Why you really should go hiking in Extremadura!
Extremadura? I’ve only heard of it because of the soccer! That’s what a colleague of mine told me when I mentioned I was spending a weekend there. Up until pretty recently, I would have said the same. I’ve been trying to find some information about Extremadura online but not a whole lot is written about it. Extremadura is a region in Spain that has about 1 million inhabitants and is roughly the same size as The Netherlands. It was about time to give this region some more attention so the Spanish Tourism Board asked me to go there and get to know the region and more precisely, promote hiking in Extremadura.
Extremadura is located in southwestern Spain, half way between Madrid and Sevilla. From both airports it’s about a 2.5 hour drive to the town I’m staying at: Almoharín. Almoharín is located right on the base of the Sierra Montánchez, a mountain range reaching up to 995 meters in altitude. It’s a true hikers paradise and I’ve decided to hike one of the most famous walks in all of Extremadura, the Ruta de los Molinos. Upon arrival I’m told I should wear sturdy shoes with stiff soles as a big part of the hike will take me across some granite mountains, which can get extremely slippery in wet conditions.
I decide to head out early since it can get incredibly warm during the day. The afternoon is in fact the moment you should already be back in your accommodation, reading a book and sipping from your wine. I’m on the late side in the season (the best time for hiking is roughly November until March) but it has been relatively cool over the past weeks so the heat should not be too much of a problem today.
The Ruta de los Molinos, or Mill Route, got his name from the more than 30 mills that can be found in Garganta de los Molinos. Those mills have been our of use for years but are a nice subject for photographers these days. I start my walk in the small town of Arroyomolinos and find an information panel, mentioning it’s 12.2 kms. The route has recently be signposted so it should be an easy one. Off I go!
The first part of the hike steadily goes up and soon I have a great view in the distance behind me. I’ve been told that hiking in Extremadura is always a real treat because of the amazing panoramic views all over the region. Flowers are in full bloom all around me and I can hear water drip from the mountain everywhere. Every now and then a lizard crosses my path and birds are circling above my head. Even though this is a popular trail and I’m hiking it on a Sunday, there’s almost nobody else around. Occasionally I talk a short break to regain my breath and take sip of water as the temperature is rising steadily and the sun is burning on my shoulders. When I take a look over my shoulder I feel very grateful, the views into the distance are truly stunning. Even though I’m walking through a chasm, the view is beautiful nonetheless. When I get all the way up, it’s time for a real break and I soak up the views into the distance.
Most of the time the trail is rocky but sometimes I am covered in grass up until my waist. Hello pollen! Once at the ridge, this is where various trails meet and I only see a bunch of locals but other than that, it’s quiet. I take an old cattle track to the town of Montánchez, beautifully situated on top of the mountains at 705 meters above sea level. Just before reaching the village I walk through a small forest and I see some wild boars finding their way. It turns out they are Iberico pigs and that the famous Iberico ham comes from this region. Later on during my trip, I get to try it and it tastes wonderful!
Once in town, I get lost in the narrow streets and am swept away by the history of the village. It’s extremely quiet and I figure it’s about time to take a siësta. I take a short break near the Castello (castle) which towers above my head dramatically. Even though it has been fairly quiet along the way, the castle does attract some visitors so all of a sudden, I’m not really alone anymore. Eventually I decide to head back down again. It’s quite a bit of a walk back to the car and since dark clouds are gathering, I want to avoid ending up in a storm, which they predicted for later that afternoon.
It’s obvious that it has been raining a lot lately, water comes down from the mountains everywhere. It’s good for nature since the it gives some energy to the plants. The track is generally a wide and well defined one, swinging down the mountain. Half way down I meet a Spaniard whom I also met on the way up. He is amazed he runs into me again and we have a little chat. Me in English, him in Spanish, mostly using our hands. I really should catch up on my Spanish…
That night I have dinner with Lia and Corné, a Dutch couple who moved to this region about two years ago. They went on vacation to Extremadura each year and eventually decided to move here. They left Holland, bought a Finca and now have a successful running business. They tell me that Extremadura is one of the poorest regions in Spain and that many still live in traditional ways. I ask them what kind of tourist Extremadura gets and basically, they are lovers of nature, silence and space. Hikers but also birders for example. Corné takes his guests out on excursions and can even take them out on special bird watching trips. They tell me that especially the fall and winter are amazing for hiking. It’s not too warm, not too cold and extremely quiet, which is in fact something I got to experience during my own hike. Just imagine going to one of the most famous hikes in for example Scotland on a sunny Sunday, it will be extremely crowded there, but not here in Extremadura. This region will never be a major tourist attraction which is perfectly OK, as the region is not ready for big loads of tourism. There are almost no hotels or any other tourist facilities. So in case you are looking for some undiscovered destinations, just go hiking in Extremadura, you will love it for sure, just like I did!
Practical information about hiking in Extremadura
Interested in hiking in Extremadura? There is a large network of trails and most of the time, you will be all by yourself. Your accommodation will be a traditional one. In case you are looking for a comfortable place, I can suggest the property of Lia and Corné, Finca El Rabilargo, beautifully locted in the mountains. I stayed at Casa Rural Las Gamitas in Almoharín, which is a bit more simple but very impressive, too. Plus the owner speaks perfect English, which may be useful if you don’t speak Spanish very well. I hiked the Ruta de los Molinos from Arroyomolinos and the next day I hiked the Ruta de dónde nace, a 7,7 km long ridge hike with stunning views over the whole area. If you plan on hiking in Extremadura, you may consider buying the ‘Walking in Extremadura’ guidebook by Gisela Radant Wood. She has written about many hikes all over the area.
Finally, I also made a 360 degrees movie while hiking. I hope you’ll like it!
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Thanks for sharing!