly, Happy Traveler
To say that the food is great would be an obvious understatement, given that Spain has such a big food culture.
The region has a significant number of cheeses regularly getting awards at the World Cheese Awards – the famous Torta del Casar is a must try!
You also have Extremadura to thank for the delicious Jamon Iberico, which has as its free-range source of food the acorns of the region’s cork oak plantations
Let’s not forget the wine: Did you know Extremadura is the second biggest wine producing region in Spain – which, if we look at Spain’s global ranking – is quite impressive.
It’s for good reason that Cáceres was named Spain’s Food Capital back in 2015.
Europe’s Best Hanami
Although the region has something to offer throughout the year, spring in Extremadura is special: this is when the cherry blossom happens, and one of the prime times to explore the nature in Extremadura.
Valle del Jerte is possibly Europe’s Best Secret Hanami.
And while it’s not an exact science, timing the hanami will give you the opportunity to witness the blooming of no less than one million and a half cherry trees, over a terraced valley spanning 50 sqm. Convinced yet?
All of Spain’s nature is simply beautiful. I’ve found, however, that this corner of Spain – a region the size of Belgium – is home to such a biodiversity I would not know where to begin! So I’ll start with the top 3 most famous spots:
1. Garganta de los Infiernos
In summer, you can also dip in one of the 65 natural swimming pools authorized for wild swimming.
Possibly the best known is the nature-built water park at Los Pilones, in the Garganta de los Infiernos natural reserve (translated as Hell’s Throat Natural Reserve)
The thirteen natural swimming pools at Los Pilones were created by the water erosion of the granite bed. In summer, as the river gets less and less water from rain, the stream slows down to a crawl and people can enjoy dipping into the clear, refreshing water.
Just the perfect treat on a typical Extremadura hot summer day.
3. Montfrague: Birdwatchers Behold
Spring in Extremadura comes with superb landscapes, and the Montfrague National Park is a prime spot for nature lovers and landscape photographers alike.
Home to great biodiversity, The Montfrague park is also one of the best places in Spain for birdwatching, known for its prey birds such as the Egyptian vulture of the Griffon vulture – or my personal favorite – the rare and endangered black stork.
I didn’t think birdwatching was for me, but boy was I wrong!
3. Los Barruecos
Barruecos – also known from Game of Thrones (fans, anyone? – spot the scene)
Adding Barruecos into your spring in Extremadura trip will be well worth it. Declared a national monument in 1996, Los Barruecos is located just a short drive away from Caceres. Its iconic granite shaped rocks offer great photography opportunities.
The place is also known by the recent discovery of a solar observatory dating back to 4.500 years ago – in which the sun’s rays enter through a hole in a rock, illuminating anthropomorphic figures at the equinoxes.
Getting to Extremadura
Not necessarily easy, if you don’t own a car, and possibly contributing to the (still) small number of foreign tourists. It is, however, feasible.
Extremadura is about 3 hours from Madrid Airport and the same distance from Lisbon Airport. It’s a bit closer to the Seville Airport – about 2.5 hours.
Fly/Train: From the Madrid Airport, head to the beautiful Puerta de Atocha train station in the city and take the morning or afternoon train towards Merida. The train stops in both Plasencia and Caceres, among others.
There is also an airport in Badajoz, where Air Nostrum / Iberia operate. This is more on an FYI basis, however, and not as reliable, since it seems they’re rather seasonal and may add a layer of complexity to your logistics.
Trains run twice daily from Madrid. Visit Renfe’s website (http://www.renfe.com).
Train /Car are your best options.
By Bus: There are several bus services to reach the city of Caceres, such as Avanza Bus. They run special offers for those interested in coming to the festival from Madrid, Lisbon, Badajoz, Merida and back. For more information about schedules, visit the Avanza bus website.
Car Sharing: BlaBlaCar is quite popular in Spain. Book below and save on travel (the cost of a trip in a car share is up to 76% less than a train)
Car sharing services are a great alternative to promoting a more immersive, local travel style and also contribute to your environmental engagement.
If you’re ready for some genuine Spanish immersion, Go. Now!